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Joker’s award season grin widens with Critics' Choice win for Joaquin Phoenix

By Benjamin Bullard

Sunday’s Critics’ Choice Awards added to the trophy cases of several movies and TV series we’ve come to know and love, and none more high-profile than Joker — which continued its romp through the awards season with one more big win for actor Joaquin Phoenix.

Regarded as perhaps the most reliable indicator of where the entertainment industry’s zeitgeist is situated ahead of next month’s Academy Awards handouts, the Critics’ Choice ceremony lavished one of its biggest wins on Joker in the Best Actor category, but passed up director Todd Phillips' dark story for Best Picture, which instead went to Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood. Phoenix followed up last week’s big Golden Globe win for best actor by picking up the Critics’ Choice hardware, though, leading off the evening with the Best Actor nod for portraying Arthur Fleck.

Thanking his mom from the stage for having “always been my greatest inspiration,” Phoenix gave a big shoutout to Phillips and writer Scott Silver for cleverly reframing an iconic origin story from the comics. “You tricked us,” said Phoenix. “You took a comic book character and used it to talk about childhood trauma, gun violence, isolation, and mental health. And instead of inciting violence, you invited the audience in to see what it feels like when you’re one of the forgotten.”

Out of a total of seven nominations, Joker scored once more, awarding composer Hildur Guðnadóttir with the honor for Best Score — a repeat of her win in the same category last week at the Golden Globes.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Avengers: Endgame beat out a strong assembly of competitors (including 1917, Ford v Ferrari, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, and the MCU's own Spider-Man: Far From Home) to take home the Best Action Movie trophy, and also nabbed a second trophy for Best Visual Effects. Toy Story 4 edged out fellow Disney-verse smash Frozen II, as well as Abominable, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, and Missing Link to snag the Best Animated Feature award. 

In other film categories, Jordan Peele’s Us won out over Ad Astra, Avengers: Endgame, and Midsommar to pick up the Best Sci-fi or Horror Movie accolade; while Rian Johnson’s Knives Out cast didn’t quite make the cut against Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman in the Best Acting Ensemble category. Us star Lupita Nyong’o also stayed on the sidelines as Renée Zellweger picked up the Best Actress award for Judy.

Regina King made big waves for HBO’s Watchmen by walking away with the Best Actress in a Drama Series trophy for her grounded portrayal of Angela Abar (aka Sister Night). Watchmen’s Jean Smart, who also beat out a competitive field to win the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series award, said playing FBI Agent Laurie Blake was especially rewarding thanks to showrunner Damon Lindelof’s innovative adaptation from the comics. “Damon Lindelof — I don’t know what to say,” said Smart. “You took a piece of extraordinary science fiction and you married it to historical fact.” 

Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, fresh from last year’s record fourth Emmy win for his supporting role as Tyrion Lannister, lost out in the same category Sunday to The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup. Kit Harington, nominated in the category for Best Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Jon Snow in GoT’s eighth and final season, similarly lost out to Succession’s Jeremy Strong.

Watchmen and Game of Thrones also were nominated in the race for Best Drama Series. In the end, both HBO hits lost out to Succession, another HBO juggernaut.