Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight & the Oscars

by R. J. Forman

Here’s the problem with all this Oscar buzz for Heath Ledger: Should he actually be nominated, he’ll take home that golden man.

Although, he won’t actually take the statue home, of course, because he’s dead.

(And dead, all too soon, for that matter.)

He’ll win it because he’s dead and he was young when he died.

There’s nothing Hollywood loves more than youthful tragedy.

I mean, my goodness, look at the films they put out.

USA Today, for all its mediocre news, nailed this one.

In a piece last week, writer Scott Bowles said: “Ledger’s death has done more than ensure cinematic rubber-necking that will make The Dark Knight one of the biggest movies for the year. Critics…are hailing the movie as a masterwork.”

There are some who think it’s damn near impossible to win an Oscar posthumously. And they would be right if we were still living in a civilized time.

The Oscars have nominated six people who were deceased by award time.

Only Network’s Peter Finch won.

However, let us not forget that these days we love death…especially when it involves a young, pretty person and there’s a slight air of mystery or misery to their passing.

So let’s get back to Ledger.

He died January 22nd of what authorities decided was “an accidental overdose of prescription medications.”

First of all, you don’t “accidentally” overdose on prescription medications.

Second, the media ran wild with this story, giving it about as much coverage as they gave Anna Nicole Smith.

Boy, do we love when the young and beautiful die from pill popping.

Third, there's the debate about giving movies like The Dark Knight Oscar attention.

This is not to say that they don’t deserve it.

The trend is that superhero flicks get ignored.

And it’s not crazy to suggest that The Dark Knight would be completely forgotten by Oscar season were it not for Ledger’s death.

Ledger’s performance may be good. And the fact that he’s dead really adds to the level of eeriness surrounding his character, the Joker.

But if James Dean and Spencer Tracy (who, strangely enough, said he would only play the Penguin in the Batman television series if he could kill the Bat) couldn’t win their Oscars posthumously should Heath Ledger really win his?

(Promotional photo of Heath Ledger as the Joker from Warner Brothers Pictures. To see a trailer for The Dark Knight, please check below.)

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Joe said...

thus far this year, heath ledger has given the best performance in my personal opinion. this would be true even if he had not tragically died last january. now, that's not to say that there won't be any other amazing performances more worthy of an oscar by the time the awards are given. but at this point in the game, i certainly believe he should at least be nominated. The Dark Knight was an excellent film, with great performaces by every actor. However, as I watched it I found myself wondering "When is the Joker's next scene? When is he coming back?" I could have watched 2.5 hours of just the joker, he was that incredible. That's the kind of performance that deserves an oscar, and it has nothing to do with his death.

Anonymous said...

I think that the right thing to do here would be to leave the fact that he is, unfortunately dead and look at the performance. I am writing this because I so vehemently disagree with your assesment(at least thats how your comments read to me). His portrayl of the Joker was one of the best and most real performances I have seen.I think that this movie showed his truly great talent. His ability to bring human qualities to a schitzophrenic psychopath, was unnerving. He brought real purpose to the role. There are quite a few movies yet to be released and I am sure more great actors who will receive buzz. If he wins I believe he deserves it. How tragic that he can not walk across the stage and receive it, the single highest honor an actor can receive. Of couse there is going to be attention associated with him and therefor this movie, his death was altogether too soon and extremely sad, however that in no way takes away from his incredible performance in The Dark Knight. I have never before commented on something like this, I just felt that this was really unjustified. This is only my opinion.

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