In a conversation with Variety‘s Nick Vivarelli, Venice Film Festival artistic director Albert Barbera has called Todd PhillipsJoker “a really surprising film….[actually] the most surprising film we’ve got this year…this one’s going straight to the Oscars even though it’s gritty, dark, violent. It has amazing ambition and scope.”

Really? Okay, but I wouldn’t call the 2018 Joker script I recently read a blueprint for greatness.

Barbera acknowledges that going into Venice competition situation is an unusual thing for a Warner Bros. film, but quotes Phillips as having said “I don’t care if I run the risk of not winning…why shouldn’t I go in competition when I know what we’ve I’ve got on our hands?”

As to Hollywood’s diminished presence this year, Barbera says “there is a strange situation this year with American cinema due to what’s happening in the industry. There’s an earthquake undermining the U.S. film industry as we know it. Disney buying Fox and dismantling it, so that in a while people won’t even remember it existed. Disney has a become such a colossus that it’s even alarming due to its size and its ability to shape the future. Paramount just distributing movies made by other outfits. There is also some uncertainty about Sony and Lionsgate is now on the verge of a sale. [But] fortunately Warner Bros. is holding up.

The landscape is changing so rapidly that it’s normal for this to impact product [output]. There were definitely less quality [U.S.] titles on offer this year, even though we have no shortage of good movies.”