Within the first few minutes of Joker, a movie where Joaquin Phoenix is going to get nominated for if not win an Academy Award for sleeping in a refrigerator, we learn that Gotham is being overrun by rats. Not just any ol’ garbage-eating rats, but garbage-eating super rats, and the only way to take care of super rats is super cats, obviously. Followed by super dogs, super gorillas, and finally, it’s winter time. Anyway, the rats never factor into the plot of the movie, but they might in another DC title, The Suicide Squad.
It’s suspected that the rats belong to Ratcatcher, an obscure villain in Batman’s Rogue Gallery. “Once employed as an actual rat catcher in Gotham City, Otis Flannegan soon started using his strange ability — an affinity with and the ability to control rats — to stage a variety of crimes,” his description reads. “Eventually, his control over the vermin grew until he threatened Gotham with a veritable army of rodents. Incarcerated many times at Blackgate Prison, he can cause as much damage behind bars as without, using his loyal, trained, pets to relay messages and transport materials inside the maze of ventilation ducts that wind throughout the giant prison.” If I lived in Gotham, I could deal with evil penguins and riddle-obsessed lunatics, but rat minions? That’s too much.
The rat infestation could be a coincidence — a way to signal that Gotham is on the decline, like how movies set in the future use trash-can fires as a visual representation of poverty — but maybe not, considering Ratcatcher will make his, or should I say “her,” official introduction in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The role will be played by Daniela Melchior, who “will have some connection to whomever [Idris Elba] ends up playing,” according to Variety. Maybe Ratcatcher can join Harley Quinn’s girl gang?
Anyway, the rat reference did not slip by many DC fans.
Still reeling over Joker. Keep thinking the rats in the background of significant scenes could be a subtle hint to Ratcatcher?
— Pizzkey @pisskey October 6, 2019
Was the big rat thing a ratcatcher reference?
— Steven Glansberg @VDC234 October 6, 2019
Shoutout to the Ratcatcher
— Jbat: Striver for Justice @moeru_hoshi October 7, 2019
I mean come on you foreshadow Obscure Villain The Ratcatcher and not do anything with it?
— John Reid Adams @NarcoticCasser1 October 9, 2019
Noticed Ratcatcher too.
— Jack Bottomley @JJB888 October 7, 2019
Maybe they're saving that for the sequel. I mean, they're introducing Ratcatcher in The Suicide Squad, so maybe she and Joker will team up in "Joker II: Ratpocalyse". pic.twitter.com/61zaD2ZAnn
If the worst part about watching Joker was that you were left wanting more of Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime, you can take some comfort knowing that Joker 2 is definitely possible. While no plans for a sequel are currently in the works, the critical and financial success of the movie certainly allows for the possibility. Opening up about playing the iconic role on Popcorn with Peter Travers, Phoenix shed some light on what it was like to become Batman's arch-nemesis.
When asked by Travers if playing the Joker was a "dream role" for him, Joaquin Phoenix suggests it turned out to be that way after he signed on and open to reprising the role in a follow-up movie. From the interview:
"I wouldn't have thought this was my dream role, but now, honestly, I can't stop thinking about it. I talked to Todd a lot about what else we might be able to do - in general, just working together, but also, specifically, is there something else with Joker that might be interesting? So, it ended up being a dream role."
Let's not start holding our breath just yet. "I don't know that there is [anything more to do with Joker]," Phoenix also says in the interview. This suggests he's open-minded to reprising the role in another movie, but only if the right idea comes along. As for Phillips, the filmmaker doesn't seem quite as optimistic about seeing a Joker sequel happen, clearly stating in an interview that a follow-up just wasn't in their plans.
However, if the demand for it was there and the folks at Warner Bros. were also interested in continuing the story, Phillips admits he's ultimately open-minded about developing a potential sequel one day. "If he was willing to do it, and if people show up to this movie, and Warner came to us and said, 'You know what? If you guys could think of something...' Well, I have a feeling that he and I could think of something pretty cool," Phillips confessed.
