Joker Accomplishes Rare Feat at the Academy Awards With Joaquin Phoenix Win

Joker won two Academy Awards at last night’s Oscars 2020 presentation, including a Best Actor win for star Joaquin Phoenix. With Phoenix’s win, the Joker is now one of two characters ever to earn two different performers acting Oscars. Heath Ledger won the award for playing Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The only other time this has been accomplished is when Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather in 1972, and then Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor in 1974 for playing a younger version of Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II.

One could argue that these are not the same feats. Brando and De Niro were playing the same character at two different points in that character’s life. Phoenix’s downtrodden Arthur Fleck and Ledger’s anarchic Joker share no such connection. They are two different interpretations of the same source material. But it’s all academic, bearing little consequence on each individual actor’s achievements.

Phoenix gave a moving acceptance speech when he stepped onto the stage. “[We have to] continue to use our voice for the voiceless,” Phoenix said. “I've been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively. I think at times we feel, or were made to feel, that we champion different causes, but for me, I see commonality. I think, whether we're talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we're talking about the fight against injustice. We're talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity.

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"I think that we've become very disconnected from the natural world, and many of us, what we're guilty of is an egocentric worldview — the belief that we're the center of the universe. We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then, we take her milk, that's intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal, and I think we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something to give something up. But human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment."

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