The Hype On Heath

Heath Ledger nominated for Academy Award
Heath Ledger nominated for Academy Award

On the day of January 22, 2008 actor Heath Ledger passed away.  On the day of January 22, 2009 one of his final performances earned him an Academy Award nomination.  Last year when Heath Ledger passed away, the world of entertainment was rocked to its core.  Someone so young and talented had left us.  So in the days following his death, there seemed to be a lot of focus and attention put on his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, which then had yet to be released in theaters.  Well now here’s the question, is there any link between these two days separated by one year?  Meaning, is his last big screen performance better because of his untimeley death?  And should he win an Academy Award because of it?

Well if you ask many people the answer would be yes.  And if not an Academy Award, then definitely a nomination for one.  Usually you would use any number of the combination of the following words:  awesome, brilliant, great, mesmerising, spectacular, superb, etc.  But as I listen to all of the superlatives, I can’t help but to began to wonder, are there any sympathy votes coming into play here? 

It was years ago when many of us first heard that in the sequel to the hit Batman Begins Heath Ledger would be playing opposite the hero as the arch-nemesis the Joker.  The thought would soon turn to anticipation.  Soon after we found ourselves at the beginning of the year awaiting for the summertime release.  Then all of a sudden, the star is found dead of an overdose.  The world was shocked.  He would be missed.  In fact, the lasting memory we would have of him would be of him in The Dark Knight.  Well our expectations are already high, he is a pretty good actor.  In fact, when The Dark Knight was released it broke several box office records.  Its popularity would likely be expanded by the tragic death of one of the films stars. 

As one of the millions around the world who watch the movie, I will have to agree with most that it was a very good film, and Heath Ledger played the part of the Joker extremely well.  But was it best actor in a supporting role type material?  What are you comparing him to?  Are you giving him accolades because it was a well received movie and he died before he got to see the result of it?  Does he deserve at least a nomination because he died?  Did you particularly key into Ledger as the Joker in the movie because you knew he was dead (hard not to do)?  Well if you said yes to the any of the previous questions then your impartiality is gone. 

Not for nothin’, its not hard to win the argument on whether he was a good actor in the movie, but it might be hard to sell someone on his death has nothing to do with the praise he’s getting.  Honestly, the only people who can properly judge his performance are those who saw the movie before Ledger died.  Otherwise most of those voting (in the Academy) are friendly with him, playing into the hype of the role, or partial to it because you knew this was his final completed role.  It probably sucks to admit, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but take it for what it’s worth.

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