July 31, 2008

Bits and Bobs

Y'all are close to getting a picture of my tattoo because it's healing nicely now. I wore my hair up to work yesterday for the first time since I got it, and about at about 2:00pm Karen said "oh, you wore your hair up today and I can see your tattoo! It's so cute!" She's the only one who even noticed it. That's exactly what I hoped would be the case, most people wouldn't notice and the ones who did would think it was cute.

I realized this morning that I hadn't posted anything about The Dark Knight yet. I saw it on the 20th and really, really enjoyed it. It was not a perfect movie by any means and there were things that I would have changed if it were my film (the abrupt transition of Two Face, the rushed and confusing arc about the corrupt cops, the unnecessary inclusion of the flashy "cellular sonar" technology, just to name a few) but in the grand scheme of things, those are small quibbles. It's an incredibly entertaining movie and while it's full to the brim with terrific performances from talented actors, Heath Ledger truly is a stand-out.

I thought Heath should have won an Oscar for his stunning portrayal of Ennis DelMar in Brokeback Mountain but he certainly faced stiff competition that year, and I can hardly fault the Academy for giving the award to Phillip Seymore Hoffman (Capote) instead because that was great work too. (Although, as a side note, I thought it a travesty that Clifton Collins Jr. was not nominated because he was brilliant as Perry Smith.) While the characters of Ennis DelMar and The Joker are as dissimilar as they could possibly be, Ledger's approach to both was the same - he played them as real men. Ennis is a stoic, simple man of few words and complex emotions and Ledger imbued the character with great dignity, which I believe could easily have been lacking in the hands of a lesser actor, especially in the context of the infamous "gay cowboy movie." Ennis's inner struggle between the love he feels for Jack and his desire to be "normal" is played with delicate touches which can often be mistaken as unchallenging work by an Academy that saw fit to award the tic-filled, scenery-chewing performance of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman with it's highest acting honor, but I think that job was far from easy. Similarly, I don't believe it was easy to turn The Joker - an actual comic book villain - into a believable man. It isn't as though he did it through a back story that suddenly excused The Joker's maniacal persona, because while they do tell a couple of stories about atrocities that may or may not have caused his disfiguring scars, the audience is left to question the voracity of those stories in the second place and Heath's performance isn't about back story in the first place. His Joker is not cartoonish or silly like Jack Nicholson's nearly 2 decades ago (God, has it been that long?), it's gritty and dark. Heath's Joker is an unstable, smart yet insane man who is bent on the destruction of society just for the sake of seeing what happens when people are tested to their limits. It's all a sick game to him that he finds both funny and endlessly intriguing. Ledger isn't darting his tongue around and shoving his lanky hair to one side to show you that he can be creepy, he's showing you who The Joker is by shrinking back into him and letting the subconscious tics of a disturbed individual exhibit themselves as they would in life.

The Joker is a flashy character because he's brimming with charisma and covered in grease paint and lousy with the affectations of a homicidal freak. This is exactly the character that The Academy likes to award an actor for playing, and an untimely death at such a young age virtually ensures the sympathy vote to boot. That's a shame though. Don't get me wrong, I definitely hope he wins a posthumous honor (or 12) for the role but it's a shame that the argument will inevitably be made that they're pity awards, because the truth is that he deserves every bit of praise he could have gotten whether he'd died or not. The world lost an enormous talent last January and I hope that the various award-giving bodies in the movie industry honor his outstanding work while they still can.

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