Joker Review BlerdUp 34

Joker Movie Review: Is Joker The Villain We Deserve? BlerdUp Episode 34


Brendon: BlerdUpBlerdUp Welcome to the show where we talk about Nerd Culture from a BPOV a Black POV. You can find us on Facebook at BLERDUP.
We are on Twitter at BLERDU and we are on Instagram at B L ER D period UP.  You can also find us on They have a lot of great content. There are other podcast as well. Check them out If you are creator please reach out to them, reach out to us and we can try to get, we can try to get you on there.  I’m your host Brendon and I’m finally joined by Mel and Marquita at the same time.
Mel: It’s like a perfect storm
Marquita: I know right

Brendon: I need like that radio like hand claps *dah daaahhh*

Marquita: The planets have aligned

Mel: For the maybe the only time it’s a National Holiday. Good to see you Marquita.

Marquita: It’s good to see you too Mel 

Brendon: I’m very excited to have you guys on. Today we’re here to talk about Joker not the Joker but Joker we’re gonna give a brief non spoiler review and then we’re going to dive into the spoilers later on and if laser brave we’ll try to give our own Joker laughs.

Mel: Yeah, I didn’t agree to that
Brendon: Ok maybe not we’ll see. Okay this movie was written by Todd Phillips and for those who don’t know that name he directed The Hangover series.
Marquita: Oh Really?
Mel: Yep. He did.
Brendon: Yeah and old school
Mel: Yeah this is really a departure for him
Brendon: Yeah and road trip
Mel: Yeah this is really a departure for him
Brendon: You could just see like the honest trailer you know the screen junkies like “from the
directors of road trip old school in the hangover series comes one of the darkest comic book movies of all time”
Mel: Yeah he's really doing a 360 on this...or a 180 on this. not 360
Marquita: He really is
Brendon: I thought Jordan Peele had this monopoly on comedic directors turning dark but now Todd Phillips is adding his name to the list
Mel: I mean they say that the flip side of comedy is higher so I could see that
Brendon: or vice versa as will talk about maybe in this movie

Mel: Possibly
Brendon: yeah this is co-written by Scott Silver who wrote The Fighter and 8 Mile
Mel: This all of this just begs the question how did they get the job? like how do you look at those resumes and say you know what you would be perfect for Joker
Brendon: No I think for Scott Silver who's writing these kind of troubled white male narratives that absolutely makes sense
Mel:  That's fair enough OK

Brendon: But Todd Phillips yeah

Mel: Either way just I guess you know if anything if you don't take anything else away from this view take away that you should shoot your shot artistically 'cause yeah

Brendon:  I mean look at Jordan field though I mean he had a very successful comedy show that he wants to pitch a black horror film
Mel:  But I think he had to fund it himself to make it
Brendon: Fair
Mel: Yeah I mean
Marquita:  But it was phenomenal
Mel: It was
Mel:  But yeah you don't get a chance to mess up in that situation but we’ll get there
Marquita: Yeah
Brendon:  Will We?
Mel: I don't know, We’ll see.
Brendon: OK let's get started with the non-spoiler   review, so much about you guys but I think the most striking difference about this iteration of the Joker compared to any other representation of the character on screen is that his motivations are so personal. Heath Ledger was an agent of chaos and just wanted to watch the world burn. Mark Hamill's version varied whenever the writers needed you know every once in a while it was personal like return of the Joker that Batman beyond film but other times he just out for money or other times he just has any plots like the laughing fish.  Jack Nicholson was just a gangster who turned crazy and wanted to kill a lot of people.  Caesar Romero’s camping is from the 1966 Batman was completely kookie now that
Mel: They didn't even do origin stories back then  
Brendon: Exactly but yeah in contrast this movie is very human and gritty and raw Arthur fleck who is play by Joaquin Phoenix who becomes the Joker not Jack Napier is seriously impoverished and malnourished he works at a dead-end job in a dirty city you also the trailer
Mel: Yeah
Brendon: He just lives with and takes care of his mom there's nothing grandiose about that compared to the over the Top representations that we're used to
Mel: True yeah I think it had to be that way though the jokers never really had an origin story. In this sense that a lot of other super villains have so if you're going to tell that you've got to create a personal motivation so I think that makes a lot of sense that they did it this way

Brendon: You mean that in the on screen?

