Brow Beat

Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!

Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker.
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha! Ha ha!” – The Joker. Warner Bros.

The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

Winning the Golden Lion is only the latest in a long series of high-culture heists from the fiendish film festival felon. In 1967, the Joker was unanimously named the winner of the Gotham City International Art Contest for his painting Death of a Mauve Bat, which symbolized the emptiness of modern life. In 1989, the Joker knocked out audiences at the Flugelheim Museum with “Partyman,” a performance art piece that drew comparisons to Chris Burden. And in 2009, the Joker’s first digital piece, Socialism, To Me, Is When Barack Obama Wears Joker Makeup, was widely hailed as the most sophisticated expression of right-wing political thought ever put to pixelated paper. But don’t expect the mirthful mountebank of mischief and menace to rest on his larcenous laurels just because he’s added a Golden Lion to his trophy shelf. Officials warn that the Joker’s Venetian escapade may be only the first step in a larger, even more twisted scheme: Winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Best Picture? Is this the Joker’s crowning jest? Can Batman and the Boy Wonder save the Oscars? Or is it curtains for the caped crusaders, and possibly for cinema itself? Answers Sunday, February 9—same Joker time, same Joker channel.