‘Outstanding’, ‘Irresponsible’ Joker

Joker, the dark and gritty origin story of one of DC Comics' most notorious villains, marks a giant departure from Warner Bros.' prior comic book fare, courting a more prestige audience with film festival debuts and an awards campaign in the works.

Directed by Hangover helmer Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the troubled, mentally ill Arthur Fleck, who eventually becomes Batman's arch-nemesis, the film set new box office records for an October release with a $96 million domestic debut over the weekend. The theatrical success came amid heightened security at cinemas across the U.S., after the movie sparked widespread headlines for its nihilistic themes and violence.

Now, many are curious to know if the film, or elements of it, will be remembered at year's end by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, some of whom caught it at the Venice, Toronto or New York film festivals; others at member screenings in New York on Thursday or Los Angeles on Saturday; and still others in cineplexes along with everyone else over the weekend.

A handful of Academy members have publicly championed the film on social media — for example, actors branch member Chris Rock hailed it on Twitter as "incredible" and a "masterpiece," while documentary branch member Michael Moore posted to Instagram that he regards it as "a cinematic masterpiece." But many hold their cards closer to the vest, especially those who have reservations about the film. On Monday morning, I reached out to several dozen whom I regularly consult with to find out how they are feeling about the pic, promising them that I would identify them only by their gender and Academy branch.    —Hollywood Reporter