“Joker”: The Day the Clown Cried and People Died


Toys and statues now available on Etsy and eBay! For other versions, check your local comic shops, big-box stores, Barnes & Noble toy sections, or good ol’ Amazon! Buy Joker stuff wherever you shop, work or bank!

Every review of Todd Phillips’ controversial Joker that I’ve read so far — and I’ve read several, none of them by youngsters who love DC Comics unconditionally, but not all of them scathing — has name-checked Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver because, per their consensus, the homage is so derivative that it’s practically an attempted reboot of both, or possibly the conclusion to the trilogy they never were.

I haven’t watched Taxi Driver in over twenty years, and I’ve yet to see The King of Comedy, which wasn’t available on any of my streaming-service subscriptions as of a week before release. Aside from noting how hard I snickered at an obvious, neutered copycat of the famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene, that means I can’t simply spend 1500 words deriding its Scorsese allusions scene by scene, and will instead have to come up with my own words and thoughts, as opposed to typing a derivative homage to all those other reviews. IF it turns out like that anyway, don’t blame me. It’s everyone else’s fault but mine.

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“Her”: the Trouble with Mixed-Sentience Couples

Joaquin Phoenix, Her

If an entire crowd is engaging their Bluetooths and ignoring their surroundings, are they still a crowd?

From Spike Jonze, the celebrated director who brought us Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich, and all the best Beastie Boys videos, comes Her, a sci-fi cautionary tale about the pitfalls of falling in love with a woman who has no body, no soul, no job, no family, no taste buds, and unlimited processing power. Can even Chuck Woolery make a love connection happen for this wacky couple?

We’ll be back in two-‘n’-two…

Anderson’s “The Master” Final Trailer: No Similiarities to Persons or Groups Living or Dead, We Totally Swear

Readers who consider themselves unabashed Midlife Crisis Crossover completists (i.e., my wife and me) may recall my preoccupation with the trailers for Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master, in which Academy Award Winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a charismatic jack-of-all-trades who’s not named Hub L. Ronnard, who attracts followers to his self-invented belief system that’s not called Scientetics or Dianology, who has Academy Award Nominee Amy Adams as the wife by his side, and who’s trying to lure Academy Award Nominee Joaquin Phoenix to his side with vague platitudes and cryptic encouragement.

Recapping our first three installments for newcomers:

* Teaser Trailer #1: a reserved interrogation, a forgotten fight, some crawling through machinery, and adult sand sculptures, all set to spooky bass-‘n’-percussion from composer Jonny Greenwood, the Radiohead guitarist who also worked with Anderson on There Will Be Blood.

* Teaser Trailer #2: Hoffman takes center stage with his myriad talents and elliptical statements of purpose, all overlapping and fighting to surface in the consciousness of Phoenix, who chafes in a new, awkward chapter of his life. Adams loves her husband. The Greenwood score repeats.

* Full Trailer #1: an unbalanced Phoenix fails at life on the post-war homefront and instead follows a writer who’s big on doublespeak and revival tents. Adams is not at all happy this time around — glaring at doubters, questioning Phoenix’s sanity, and acting perfectly fine with her husband’s shenanigans. Greenwood is replaced at the 1:39 mark with Jo Stafford’s maudlin 1950 hit “No Other Love“.

And now, the four-part miniseries, “The Trailers of The Master“, concludes with the final, fragmented chapter:

Other than reruns from previous trailers, the core is a stilted speech about how human spirits trump the animal kingdom. A soft orchestra is drowned out by Joaquin Phoenix drumming like Buddy Rich on a locked window. Standard male viewers should now be excited by the prospect of fights, guns, motorcycle races, and sex scenes. (Yeeeey.)

The officially R-rated movie begins its limited-release rollout to American theaters on September 14th. IMDb lists release dates in several other countries over the next several months, mostly in Europe. (Is Scientology discussed or even heard of in Asia? I’d be curious to know.) My intrigue in the general concept has ebbed a bit, but we’ll have to see if Indianapolis’ only art-house cinema offers it before next Oscar season; how my curiosity, budget, and conscience are doing by then; and if I’m not yet tired of those involved repeating in every related interview like a holy mantra, “IT’S NOT ABOUT SCIENTOLOGY.” When I turn it over in my head, it’s funnier because I hear it in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger from Kindergarten Cop. In reality, it grows more disappointing every time I hear it.

