Joker: The curious case of director Todd Phillips

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You must wonder how Todd Phillips managed to land the coveted director's job for DC's upcoming Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. I mean, by all accounts, Phillips' reputation has been that of a trustworthy comedy director more than anything in the genre of drama, except for 2014's underrated "War Dogs.

Yes, the fact that Todd Phillips has been tasked in directing the Phoenix/Origin Joker flick has piqued people's interest in the director. He is very much in the spotlight now.  How did he manage to nab the job? I truly, for the life of me, have no clue. Yes, he did commendable dramatic work on the aforementioned "War Dogs," but Phillips' filmography consists of 95% comedy ("Road Trip," Old School," 'Starsky and Hutch," "School for Scoundrels," "The Hangover," "The Hangover II," "The Hangover III," and "Due Date."
He has directed two of the most gut-bustingly hilarious movies I have ever seen: "Old School," and "The Hangover." I recently re-watched both of them and was struck at how Phillips' use of space in his framing is actually exceptional. He rarely wastes a frame in these two films, there's always care and attention given. The glossy cinematography in his films, and also the unusual use of side-tilted shots with a handheld camera, all this makes me wonder, have we not appreciated Todd Phillips enough? Even "Road Trip" is a sort of "movie of its generation," it signaled the beginning of the end for the slacker generation, and, in consequence, the slacker comedy genre. 

As I delved further into his filmography I realized that I actually also liked his other films. I remember chuckling here and there at the sheer lunacy of "Starsky and Hutch," ah yes the days when Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson were some of the funniest comedians around. I must admit that "The Hangover Part II" had won me over back in the summer of 2011. Not to mention "Due Date" which had surprisingly successful chemistry between Zach Galafanakis and Robert Downey Jr.

Almost every Todd Phillips film will deal with the chaotic, jocular spirit of the male friendship. Why are the characters in his films so relatable? Well, because his films do have accurate portrayals of bro culture. That’s why Phillips’s movies strike such a chord with that specific demographic — we can all relate to the characters on-screen, either because we are them or we know somebody like them, a Stu or an Alan or a Phil or a Mitch or a Frank or a Beanie. They talk like us. They act like us. 

How that will translate into a low-budget Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix and produced by Martin Scorsese is still up in the air.

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