Don’t Underestimate ‘Joker,’ Which Reaffirms Its Place in the Awards Conversation After Camerimage Win

Despite persistent backlash dating up to and throughout its release, "Joker" isn't going away anytime soon.
Nico Tavernese/Warner Bros.

Despite persistent backlash dating up to and throughout its release, Todd Phillips’ “Joker” isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s almost redundant at this point to rehash the numerous takedowns levied upon the movie. It’s a celebration of violence! It will incite incels! Horrid acts of cruelty are committed against women and other innocent people! No matter, because the movie, having now crossed the $1 billion box-office mark, which is unheard of for an R-rated film, is here to stay.

“Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher took the top prize at this weekend’s EnergaCamerimage festival in Torun, Poland, on Saturday. For his gritty lensing of early 1980s New York in a DC origin story that finds Joaquin Phoenix manically turning into the iconic Batman nemesis, Sher won the Golden Frog. This cinematography prize has gone to such films as “The Fortress,” “On Body and Soul,” “Lion,” “Carol,” “Leviathan,” and “Ida,” and Sher’s win should secure his place in the Best Cinematography Oscar race — and further boost the profile of a movie that, at this point, no Academy voter can ignore. “Ida,” “Carol,” and “Lion” all received Best Cinematography Oscar nominations throughout their respective runs.

As part of his appearance at the festival, Sher spoke out about the original plan for “Joker,” which was to shoot on 70mm. He said, however, that “Joker” distributor Warner Bros. “quashed” those plans. (The film still sits high on IndieWire’s predictions for the Best Cinematography Oscar.)

The Camerimage fest also handed out prizes to other Oscar hopefuls. “The Two Popes” director of photography César Charlone claimed the Silver Frog runner-up trophy. He previously nabbed the Golden Frog for the 2002 film “City of God” and 2008’s “Blindness — both also helmed by “Two Popes” director Fernando Meirelles

The Bronze Frog, meanwhile, went out to Czech Republic’s horrifying post-WWII, black-and-white drama “The Painted Bird” for cinematographer Vladimir Smutny. It’s Czech Republic’s submission for the 2020 Best International Feature Film Oscar. Written and directed by Vaclav Marhoul, this devastating but difficult-to-sit-through story of a boy’s evolution into a psychopath following a series of awful events will be a tough sell for Academy voters. But it’s hard to deny the movie’s powerful vision of a crumbling psyche. Sound familiar?

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