Related: Joker 2 Probably Won't Happen, But Joaquin Phoenix & Todd Phillips Did Discuss Ideas
Directed by Phillips using a screenplay co-written with Scott Silver, Joker presents an all-new backstory for the iconic supervillain. This version of the character introduces Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a clown for hire and failing stand-up comedian who's come to be down on his luck in Gotham City. One unfortunate event leads to another which results in Arthur's transition from a shy loner into a demented, face-painted murderer. Along with Phoenix, the movie also stars Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, and Brett Cullen. As it serves only to tell the story of the Joker specifically, Batman only appears in the movie as a young Bruce Wayne, years away from becoming the savior of Gotham City.
Joker has proven itself to be a tremendous hit with critics, boasting mostly positive reviews despite its troubling content. It's also a big winner at the box office, pulling in nearly $100 million during its opening weekend and smashing records in the process. Still, controversy continues to swirl concerning the movie's violent content, and it remains to be seen just how much this will affect the movie's chances for recognition at the Oscars. Whatever ends up happening, most people seem to agree that Phoenix deserves a Best Actor nod at the event at the very least.
Who knows if we'll ever see an official sequel, but on its own, Joker seems to be one of 2019's most must-see movies, even if it's leaving some members of the audience feeling disturbed. The portrayal of the character by Phoenix in particular is certainly worth the price of admission alone. For one reason or another, the movie definitely has a lot of people talking. You can watch the interview with Phoenix below, courtesy of Popcorn with Peter Travers on YouTube.
I hope you’re not sick of Joker yet, because this movie is being bandied about as a serious Oscar contender, which means we have another four months of talking about it from several different angles – and that includes diving into hot-button comments from its cast and director.
Filmmaker Todd Phillips made waves recently by essentially claiming that “woke culture” is ruining comedy, but longtime comedian and Joker cast member Marc Maron strongly disagrees. Read Maron’s dismissal of Phillips’ viewpoint below.
Within a recent Joaquin Phoenix profile at Vanity Fair, Phillips gave his thoughts on the current state of comedy:
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture. There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore—I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.'”
Maron responded to those comments on an episode of his long-running WTF podcast via The Playlist, calling Phillips’ stance “tired” and refuting his entire premise about comedians metaphorically taking their ball and going home:
“There’s plenty of people being funny right now. Not only being funny but being really fucking funny. There are still lines to be rode. If you like to ride a line, you can still ride a line. If you want to take chances, you can still take chances. Really, the only thing that’s off the table, culturally, at this juncture –and not even entirely – is shamelessly punching down for the sheer joy of hurting people. For the sheer excitement and laughter that some people get from causing people pain, from making people uncomfortable, from making people feel excluded. Ya know, that excitement.”
“As I’ve said before, it’s no excuse,” Maron continued. “If you’re too intimidated to try to do comedy that is deep or provocative, or even a little controversial, without hurting people, then you’re not good at what you do. Or maybe you’re just insensitive.”
I never would have thought that Marc Maron would be the voice of reason in the Joker discourse, but here we are. He finished up his point with one more observation:
“Bottom line is no one is saying you can’t say things or do things. It’s just that it’s going to be received a certain way by certain people and you’re gonna have to shoulder that. And if you’re isolated or marginalized or pushed into a corner because of your point of view or what you have to say, yet you still have a crew of people that enjoy it, there you go! Those are your people. Enjoy your people.”
It’s hard not to think of people like Louis C.K. during that last quote, and Maron’s points are solid here. It seems as if Phillips may not have been fully prepared to handle the intensity of the firestorm surrounding the movie he made, and Maron’s essentially saying that if you’re going to call down the thunder, then you can’t complain about it when you get soaked.
