New and Noteworthy: Joker

This month, I bravely set foot into a mid-afternoon screening of the ever-so-controversial new film Joker from the mind of Todd Phillips (specifically the mind that watched a lot of Martin Scorsese movies growing up). The gritty backstory of Arthur Fleck, aka “The Joker,” dives into the dark, maddening world of Gotham City that created Batman’s most famous foe. Joaquin Phoenix impressively retreats into the role of the titular character, delivering a compelling and impactful (some say Oscar-worthy) performance. The fear of relating too much to him rattled and stuck with me as I left the theater, mostly thanks to Phoenix’s compelling take on the ever-evolving character, coming in second to the late Heath Ledger. (Prayers for Jared Leto.)

Joker, which runs just over two hours, seems to want you, the viewer, to look at a picture of the splintered society of Gotham, ridden with a chaotic “us versus them” mentality everywhere, only to step back and realize the picture was a mirror the entire time!!! Here’s the problem: You can tell it was a mirror from a mile away. Despite my reservations about Todd Phillips’s lack of subtlety when making social commentary, the gorgeously-filmed movie succeeds in creating a fresh “superhero world” story that will remain a game-changer for the genre.

Streaming Hidden Gem: To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar!

To counterbalance my dark, disturbing foray into Gotham City’s dark alleys, I hit the Netflix scene to find a more uplifting story. To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar! (yes, that is the official title) was the perfect mixture of camp, heart, and straight-up well-delivered comedy. This 1995 comedy follows three New York City drag queens, one played by famous macho-man Patrick Swayze, as they roadtrip to Los Angeles, California. The film opens with a delightful cameo from America’s favorite drag queen, RuPaul, as pageant host “Rachel Tensions” — looks like I can’t avoid the social commentary! The queens try driving to LA, but wind up stuck in a small town in Middle America with a broken-down car. Beyond this you have to see for yourself, but the movie is like a cross of Queer Eye, Schitt’s Creek, and a little bit of Big Little Lies. Yes, BLL. The film’s tone bounces around with an inexplicable range of comedy,  thriller, and family drama, but it adds a special touch of campiness that only a ’90s drag queen movie can pull off. Worth the watch or revisit for Patrick Swayze’s arms alone.

Written by Ethan Christopher