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This Is What An Oscar Winning Joker Scene Looks Like

This Is What An Oscar Winning Joker Scene Looks Like
I recently sat down and rewatched The Dark Knight for

what

seemed like the 500th time. But

this

time, I did so with a purpose. I was looking for a moment-- some call it an

Oscar

moment-- the moment where Heath Ledger transcends the character of the

Joker

into something beyond anything else any other actor could, and had, accomplished that year. And I got to

this

moment where

Joker

is being interrogated at Gotham PD. And two things hit me. The first was exactly

what

I was hoping for, it was

this

moment I thought to myself, good god, he is the

Joker

. But I also couldn't shake the feeling that I had just watched

this

very

scene

here. - OK, I'm-- yeah I'm sorry. That these two

scene

s accomplished nearly the same things for the character and the actor, see,

this

, in my opinion, is an

Oscar

-

winning

Joker

scene

, and

this

, in the Academy's opinion, is as well. But the question is, well, why? How? So let's break down the anatomy of these

scene

s. - Don't talk like one of them, you're not, even if you'd like to be. I think it starts with motivation. Why are these characters here? These two

scene

s share a lot of parallels in that regard. Arthur finds himself face to face with someone he believes completes him in his own twisted way. He believes he's face to face with a man he once wanted to be. In a way, Murray's the thing he needed to feel whole. He needs the recognition. And he's here by choice. He's here to make himself heard, seen....
this is what an oscar winning joker scene looks like
It's a moment of misdirection for the audience itself, but we'll come back to that.

This

is the moment that the movie completes its journey. Arthur is ready to end it all. A life is on the line.

What

we don't know is one of two has to go, whereas the

Joker

is facing a similar reality as he says-- - I don't want to kill you.

What

would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no. No. No, you-- you complete me. Batman is his motivation. Batman completes the

Joker

. He's the sole foundation of his anarchy. And he's here to, in an almost climactic way, to make his point to the Bat. And he's also here by choice. And here too is a climactic moment with two lives on the line, again, one has to go. It's also-- which, again, we'll come back to-- is a moment of manipulation, as is Arthur's. We don't know

what

he does-- that he wanted to be caught. And throughout these two

scene

s, both Joaquin and Heath articulate a single feeling-- control.

This

scene

is Joaquin acting with a total understanding of the moment, and the character, acting in complete control. Every facial movement is precise, every vocal inflection with purpose - You're awful, Murray. - Me? I'm awful? Oh yeah, how am I awful? It's the moment here where we, through nothing but the placement of his stare and the shift in facial expression, begin to understand that Arthur is losing control of his emotions. But it's the way that both actors say a...
this is what an oscar winning joker scene looks like
single line that is an example of an actor taking control of a script. - I've got nothing left to lose. Nothing can hurt me anymore. - You have nothing-- nothing to threaten me with, nothing to do with all your--

This

moment--

this

is important--

this

is the moment where both of these characters and actors establish their menace. See,

this

is not scary-- - All of that chit-chat's gonna get ya hurt. --but

this

-- - I've got nothing left to lose. --

this

is. And it's all about how it's played. Arthur's very quiet admission that he no longer cares about consequence is startling. Joaquin faces the audience, the world, as if to say there's nothing you can do to me now. The thing that had been beating him down was now at the mercy of his decisions. And Joaquin delivers the line with spite, with derision, and even with a small smile, suggesting he finds it funny telling us, the audience, that he's now capable of anything and it feels, given that unconvincing smirk, like Arthur is just now realizing that as well. And

this

undresses the feeling of comfort for the people watching the show, Murray, and us, the viewer. We think we know

what

's about to happen-- Arthur's going to end his life. But Joaquin's roller coaster of inflection, tone, and facial cues throughout

this

scene

begins to make us

This

shot also helps. In it, we can no longer make out Arthur. It's just a blurry image of something horrifying. We only see the makeup. The...
this is what an oscar winning joker scene looks like
duality of Arthur's personality displayed in two separate shots-- a coming out party for the

