October 4, 2019
Opinions

You Shouldn't See 'Joker' This Weekend (Opinion)

Director Todd Phillips' Joker arrives in theaters Friday with plenty of controversies stirred by Phillips himself, along with the risk of an active shooter in some locations. Is a movie worth the price of admission when that is a factor?

I won't see Joker. Not this weekend. Not ever. 

Even without the active shooter warnings possible at unspecified locations screening the film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Batman's most famous villain, DC and Warner Bros. latest entry into their comic book movie canon is problematic at best... incendiary and dangerous at worse. It all brings up valuable questions in the long-standing debate about the responsibility of filmmakers to an audience and for what their films may or may not incite within them.

It's a movie that, when it's not recreating the themes and plots of Taxi Driver and King of Comedy (and perhaps missing the cautionary tale aspects of them), is chronicling the fall of a very disturbed, aspiring comedian/citizen of Gotham City -- who suffers from a tick that makes him laugh inappropriately -- as he ascends to infamy by way of crime, terror, and homicide. The movie tries to give sympathy to this anti-arc, this person shunned by society in a way that violently turns him against it. Because people didn't find his jokes as funny or as worthy of their applause and attention as he felt or believed they should. Sympathy for a guy whose ultimate coping skill is to put a gun in his hand and fire in the name of self-righteous anarchy. 

This is dangerous. Is it dangerous on purpose? 

There is an ongoing cycle of 'taking offense' in our culture. Someone is offended by one thing, then another group or person is offended by the offense taken and they feel trapped by the initial offense. We get a backlash, then a backlash of a backlash and then we all soon have whiplash. And it seems to just go on and on with name-calling. 

Do Joker and Todd Phillips HAVE a message they are trying to impart? Or is the message just the chaos?

To combat some criticism instead of facing it people often employ straw man arguments and false equivalencies. It's not a stretch to suggest this is part of what's going on when Phillips' suggests "woke culture" is the reason he left the comedy world to make Joker. In recent interviews, Phillips comes off as someone that doesn't like that people are asking certain questions about his movie. These feel like the kinds of questions that would be core to the conception of the project in the first place. 

Questions like "why make a movie about a murderous criminal that endeavors the spotlight after feeling his attempt to earn it fell short?" "Who is this movie for?" "Should we really make a movie that, to a degree, both celebrates and decries what Joker does in light of the Colorado shooting?" 

There are debates about how much violence in entertainment connects to violence in real life. This movie does a little more than just depict violence, it depicts it in a manner and fashion that sets it apart. On purpose? By accident? Do we hold the filmmakers responsible for the messaging? 

It's all part of a larger discussion. 

But there is another big problem. 

Children like Batman and Joker. They like comic books. These are, historically, things for kids. And despite the film's R-rating, children will want to see Joker on screen this way. Because they may see their parents excited about it. Because adults like the Joker, too. And those parents may take their kids to the movies, and, well, we don't need to paint that whole picture. 

And it is a shame that the situation exists. For some audiences, the thought of parents taking kids to see this is ridiculous. It'll happen though. It doesn't mean we should all be deprived of the movie as a result, but it is something to consider when the movie is conceived of... maybe? Warner Bros. has not had any merchandising associated with the film so on some level they obviously get it. 

And let's also be clear; people will see the movie in droves, it's spurring the conversation. It's winning awards. But we propose it's worth considering the reasons why. There is an excellent review of the film on Deadspin that places the movie squarely in the context of today. The review suggests that the movie, on a quality level, is middling and barely merits this level of discussion. It suggests the movie is just pushing buttons to push them, almost by accident, and without having any lasting purpose or reason to do so. 

Todd Phillips' comments about woke culture and the inability to be effective in comedy due to it spurred the comedy community to discuss, at length all over twitter, if such a thing was true. 

A recent Twitter thread by user POC_Culture summarizes the reactions and criticism leading up to the release of Joker -- and Todd Phillips' complaints about problematic "woke culture":

 

 

This person is spot-on. We are at a point where a problematic director who damns the very Writers Guild he is a member of is upset because people are upset by his, on the surface, problematic choices. It's ok to have this discussion right? It would be nice to have the filmmaker join the discussion more actively.

