Put on a happy face: ‘Joker’s’ billion dollar box office could help it enter the Oscar race for Best Picture

Warner Bros certainly put on a happy face when “Joker” crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office; it’s the highest grossing R-rated film of all time. And Oscar voters may soon find themselves smiling as well, since Todd Phillips‘s revisionist supervillain drama might become the second comic book movie nominated for Best Picture.

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Earlier this year the superhero glass ceiling was broken by Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018). Like “Joker,” that film was a billion-dollar phenomenon and ultimately snagged seven nominations — including Best Picture — and three wins for its costumes, production design and score. But that’s also where the similarities end, as “Joker” wears its R-rating with pride in telling the violent, disturbing story of a deranged loner (Joaquin Phoenix) who morphs into Batman’s arch nemesis.

In a way, a Best Picture nomination for “Joker” could be seen as sweet vindication for the film that forever changed the Oscar race. In 2008 Christopher Nolan‘s “The Dark Knight” looked all but assured a bid in the top category, yet it was shockingly snubbed in that race despite receiving eight other nominations and two wins — including, of course, a posthumous Best Supporting Actor trophy for Heath Ledger‘s version of the Joker. The very next year the academy expanded Best Picture to 10 nominees — then switched to a sliding scale between 5 and 10 in 2011 — as a way to make room for more populist fare.

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“Joker” is certainly populist, but it’s art as well, as evidenced by its Golden Lion victory at the Venice Film Festival, a rarity for mainstream Hollywood fare. The European love-fest for the movie continued with a recent victory for DP Lawrence Sher at the international cinematographers festival Camerimage. The Makeup and Hairstylists Guild gave the film two bids as well. And judging from our odds, Phoenix is in good shape to earn a fourth Oscar nomination (and perhaps a first win) for the title role; if actors are voting for Phoenix, chances are they’re voting for his film as well.

So smile, “Joker” fans: this billion-dollar baby might yet turn Oscar voters into comic book fans. And if “Black Panther” was any indication, there’s probably more than a few in their ranks already.

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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