Tag Archives: Jack Nicholson

Joker

3 Oct

‘Joker’: Phoenix tries to hold it all together, but eventually film lets loose, breaks down

Image result for joker images

Throughout Batman’s long history, the Joker’s been played by some pretty mighty performers. Standouts include Jack Nicholson, who pretty much hijacked Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989), and Heath Ledger, who won a bittersweet, posthumous Oscar for his deeply felt portrait of derangement in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008) – and let’s not forget the comic genius of Cesar Romero during the 1960s TV series. Nolan and Burton felt like the right hands to shepherd a dark superhero/villain origins tale, but Todd Phillips, with such swinging steak comedies as “Old School” (2003) and the “Hangover” films to his credit? Odd as it may seem, it’s a somewhat logical evolution from drunken vomit awakenings to blood-splattered foyers with a panicked dwarf who can’t reach a chain bolt to escape.

The real reason Phillips’ “Joker” succeeds is simple: Joaquin Phoenix makes the anti-antihero psycho-saga all his own. There’s also the script by Phillips and Scott Silver that plays with the Batman mythology artfully without getting bogged down in the bigger picture – though we do briefly see Bruce Wayne at a young age, when dad and mom are with us – but without Phoenix, I don’t think “Joker” takes flight. It’s a bravura go, and Phoenix should be right up there at year’s end (like Ledger was) with Brad Pitt and Leo DiCaprio when Oscar nods are called out. With maybe the exception of Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000) it’s hard to find a movie in which Phoenix doesn’t shine with brilliant quirk and dour doses of menace. He delivers all that here and more; it’s a total immersion. For the part of clown turned Gotham icon and sociopathic perp, Phoenix lost a ton of weight, something done with equal austerity by Christian Bale (who took up the bat cowl for Nolan) in Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist” (2004) or, inversely, when Robert De Niro added 50 pounds as Jack LaMotta in “Raging Bull” – and if as on cue (send in the clowns), the Martin Scorsese-forged actor shows up in “Joker” as beloved late night TV show host Murray Franklin, whom Arthur Fleck (the Joker’s birth name) and his not-quite-all-there mother (Frances Conroy, excellent in the small complicated part) watch religiously. Continue reading

Boston Crime Scenes

30 Sep

BOSTON — Bostonians, how we love our town. And as the years have gone by, Hollywood has loved the Hub too. Why the love?

Some of it has to do with the scenic, historical richness our city has to offer, some of it has to do with (the controversial) tax break incentives to use Boston as a backlot, some of it has to do with the waning power the unions hold and much of it has to do with Boston’s deep and storied criminal past that has become a romantic obsession in Tinseltown.

So used it is, that Dennis Lehane, who’s penned many crime novels set here that have become successful film adaptations also shot here (“Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Shutter Island”), flipped the setting for the script of “The Drop” from Dorchester to Brooklyn.

The latest Hollywood product to call the Hub home, “The Equalizer,” opened this weekend. While it’s not likely to be a Boston-branded movie, it does make excellent use of the city, balancing the dark criminal past and peripheral pockets that still persist today with the sweeping gentrification.

It’s a neat and true testament to see the unpretentious working class streets of East Boston (where Denzel Washington’s equalizer lives in a humble apartment) coupled with an Edward Hopper-esque diner in Chelsea offset by the wide shots of the Zakim Bridge and a high-rise criminal perch with panoramic views of the Financial District and the Seaport. The film also boasts the single best use of a Boston Herald delivery truck as a plot device.  Continue reading