Warner Bros. Launches Its ‘Joker’ Oscar Campaign: Will the Film Be a Huge Awards Player?

Awards season is beginning to heat up. Indie dramas, biopics, and the usual Oscar bait may be dominating the conversation. But then there’s Joker.

Director Todd Phillips’ origin story for the comic book villain didn’t turn out to be like anyone expected. Certainly, no one thought it would become the box office behemoth it has. Now the question on everyone’s minds is: will Joker take the Academy Awards next?

Joaquin Phoenix at the 'Joker' premiere
Joaquin Phoenix at the ‘Joker’ premiere | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The reaction to ‘Joker’ has been polarizing

In many cases, the films that emerge as Oscar favorites offer some indication why they’re on the Academy’s radar. Perhaps this is the genre of storytelling, the filmmaker involved — as with The Irishman‘s Martin Scorsese — or widespread critical love. Yet, Joker doesn’t really have any of those things going for it.

The Oscars have only warmed to comic book movies in the past couple of years, with Logan and Black Panther earning major nominations. And Phillips was previously best known for The Hangover, hardly an Oscar-caliber film. However, the biggest argument against Joker is the polarizing response from critics.

The film’s bleak, gritty vision has rubbed a lot of critics — and some audiences — the wrong way. Controversy can translate into great box office, since people are curious to decide where they stand for themselves. But it could also hamper a film’s ability to go all the way on Oscar night.

Warner Bros. releases For Your Consideration posters

Nevertheless, Warner Bros. is moving ahead with its Oscar campaign for Joker. The studio recently released a pair of For Your Consideration posters for the film. These are designed to get awards voters’ attention and, hopefully, steer them toward recognizing a film’s achievements.

Specifically, the two released posters for Joker tout the film’s Best Picture chances as well as its costume design, sound mixing, and sound editing. Neither one mentions Joaquin Phoenix for Best Actor, despite his character’s prominence in both images.

Perhaps the reason behind this is because Phoenix is already considered a lock for at least a nomination. After all, even critics who responded negatively to Joker recognize the strength of Phoenix’s work.

Which nominations could ‘Joker’ get?

That said, Best Actor is, without a doubt, the Oscar nomination Joker is most likely to receive. Phoenix has previously been nominated three times for Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master. Many Academy voters feel he is due, which could bode well for Joker being his first win.

Beyond that, Joker could sneak into the Best Picture race, which itself is no stranger to controversy. This year’s winner, Green Book, overcame division among critics. But Joker will probably have better luck on the more technical side of things.

The film’s makeup and hairstyling, costume design, cinematography, and original score could all be in the mix when Oscar night rolls around. Right now, it’s way too early to be able to tell. But we’ll be watching how awards season plays out. With the right momentum in place, Joker could surprise everyone. Again.