Venice Film Festival Director Says JOKER May Be Headed For The Oscars

Legit praise or festival hype? We have no goddamn idea.

As we recently learned, Todd Phillips' Joker is headed to this year's Venice International Film Festival, where it'll screen in competition against a formidable slate of new films from directors like Olivier Assayas, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shannon Murphy and, uh, Roman Polanski. Its inclusion in this year's competition speaks to the confidence Phillips and Warner Bros. have in the film, something confirmed in a new interview with VIFF's artistic chief, Alberto Barbera. 

Speaking to Variety, Barbera says:

"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?”

Yup, that's confidence, alright. But there's more: Barbera says we shouldn't be surprised if Joker ends up getting a few nods at this year's Academy Awards:

"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."

There are, of course, several ways to look at this. The first is that Todd Phillips' Joker may be a stunner, a comic book movie with something substantial on its mind and more than a few outstanding performances to showcase. Another way to interpret this is, Barbera's hyping up one of the few big Hollywood offerings at this year's Venice Film Festival. Third option: Barbera made the whole thing up in an ill-advised effort to make friends, which would be both a deeply irresponsible and mostly nonsensical thing for a film festival director to do. We're guessing it's one of the first two options, but we cannot rule out the third at this time. I mean, do you know that guy?

Anyway, the buzz continues to build for Joker (which will also debut at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, for those of you who can't make it to Venice). Will it be the classic some are hoping for? Will it be a misguided and unpleasant disaster bolstered by an admittedly excellent performance from star Joaquin Phoenix? Something in between? Time will tell. 

Joker hits theaters on October 4th. You have been warned.