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‘Joker’ Makes Golden Globes History for Comic Book Films on Its Way to the Oscars

Big victories for leading actor Joaquin Phoenix and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir make it clear "Joker" is a major Oscar contender.

"Joker"

“Joker”

Warner Bros.

“1917” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” were the big winners at the 2020 Golden Globes. The Sam Mendes-directed World War I drama took home big wins for Best Picture Drama and Best Director, while Tarantino’s beloved “Hollywood” dominated all films with three wins: Best Picture Comedy, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt. But Todd Phillips’ controversial comic book film “Joker” also had a major awards night, nabbing two prizes for Best Actor Drama and Best Original Score. The film’s Globes total was greater than other heavy-hitters like “Marriage Story” (one win for Laura Dern amid a ceremony-topping six nominations) and “The Irishman” (shut out amid five nominations).

With two wins, “Joker” is now the most awarded comic book film in Golden Globes history. Joaquin Phoenix’s acting win is the second time a performer has won a Globe for playing the Joker. Heath Ledger won the supporting actor prize in 2009 for his turn as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”

“Joker” was already the most nominated comic book film in Globes history with four nominations, ahead of the two nominations earned by the 1990 comic book film “Dick Tracy” and the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther.” “Joker” was not the first comic book film nominated for Best Picture Drama, as Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” competed in the category in 2019.

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Hildur Guðnadóttir’s Best Original Score win is even more historic for the Golden Globes, making the Icelandic composer the first solo woman to win the music category prize. Lisa Gerrard shared the Globe for Best Original Score with Hans Zimmer nearly two decades ago for their work on “Gladiator.”

Guðnadóttir’s historic Globes victory raises her visibility in the Oscar race for Best Original Score. Only seven women have ever been Oscar nominated for Best Original Score: Lynn Ahrens, Marilyn Bergman, Anne Dudley, Mica Levi, Angela Morley, and Rachel Portman. Bergman won in the now-defunct Original Song Score in 1984 for “Yentl,” while Portman won for 1997’s “Emma” and Dudley won for 1998’s “The Full Monty.” Levi is the most recent female Best Original Score nominee for her work on “Jackie.” Guðnadóttir won an Emmy last year for her work on “Chernobyl,” so her profile is certainly on the rise ahead of Oscar nominations later this month.

As IndieWire’s editor at large Anne Thompson reported over Golden Globes weekend, “Joker” is hugely popular not with just the HFPA members who vote on the Globes, but also Academy members. The HFPA and the Academy do not have crossover members, so it’s not as if winning a Globe instantly guarantees an Oscar win. However, Globes winners get their names out front in the race amid Oscar voting, which never hurts.

Last year’s four acting winners at the Globes repeated their victories at the Oscars, a good sign for Phoenix. The Oscar nominations are set to be announced January 13.

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