Can you say controversial? ‘Joker’ takes Venice film fest’s top honor, Roman Polanski wins the Grand Jury Prize

The 2019 Venice International Film Festival has come to a close and has announced its award winners. The coveted Golden Lion went to — egads — Todd Phillips‘ “Joker,” a comic-book-inspired origin story of Batman’s arch-nemesis as brought to twisted life by Joaquin Phoenix. But don’t guffaw. The film, partly inspired by Martin Scorsese‘s lonely outsiders in “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy,” currently has a positive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86%  — with much praise aimed at its star’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.

However, those critics who gave the dark R-rated movie a thumbs down didn’t hold back in their grousing over this attempt to display the sociopathic instincts that take root in angry urban misfits who are determined to leave their mark. “Time” critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote these damning words: “Phillips may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture, but really, he’s just offering a prime example.”

The prize can often lead to Oscar glory. Last year’s winner, Netflix’s “Roma,” grabbed three Academy Awards including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron but lost Best Picture to “Green Book.”  In 2017, Guillermo del Toro‘s Golden Lion- winning “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture.

The Silver Lion for Best Director went to Roy Andersson for “About Endlessness.”

PREDICT Joaquin Phoenix’s 12 greatest films ranked worst to best

Phoenix was seen as a shoo-in for the Volpi Cup for Best Actor, but Luca Marinelli took the honor for his work in “Martin Eden.” The Volpi Cup for Best Actress went to Ariane Ascaride for “Gloria Mundi.”

Perhaps even more controversial is the Grand Jury Prize given to Roman Polanski (MIA due to his ongoing legal troubles over his sexual assault case) for “An Officer and a Spy.” The historical drama about the 19th-century Dreyfus Affair stars Jean Dujardin as a French officer who discovers false evidence was used to convict Alfred Dreyfus of passing military secrets to the enemy.

PREDICT the Oscars nominations; change them until January 13

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.

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