Mel: On screen, precisely yeah right

Brendon: In the vein of being human and personal the violence is again very raw very visceral Heath Ledger had the magic trick with the no name henchman right
Mel: Oh yeah
Brendon: He talked about how knives are more personal, but we never saw that really play out he only cut up Michael Jai White during his why so serious monologue but in this movie every single violent act you truly feel it for me
Mel: I'm just reviewing in my head Do you agree I’m just trying to think was there any mindless truly mindless violence perpetuated by the Joker in this film?
Mel: Uh, when I think about it, yea you’re right, interesting.
Marquita: Everything had a reason
Mel: Yeah, everything had a personal connection.  Which is a really good point.  I hadn’t thought of it.
Brendon: And when it happens, you’re right there.  It doesn’t cut away. You sit with it. With Arthur
Marquita: Right
Brendon: There were at least 3 instances where I dropped my jaw at some of it.
Marquita: Same
Brendon: Even if I knew it was coming
Mel: Yeah, there was only 1 where I did.  But, you know this movie is very violent.  But I think what makes it harsh is that it is harsh and serious violence.  I was thinking about this last night after I saw the film.  Well technically, Deadpool is more violent than this movie. But Deadpool is not personal and it is not serious.  So you don’t take it as horribly.  This violence, none of this violence is played for laughs or played for stakes. It’s all, like you said, personal.
Brendon: Right and Joaquin Phoenix.  Truly outstanding in this role and it really is all about him. The movie never leaves him in contrast to other comic book movies where the director will cut to check in and update us on what other characters or villains are doing when they're not interacting with the main character. Literally everything is seen from Arthur’s point of view the whole time
Mel: True. Yeah, you're right I agree.
Brendon: I really can't think of any other even smaller budget films that do that in a comic book setting.
Mel: Yeah no comic book films, no.  There's other types of films sure. But yeah but I think this kind of marks a departure from the quote unquote regular comic book movie absolutely because it's trying to be so serious and it's trying to tell a story that's much bigger than what most comic books try to attempt to tell. That said, yeah. I agree with you for the most part yeah. OK yeah the reason I said it was going to go into something else I’m not sure if I should say this here or not but.
Brendon: It’s not a spoiler?
Mel: It's not a spoiler it's just a comment on the process. I was reading a lot about this last night after seeing the film because I was curious as to how they made the movie particularly because of how Joaquin Phoenix, as the Joker looks.  He's got a distinctive look which I think is a spoiler and we'll talk about that later. But apparently because of some of the things he did to prepare for this role physically, it was dangerous for him to make this movie essentially and they made the movie they didn't write the script but he didn't have the full script before they made the movie basically Joaquin Phoenix and the scriptwriters worked on the script together while they were making the movie so they didn't.. They had like in general outline of the story but all of those details and things that's part of why the movie just follows him all of that just comes from the fact that they only had him for a limited period of time they could not do reshoots, they could not change anything about the movie The movie they made was that maybe they had so yeah so that's kind of why it's like that I think also there was no opportunity to do any of that
Brendon: Wow
Marquita:  I don't know that there was such a sense of urgency because watching it.. like I'm not going to spoil anything but watching it..I don't know how other people felt but I felt as though his performance was really in the mindset of the Joker or at least the some version of the Joker like you know it just.. I feel like even though I didn't.. I knew that he had went through a lot to prepare for the role but I didn't know how; just how much it was and how dangerous it was for him but I think some part of me could like feel like “wow like this this is this is real”
Brendon: He really committed
Marquita: Definitely yeah
Mel:  I feel that maybe you listeners can detect this is a virtuoso performance but it's not a cheerful one at all. We’re all very low-key talking about this is that we all saw this last night or yesterday afternoon. Correct? yeah OK at different times in different places like
Brendon: Wednesday night in Korea time
