Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ledger Posthumous

According to Peter Travers, The Dark Knight is pretty damn good. A thunderbolt that will rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies, he says. But Travers doesn't stop there. He goes on to say that Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker deserves the first posthumous Oscar since Peter Finch in Network. Actually, he just says that if there's a movement on behalf of Ledger, he wants to be signed up which is only kind of putting yourself out there.

As much as I love Network, Peter Finch as the first and only posthumous Oscar doesn't really set the bar that high. He was fun to watch, but a bit over the tippy-top for me. And I'm usually on board with Travers as a critic, although I'm still burning over his claim that Gangs Of New York was one of the best films of 2002.

My money has been on The Dark Knight as the summer breakout for quite some time, and I have yet to witness Nolan take a wrong turn, so I'm not surprised by the great review. But a posthumous Oscar for Ledger? As the Joker? It's entirely possible that if he does receive a nomination, it's more because the Academy is making nice for not giving him the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain.

But here's my question. Actually I have a series of questions. Does Travers write that same statement if Ledger is alive? Does he even mention Oscar if Ledger is alive? Or if Travers does make that statement, does it get sent into such a whirlwind of gossipy madness being picked up by such illustrious blogs such as this if Ledger is still alive? Meaning, did Travers really even intend for that statement to be taken as it is? The Internet is just frothing at the mouth for this kind of stuff and they're pouncing on it just as to be expected, taking Travers quote out of context and making it bolder than it actually is. But does the fact that Ledger is dead make this even sweeter? I think I know the answer to that already. But I've watched enough of Hollywood to know that they get all misty eyed over things like this. A perfect example is Crash getting the best picture Oscar because it "had a message." Never mind that that message was painfully obvious and about 10 years old.

So I don't mean to be the cynical old bastard here that calls bullshit, especially since I haven't seen the movie, but Ledger better be really frickin' good. Either that or Travers should temper his enthusiasm a bit. It's not like he writes for some stupid ass movie blog or something where he can throw out any crazy old shit and not have it stick. Or stink. Last time I checked, Rolling Stone magazine still had a pretty good circulation. Because if Ledger is good, but not great and all this is talk is due to sympathy for him, for Michelle, for his family, for not getting the Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, then shame on Travers and I guess shame on me for helping continue this story.


Anonymous said...

Piper, you're exactly right. I have been wondering why so many respected journalists have been calling for a Ledger posthumous Oscar for this performance in JUNE, before the film is even in theaters. It seems prematurely ejaculatory to say the least.

Frankly, I can't see the character earning him the Oscar. As portrayed in it, we know little about The Joker, and he has no strong arc other than as a master villain. So while Heath might be convincing, it probably has very little depth that allows his performance to rise to the level of Oscar-worthy.

He should have won for BROKEBACK, and the Academy knows it.

Anonymous said...

I admit I cried when I saw Brokeback, his performance was that good. The scene at the end in the trailer was heartbreaking.

If Ledger is ground-breaking as the Joker, he should win special recognition. If there's a movement for a new category of Super-Hero Oscar, sign me up.

Anonymous said...

1976 Peter Finch - Network as Howard Beale
Robert De Niro - Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle
Giancarlo Giannini - Seven Beauties as Pasqualino Frafuso
William Holden - Network as Max Schumacher
Sylvester Stallone - Rocky as Rocky Balboa

De Niro was the best.
Stallone deserved it
And even Holden should have won before Finch.
Who is the other guy?

Foodie said...

Waiting to hear your thoughts on Hancock and Hellboy 2...

PIPER said...


Yeah, I hate to beat up on a performance in a film I'm really gunning for. But playin' crazy isn't that hard. Lots of people have done it. And as characters go, there isn't a lot of depth to The Joker. But we will see. I will happily eat my words if need be.

Anonymous said...

Heath Ledger was a very talented actor, and I wouldn't be surprised if his Joker is the definitive one. That said, it's hard to believe this role gave him the kind of workout Ennis did.

Why would Travers be talking about this now? To get some buzz going for himself, his paper, and Ledger. As we've seen from the POTUS race, it's never too early to begin campaigning.

I don't think AMPAS needs to provide an award, even an honorary award, for Ledger. And I'm not convinced they will. I think SAG would be a better choice for giving an honorary award.

Burbanked said...

With each passing year, it seems as though Oscar prognostication climbs new depths of hype and sinks to new lows of outrageousness.

Travers tends to be a bit too superlative for my tastes anyway, but this is really reaching. I'm a fan of Ledger and his Ennis absolutely got me to the core (not that way). But honoring a fanboy genre movie - albeit what will likely be a superlative one - with an acting Oscar, and adding the greater unlikelihood of it being posthumous, is a big reach.

I'll be happy to play "what might have been" with Ledger's sad lost future all the livelong day, but perhaps we might maintain the illusion of believability while we pander for pageviews.

Damian Arlyn said...

I predicted that this would happen back when Ledger died. I'm with you, Piper. I don't think there would be any talk of Oscar if he were still alive (although I do remember there was some talk of an Oscar nod for Nicholson's Joker back in '89), no matter how great he may be... and it does indeed look like he will be great.

There does seem to be this bizarre need for us to want to reward people with things after they can no longer benefit from it (I remember hearing talk of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Ed Wood shortly after Burton's movie came out; his wife wisely said something to the effect of "What good would that do him now?"). Obviously such gestures are really done more for us, the ones left behind, than for them. At least in the case of the late great George Carlin, the Mark Twain Comedy award was going to be presented to him before he passed, so going ahead with it anyway just makes sense.

Quick note though, Piper. Finch is not the only posthumous Oscar ever awarded (though it is the only acting one). Conrad Hall won Best cinematography for his final film Road to Perdition. I remember coming out of the theatre thinking that it was one of the most beautifully shot films I'd ever seen and desperately hoping that Conrad would win his third Oscar for it, though when he later died I knew that wouldn't happen. Imagione my surprise when he was not only indeed nominated, but they announced his name at the ceremony and his son (also a cinematographer) accepted the award. Needless to say I was pleased.

Anonymous said...

I've read about 10 reviews of the film, (yes, I know that's lame) and they range between "Nolan's sequel far surpasses the original with an intense, disturbing masterpiece." to "...Christopher Nolan's most accomplished and mature work..." to "Three days after the screening, I am still haunted..."

Maybe it is that good. Not one review I read wasn't going ga-ga over it. But I'm with Piper, it has to be GREAT, not just GOOD, to get HL an oscar nod. Just the fact that it's a comic book adaptation will make it tough to get one IMHO, as exactly zero actors have won an oscar doing these kinds of films. I will say about 75% of the reviews say the film feels less like a comic film and more like a psycho crime thriller. I guess we'll see in 16 days...

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