Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger

It is difficult for me to write an unbiased, honest review of Chris Nolan’s newest installment in the Batman series. Why so difficult? I have loved Batman for as long as I can remember, or least since the first time I saw Batman Returns, which remains, to this day, my favorite of the enterprise. I suppose I love Batman for many of the same reasons other people do—he is, by definition, not a superhero, but rather a man with deep emotional wounds that drive him to seek revenge. However, what elevates Batman to the level of hero (or anti-hero, depending on how you look at it), is that he finds his taste for revenge to be insatiable.

So, I won't write a review. Instead, I will write an ode.

Batman Begins was an admirable first foray into the world of Gotham. I personally found it clunky and boring, mainly because of all the high-tech bullshit and unnecessary back-story. Also, Katie Holmes’ face makes my skin crawl and her total and complete worthlessness as an actor doesn’t exactly excite me, either. But when I heard, over a year ago, that Nolan would take on Batman again and that Heath Ledger would step into the role of the Joker, I was intrigued. Heath Ledger?

At that point, Heath had yet to knock our socks off with his performance in Brokeback Mountain. To me, he was a marginally-talented, gorgeous Australian with excellent taste in women. But Brokeback Mountain changed all that—his heart-wrenching portrait of Ennis Del Mar confirmed that Heath was playing for the big leagues. But Heath’s personal life seemed to suffer when his professional one flourished: his fairytale romance with Michelle Williams ended—(he once said in an interview on the conception of his daughter, Matilda Rose, “Michelle and I were so in love . . . we just did what our bodies told us to do"), Batman wrapped, and Heath was seen skulking about New York City, canoodling with models, and generally looking like hell.

And then, we all know what happened next.

Heath Ledger's performance in this film surpasses all the hype and praise it has earned thusfar in the press. It has been years since I've seen any actor commit to a role so purely and with such energy that it takes the breath away from the audience, whose reaction is littered with bouts of nervous laughter. Ledger's Joker is absolutely terrifying, a complete and natural maniac. He is not the product of a chemical bath, a fire, or a maiming. He is, in a way, the shadow against all of Gotham, the invisible man: the criminally insane. Those who cease to exist in this society because they do not fit into our parameters of black and white. As Manola Dargis so aptly put it in her review, "He isn’t fighting for anything or anyone. He isn’t a terrorist, just terrifying."

See this film for Ledger's performance, if for no other reason. It is fascinating in its cruelty and its romance, perhaps the best combination we can ask for in the ultimate villain. When the Joker escapes his holding cell (in an oh so creative way) and drives away into Gotham's night, head out the window, all smiles, hair blowing in the breeze, there is something so visually stunning about Ledger and Nolan's camerawork here that I felt as though I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life.


I apologize if you've read this post in order to get a sense of the entire film. I realize that I have failed in that capacity. Of course you should see it, of course it's exciting, of course: it's Batman. It's *the* action film of the summer. You don't want to miss out on that. Yes, there's poor dialogue, completely unrealistic scenes, and bad acting.

Critics and fans alike have claimed that making this movie killed Heath Ledger. I disagree. His performance is an example of the ultimate creation, the true definition of acting, and I can't think of a better tribute or legacy to leave than an actor at his best, doing what he loves, and doing it brilliantly.

Retraction, 8/7/08: The only other performance that equals Ledger's this year is of course Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Please see my review for more details.

Also: I highly recommend seeing The Dark Knight via IMAX.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Proust Questionaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Owning an apartment in Brooklyn, a successful career as a writer and a critic, and a loving family.

What is your greatest fear?
To be alone, and terminally ill.

What historical figure do you most identify with?
Abraham Lincoln and Queen Elizabeth I.

Which living person do you most admire?
My mother.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most despise in others?

What is your greatest extravagance?

On what occasion do you lie?
Only to protect others.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
The fact that I am not leaner.

Which living person do you most despise?
George Bush, and anyone who resents difference.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Awesome,” “As per usual,” and “Just throwin’ that out there,” “OMG”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be less of a worry-wort.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
That they would heal faster.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Never compromising my beliefs because of my ambition.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
Someone with a little more money.

Who are your favorite writers?
Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Bernhard, and Roberto Bolano.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Zooey (Franny and Zooey), Gudrun (Women in Love), and Fanny (Mansfield Park)

What is your most treasured possession?
My teddy bear, and my first editions of Virginia Woolf.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The inability to recognize beauty in the details.

Where would you like to live?
Near the water, in Marble Head, Massachusetts, with an apartment in New York.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My height, I think, or my bleach blonde hair, as of late.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Emotional awareness and kindness.

What is your greatest regret?
That I didn’t pursue an acting career with more aplomb.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Who knows.

If there is a Heaven what would you like to hear God say when you arrive?
We should do lunch!