Jojo Rabbit

Fox Searchlight

Director Todd Phillips, known for comedies such as Old School, Road Trip and The Hangover trilogy recently made headlines during the press tour for his current movie, the drama Joker, by saying he decided to stop making comedies because “woke culture is ruining comedy.” Thank goodness Taika Waititi doesn’t agree.

Unlike Phillips, writer/director/producer/star of the new subversively and decidedly risky and darkly satirical movie Jojo Rabbit, Waititi thrives on pushing the envelope and challenging—and trusting—his audience to be able to handle subject matter that is eyebrow-raising, and to be able to appreciate the joke. While some may be shying away from doing risky work that may ruffle feathers, Waititi goes all in with a movie that is one of the most daring and committed satires I’ve ever seen.

I don’t want to say too much about it, because it should be experienced as an unexpected ride, but I will paint the picture for you in broad strokes. Waititi has made a movie that is a (dark) comedy about Hitler, Nazis and World War II. I know it’s been done before, most notably by Mel Brooks and Charlie Chaplin, so it’s not like this is groundbreaking stuff. But Waititi’s ability to raise it above farce is what makes this film feel so different. It is a bold and irreverent satire which mocks the Nazis and Hitler, but it also tells a deep and moving story against a backdrop of war. It is equal parts goofy and tragic, outrageous and sweet, heartfelt and horrific. And the Nazis are only a part of it.

Read moreJojo Rabbit

Joker

Warner Bros

I was resisting seeing Joker for some reason. But then I gave in, all the talk of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and the fact that it will soon pass Deadpool to be the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time made me curious.

I should’ve listened to my gut.

Roger Ebert once published a compilation of his bad reviews called “I Hated Hated Hated This Movie.” I think I’ve got the first chapter of my version.

The buzz about Joker has been evenly divided between masterpiece and piece of crap. All I can say is I am at a complete loss as to how anyone could have enjoyed a single moment of this movie, let alone call it a masterpiece.

Joker is the dreariest, most mind and soul crushing movie experience I’ve had in a long time, if ever. I haven’t come this close to walking out of a movie since Requiem for a Dream. I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this movie than I have to —as it is, I need a shower—so let me just sum it up for you: DO NOT GO. It is a relentless exploration of human misery, a painful descent into madness with no let up and no payoff.

What really pisses me off is Phoenix is a great actor and I suppose what he is doing here is great, too, but there is no modulation to his performance. He is all out maniacal from the first shot and all you can do is squirm in your seat and hope your skin stops crawling. I realize that’s what they were going for, but it’s not how a normal person wants to spend two hours.

In all fairness, I realize that Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight was insane and twisted, too. The difference between Ledger and Phoenix, though, is that Ledger was entertaining, watchable and textured. Phoenix’s Joker is just all twisted—darkness has enveloped this performance so fully, you will have to fight hard to not get sucked in. It’s just not my idea of a good time.

I had enough of it after 10 minutes and it only got worse. Please, do yourself a favor and spend your time doing almost anything else. Life is seriously too short.