Mel: Right. Wednesday night in Korea time. It's not it's a virtuoso performance but it's very, very affecting because we're also low-key even talking about it now it's really hard to put your finger from what makes it so affecting but it really is like it's hard to explain.
Brendon: It’s effective, it's unsettling
Mel: Umhm. Very
Brendon: Absolutely I want to go on a little bit and talk about his laugh too. His laugh is also distinct from other iterations not simply because of how it sounds but why he is laughing in the first place. And some of that is at the spoilers I don't want to go into that too much.
Mel: Because that was a big shock for me.
Brendon: But even in the trailer you see that sometimes his facial expressions.. He's almost fighting serious pain while laughing. This isn't the uninhibited joy you're used to with the Joker you know Mark Hamill's iconic laughter was never sad.
Mel: Yeah. There's nothing silly about the Joker
Brendon:  No.
Mel: I think all of the previous iterations of the Joker it had some camp attached to them starting with you know she said Cesar Romero I think it is yeah in the old Batman TV show they've always had some camp attached there is absolutely no camp at all involved in this Joker
Brendon: Not at all
Mel: Not at all
Brendon: I really thought about the transformation but his facial expressions are just gripping at times.. often and you don't know what he's going to do
Marquita: I found it very unpredictable and for me i'm not a big fan of like unpredictability like I don't want to say jump scares or something like that but I think his laughter it was so unsettling for me an I think in the in the theater i'm not going to spoil course in August with anything but in the theater like a lot of noticed a lot of Koreans in the theater 'cause I feel like they're they're not used to such an unsettling character I notice like a lot of couples in the theater with me and they were like Oh Oh like you know a lot of them are getting a little shocked and whatnot especially when he did unpredictable things which we’ll talk about and I think I saw some people covering their eyes
Brendon:  Oh, I definitely saw that.
Mel: I did honestly
Marquita:  Yeah I like I was that you know I wasn't scared I just don't know what's going to happen next I want to let you know that kind of thing so I LOL even though for me it's not my favorite movie like it's obviously it's not my favorite but it's not my favorite villain hero type of movie it still I think for me Joaquin Phoenix had a really good performance overall sure like I’m not going to forget him
Mel: Not at all
Brendon: No
Mel: It's unforgettable
Brendon:  Yeah definitely should get some Oscar buzz for sure
Mel:  It should. I mean it is a virtuoso performance.. that’s some acting acting definitely
Brendon:  There are only several other major supporting characters.. major.. Zazie beetz his neighbor.  Robert De Niro plays Murray Franklin of TV host who Arthur adores, and Frances Conroy as his mother.  There's one work I don't want to spoil nut DC fans will certainly be intrigued with that and it actually could be polarizing
Mel: I think it will be
Brendon:  Yeah but they were all perfectly cast but they use just enough to let the main character shine more I feel like a better word and I'll contrast this with our last meeting we reviewed Ad-Astra where the characters were not very fleshed out you don't care about their fates as well as how they affected the main character we definitely felt much more for these people
Mel:  You do. There’s a really interesting sense of empathy in this whole film really but the supporting characters it's really notable because you can't really root for anybody in this film but you do have a sense of understanding where they're coming from even if you don't.. you're not anybody side
Brendon:  yeah
Mel:  So yeah. There's a really interesting sense of empathy and that the way that the characters are fleshed out I think demonstrates that it's hard to like anybody here
Brendon:  well to be honest the…BlerdUp.. the only people I empathize with were.. the black people..*laughs* I'm serious maybe we won't get that obviously get into some of that in spoiler section but yeah you know paper poison is trying out he's just chilling a clerk you know
Mel:  What's weird to me about paper boy that's not his real name but we all know him as paper boi but it was weird to me about paper boy is that he always sounds like paper boy when he's in movies but if you've never heard that dude just talk regularly and interviews he doesn't sound like that at all
Brendon:  You’re very right
Mel: like it's really weird was that just his acting voice it's so strange looks
Brendon:  Didn’t he go to like an Ivy League school?
