Joker Wins Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award

The world premiere of Joker at the Venice Film Festival has already started a huge swell of buzz for Todd Phillips’ grim take on the origin story of Batman’s most notorious arch nemesis. Now the festival has given Joker another boost by awarding it the Golden Lion, the highest honor that the festival can give.

Todd Phillips accepted the prize in Venice (via The Hollywood Reporter), immediately thanking Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Entertainment for “stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie.”

Indeed, studios usually aren’t willing to take risks on comic book movies that are geared towards strictly adult audiences. Some rare exceptions have been 300, Sin City, and Watchmen, as well as Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass and Kingsman franchises. However, Marvel and DC have rarely taken their characters to dark territory. Deadpool, The Punisher and Blade are the only signature comic book characters from Marvel who have been given R-rated movies, and DC Comics never taken one of their popular characters into this arena before.

But Phillips was also quick to thank the man who is really making this movie so compelling: star Joaquin Phoenix. The director praised Phoenix’s performance just as much as critics have been:

“There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent.”

Earning a prestigious festival award should help the film’s chances of making waves during awards season. In fact, 2017 saw the Golden Lion winner The Shape of Water go all the way to the Oscars, where it took Best Picture. Then, last year saw Roma rake in a ton of nominations, including Best Picture, though it ultimately (wrongfully) lost out to Green Book.

But that’s not necessarily a guarantee that Joker will follow suit. The Golden Lion hasn’t been a good prognosticator of Best Picture contenders. The last time the Golden Lion award went to a movie that was a key player in the Oscars was The Wrestler in 2008. So this doesn’t mean Joker will be able to impress the Academy enough to earn Oscar nominations, but if the buzz is any indicator, it’s probably a safe bet that we’ll at least see Joaquin Phoenix getting a Best Actor nod.

As for the rest of the movies honored by the Venice Film Festival’s awards:

Venice Film Festival Awards

Venice 76 Awards

Golden Lion: Todd Phillips, dir. Joker

Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize: An Officer and a Spy, directed by Roman Polanski

Silver Lion Best Director: Roy Andersson, About Endlessness

Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Ariane Ascaride, Gloria Mundi

Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Luca Marinelli, Martin Eden

Best Screenplay Award: No. 7 Cherry Lane, directed and written by: Yonfan

Special Jury Prize: The Mafia is No Longer What it Used to Be, directed by Franco Maresco

Marcello Mastroianni Award: Toby Wallace, Babyteeth, directed by Shannon Murphy

Horizons Awards

Best Film: Atlantis, directed by Valentyn Vasyanovych

Best Director: Blanco en Blanco, directed by Theo Court

Special Jury Prize: Verdict, directed b Raymund Ribay Gutierrez

Best Actress: Marta Nieto, Madre

Best Actor: Sami Bouajila, A Son

Best Screenplay: Revenir, directed by Jessica Palud, written by Jessica Palud, Philippe Lioret, Diasteme

Lion of the Future

Lion of the Future Luigi De Laurentiis Award for a Debut Film: You Will Die at 20, directed by Amjad Abu Alala

Venice VR

Best VR Film: The Key, directed by Celine Tricart

Best VR Experience Award: A Linha, directed by Ricardo Laganaro

Best VR Story Award: Daughters of Chibok, directed by Joel Kachi Benson

Venice Classics

Best Documentary on Cinema: Babenco: Tell Me When I Die, directed by Barbara Paz

Best Restored Film: Ectasy, directed by Gustav Machaty

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