And as for “woke culture” killing comedy, what Phillips seems to be really upset about is that it’s killed a subset of comedy, one which just so happens to reflect the comedy on which he built his career. But that does not mean that there isn’t a vibrant comedy scene out there full of vastly different perspectives. For more on this, I’d recommend listening to this excellent episode of the Still Processing podcast, which touches on Dave Chappelle’s most recent special and digs into this topic even deeper.
Todd Phillips got together with the good folks at Vanity Fair to break down the opening scene of his movie Joker. The scene is our first introduction to the tormented Arthur Fleck Joaquin Phoenix, the man who will one day become Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime. Love or hate Phillips’ film, this is an interesting video and gives you a glimpse into what Phillips was going for with his ultra-dark comic book movie. Watch the Joker opening scene breakdown below.
Joker Opening Scene
According to Todd Phillips, one of the most important jobs of a director is tone, and the thing he’s most proud of with Joker – especially during its opening moments – is the dark, grim tone he sets for the rest of the movie to come. Phillips then takes us into the film’s opening moment, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sits in front of a mirror applying his make-up. As Phillips explains in the video, this scene was shot on location in a real space in Harlem.
“Everything in the movie is meant to be unsettling,” Phillips says. “So anytime we move the camera…it’s meant to give off this unsettling vibe of this guy.” During the course of the scene, Arthur struggles to literally put a smile on his face. Arthur sheds a single tear during the moment which makes his make-up run, and Phillips adds that Phoenix did that on his own during one take. He also says that he had the movie’s score, composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, recorded before the movie was even made – which is very uncommon. Phillips wanted to be able to play the score for Phoenix and the rest of the crew to set the tone and mood for the movie, and Phoenix was listening to the score during this specific scene.
There’s a lot more insight here, both into the making of the film, and into the Joker as a character. Phillips addresses the Joker’s constant, off-putting dancing – it’s all over the trailers – and says that he told Phoenix he saw Arthur as someone with “music in his soul.” And that music continues as he transforms into Joker, going from playful, comical dancing into something far weirder. “There’s a grace to Arthur,” Phillips says. A grace that Arthur doesn’t really find until he becomes the Joker.
I gave Joker a positive review, but I also think the movie has its fair share of problems – specifically the script. That said, this video gave me a greater appreciation for the film as a whole.
While Joker is in theaters this weekend and Birds of Prey is on the way, The CW’s Arrowverse is launching a new Batshow. Batwoman stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin who returns to Gotham City and becomes Batwoman in his absence.
Not every Gothamite is happy to see Batwoman. Jacob Kane Dougray Scott thinks his Crow Security team is all the protection Gotham City needs and Alice Rachel Skarsten wants to turn Gotham City into her own Wonderland. Batwoman will also be part of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.
Batwoman showrunner Caroline Dries spoke with /Film after the show’s Television Critics Association panel. Batwoman airs Sunday nights on The CW.
Is the reason Batman left Gotham City based in the comic books?
It’s one that I’ve invented. In the comic books, she’s sort of feeling like she has no direction in life. Some bad things have gone and she’s out drinking one night and she gets mugged. The caped crusader comes and saves the day and she looks up and sees the silhouette of Batman and she’s like, “That’s what I want to be.” That’s how it is in the comics. In our mythology, we wanted to make it slightly more complicated than that. So he’s gone and we don’t know where he is and we don’t know if we’re going to see him again.
Is anyone else going to connect that Bruce Wayne has been gone for exactly three years also?
Hopefully not. Hopefully you can just keep that secret as long as possible. You’d think a few more inquisitive journalists might have figured that out or been asking but apparently in Gotham, people lose track of a lot of different people very quickly.
Does Crow Security give you an engine to the show?
