Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has no bigger challenger this Oscar season than Joker, a film heavily inspired by Scorsese’s own Taxi Driver and King of Comedy.
Joker has the most Oscar nominations—11, including for Best Picture and for Todd Phillips as Best Director. The Irishman is one of several films with 10—including for Best Picture and Scorsese for Best Director. It is one of several films with 10 nominations, including Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
If Joker beats The Irishman in any of the major categories, it will be a strange case of a veteran being beaten by a film heavily inspired by two films he made decades ago.
It would also be striking given that Scorsese said last year that comic-book movies are “not cinema.” Though he was referencing Marvel blockbusters, some fans took it as a criticism of all comic-book-inspired movies. Joker is a DC Comics character, though the film isn’t connected to other recent DC Comics movies, like Wonder Woman and Justice League.
The plot of Joker, about a man named Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix) who loses his mind in a city without empathy, closely parallels the plots of Taxi Driver (1977) and King of Comedy (1983). Both Joker and and Taxi Driver feature an isolated man obsessed by a woman who isn’t interested in him, and both Joker and King of Comedy involve a man fixated on a talk show host.The Irishman star Robert De Niro, who stars in both films, appears in Phillips’ film as a late-night talk show host similar to the one Jerry Lewis played in King of Comedy.
Joker takes place in 1981, right in-between Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, and the Joker of 1981 closely parallels the gritty, crime-ridden New York of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Scorsese was even named as a possible executive producer on Joker, when it was first announced in August of 2017. But he backed out, and his producing partner Emma Tillinger Koskoff took over as a producer for Phillips’ film.