I’ll happily admit I’m a fan of Joaquin Phoenix. I won’t deny it. While the actor can choose some wacky roles and at times seems to be really “out there,” I never seem to shy away, regardless of the role he’s in. It’s true, the actor is My Guilty Pleasure.
Sadly, I can’t remember the first time I truly noticed him in a role. As a Child of the ’80s, I loved watching The Fall Guy, but I can’t remember Phoenix ever appearing in the show. I remember watching a two-minute cut of Clay Pigeons at a coffee shop while a marketing rep asked me endless questions about why I wasn’t interested in the film. I actually watched 8MM in 1999, but I’ve never rewatched it and can’t remember much about the film.
I’m guessing the first time I truly took notice of Phoenix was Gladiator. Remembering how much I enjoyed the movie theater experience for that feature film does take me back. As a longtime fan of Ridley Scott, I was cheering the movie on during every single awards show that I watched and I’m thrilled for all of the accolades it won (the Oscars got those awards right, although Phoenix missed out on the individual achievement). Signs and The Village were only OK, although I liked the actor’s roles in the films.
I guess his time to shine truly was in Walk The Line. He embodied Johnny Cash. And having grown up in and around Music City, I was constantly cheering on the film’s accolades. While Reese Witherspoon absolutely deserved her hard-earned Oscar trophy, I felt like Joaquin was robbed his moment in the spotlight.
For the next 10 years, I didn’t feel like his chosen roles were all that great, although I DID enjoy Her. The actor’s notorious appearance on David Letterman promoting I’m Still Here almost interested me into checking it out… but I wanted to know more about the personal life of Phoenix, rather than invest in watching the actor attempt to rap.
All of this leads us to Joker, which debuted in 2019.
As a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association, I regularly attend a variety of screenings throughout the year. For the very first time, the media-only screening for this film was held almost two hours away from my house, which is very tough drive on a weekday afternoon, after a long day at work. While I raised a fuss about the distance, I never managed to catch the film inside a theater (this was pre-pandemic marketing at its finest). And then the awards started gaining momentum.
As a lifelong fan of Batman comics, I wanted to see the film’s success, although I really didn’t understand the reasoning for having standalone non DCEU films. I was happy — very happy — for the actor to finally bring home an Oscar for the role, although by the time I finally watched the movie on Blu-ray, I really didn’t enjoy watching it. What was all the fuss about? An R-rated comic book film without a superhero? It was OK, although Phoenix was great as Arthur Fleck.
Since many years of my Batman comics collection were destroyed in a 100-year flood, I cannot confirm the film’s storytelling as canon (although I’m thinking it is NOT), with the New 52 reboot, anything is possible in the DC Comics-Warner Bros. synchronicity.
I absolutely despised Christian Bale’s performance as The Dark Knight, although Heath Ledger was absolutely phenomenal and the highlight of the entire trilogy. I’m more interested in seeing Michael Keaton returning as an evil Bats in the upcoming Flash film than seeing Phoenix in another standalone Joker film, but it’s possible the storyline will be good for the second story (although Todd Phillips is not currently attached to direct it).
Seeing the first time Joker meets Harley Quinn would make a great story, although I truly need the current Batman to also makes his presence felt (preferably not Robert Pattinson). I don’t need any more attempts by a filmmaker to make me sympathize with the lunatic, as that just isn’t possible. I need some vigilante justice served and Fleck to be taken down a notch or two, so the character can finally realize his ultimate full potential as a villain.
Gotham needs this. Batman fans need this. And cinema aficionados who enjoy watching Phoenix totally embody his roles also need this. That is something I cannot wait to see, which is only enhanced by the actor… who’s My Guilty Pleasure.