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Joaquin Phoenix’s mesmerizing performance as the “Joker” will dominate the award season

Updated: Mar 31, 2020


Joaquin Phoenix plays proto-Joker Arthur Fleck, putting his makeup on for a clown job in Gotham City.

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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language, and brief sexual images; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

ON SUNDAY NIGHT, Joaquin Phoenix received the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture during the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's 77th awards ceremony in Beverly Hills. It's the first of what is expected to be a series of awards for his spellbinding performance as the “Joker.”

During his acceptance speech, Phoenix thanked the director/producer and co-writer Todd Phillips, “You were such an amazing friend and collaborator. You’ve encouraged me to give everything and to be sincere. I’m such a pain in the ass, I can’t believe you put up with me. I’m so in debt to you.”

Phoenix shed more than 50 pounds for the role, and the first lead actor to win a major award for a comic-book movie. Heath Ledger won an Oscar as the Joker for supporting actor in Christopher Nolan’s thriller “The Dark Knight” (2008).

(1) Writer/producer/director Todd Phillips first pitched the idea to Warner Bros., then he met with some folks at D.C. Comics and spent over a year writing the script. (2) New York City subs for Gotham City. (3) A gang steals Arthur's promotional sign for a business and then attacks him in an alleyway. (4) Arthur has a session with his social worker (5) Arthur suffers from uncontrollable laughter, which he carries a card describing his condition.


During the featurette “Becoming Joker” Phoenix said, “Nobody could have made this movie but Todd. I never thought about doing a comic book movie. For me, it was more about this idea of doing a character study, but about somebody people have no idea who, what, where he came from or anything like that.”

Phoenix who plays Arthur Fleck the proto-Joker, tells his social worker, “Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” Fleck’s world is set during the dark days of the late 1970s or early '80s in Gotham City, where he’s just been fired as a working clown and still lives with his ailing mother in a crowded apartment building. Many nights they watch the Murray Franklin Show played by Robert De Niro, a takeoff from “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” (1982).

Surprisingly, “Joker” has been a worldwide box office success cracking over $1 billion, making it the highest-grossing R rated film to date. The film received rockery reviews from top critics with only a 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Concerns of its psychopath storyline dominated many reviews when it hit theaters back in October. “Joker” is the first comic-book movie to sympathies with the bad guy without a superhero to counterbalance the insanity and violence.

(1) Arthur rides mass transit in Gotham City. (2) Arthur watches the Murray Franklin Show with his mother. (3) He imagines himself on stage with Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). (4) Every day he must walk up a series of steep steps to his apartment building.



Cinematographer Lawrence Sher (“Hangover” trilogy) is bound to be nominated for his striking photography captured on 3.4K, 4.5K and 5K digital cameras and then mastered in 4K (1.85:1 aspect ratio). The color palette leans to the warm side with its wider gamut of colors and expansive contrast levels from the HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

The 4K master extracts a superb level of clarity, especially evident from the numerous wide shots and cityscapes of Gotham City, filmed in New York City and across the river in New Jersey. Many shots from Sher and Phillips are composed super tight focused right into the eyes and mind of Arthur Fleck, which reveals all of his facial markings and expressions.


The Dolby Atmos track is extremely active with the pulsating score from Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Sicario,” “Arrival”), who also received a Golden Globe for Best Score, the first for a woman. The bass response resonates throughout while gun blasts and environmental sounds bouncing from the height to rear speakers.

Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer

(1) The Gotham City elevated train heads toward downtown. (2) Arthur writes his deepest thoughts and jokes for a dreamed standup comedy routine into his journal. (3) Arthur is ambushed on the train, which leads him to pull a gun. (4) Detective Garrity (Bill Camp) and Detective Burke (Shea Whigham) are investigating the murder of three men on the train.




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