Full Trailer for “The Master” Offers More Narrative Tidbits, Still No Mention of “Battlefield Earth”

I was previously intrigued by the first and second teaser trailers for The Master, the new film from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, whose psycho-oil-magnate character study There Will Be Blood remains indelible and haunting even though I only saw it the one time in its theatrical release. The Master is an alleged roman à clef, or perhaps a mere parable, about the introduction of Scientology to the masses by one man who at first glance doesn’t quite appear to be Moses or Mohammed.

A longer, less vague full-length trailer is now available, with new shots of Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the cagey author, Joaquin Phoenix as the agitated follower, and Amy Adams as the female.

The “cult” aspect is now unmistakably in the forefront. Hoffman has crowds at his disposal and detractors in the corners. Phoenix is all about the head-tilting, lip-curling, mule-headed arrogance. Adams has more than one line as the naive (?), supportive wife. Non-believers probably played by decent character actors will presumably either get on board with Hoffmanetics or suffer ignominious fates.

To be honest, I’m a little afraid to get too attached to this. If the movie turns out to be a three-hour sex scene and the only scenes with clothing are all in the trailer, I may have to bow out. If the plot takes a hairpin curve and ends with a surprise endorsement of Scientology in the form of an hour-long passionate hard-sell from the cast and crew, I promise I’ll pitch a fit. If we can tell early on that this was filmed during Phoenix’s bizarre rap phase, I’m out. If the next trailer is all about explosions and collisions, I’ll flip a coin.

2nd Teaser for PT Anderson’s “The Master” Stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Bell Bon Bubbard

In the first teaser trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film, The Master, we saw Joaquin Phoenix as an uneasy rapscallion on the verge of doing something different with his life. In the new teaser, Philip Seymour Hoffman is a jack of several trades probing Phoenix with questions and strange reassurances. While the Internet is firmly convinced The Master chronicles the secret origin of Scientology with all the names changed, let it be known Hoffman here distances himself from the late L. Ron Hubbard in a very concrete way: he disguises himself with a mustache.

Not only do we finally see and hear costar Amy Adams, we also hear her hint at Hoffman’s character working on his most important text, a revolutionary self-help tome possibly to be titled Ianetics-Day.

Meanwhile at home, the most optimistic Scientologists hope this film will be, best-case scenario, their version of The Last Temptation of Christ. If it’s not, Anderson may look forward to being banned from working in their half of Hollywood in the future, and resigned to working in the Jewish half instead. If all else fails, there’s always work to be done in the malnourished field of Christian direct-to-DVD.

1st Teaser Trailer for PT Anderson’s “The Master” Avoids the 11-Letter S-Word

From Paul Thomas Anderson, the director of There Will Be Blood, comes another fictional biopic about a potentially disturbed self-made man whose work would come to affect millions in ways not necessarily for the better. Despite Anderson’s own denials, parts of the Internet swear The Master is thinly veiled nonfiction about L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, and/or the creation of Scientology. Any similarities to any movements living or dead, real or fictional, will no doubt be left to the viewer to decide and write pretentious essays in response.

(That’s not meant as derogatory. Seriously, I look forward to reading said essays. Some days I thrive on pretentiousness.)

The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, and Kevin J. O’Connor (the lanky toady from Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy). As with Blood, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is composing the presumably eerie, non-traditional score. This first teaser avoids any overt hints of its ostensible subject, instead focusing on flashbacks of Phoenix’s shenanigans while an obscured interrogator watches his immature smugness melt into unease.

[Content warning: teaser contains brief clip of bawdy sand-sculpting.]

I’ve played this a few extra times for the soundtrack alone, but I’m also savoring the one-minute sample of Phoenix’s performance that hints at grander, controversial, hopefully pretentious things to come.

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