Joker also exists because of IP (Intellectual property). It's safe to say this movie only gets made if you pitch it as "and it stars the Joker in a way we've never seen before." That's troubling for the aforementioned reasons. Imagine what it would be like if this movie wasn't built around The Joker, but was more like Taxi Driver. Does it still work? Do people still want to see it? Forgetting that it would be much, much harder to fund. 

The Master The Joker Mashup
Credit: WB
Joker isn't John Wick. Video game movies and their source material don't inspire shootings the way certain pundits and politicians would like you to think they do. We're also not saying, the violence on screen is in and of itself a problem. 

What may fuel the potential for another Aurora-level shooting or a very contested thread on social media, is the way this type of subject matter is seemingly glorified despite its problematic nature. The way Phillips dismisses people's criticisms of it doesn't feel responsible. 

One would think Phillips would enjoy that he's started a conversation.

To quote Aaron Sorkin, everyone has the right to speak. But not everyone has the right to the microphone.

Or, in Phillips' case, the right to invalidate others' concerns and thoughts and feelings simply because he is unable or unwilling to understand, respect, or accept them.

I personally, do not wish to validate the worldview with my money at the box office. In my opinion, there are better ways to spend my cash and time.  

Joker is both an arsonist and a fireman in a whole new kind of fire and it's hard to tell if there is a good reason or any reason behind it. It seems plausible that some men do indeed, just want to watch the world burn.     

Your Comment

116 Comments

Stuff like this is why it's hard to take No Film School seriously anymore.

October 4, 2019 at 4:38PM

43
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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
5619

Pearl clutching seems to be the order of the day...

October 4, 2019 at 4:45PM

15
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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
855

Miss your contributions, Rob. This is desperate, tabloid-level garbage.

October 4, 2019 at 6:33PM

12
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Sean Pettis
Director/DP
653

"I'm going to rant about a movie I won't see" is about as insipid as anything written here. Professionals and serious amateurs have never taken NFS seriously, I don't see that changing.

October 5, 2019 at 4:45AM

65
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U are wrong. If you don't like Nofilmschool, just go away and make no complaints.

October 7, 2019 at 6:11AM

0
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Andreas Hochwagen
Associate Professor at New York University
47

Naw he’s pretty much spot on

October 7, 2019 at 10:48AM

0
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Since when did NoFilmSchool turn into an opinion article website?

October 4, 2019 at 4:42PM

27
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Nice to see that my earlier comments replying to the original version of this article have been erased.

It rings a little hollow that Phillip is claiming that there's a "conversation to be had" while simultaneously deleting other viewpoints in the conversation.

October 4, 2019 at 4:51PM

22
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Bryan Howell
Screenwriter, corporate videographer, and indie filmmaker
540

Interestingly bad article for this site... I'm sort of intrigued as to how this got published..

October 4, 2019 at 4:53PM, Edited October 4, 4:53PM

14
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Luke Covert
Director/Editor
266

As someone who used to write for NFS, I'm willing to bet it got published because they knew it'd get a ton of "hate traffic" and they're thirsty for those page views.

October 4, 2019 at 4:57PM

22
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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
5619

Ahhh, that makes sense..

October 7, 2019 at 9:50AM

3
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Luke Covert
Director/Editor
266

Watched it, loved it!
Anyone one that opposes an artist from voicing their point of view is a fascist whether it be from the right or the left.

October 4, 2019 at 4:53PM, Edited October 4, 4:53PM

22
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Yes, thank you. This article is the true "dumpster fire".

October 4, 2019 at 8:07PM

6
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Ian Mora
Writer, Director, Editor, Camera Operator
379

How about talking about the cinematography aspect of the film?
This article is shit. Lol. You wanna alienate half your readers? Good job.

October 4, 2019 at 5:03PM

16
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The reviews are at about 70% positive from critics and 92% positive from Joes. They're gonna alienate more than half!

October 5, 2019 at 2:37AM

6
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Alex Bradford Cobb
Director, DP
139

Wow, remember when NFS wasn't a joke?

October 4, 2019 at 5:11PM, Edited October 4, 5:11PM

17
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I agree completely. This article seems like a turning point.

October 4, 2019 at 6:31PM

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Sean Pettis
Director/DP
653

People come to this site because they are film lovers. You sir, are straight hatin'.