Joker

, if you will. But the

Joker

here is articulating kind of the same thing, but instead of the world, or to the audience, it's to Batman. Heath doesn't hide the irony of the situation. He laughs with certainty in Bruce's face, as he lets him know that, in

this

moment, he is invincible. He can't be hurt. Batman won't kill him. He's

winning

. He is free-- and to a smile that never leaves his face. Once Batman lifts him off the ground he takes a beating from Bruce, but he laughs. Heath keeps a frightening smile on his face. He shows us the pain that he's in with every punch and moment of impact. But he smiles as he winces. And before that, throughout

this

entire encounter, he was convincingly He spends

this

4 minutes convincing us with his expression and with one line-- that he's in power-- but it's nuance in these performances that drive home their impact. - You're awful, Murray. - Me? I'm awful? - Oh yeah, how am I awful? - Play my video. Here you see Joaquin at

what

I think is his best-- just watch his eyes as they glaze over, his jaw trembling-- and

this

is

what

follows. And in 5 seconds, through nothing but inflection, through nothing but his eyes, we know he snapped. And that very depressed, very angry look shifts quickly to the rest of his face-- that rage shifts to a sad smile. Tears fill Phoenix's eyes. We see him putting...
on a face, almost like the makeup. And in that face we see him struggle with the decision that he's about make. We see sadness, humanity, and it's frightening because we know he's just made up his mind. And even he's having an upsetting realization of

what

he's about to do. But there's a separation here between the performances that is worth talking about. - Me? I was right here. Where these two performances really distinguish themselves, and where the two performances elevate themselves beyond traditional superhero fare, is in how these actors choose to portray stress. Heath plays the

scene

in its entirety with the knowledge that the

Joker

has the upper hand. He's cold. He takes his time. He never raises his voice even after a joke. A smile is never cracked, at least not a real one, until Bruce loses his cool.

This

is a character at his most calculated-- he wants Bruce to know that he's

winning

. And as Bruce does lose control, Heath's laugh becomes almost sarcastic-- that smile creeps up on his face-- it's almost condescending. As the situation escalates, Heath's ability to be menacing, without pushing towards manic, articulated just how much of a threat Heath's

Joker

is-- just how and premeditated

this

behavior is. Through nothing but a moment where his inflection shifts and his eyebrows lift, we begin to question just how much we, and Bruce, understand about

what

's really going on. Throughout the entire

scene

, he...
manages to portray dominance quietly. It's Bruce who can't control himself. Arthur-- Joaquin-- on the other hand plays heavily into the manic nature of the character.

This

scene

is a slow descent into madness-- a microcosm of the entire film. Instead of quiet dominance, Joaquin's

Joker

suddenly doesn't feel heard as Murray slowly takes control over the interview. Arthur came here to be seen, and suddenly his voice is being silenced, so we slowly watch as Phoenix begins to violently display his rage. And you could see it in his face. Here, Arthur needs to be seen. And as Murray begins to dictate the interview, he no longer feels he can do that with just a smile and a shocking statement. As an inverse to the

Joker

scene

, Murray maintains the upper hand. Murray never loses his cool, forcing Arthur to be brasher and brasher, until he's forced to act before the moment slips away. Joaquin's ability to articulate every bit of Arthur's personality in those 4 minutes is unreal. He's at once insecure, angry, excited, joyful, and evil. We see him go from Arthur Fleck to the

Joker

in just a single

scene

. Look,

winning

an

Oscar

is an incredible achievement, but win or loss, it's not

what

defines a great performance. It is, after all, just an award. But

what

Joaquin Phoenix and Heath Ledger accomplished individually are two of the best realizations of a pre-existing character in modern cinema. They are not the same performance. And there is no winner...
between the two. They took very different approaches to the

Joker

. Heath's more villainous controlled insanity versus Phoenix's unhinged descent to that very reality. They are two very different people, two very different characters, but they both deserve the recognition. Comic book film or not, Hangover director or not, these performances will be looked at for direction and inspiration for years. The

Joker

will never be forgotten, and Arthur will never go unheard again. - Can you introduce me as

Joker

? That is it for

this

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