Mel:  He did! He went to Ivy League schools he's you know he's very much he reminds me if you've ever seen Hollywood shuffle yeah he reminds me of the Robert Townsend character in the black acting school sketch he's like “oh no boss you can have my paper actually so when i was in school what they told me to do was to put on a negro voice” that's exactly how he sounds it’s so weird.  *laughs*
Brendon:  Speaking of black people.  The way they used black women in this movie was ummm.
I want to save that for the spoiler section actually
Marquita:  Yes!  We have to talk about that.
Brendon:  Especially with you two here.
Brendon:  The other surprising aspect of this film besides the departue from the other Joker iterations are the twists. I thought this was going to be a straightforward film. Some things are obviously telegraphed however that may have been intentional deception from the gut punches that come later. I literally had a huge complaint in my notes while watching the film but by the end of the film it became invalid because of a certain twist and I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about we’ll discuss that in the spoiler section
Mel: Mayyybe, yeah
Brendon: You guys have any other positive things to say about the movie?
Mel: This is a beautifully shot movie. I feel like I got more of the storytelling from watching then I did from listening to any other dialogue.  The cinematography is amazing. The use of color and it's not OK it's a beautifully shot movie but it is not a beautiful movie Gotham City so dirty I itched watching this whole thing it's so gritty and dirty and it really just the scene is so set were you just don't want to be there there's such a sense of creeping discomfort and unease in this movie and part of it is just the way it looks it's just a nasty, nasty place to live there's nowhere that looks comfortable or inviting
Brendon:  Essentially because you know we reviewed the original Batman 89 alright yeah actually just watched Batman returns for the first time in a long time this past weekend and those cities still feel like sets whereas this movie feels like a real breathing place
Mel:  It feels like a real nasty horrible city that you know is over poverty and cruelty
Brendon: The rats
Mel: yeah you know I don't think you actually ever see any rats but they're all just out of the frame waiting to make their debut you can just feel it like I seriously I itched every time he steps in the subway it was just gross but that was such a crucial part of the story like the way the way the film looked was so crucial to the story telling in the way that they used color I'm sure there is some first year film students somewhere like having a moment of ecstasy over the way that they used color to connect characters to each other and to show that some characters were connected to each other there was really good I think the way it looked was just beautiful
Brendon:  Absolutely
Marquita:  You guys have said it all *laughs*
Brendon: This is the part when I talk about negatives.  But personally, as a movie alone, I don’t really have any negatives for this movie.
Mel: Yeah, Ok. I see that. For me, this movie is like. Okay this a strange comparison to draw and I know it but bare with me ok?
Brendon:  Spongebob: The Movie, No?
Mel: No.  But not too far off.  For me this movie is a little bit like Frozen and refrigerator oats and Apple products.  It’s awesome to somebody, but not me.  But the fact that it is awesome to somebody, makes it worth paying attention to.  It was entertaining.  It was.. It didn’t resonate with me on a deep, personal level although I think it will resonate with somebody. 
Brendon:  For better or worse
Mel:  But just not me.  Yeah, but just not me.  I mean there’s def.. like I said there was a really palpable sense of empathy and understanding in this movie even if you’re not meant to be rooting for any these people.  But even with that..I…I wasn’t bored, I was just not invested…I…I appreciated the film.  Sorry let me say that again.  I appreciated the film, but I don’t know if I liked it.  It just didn’t speak to me on a really deep, personal level.  Because I personally am not cruel. *laughs* So yeah.
Brendon:  I feel like those are more of your closing thoughts than like a negative
Mel: I don't know I mean I guess for me just thinking in terms of this this movie good or not good then it then it becomes a negative there.  I have other closing thoughts. Maybe that is also part of my closing thoughts but yeah.
