Last night at the Academy Awards, Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar for Best Male Performance For a Leading Actor for Joker. The Oscar win not only validates Phoenix, but gives credence to comic book nation by giving a comic book movie its first true Oscar.
Validation of the Comic Book Movie
For Joaquin Phoenix this is his fourth nomination, but his first win ever. Back in 2001, Phoenix opened eyes with his portrayal of Commodus in the smash hit Gladiator. His next nomination came with his performance of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line followed by The Master in 2012.
Of course comic book movies have won all sorts of Oscars, but for things like sound, make up, score, visual effects and so on. Joker became the first non-Supporting Actor Academy Award won by an comic book movie to date. It shows the types of stories that can be told if Hollywood wishes to go out on a limb and not play it safe.
The Joker portrayed the mind on a mentally ill person so well people argued if this truly was a comic book movie at all? Marvel and DC both have characters that, if delved into deep enough could produce more movies like this, but to do so would not only pose great risk but fundamentally change the genre forever. How badly do fans want to consistently dive this deep into psychosis and neurosis of their favorite characters? Id say Joker stands alone and will for some time.
Phoenix Oscar Win Close to Home
Phoenix won the Oscar for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck. Fleck not only suffered from more psychotic derangements than most psychiatrists could name. By the movie’s end he learned to embrace them and become the very essence of them. Phoenix did such a perfect job bringing those elements to life, many movie goers were unsettled by the performance.
I have often said actors who excel at crazy and unbalanced roles do so only because it exists in core of who they are. One does not know how to absorb and then project such a role if it is not already a part of who they are. Mel Gibson is another great example of this.
Look at the roles Phoenix played over his career, and then look at his off screen antics. He clearly has an unhinged side that can at least partly parallel Fleck’s issues. Also, look at Phoenix’s acceptance speech. He showed how moved he was, but at no point did he thank directors or fellow actors. He went straight into a political diatribe about…cow insemination. Yet by the end his speech made some very valid and relevant points in other areas. Then again, just because someone does not play with a full deck, doesn’t mean they can’t be a great person.