So in the comics, Jacob Kane was the head of what was called The Murder of Crows. It’s this international faction of the U.S. government. It’s a little Blackwater-esque. So he’s doing all these international missions, this independent company for the government. We wanted to keep him in Gotham so we decided to make the Crows the sort of Blackwater of Gotham. We’ve seen so many different permutations of the Gotham City Police Department that this was sort of what we could offer as the new way into Gotham and the new protectors of the city, and then obviously people who think they’re protectors of the city are counter to the superhero who thinks she’s the protector of the city. So it made perfect sense that the man in charge of this security company was Batwoman’s father.
Does Jacob Kane really have Gotham City’s best interests at heart?
In his heart of hearts, he believes that he does. This is a man who lost his wife and daughter in one fell sweep, in one second of the day. The Joker is responsible for running his bus and crashing into that car and putting them into the river. There wouldn’t have been a Joker if there hadn’t been a Batman. So he is trying to protect Gotham form people that create evil like The Joker and like Batman. So he’s not really doing anything that a father wouldn’t believe in. He just happens to be an opponent against our hero, Batwoman. So we might see him as doing bad but he’s actually trying to do all the right things.
His and Kate’s relationship begins at a fraught place. Even if he doesn’t know her secret, does that further complicate their relationship because Kate knows?
Their father/daughter relationship is not black and white. It’s a roller coaster like any relationship where some days they’re growing closer and then some days they’re being ripped apart. The big thing, the pilot for her emotionally was that she’s just constantly trying to prove herself to this man who will never really believe in her. Her journey in the pilot was realizing I have to stop worrying about what he thinks of me. I have to worry about what I think of me and I’m going to do what I want to do and do it my own way. That’s her journey in the pilot and continues to be her journey moving forward. It’s up to Jacob to realize this is what she’s going to do. I can either be a fan of tis or I can continue standing in her way. Really the ball’s in Jacob’s court.
How long before people realize that she’s a batWOMAN?
No kidding. I think part of the reason she puts that wig on is to clear up any confusion. That’s a big event of episode three is her realizing enough is enough, people.
It’s Commissioner Forbes. Has Jim Gordon retired?
Yeah, I associate Jim Gordon with the Batman era. So Commissioner Forbes is going to be. We haven’t met him yet as we’re breaking stories but he is in the ether of the Gotham City Police Department.
Have you cast him yet?
Is there a Forbes in the comic books?
This is the sixth Arrowverse show. They have a stunt team and action coordinators. Do they help you mount up these fight scenes?
So each show has its own stunt team. What I think makes our show unique is our stunt crew came from the show The 100 which is a much different type of action than the Arrowverse shows. They said to me, “What kind of stunts do you want her doing?” She’s trained in the military but she’s trained all over the world. I said, “I just want it to feel really, really grounded. Marcos wanted to shoot it in a really grounded, brutal, visceral way. It’s hard to explain but basically what that means is less wide shots and more like you’re just getting the nitty gritty, so you’re on Ruby’s face as she’s throwing the punch and you’re watching the punch connect. So a lot of it is more hand to hand combat as opposed to acrobatic combat where she’s twirling around and doing a ton of kicks. So that sequence in the orphanage I think is awesome because it’s really just using her environment as a weapon and it shows more of her cleverness as a fighter. Her posture is pretty small so she’s going up against big guys. She has to be smarter than them fighting-wise because she’s not going to have the brawn to take them out necessarily. And then as she becomes Batwoman it becomes slightly more acrobatic and she’s doing flips and kicks and stuff like that.
Does the Crow team have their own style?
Yeah, we tried to show it in the Sophie fight in the teaser, but it all happened so fast. Their style is really to shoot first and ask questions later. They’re much more into guns and the AK-47s and shooting people.
Is Alice Kate’s Joker?
Yes, so in the Batwoman comic book lore, Alice is the main villain that Batwoman goes up against. I wanted to make that the main conflict of the show. But she is definitely The Joker in terms of being theatrical and overly dramatic and loving being the center of attention.
You launch this show and know that in December you have to cross over with five other shows. How daunting is that?
