I’ll be straight with you. I didn’t love Joker. It was fine, but like many people, I thought it was one part Taxi Driver, one part The King of Comedy, and maybe a little DC mythology sprinkled in for good measure. I definitely didn’t think it was better than Black Panther. However, I do think that Joker’s Oscar nomination is a greater feat than Black Panther’s. Even though both were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, I believe that Joker’s is the more astounding accomplishment for a number of reasons.
And while Joker may not have been the better movie, I do think that it’s the more important movie for comic book films from here on out. At least for the near future. By the way, I am black, so please don’t think I’m pulling a Terry Gilliam and not acknowledging the relevance that Black Panther had for a certain segment of the population. Now on with the reasons.
Joker is Not a Part of the Marvel Machine
Marvel gets a lot of good will since it’s basically shaped the landscape of American cinema for over a decade now. Audiences love it (well, besides prominent directors) their movies break records at the box office, and films like Black Panther become a cultural phenomenon. (More on that in a few). Yeah, it’s easy to love Marvel. And like Star Wars, most people want to see Marvel succeed and get recognized as being something bigger than just popcorn fluff.
But you know what a lot of people like to rag on? DC. In the same decade that Marvel’s been dominating the box office, the film branch at DC has been the whipping boy of everybody’s jokes and derision. Movies like Batman v. Superman and Justice League received low scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and the highest grossing DC movie of all time is Aquaman, for crying out loud. And I don’t remember Aquaman getting nominated for Best Picture, do you?
That said, Joker is a certifiable hit, and on a fraction of the budget ($62.5 million) of either Aquaman ($160 million) or Black Panther ($200 million). People who don't even like comic book movies came out to see it, and one of the key selling points was that it was “not” a comic book movie. Even though it definitely was. Without all the Gotham and Wayne family stuff, it likely wouldn't have made over a billion dollars globally. But that’s the thing about Joker. People did see it, and they went out to see it in droves.
For a movie that is very much a comic book movie to fool so many people into thinking it’s NOT—well, that’s something that Marvel and Black Panther could never get away with.
Black Panther Was a Cultural Phenomenon. Inversely, People Feared That There Would Be Mass Shootings Following Joker's Release
As I mentioned earlier, I’m black, so Black Panther meant a lot to me. Seeing an almost entirely black cast and such a very Afrocentric movie was something I could never have imagined as a child, and I know a lot of other black people felt the same way. Inclusion matters!
In that way, Black Panther seemed even bigger than just a movie. It seemed like a cultural phenomenon. And the Academy loves to ride the wave of populist pictures with something to say, especially ones that seem to actually touch audiences. Black Panther getting nominated for Best Picture was definitely a surprise, but not a huge one. The odds of it getting nominated, especially with ten possible slots (More on that soon) were in its favor. Especially after movies like District 9 got nominated.
But when Joker came out, it sparked fears that there would be mass shootings. Out of respect for the families in Aurora, Colorado where there was an actual shooting during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the theaters in Aurora decided not to even have screenings of Joker. In other words, unlike the groundswell of support that there was for Black Panther, theaters were literally banning Joker from being shown to audiences.
And that movie, which many would view as nihilistic, is up for Best Picture. A movie about what pretty much amounts to a mentally unstable man with PBA living out wish fulfillment and murdering people is also the frontrunner with more nominations than The Irishman. Black Panther is a very likable movie (one with a lot to say, but likable all the same). But Joker is not a likable movie. It is important in its own way, though. And I think Joker is even more important than Black Panther since it will shift the landscape of comic book movies more than Black Panther ever will.
Joker Brings Everything Full Circle With The Dark Knight
A lot of people will argue that it was the snubbing of The Dark Knight that eventually led to the ten rather than five possible nominations for Best Picture. Whether that is a fact or not is unknown, but Joker represents what The Dark Knight not getting nominated for Best Picture accomplished. It lent credibility to comic book movies as a whole again.
As many people out there who love Marvel movies, there is also a very vocal community who will say that superhero films are what’s killing the movie industry. But Joker is different, right? It’s often seen as the anti-superhero movie. The movie that you could juxtapose with all the “formulaic” Marvel movies and say, “See? Now this is a REAL movie.” Which is absolute crap, since Joker is every bit as much a comic book movie as Black Panther. It’s just not as bombastic.
And this is what makes Joker's nomination for Best Picture a bigger feat than Black Panther's. Like The Dark Knight before it, Joker has somehow given legitimacy back to comic book movies. Like The Dark Knight, Joker is an example of comic book movies turned on their head, even though there are plenty of other “comic book movies” that have also been considered legitimate in the past. Like Road to Perdition. Or A History of Violence. Movies that most people don’t even know are based off of comics.
Joker has somehow subverted the image of the modern day comic book movie and made it “classy” again. Hell, the fact that some people even refer to Joker as a “superhero movie” but it still gets away with being anti-superhero means that it gets to have it both ways. Black Panther never had it that good.
It Might Actually Win Best Picture
Not to be rude to the people who work in costume design or sound mixing, but Best Picture was the only major accolade Black Panther was nominated for. Compare that to Joker, which has more nominations than any other movie this year, including the big ones—Best actor, best director (For a superhero movie!), and best adapted screenplay, along with all the other technical nominations that very few people actually care about.
The facts are just clear. Black Panther was the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture, but Joker is the more important one. At least when it comes to credibility. And while Joker may not be the frontrunner, it might actually WIN Best Picture, unlike Black Panther, where the nomination seemed more like just a consideration than anything else. In every way, Joker’s nomination for Best Picture is more impressive than Black Panther’s. But what do you think? Am I an idiot? Sound off below in the comments.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.