Marquita:  I think Mel put into words what I felt 'cause like for me it's just about the character like I just keep going back to the character and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and that's about it.  So I think I feel I feel in a similar way like I can appreciate the skill that it took to make this movie but like I said it's not like one of my favorite movies like I’m not gonna you know say “OK well I guess I'll watch the Joker killed time” you know or something you know that kind of thing so right yeah
Mel: Yeah it's not it's an impactful watch but not a particularly impressive one? I don't know how else to put it yeah
Marquita: Yeah it was a good character movie it was a good version of fleshing out his character but beyond that it was just for me it was OK true
Mel:  I’ll also say this I love Batman I talked about that in the Batman 1989 review but the Joker has never been my favorite Batman villain I think if I was more into the Joker and into the Joker mythology and if I wasn't if I didn't have such strong superhero movie fatigue right now. I might look at this very differently
Brendon: Who's your favorite Batman villain?
Mel: My favorite Batman villain? Oh good question maybe Talia Al Ghul maybe Clayface I really always love the Clayface story even though that's not necessarily a huge.. it's not one of the main people in the rogues gallery. Oh there's a few actually probably one of the Al Ghuls
Brendon: OK yeah sure alright, well let's close it out 'cause I do want to get into the spoilers.
Mel: Yeah yeah
Brendon:  Like I said I think if you isolate the movie from society it's a good movie. I think it's focused, it's generally enthralling just everyone was firing on all cylinders.  However, I feel exactly the way that Mel and Marquita feel.  Will I re-watch this movie?  Maybe it's going to take maybe will be a year or something I need to just take some time away and just maybe re watch this again yeah but it isn't an easily re-watchable movie for me at all. I'll probably only watch it once again just to kind of finalize how I feel about it.
Mel: Right. I understand that
Brendon: Like  Endgame came out this year and of course I could probably watch that once a year at this point. Right? Or Black Panther I could re-watch that all the time. This doesn't have that for me. But as you said, this maybe that something for a lot of people. There are some certain people we’ll talk about maybe in the spoiler section actually that this may be their new taxi driver or their new Scarface you know.
Mel: But I think not even just that kind of person I think also just I think to an extent because we've all lived overseas and we all have for some time I think we're insulated from certain pressures of daily life in America. I think this is going to resonate a lot more with people in America generally that it might with us because even though that cruelty definitely exists. That kind of cruelty in that kind of social for forgetfulness social to the kind of being discarded but yeah social neglect that's a better word.  That kind of social neglect does exist where we live now we don't see it we've all got jobs and social lives insulate us very heavily from that where we live whereas if we were all living in America let's be real we're all black folks we all are hood adjacent OK so we would be seeing this in a much more palpable daily life kind of way and I think that that insulates us in a way so it's not going to have the same impact it does for the average Joe or Rakeem or whoever who is living in America right now. I just I think we need to I don't know this sounds a little strange but I think we need to recognize our privilege in that way I think this is not going to resonate with us the same way as it does with some people
Marquita: That I agree
Brendon: I mean the themes are as you said social neglect how we deal with mental health there's kind of class warfare in there so I mean on those levels I definitely feel that. I don't personally think I need to be in America to feel that. My whole thing kind of now is, was this needed given the current times?
Mel: Maybe and I guess that's what I'm talking about is that even though you don't need to be in America feel that we're not being confronted with that every single day in the same way that somebody in America is right now. I mean just when you ever you go back and visit even when you're talking to people just the things are changing in America in a lot of ways and I think that it's much easier. For example right now if one of us passes out in the middle of this particular podcast you've got health care it's not worry for us, right?
Brendon: Right
Mel: There's other things were not insulated from of course there are certainly difficulties to being an expat but
Brendon: A black expat
Mel: Yes! Definitely but that said I mean we're just for insulated from some of the basic sort of changing reality of daily living in America and that's what I'm talking about I think. I think it's going to resonate with people who weren't already aware of this but have noticed the circumstances of their life changing.