It’s been really, really hard. It’s hard enough to just schedule one show and then this show is unique because we’re also going to Chicago, which I won’t bore you with the logistical details of that but it’s an extra thing to add onto your life. So then to do this, it’s like wait, what? At the same time, it’s awesome too. As a fan of these types of shows and these comics, it’s like yes, bring it, bring it, bring it. I’m just flattered that I get to be part of it and I love that Kate’s going to be intimately part of it.
Did it change the pace of your story knowing episode eight or thereabouts wasn’t going to be just a Batwoman episodes?
Not really. We had the luxury of breaking out the season knowing the crossover episode falls right here so leading up this needs to happen, and then after it, this is going to happen. We knew broadly what was going to happen in the crossover, but when you see the crossover you’ll realize this is a really standalone five hour movie. It does impact our series but it didn’t affect our storytelling.
How many other villains will crop up? What will Alice think of other villains?
Alice has a very specific agenda. She’s sort of unflappable in her agenda so she doesn’t pay too much attention to people who aren’t personally related to what she needs to be doing. That being said, because she’s willing to do anything to get what she wants like any good villain, she’s going to, as a byproduct, bring in and lure in more villains to Gotham that she has to deal with or Kate has to deal with.
Was it on purpose that you cast Rachel who had been in Birds of Prey?
No, I didn’t realize that until after. We brought her in for three auditions which is a lot of auditions for a role. We just wanted to make sure that we were threading the needle with somebody who could understand the deliciousness of the character and also keep it really grounded. Rachel was the standout. It didn’t occur to me until her third audition when Peter [Roth] was like, “We’ve worked together before on Birds of Prey.” I guess I knew of her more so from Reign.
Does Kate have all of Batman’s wonderful toys?
Of course, yes. That’s what’s fun about the Batcave is the way Lisa Soper designed it is that it has sort of these alcoves that go into shadows. We don’t know what’s in that cave over there, what’s in that cave over there. So I keep waiting for Kate to find the Batgarage.
Which classic Batgadgets have you had fun bringing back, and what new ones do you invent?
They’re all super fun. Our props department is awesome. We’re trying to do all of them that aren’t super cheesy. We’re not doing shark repellant but I like the rebreather. That’s awesome. We invented one, this laser cutter thing that’ll be useful for Kate. Obviously the Batarang and there’s different versions of the Batarang. We try to do one an episode of just introducing a gadget and just having fun with it.
And you haven’t thought about vehicles yet?
We’ve thought about it. I just really want to nail it and I also want to have the right budget for it so you’ve got to kind of make that work.
“Natural Born Killers” arrived in multiplexes in 1994 like a molotov cocktail. Despite being dropped by Warner Bros. into the late-August graveyard of release dates, Oliver Stone’s serial-killer satire ended up at number one at the U.S. box office, and has remained a cult favorite since debuting 25 years ago.
As part of Los Angeles’ Beyond Fest, the film will screen in 35mm, in its unrated version, Tuesday night, with director Oliver Stone in attendance at the Egyptian Theatre. In a recent telephone interview with IndieWire, the notoriously prickly director insisted on keeping the Q&A on topic with “Natural Born Killers.” With regards to his upcoming Hollywood memoir slated for 2020, ill-received comments about anti-gay propaganda in Putin’s Russia, or Stone’s relationship to Putin as evinced by his 2017 documentary “The Putin Interviews”: Stone’s answer? “I don’t want to talk about that.”
Okay, then. Shocking to this day in its lurid violence and evisceration of the media’s obsession with murder and death, “Natural Born Killers” in many ways presaged the wave of true crime and serial-killer stories on our screens and in our earbuds today. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play psychopathic murderers on a vicious killing spree who become irresponsibly glorified by fetishistic media coverage. Sound familiar? The following year after the film’s release, the O.J. Simpson trial came to dominate the culture as no media circus ever had before.