It was a great.

October 4, 2019 at 5:14PM

9
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Franklin Carpio
Filmmaker/Director/Editor
431

1) Todd Phillips is hardly the only asshole making popular movies.
2) Many of the ways the Joker is described in this article is true of certain men in power. I won't say who. But, read it again, it'll become clear. Then tell me the movie isn't a reflection of our times.
3) Urging people to not see a movie is a horrible way to write an opinion. Let people decide for themselves and spare readers the sanctimony.
4) Aaron Sorkin is right: not everyone has the right to the microphone. Or in this case, a platform used to condescend to long-time readers.

October 4, 2019 at 5:19PM

16
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Jeff Payne
Writer/Director
343

A well written and thoughtful response that raises all the good points. Thank you Jeff.

October 4, 2019 at 5:27PM

1
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Agreed. Emphatically so, i might add.

October 6, 2019 at 4:28AM

0
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Brendon Lydic
film student // aggressively mediocre amateur
88

great

October 7, 2019 at 12:09AM

0
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Betty Cox
Senior News Editor
81

Fu** this article.

October 4, 2019 at 5:27PM

0
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Nick I
114

This person shouldn’t write for NFS anymore. In addition to being an irrelevant angry rant, it’s badly written.

October 4, 2019 at 5:46PM

15
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Richard
185

We can think for ourselves NFS.

Nobody is interested in your highly subjective/triggered opinion on what constitutes a film worth watching or supporting.

October 4, 2019 at 5:50PM

11
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Andrew Kierans
Digital Cinema Technician
294

Ah man. Triggered much? Have you ever seen American Psycho? Any 80s slasher flick? Really believe this is the first cinematic glorification of a worthless and violent individual. It's art, it provokes and touches and triggers. Stop.

October 4, 2019 at 6:17PM

6
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Excellent article. Lots of food for thought. I will take Dave Chapelle and Jerry Seinfeld's critiques of 'woke culture' aka 'cancel culture'... any day of the week over Todd Phillips'. I hate gratuitous violence. Hollywood took it too far. Stopped watching Tarantino a while ago. I wont even watch football anymore. Too much violence in the world already... and if the summary of the Joker's character arc is correct...a failed comedian turning into an uber villain being made to be sympathetic is just too much to handle. If he wants justifiable violence...let's see a father of an Aurora theater shooting victim knock Phillips the f@ck out at a media event in front of a bunch of camera. Peace and love, G

October 4, 2019 at 6:20PM, Edited October 4, 6:21PM

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Gary, you think that troubled people who partake in disturbing acts of violence cannot be sympathised with? Instead of crying about it, why not take two minutes to consider the conditions by which these people and their actions developed from?

October 4, 2019 at 7:46PM

4
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Ryan
Editor
76

The summary is not correct, because Phil couldn't even be bothered to see the movie. This is pure clickbait. Phil is entitled to his opinion, and he's entitled to share it, but for a site such as this to publish it and contribute to a movement wherein artists are pressured to avoid uncomfortable topics because of the assumption that the expression of an idea is an incitement for that idea to be realized - begs the question of editorial quality control.

October 8, 2019 at 9:22PM

1
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Rick Caplan
Writer/Producer/Director
65

I hear you on Phillips in front of the camera. I really do. Regardless of his viewpoint, he is terribly pompous. However don't undercut the mental health aspect of the film, the fact that society's classism rarely focuses on race first, or the fact that Joker to me did not come off as a hero. Like most dynamic villains in comics, there is a kernel of validity to their plight, but their means of change are despicable and as they continue to embrace their tactics, most people fall away because that moral line is crossed. I feel those lines are crystal clear in this film. Some people still follow, which is why they usually have goons/disciples/supporters. Also, he wasn't just an incel. He was clinically delusional, a tactic used heavily in cinema because of the ability to create the visual trick. It's easy to dismiss or ignore some of those plot points to support your slant because you have a personal distaste for the director. Don't fall into that trap. I look forward to my comments being deleted.

October 4, 2019 at 6:29PM, Edited October 4, 6:30PM

1
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Joey Elswick
video person
26

This article is completely out of touch. Folks who say the film glorifies violence either didn't see it or weren't paying attention.