Brendon:  I will say that even though we do have you know single payor healthcare here mental health care is
Marquita: Oh. It’s abysmal here.
Mel: It’s lacking
Brendon: Yeah that's expensive. And also to just the culture of violence. Like Korea doesnt have guns. So we don't have like me watching this movie I was scared enough in certain aspect especially the last act. But I can only imagine being a black person in an American movie theater and you see people who don't look like you in theater and you're wondering you know what may happen.
Mel: Yeah I think that's a worry for everybody I think it's more of a worry for us but I think it's very for everybody sure. Full disclosure, before we get into this I'm going to tell you guys right now  The Dark Knight shooting that's my home theater.  I'm from Denver so yeah exactly that's my home theater.  I'm from Denver I was living in England when it happened I remember seeing it on the TV screen that during a break at work and being completely shocked. But I'm from Montbelo whoop, whoop the bellows! There's like 2 people from there listening maybe. I’m from Montbelo and our closest movie theater was the Century 16 which I think is just called the Century now it's still there I visited when I was home this summer but yes that's my home theater so I've got a pretty personal connection to the whole idea of like theater shootings that the whole situation not I wasn't living there at the time I didn't know anybody who was there I just I'm very familiar with that place. So and because of that I want to say that it's not just an issue for us it's an issue of people who are crazy and shoot people shoot everybody yeah it's more of a problem for us because if we are shot then nobody cares you get 10 years in jail that's all. haha yeah that happened today all I don't know when this is coming out but yeah
Marquita: Yeah RIP Botham
Brendon: Yeah it's just how many more of these white guy has a hard life become violent stories do we need? Like this is like anti Iron Man.  You're sucked into this performance but you know he's not going to die, he's the Joker. Phoenix already put out interviews that he's down to do another movie so this isn't a spoiler like get over it.  It's like you're just captivated by his descent what he does and how he gets out of it like any other superhero movie and with that kind of cynicism and like is do we really need that in our society right now?
Mel:  I think we've had that so many times already and I agree with you but we haven't had one for this time necessarily in the same way. I thought it was clever that Robert DeNiro was cast in the film but I also it was also kind of a negative because the whole time I was like I've seen Taxi Driver I know exactly what's going to happen next. So I mean because this is just Taxi Driver with a Super villain.
Brendon: I never saw that movie.
Marquita: I actually never saw it either.
Mel: Oh Really? You should watch it. Well, maybe not.
Brendon: I downloaded so that I could prepare for this little more button at the time
Mel: There's a lot of parallels in both visually and story wise and character wise
Brendon:  Yeah again I contrasts with Ad-Astra. A man who had a rough start a negative outlook on life but he grows from that.  Like that's something that society needs that’s something that that men, white and whatever or otherwise, need to see. When we talk about is it needed?  I mean of course very few comic books aren't necessary. Right? However you know even if we weren't big fans of Wonder Woman, more than most comic films you know summer after Trump was inaugurated, it was certainly important in a symbolic sense.  Black Panther had a major issue for me in hindsight but in 2018 it was very important for black people to have that too. But unfortunately like I said we..let me put on my sunglasses, live in a society where these kinds of cultural events can negatively affect some people that lead to violence and other kinds of problems.
Mel:  That was kind of the overarching thesis of the movie wasn't it? we live in a society you could almost hear it in the background during certain scenes.
Brendon: Like i'm telling you all. I guarantee my US moviegoers that while you're watching this movie you're going to start looking for the exit throughout the film. You're going to start looking around at fellow moviegoers watching their movements you're going to be cautious leaving.

Curator of the BlerdUp Podcast // Blerds out about: Comic Book Movies, Video Games, Hip-Hop, and Politics

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