Why Avengers: Endgame's Director Is 'Ecstatic' About Joker's Oscar Nominations

The Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) dances in a grimy bathroom.

Any rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel Comics would be understandable. The two entities have given the world some of its most beloved characters -- but that means they’re also each other’s biggest competition. But apparently MCU’s Avengers: Endgame’s director doesn’t care much about that -- because he recently revealed that he’s ecstatic about all the Oscar nominations Joker has received.

Joe Russo recently told The Hollywood Reporter that it took him a while to get around to seeing Joker. But even though he was late to the (controversial) party, he is now rooting for it to win big on Oscar night:

I just saw it recently. Unfortunately I was shooting almost the entire time the movie was out. I loved it. I thought it was a beautiful piece of filmmaking. It was a very tragic, very modern story and really representative of existential isolation and the crisis a lot of people are feeling. The moment in it when he's on the talk show, where it's the idea of everyone in the world right now grabbing their megaphones and trying to shout each other down, and he's reacting against that. It's certainly a dark movie and a disturbing movie with a very important message to it. We're ecstatic that it's being recognized. It broke through the stigma that seems to be against these films, certainly at the Academy.

As far as stigma is concerned, the Avengers: Endgame director wasn’t necessarily referring to the ongoing debate about whether or not comic book movies can be considered cinema. But it’s hard not to read into his comments -- especially since Joker hit theaters not long after Martin Scorsese first revealed his not-so-complimentary thoughts about Marvel movies. Of course, part of what the Academy seems to love about Joker is exactly what Joe Russo calls out about it. The tragic nature of the story and its disturbing themes make it the kind of comic book movie that is obvious about the ways in which it is not a comic book movie. But, at the end of the day, a movie about a DC Comics villain is one of the most nominated films of the year, and that is definitely a win for comic book lovers everywhere.

While Joe Russo is more than justified in chalking up Joker’s success as a victory, it’s curious that he feels it’s this film, and not the ones that came before it, that broke the stigma. While it’s true that most comic book films are relegated to technical awards at the Oscars (Avengers: Endgame is only up for Best Visual Effects), Joker isn’t the first one of its kind to enjoy widespread accolades. In 2009, Heath Ledger won a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of -- you guessed it -- the Joker in The Dark Knight. And just last year, Black Panther nabbed a Best Picture nod, in addition to seven other nominations.

We’ll see if the Joker crew and Joe Russo have more reason to celebrate when the Oscars air on Sunday, February 9, aka tomorrow, on ABC.

Katherine Webb