By the time we get to the eve of the Academy Awards, there are going to be some locks. And as we approach New Year’s Eve, we already have at least one. Sure, some people are trying to deny it. Others simply don’t realize it. But most of us know it. Let me attempt to explain it. Here are five reasons why Joaquin Phoenix is 100% guaranteed to win the Best Actor Oscar for “Joker.”
1. He delivers the most celebrated performance of the year.
I know, it’s very subjective. But most people agree that Phoenix’s portrayal of Arthur Fleck / Joker is no laughing matter. Phoenix creates a character who can be described by so many unconnected adjectives. Introverted. Infuriated. Sorrowful. Sadistic. Tortured. Terrifying. The level of complexity cannot be matched. Did any other performer in 2019 pull off such a formidable feat.? It’s a role that might have misfired in the hands of the wrong actor. With Phoenix, it’s molded with a velvet glove. The Academy will find his achievement too hard to ignore.
2. He oozes with evil in “Joker.”
This is no joke. I’ve written about this phenomenon extensively for Gold Derby. While playing an unlikable individual often impairs one’s Oscar odds, being a baddie is a good way to grab the gold. Consider some examples from the past 30 years: Kathy Bates in “Misery,” Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Kevin Spacey in “The Usual Suspects,” Denzel Washington in “Training Day,” Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago,” Charlize Theron in “Monster,” Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood,” Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men,” Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton,” Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds,” Mo’Nique in “Precious,” J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” and Allison Janney in “I, Tonya.” Phoenix is the devil in this year’s derby, which could make him the angel of the Academy.
3. “Joker” is a box office smash – and a likely Best Picture nominee.
The film shattered the record for the biggest opening of October, and has made more than a billion dollars worldwide. To boot, it now seems poised to score nods in several Oscar categories – as well as Best Picture. Widespread support for a movie can help carry an actor to victory, even a dark horse running behind a heavy favorite. (See Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” vs. Glenn Close in “The Wife” last year.) A strong showing by “Joker” on January 13 will keep Phoenix from going down in flames.
4. He’ll clean up the precursors.
Let’s start with the Golden Globes. “Joker” did much better with nominations than many people expected, hitting Best Motion Picture – Drama plus Best Director for Todd Phillips. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association clearly loves the film, and will want to show that love somewhere. “The Master” actor has racked up five previous Globe bids, taking home the prize for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for 2005’s “Walk the Line.” Watch Joaquin walk away with it for “Joker.” You can expect him to repeat at the often-predictable Critics’ Choice Awards. And as for SAG…it’s not even a contest. The fantastic Phoenix has never been honored by the group. Given the “Joker” juggernaut and rave reviews for his performance, rest assured that he has SAG in the bag.
5. There’s no one who can beat him.
I don’t make this statement likely. Best Actor is turning out to be a fiercely competitive category, with as many as a dozen deserving men fighting for five slots. But could any of them actually rise above Phoenix? Antonio Banderas has done well with the critics for his emotional turn in “Pain and Glory.” His first nomination will have to be his glory. Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Robert De Niro in “The Irishman” may headline their respective and respected pictures, but they’ll be lucky to even land in the lineup. Christian Bale seems to be moving up fast for “Ford v Ferrari.” Even if he makes the race, he’ll never cross the finish line first. While Jonathan Pryce serves up a heavenly performance in “The Two Popes,” it would take divine intervention to hear his name called out. And finally, there’s Adam Driver. As magnificent as he is in “Marriage Story,” he’s forced to share the screen (and screen time) with the equally sterling Scarlett Johansson. He also lacks the type of transformation often associated with the Best Actor champion. There’s just not enough to drive him to dominance. That leaves Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker” with the last laugh – going from clowning to crowning at Oscar’s big circus of the stars.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.