“In 1990, I felt the media landscape was really changing, especially the coverage of violence,” Stone said. “It always existed but it became more geared towards profit when the O.J. Simpson trial happened. I'd never seen anything like it. Growing up, I'd seen a lot of sensationalism. We have a sensation-daily world, but it's bigger than ever, and television made it so. The O.J. trial was covered to the exclusion of almost all news. It was wall to wall. I don't think television ever made more money in revenue, and I don't think they ever went back. It’s been that more or less since then, [though news coverage] moved out of the field of murder and into politics as entertainment.”
“Natural Born Killers”
Sidney Baldwin/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock
Amid accusations of romanticizing criminality, and giving a voice to mentally ill protagonists from damaged backgrounds, “Natural Born Killers,” it’s been said, stoked a number of copycat crimes following its release. In March 1995, teen lovers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson went on a killing spree throughout Middle America, and had prepared for their trip by dropping LSD and watching “Natural Born Killers” on a loop.
Stone insists to this day, however, that he did not intend the film as a celebration of violence. “Its violence was satiric. I had a history of making films with realistic violence, and I thought it was clearly not literal, but metaphoric, over-the-top, not even close to real,” said Stone of the hallucinatory film whose violent set-pieces are indeed too outrageous and deranged to be taken literally. “Rodney Dangerfield drowns in a fish tank!”
Revisiting “Natural Born Killers” undoubtedly brings to mind a certain controversial movie now in theaters that everybody has an opinion about. But as of the time of this interview, Stone hadn’t seen “Joker.”
“It sounds interesting… like maybe it's going to be about an orange-colored president,” Stone said. “We're living in the age of the Joker. In terms of sensationalism and violence, I imagine that it treads on those themes [of ‘Natural Born Killers’].”
Stone also said he doesn’t watch shows like “Mindhunter” or true-crime series, but acknowledges that the myth of the antihero continues to own the output of what we’re seeing on film and television. “You see it everywhere. I'm not saying that's what I want to see. But the future is murder,” he said. “Natural Born Killers” ends with the Leonard Cohen song “The Future,” where the folk singer/songwriter echoes that very claim.
“Natural Born Killers”
Melding multiple styles, from the docudrama to the sitcom, “Natural Born Killers” was ambitious and difficult to get made — and not to mention cast, as most actors didn’t want to go near it.
“It does in some way predict the violence that has come down on our century, the violence in the air and the violence on American television. [Look at] the cutting of commercials — the style has devolved to become busier and busier, more sensational. We did that on purpose,” Stone said, referring to the film’s frenzied editing technique.
Regarding getting the film off the ground, “I had problems, believe me. We barely got it made to Warner Brothers,” Stone said, which is the studio that distributed his Kennedy biopic “JFK” 1991 and third anti-Vietnam film “Heaven & Earth” 1993. “I wanted to make ‘Natural Born Killers,’ and they did not. They were worried about the violence. They gave me a list of actors and they were all impossible to get into the movie because they’d all turned it down.” But finally, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis signed onto the film, and Stone and his crew went off to make it in New Mexico, Arizona, Indiana, and Illinois.
Another person reportedly unhappy with the movie? Quentin Tarantino, who had written the original script, titled “Mickey and Mallory.” The script was heavily revised by Stone, along with screenwriter David Veloz, and associate producer Richard Rutowski, with Tarantino ending up with a story credit.
“He wrote the original script, and we bought it. It was all done legally. A lot of money was paid. His opinion, yeah he didn't care for it, but I don't know if he ever saw it. He went around and said that and I don't think it was the right thing to do. But that was one of my many problems. We did well in spite of it all,” Stone said.
The 73-year-old director affirms that “Natural Born Killers” still holds up as “original and strange,” and even prophetic.
“It was intended to poke fun at the madness of our system,” he said. “American life is lived on television. In this climate, these fucking ridiculous shows, people divest their lives away in pursuit of money, in pursuit of love. People don't have a life. They have a fake life. Reality TV is fake. It's acting. What's real? How do I know.”