It looks like Arthur Fleck is getting the last laugh.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters have spoken and they believe Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of a troubled clown for hire's transformation into the mad Clown Prince of Crime in Todd Phillips' "Joker" was among the best male performances of the year. Phoenix was nominated for lead actor at Monday's announcement of the 2020 Oscar nominations, and the film was nominated for best picture.
This makes Phoenix the second actor ever to be recognized by the academy for a role based on a superhero comic book character. The first was Heath Ledger, who posthumously won the supporting actor Oscar in 2009 for his work in "The Dark Knight." Ledger also played Joker, but opposite Christian Bale's Batman in the Christopher Nolan film.
Phoenix's nod comes after his recent win at the Golden Globes for lead drama actor, as well as a BAFTA nomination. He is also up for a 2020 SAG Award for his performance.
It's rare for movies based on superhero comics to be recognized in any of the Academy Awards' top categories, but "Joker" has now made it two years in a row. Last year, Marvel's "Black Panther" became the first comic book superhero film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar (the award went to "Green Book," which Times film critic Justin Chang declared "the worst best picture winner since 'Crash'").
"Black Panther" went on to win in three of the six categories for which it was nominated: score, costume design and production design. They were the first Oscars awarded to any film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"Joker's" other Oscar nominations include costume design, film editing, original score, sound editing, sound mixing, cinematography, makeup and hairstyling, adapted screenplay, and Todd Phillips for directing.
Phillips' sceenplay nomination is also a rare recognition for a superhero comic book film. Fox's "Logan," a part of the "X-Men" franchise, is the only other movie of the kind that has earned an Oscar nod for screenwriting. It was a nominee for adapted screenplay in 2018.
"Joker's" awards season run has been notable as a film that has polarized audiences for its violence and positioning of its title character as an antihero. The film put those affected by gun violence on edge even before its release, with family members of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a Aurora, Colo., movie theater calling on Warner Bros. to donate to gun victim organizations and advocate for gun reform. The pre-release controversy and anxiety led the Los Angeles Police Department to increase visibility at movie theaters during "Joker's" opening weekend.
Although it won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival following its world premiere in August, it opened to divisive reviews in the U.S. The movie went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide since its October release, making it the top-grossing R-rated film of all time.