Did Heath Ledger Really Deserve the Oscar for Playing the Joker?
Heath Ledger won an Academy Award for his portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight, but did he really earn it? Or was it out of sympathy for his untimely death that he received the coveted award?
One of the biggest on-going debates here on CBM.com is whether or not Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was really as good as people think it is. Most would agree that his portrayal was very different from any other version of the character we had seen; taking away the campiness and the "joking" side of the character we have been so used to. I want to take a look at whether or not Ledger's performance was really good enough for him to win only the second post-mortem Oscar award ever given. Yes it was a good film and he was one of the best parts of that film, but a Best Supporting Actor Award? For a comic book movie?
Let's rewind a few years and look at who Ledger was up against in the Best Support Actor category in the 81st Annual Academy Awards.
Josh Brolin in Milk- Brolin, in recent years, has turned in some incredible performances (let's just forget Jonah Hex even happened). With his role in Milk, he took on a film that few stars would even look at and did so with emotion and raw talent.
Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder- There is no doubt in my mind that RDJ is one of today's most talented (and eclectic) stars working in the industry today. His character is rather unique in that he played a white man...playing a black man. Certainly not something that many could pull off, let alone as well as he did it. For that alone, he deserves huge kudos.
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt- Hoffman has come a long way since playing the creepy "gopher" for a porn production company in Boogie Nights. He's really come into his own in recent years and has shown his versatility as actor with the roles he's chosen. In Doubt, he gave one of he best performances to date and many felt that it was he who should have won this award.
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road- This is actually the one film in this group that I have not seen, so I cannot personally comment on his portrayal of character and the film itself. However, being that he was one of five actors to be chosen for this award, he must have done soemthing worth while.
So, just looking ath those names and the films, Ledger was up against some stiff competition. All of them gave powerful and memorable performances in their perspective roles. Ledger's performace definitely was a stand-out among these for several reasons. One, it was a comic book movie and aside from the occasional technical award, comic book movies are over-looked and not considered to be "good enough" to be honored at the Academy Awards. Second, who would have thought that playing a demented, psychopathic clown could garner you so much attention, let alone many award nominations.
There are some who feel that Ledger's Joker was too over the top; too dark compared to the Joker we have seen for years on the pages of comic books and graphic novels. For the most part, these are the same people that argue Ledger did not deserve to win and that Jack Nicholson's portrayal of The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman was a superior character and closer to the version fans are more familiar with. I would agree that Ledger's Joker was not an exactl replica of the comic book character and I'm glad for it. If you were to take Nicholson's version and place him in The Dark Knight, he would look quite obsurd.
If you were to take a step back, take of your "geek" glasses (no pun intended) and look at The Dark Knight as not a comic book movie, but as an action/drama film, it may give you a different perspective of the character. Look at him as a crazed man with nothing but anger and retribution on his mind, you will see that maybe he did give the performance of a lifetime.
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference, just like any film. I happen to think that Ledger earned that award. He gave us some incredibley memorable scene and movie lines and delivered them with ease and passion. He immersed him self into the role (some would say too far, but that is for another arguement) and gave us a character that will not soon be forgotten; not just for comic boom movie fans, but movie fans in general.
I've seen this debate pop up in the chat area several times and I wanted to give fans a true venue to discuss the idea. So....Go! Discuss!
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