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AlmostAGhost

Bonus Reel: Joker & Taxi Driver

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On this special bonus episode, Paul & Amy compare the controversial supervillain origin story Joker with one of the films that inspired it, Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

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I agree with Amy 100% about movies like this that "Frankenstein" older movies instead of just paying subtle homage to them.  Get Out is another example of that.  I enjoyed that movie, but it borrowed so heavily from The Stepford Wives that you could predict what was going to happen if you were familiar with the older movie/novel (except for the ending, which was made more upbeat after test screenings).  That's why I don't agree with those who say Get Out should eventually be added to the AFI Top 100 list.  It seems better for the list to feature movies that created a new mold rather than just reusing an old one.

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I posted some comments over in the HDTGM thread, so you can read those there. I basically agree with Paul and Amy's comments here that though Joker is aesthetically interesting and Joaquin is good, it is basically aping the surface of classic Scorsese without the underlying depth of thought that goes into the scenarios in those movies. Amy mentioned that those other movies have more than just bad things happening to their characters (Travis fucks up his date with Cybill Shepherd, but he does get the date in the first place). I think a lot of this comes from those other movies also fleshing out the supporting characters, so you have more of an outside perspective on who the protagonist is. Making everything take place inside Joker's head is kind of a less interesting approach here, if you're trying to go the Taxi Driver/King of Comedy route.  If you want it to be all in one man's head, then I think the filmmaking needs to be more precise to help you differentiate between what is real and what is not, and to clue you in to the fact that it's a subjective take on the story (like Fincher with Fight Club).

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It's been a while since I've seen either, but wouldn't American Psycho be the more appropriate comparison than Fight Club from the "all in his head," interpretation?

I have not seen Joker.  I know somewhere it was well received.  All I've heard repeatedly in the multiple streams of media reviews that flow into my brain that it is, "shallow Taxi Driver. Phoenix gives a great performance," with the overall assessment ranging from "this was a bad movie," to "it was watchable to borderline enjoyable" in light of that.

I will point out, getting booed at Cannes, my understanding is, that's fairly common.   To the point where I hear that and just kind of shrug.

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Amy mentioned that the Joker isn't funny, but honestly, I thought that "nobody's laughing now" was a pretty good joke, even if it lacked delivery.  That made me question De Niro's reaction, since I would think most comedians would feel a little sympathy for a guy who had a decent idea for a joke and needs more reps on stage to work it out.  The choice to make De Niro's character unnecessarily callous in that moment is another example of the script spelling something out in black and white when it could have been more gray.  

(And this reminds me of the thing that infuriates me most about the script: why was there video of Fleck's performance at all?  In 1981, none of the audience members are going to be bootlegging open mic night with their huge 1981 camcorders.  So are we to believe the club takes video of all their open mic nights?  For what purpose?  Just in case someone bombs so bad, they can send the tape to late night shows?  That seems like an incredible waste of tape.  I needed an explanation for this, because it felt like lazy writing by someone who wanted to ret-con a typical 21st century occurrence into a point in history where it didn't belong.)

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7 hours ago, bleary said:

(And this reminds me of the thing that infuriates me most about the script: why was there video of Fleck's performance at all?  In 1981, none of the audience members are going to be bootlegging open mic night with their huge 1981 camcorders.  So are we to believe the club takes video of all their open mic nights?  For what purpose?  Just in case someone bombs so bad, they can send the tape to late night shows?  That seems like an incredible waste of tape.  I needed an explanation for this, because it felt like lazy writing by someone who wanted to ret-con a typical 21st century occurrence into a point in history where it didn't belong.)

(Some SPOILERS in here if you haven't seen Joker.)

Also, what kind of network talk show in the 1980s would want to show low-quality footage of some unknown amateur comedian?  Would they really consider that worthy of an on-air bit?

Not to mention that such talk shows aren't generally broadcast live, so Arthur's on-set stunt probably wouldn't have actually made it to air.

My other big question is about the backstory with his mom. The asylum has all kinds of records about his mother's mental issues, making stuff up, abusing him, etc. Why does this all seem like news to him? He doesn't remember any of it? Seems like if she was allowed to keep custody of Arthur there would have been a parade of social workers coming to their apartment.

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Both those points go to what I was saying in the other thread. It's like they just had to make him abused, had to make him a failed comic. And screw it if it doesn't make sense or quite fit. And those choices just aren't very creative or shocking or even arguably appropriate in turning a person evil.

I really wish they had made this gritty, real movie, but he still somehow fell into a giant vat of acid and came out insane.

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9 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Both those points go to what I was saying in the other thread. It's like they just had to make him abused, had to make him a failed comic. And screw it if it doesn't make sense or quite fit. And those choices just aren't very creative or shocking or even arguably appropriate in turning a person evil.

I really wish they had made this gritty, real movie, but he still somehow fell into a giant vat of acid and came out insane.

I listen to Marc Maron's podcast, and on it he made some non-specific references to having filmed two larger scenes, but one of them got cut out, and when the director told him why it was because they wanted to keep everything focused on the main character. (I guess the other scene was him and De Niro alone.)

The problem is that without that there isn't much context to what Arthur is doing, who he really is, etc. That's why the scenes with Albert Brooks and Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver are important, they give you a sense of what "normal" people think about Travis. I guess presenting the whole thing from Arthur's demented perspective means there is a strong emotional impact to many of the scenes, but thematically and intellectually it's left wanting. The individual scenes don't cohere into a solid narrative.

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4 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

(Some SPOILERS in here if you haven't seen Joker.)

Also, what kind of network talk show in the 1980s would want to show low-quality footage of some unknown amateur comedian?  Would they really consider that worthy of an on-air bit?

Early Letterman could maybe fit this bill but certainly not to the extreme of Joker. He definitely invited regular nobodies on air and made fun of them with Stupid Human Tricks. 

3 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I really wish they had made this gritty, real movie, but he still somehow fell into a giant vat of acid and came out insane.

SPOILERS FOR JOKER

Besides stuff others have said, this was my biggest issue with this movie while I watched it was linking it to Batman. As a movie about an abused, mentally ill man, it's good enough. Every time Bruce Wayne came up, it was laughable. When they showed the origin story for Bruce was the most groan inducing thing I've seen in a while. If this wasn't a super villain origin story, it's just an insulting look at abuse and mental illness.

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5 hours ago, grudlian. said:

Early Letterman could maybe fit this bill but certainly not to the extreme of Joker. He definitely invited regular nobodies on air and made fun of them with Stupid Human Tricks. 

Right, but that's just it, Letterman would actually bring them on the show and do planned bits with them, or he'd go out into the street and film his own stuff. And in the 80s Letterman wasn't the prestigious host everyone wanted to be on with, he was the weirdo whose show started after midnight. Even he wouldn't be showing random camcorder footage from a comedy club, I think.

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As someone who actually hasn't seen Joker yet, can I still listen to this episode without too many spoilers? (I have not read any posts here yet lol)

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3 hours ago, taylorannephoto said:

As someone who actually hasn't seen Joker yet, can I still listen to this episode without too many spoilers? (I have not read any posts here yet lol)

Lots of spoilers in it.

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7 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Lots of spoilers in it.

Booooo

Thanks though!

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