October 4, 2019 at 6:29PM

7
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Sean Pettis
Director/DP
653

Couldn't agree more. To say that it glorified violence is about as shallow a perspective as you could possibly take on that movie.

October 7, 2019 at 9:52AM

2
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Luke Covert
Director/Editor
266

Hey Phil Pirrello,

Thought I'd give your article a read as I just saw Joker. Firstly, I thought it was really good movie. It was repetitive at times and could have dug further into certain themes.

I didn't find the lead up or anything within the film problematic. Whatever that means. I think you have got caught up with all the nonsense online.

You said ''movie tries to give sympathy to this anti-arc, this person shunned by society in a way that violently turns him against it.'' Yes you feel sympathetic towards Arthur at first because of what happens to him when he was younger (which is quite horrific). Because he gets beaten up more than once. Because of his family history. Because of his mental issues and the lack of funding to help him. BUT, at a certain point, we stop sympathizing. Certain characters even tell him that he is gone too far.

"why make a movie about a murderous criminal that endeavors the spotlight after feeling his meh attempt to earn it fell short?" Why make any movie?

"Who is this movie for?" People who enjoy comic books. Joker has been tackled in the comics many times. From a cartoony tone all the way to Joker 2008 graphic novel where it took a dark tone and Joker skinned a man alive.

"Should we really make a movie that, to a degree, both celebrates and decries what Joker does in light of the Colorado shooting?" This film has nothing to do with that shooting.

''Children like Batman and Joker.'' But kids are not going to read Joker's 2008 graphic novel. They have cartoons directed towards kids, but not all DC content is solely for children. I would never let a kid watch Flash Point Paradox due to the violence depicted in it.

''What does fuel the potential for another Aurora-level shooting'' Who knows, but New York police commissioner Ray Kelly was the man who said James was inspired by the Joker which later George Brauchler, the Colorado district attorney who prosecuted Holmes, said it was a rumor that came from Kelly.

''With the world-sized dumpster fire that is 2019'' Is it that bad? Go back a 100 years. The world was a real dumpster fire.

I believe - the internet - like you, are caught up with this Joker BS. This BS that simply does not exist. Also, you don't like what the director has to say? That's fine. You don't have to. But telling people not to see a movie just because your upset? Let people go and see it. Let the population decide if its too much.

October 4, 2019 at 6:38PM

16
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This post is grandiosely stupid. Dear Phil Pirrello: there's a safe space somewhere in need of a resident cuddler. Go find it, man. Go.

October 4, 2019 at 6:44PM

6
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This article is problematic. Don’t read the article if you are triggered by virtue signaling. There are so many more safe spaces for you out there

October 4, 2019 at 7:09PM

1
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Aaron Harper
Rental House Manager
115

Hey thanks for telling us all what to do. We'll just sit around and wait for your next brainstorm

October 4, 2019 at 7:28PM

5
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is there such a thing as being "spot off"?

October 4, 2019 at 7:29PM

10
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I’m sure whoever wrote this article wears a pussy-hat.

October 4, 2019 at 7:58PM, Edited October 4, 7:58PM

8
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Cooper
130

And Phil Pirrello, that moron, loser, dipshit, PC culture pandering, spineless, joke of a typist will be the reason I will never see No Film School as a serious source of bathing ever again. Un followed. Fucking joke of a page keeping him on the staff. Maybe you should be upset at the gun laws and governance in the US, not a fucking comic book movie, you idiot.

October 4, 2019 at 8:09PM, Edited October 4, 8:12PM

5
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Josh Wolf
227

This article is garbage.

October 4, 2019 at 8:10PM

6
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Ian Mora
Writer, Director, Editor, Camera Operator
379

Please delete this article, it's embarrassing. Let's pick it apart a little...

1. You say Phillips 'invalidate[s] others' concerns and thoughts and feelings simply because he is unable or unwilling to understand, respect, or accept them.' Yet you are unwilling to respect your audiences' own decision-making abilities by telling them never to watch it?

2. The film has been classified R-Rated for a reason. Censors clearly thought teenagers are capable of seeing this with an accompanying adult. You are not on the film classification board, you do not get to decide at what age a person can see this film. If a parent is willing to let their child into the theatre, they are given that privilege. Perhaps a more concerned parent won't take their son or daughter to see it anyway.

