Todd Phillips Thinks 'Joker' Can Win Venice Film Festival's Top Prize, Festival Director Thinks It's Heading For Oscars

It's still a bit too early for us to be seriously thinking about next year's Oscar ceremony, but it's apparently not too early for Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera. In a new interview, he says director Todd Phillips' upcoming Joker movie is the most surprising film at this year's festival, predicts that it will go "straight to the Oscars," and explains how Phillips himself is confident that his movie can win The Golden Lion, the festival's top prize.

In an interview with Variety (via Indiewire), Barbera spoke about how it's rare for a major studio like Warner Bros. to debut one of its big films in competition at a festival like this – especially a movie based on a comic book character:

Yes, as usual they said they wanted to be in a more protected situation [as with "A Star Is Born" last year, which launched out of competition]. But then [director] Todd Phillips said: "I don't care if I run the risk of not winning. Why shouldn't I go in competition when I know what we've I've got on our hands?"

I have to say, Warners was convinced pretty rapidly, because it's a really surprising film. It's the most surprising film we've got this year...This one's going straight to the Oscars even though it's gritty, dark, violent. It has amazing ambition and scope.

Could Joker actually win Best Picture? Stranger things have happened (though that would be incredibly strange). After watching that first trailer, I would not be remotely surprised to see Joaquin Phoenix get nominated for Best Actor (and maybe even become the second person to win an Oscar for playing that part). I could envision a scenario in which the movie gets Best Adapted Screenplay nomination as well. Before last year, I wouldn't have thought the Academy would give Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover movies, a Best Director nod, but after seeing how the voters acknowledged Dumb and Dumber director Peter Farrelly for Green Book, I feel like anything is possible.

No one has seen the movie yet, but maybe in a few months I'll look back on this article and laugh at the fact that I doubted this film's awards chances. Either way, we are living in a deeply weird world, folks – one in which a dark and gritty Joker movie is debuting at a major international film festival and is being taken seriously as a potential contender at the Oscars. What a time to be alive.