3. 'Because Hollywood no longer makes movies like the ones it owes its reason for being made to.' This makes no sense.

4. 'What does fuel the potential for another Aurora-level shooting or a very contested thread on social media'. Are these things similar?

5. Going back to Phillips not having the 'right to invalidate others' concerns'... I don't know much about Todd Phillips, I dont read or watch interviews with him and his filmmaking career doesn't concern me in the slightest, so I'm not defending him, however, he has every right to dismiss your concerns and you have every right to have those discussions without him. If he chooses to distance himself from any conversation, he's allowed to, and he did not make this film alone. Why not take umbrage with co-writer Scott Silver and co-producers Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger? Or Joaquin Phoenix for not turning down the role? You seem more concerned with your beloved comic book character turned into a realist portrayal of 21st-Century mental health issues than anything else.

October 4, 2019 at 8:37PM

8
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Ryan
Editor
76

I come to no film school to get my morals in check. Thanks NFS!

October 4, 2019 at 8:41PM

3
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heinrich weber
jack of all trades
148

...the oppressively pc attitude of this article and of its author are far more insidious and dangerous than a movie depicting the origin of a comic book villain could ever be...

October 4, 2019 at 9:12PM

9
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Steve Golla
Actor/producer
56

There are plenty of intelligent takedowns of Joker by knowledgeable, disciplined critics floating around the Internet. This is definitely not one of them.

October 4, 2019 at 9:15PM

3
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Josh
112

the spectacularly angry response to this article shows why it was right to publish this article. good for you phil.

October 4, 2019 at 9:36PM

0
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d:mas
director
1

Yes, just like a spectacular angry response against e.g. a KKK march show that the KKK was right... Very good logic d:mas...

October 4, 2019 at 10:40PM

2
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Actually, the spectacularly angry tone of this article shows why Joker matters. Any movie that reduces a writer to this kind of sputtering pearl-clutching mess is worth consideration. Thank god there are still studio movies taking these kinds of chances.

October 5, 2019 at 11:22AM

1
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Josh
112

You opinion is noted and will be promptly ignored. Jackass.

October 4, 2019 at 9:37PM

1
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Dreamer
44

Done with NFS, unfollowing...

October 4, 2019 at 10:14PM, Edited October 4, 10:14PM

4
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Sorry, but I'll watch whatever I like.

If you don't like this, because it's too heavy or too real or too disturbed, go see some feel good crap. Disney would have something out... Or some Avengers maybe...

This was supposed to be a pro-movie website?

October 4, 2019 at 10:39PM

1
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Yeah, I'm going out of my way to see this movie now. This article is garbage.

October 4, 2019 at 10:52PM

5
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Jesse Cornaglia
Freelance Videographer
188

Does anyone know if this movie was shot on RED?

October 4, 2019 at 10:58PM

1
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asking the real questions right here... =)

October 5, 2019 at 1:03PM

1
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Not a single mention of the issues of mental health in this country. The sympathy for the Joker only comes from the fact that his mental health issues derived from his childhood are so easily brushed aside by society and he is in fact mocked for them. He's beaten repeatedly in this film and the catalyst is more of an act of self defense turned to anger than some incel whiney bs. What about "The Brave One" with Jodi Foster? She's brutally assaulted and starts killing scumbags in New York. Is that movie ok to watch? He's not a hero. And I found that to be pretty clear in the film. Travis Bickle wasn't a hero either. I still love Taxi Driver. It certainly doesn't mean no one should watch the movie.

October 4, 2019 at 11:22PM

5
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The comments are way better than the article.

October 4, 2019 at 11:23PM

5
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Danny Knutson
Sound Designer and Post Sound Mixer, Editor
31

Soo, Was it a good movie?

October 4, 2019 at 11:30PM

2
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How the f!ck would the author know about what's in the film unless they watched it? If they did watch it, they did already knowing what was in the movie from other woke-supremacists hate bloggers... but they still watched it anyway.
Oh! But we're not supposed to watch it.

October 4, 2019 at 11:50PM

0
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Vincent Gortho
none
1019

This article marks the death knell of this site. It's perfectly acceptable to have an opinion of a film but it is simply beyond pale that site that purports to the interest of filmmakers and publishes an opinion that a film not be made because of the content of it's speech. This article is problematic and fascist. Enjoy the temporary bump in views.

October 5, 2019 at 12:07AM, Edited October 5, 12:07AM

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John I respect your work, and I’m glad someone that has social currency to lose isn’t afraid of putting themselves out there. Thank you.

NFS needs to reach out to their readers and see what they’re looking for at this point. I come here very little these days.

October 5, 2019 at 12:59AM

2
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Article is trash. Don’t even care whether The Joker is good or bad. I’m just disappointed that NFS has stooped this low. Between this and V Renee’s posts of “how to make an 8k camera using just $5, a roll of tin foil and play doh” Those are the reasons why I check this site less often. And because of that they post shit like this to grab attention. COOL.

October 5, 2019 at 12:55AM

1
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I read the whole article and I kinda thought there would be a point, or concise argument...there wasn’t. I’m not even a fan of the film. I didn’t like it! I just thought I’d read a review from someone who disliked it for cinematic reasons. That could explain what they didn’t like about the filmmaking.

Instead it just sounds like an angry rant by someone who had issues with a movie ( or maybe its director?) who can’t clearly articulate what that issue is.

Is this not just an elongated tweet? Does this really belong on your site as a piece of news?

Is there not an editor at NFS that could have sub-edited this before it got posted? Or said, “ hey, this makes no sense...do a rewrite”.

In future please ask your employees to rant on their social media, while keeping posts on the site within the confines of film theory.

Honestly, I’m just really confused and don’t understand what the writer is trying to say?!

Guess I’ll keep searching for other negative reviews that actually have something to say about the filmmaking.

October 5, 2019 at 1:38AM, Edited October 5, 1:41AM

1
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Charlie
Writer
25

Phil, you named "A Clockwork Orange" one of the 17 best R-Rated Sci-Fi movies of All Time. (Link Below) So, Ultraviolence in 1971 from a movie that was literally self-banned in England by Kubrick for 40 years for purportedly inciting violence, is not only okay with you, but literally is listed as one of your best movies ever. Yet, "The Joker" filmmakers must "take responsibility" for their content? Got it.

Here's a MUCH better article by a better writer summing up the reasons of Kubrick banning ACO from England. Ironically both films were released by Warner Bros.

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/08/01/the-disappearance-of-a-clockwork...

And here's your article:
https://www.moviefone.com/photos/17-best-r-rated-sci-fi-movies-ranked/

October 5, 2019 at 1:43AM

5
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Film Voltage
Director
421

So you are using sensationalism to get a response ? can we watch during the week?

October 5, 2019 at 3:48AM

0
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Jurgen alan
Director
13

Only a country like America has these problems. Where it is ok to bring a gun to campus. But god forbid, drink alcohol at the age of 18. Ironic isn't it?

October 5, 2019 at 4:35AM

0
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Willem
Camera Operator
30

In the UK, people will go to see the movie. There are no active shooter warnings or any hint of any form of possible violence or danger. Yet this is the same movie.

October 5, 2019 at 6:09AM

2
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Julian Richards
Film Warlord
1391

Such a huge dose of self righteous click-bait nonsense...... from someone not even intending to watch the film.......enjoy my 'click' as well as my 'dismissive' of your 'dismissive'!

October 5, 2019 at 6:14AM

2
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I made an account just to tell you to shut the fuck up

October 5, 2019 at 6:55AM

4
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Did you really just try to analyze a movie you refuse to see? NFS you see that's a problem right? Based off the comments it's pretty obvious you're getting clicks at the cost of trolling your readers. Maybe try to listen to them instead. Alternatively you could have posted two opposing view points and open it up for discussion but I'd say to write about a movie you should at the very least uh... actually see it first.

October 5, 2019 at 7:22AM

1
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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1873

Thank you for being so respectful to your filmmaking readers, by publishing an opinion piece on a film the critic hasn't seen. We really appreciate it.

October 5, 2019 at 7:54AM

3
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Richard Gerst
Stills photographer with occasional cine work.
109

Hi, my name is Phil and I’m a fucking moron who reviews movies that I haven’t seen.

October 5, 2019 at 8:59AM

4
Reply

Calm down, troll.

October 5, 2019 at 11:56AM

0
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