Sayin’ it now

Posted by · 4:19 pm · June 27th, 2008

With reviews trickling down for “The Dark Knight” in the last 24 hours or so, everyone seems to be going out of their way to hail Heath Ledger’s performance as Oscar caliber, perhaps even sporting the chops to win the award posthumously.

Of course, we’ve been all over that scenario for months here at In Contention, but it’s occured to me now that Warner Bros. might have a case to push this apparently epic portrayal for all it’s worth.

I’m talking about a nomination for Heath Ledger in the Best Actor category.

Stranger things — indeed, similarly atypical scenarios — have certainly happened.  The easiest excuses remain Lee Marvin in “Cat Ballou” and Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”  If a genre performance comes along that is so earth-shattering, or perhaps not even that so much as a head-spinner that demands critical attention and adoration, the Academy seems willing to comply in those often heated lead races.  Why not this year?  Why not this performance?

By all accounts, Ledger seems to be blowing his co-stars off the screen.  More than simply chewing the scenery, it appears he is gnawing on the film stock, owning the film and every meaningful aspect of it.

Respect might well be demanded in a manner we didn’t expect — perhaps Mr. Ledger will go into the Oscar books a two-time nominee for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.

More in the charts on Monday.

→ 23 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

23 responses so far

  • 1 6-27-2008 at 4:36 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Tricky one… a Supporting Actor win seems feasible, but a Best Actor win is hard to imagine, though I could see a nomination materialising. But in a way, a leading-role nom – successful or not – would be a more fitting tribute, since the man was clearly destined to be one of the key leading actors of this generation.

    I still get so very sad thinking about it at all.

  • 2 6-27-2008 at 7:06 pm

    Jon said...

    Those were my immediate thoughts as well. I still think they go supporting, it’s interesting that Dean’s second nomination was Leading and it was really a supporting role.

  • 3 6-27-2008 at 9:15 pm

    Joel said...

    I seriously think he’ll win. Seriously. No joke or exaggeration. But I think it’ll be Supporting Actor myself. The point of the film is BATMAN’S beliefs being tested. The Joker’s the one who tests them. So he’s supporting, not that he’s not major.

  • 4 6-28-2008 at 4:36 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    True, Joel, but the Academy frequently goes against the old “who’s the film about” adage when tossing around lead nominations: Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker, Samantha Morton, Nicole Kidman, just to go back a few years. And of course the classic example is Anthony Hopkins in “Lambs.”

  • 5 6-28-2008 at 7:21 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Also wanted to add, and I know he’s Jack, but it’s worth mentioning that Nicholson received a lead nomination at the Golden Globes (though the BAFTAs went supporting).

  • 6 6-28-2008 at 7:46 am

    Chris said...

    True. But if Warner Brothers is going to be out there actively campaigning for him, they’re going to want to put him in a category he can win in. It sounds like the Best Actor category is going to be packed this year. But I haven’t heard too many mentions of possible great performances for Best Supporting Actor. At least not yet.

    I’d put him in Supporting. That’s just my opinion, though.

  • 7 6-28-2008 at 10:43 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I honestly am not thinking win at this point — in any category.

  • 8 6-28-2008 at 12:31 pm

    Chris said...

    I think for Heath Ledger to win he’d have to get a lot of support from some fellow actors…much the same way Denzel Washington did back in ’01 with “Training Day”. I remember Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson (among others) came out and said Denzel deserved to win. Ms. Roberts went as far as to say that she couldn’t “live in a world where Denzel has only one Oscar”.

    I think if Heath Ledger gets that kind of support from other actors and even some fellow nominees (assuming he gets nominated), then I think he can win. Once again, just my opinion.

  • 9 6-28-2008 at 3:45 pm

    Josh said...

    No way. Ledger is credited third after Michael Cain and Christian Bale. One of the things that was unique about Batman Begins was that Batman was the star of that movie. He wasn’t upstaged by over the top villains. You could absolutley make the case that Nicholson is the lead of Batman. I haven’t seen the film in ages but I remember that Nicholson was credited before Keaton. Also we got the Joker’s origin story. There is no way that you could make the argument that Ledger is the lead of the movie.

  • 10 6-28-2008 at 6:07 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “There is no way that you could make the argument that Ledger is the lead of the movie.”

    Again, ditto any number of performances that have received lead nominations in the past.

  • 11 6-28-2008 at 6:38 pm

    Joel said...

    Kris, you have a strong point. I stayed with my own opinion until you mentioned Nicholson’s nod (wholly undeserved in my opinion; I’m the only human who didn’t like him as Joker). Now I’m with you on it.

  • 12 6-29-2008 at 9:39 am

    Josh said...

    “Again, ditto any number of performances that have received lead nominations in the past.”

    I know but most of the time those actors got lead billing.

    Meryl Streep got lead billing over Anne Hathaway for Devil Wears Prada
    Denzel Washington had lead billing over Ethan Hawke for Training Day
    Ian McKellan got lead billing over Brendan Fraser in Gods and Monsters despite the fact that Fraser’s character had the most screen time and the story was about him.
    John Travolta got lead billing in Pulp Fiction
    Anthony Hopkins got second billing however the person that got lead billing was Jodie Foster.

    Ledger is billed third after Bale and even Michael Caine. Usually if somebody actually gets lead billing it is easier to vote for someone as the lead. Remember there are a fair amount of voters who don’t watch most of the movies.

  • 13 6-29-2008 at 10:15 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Off the top of my head, Joel, some exceptions to your lead-billing: Best Actress winners Emma Thompson (fourth-billed in Howards End, behind Supporting nominee Vanessa Redgrave) and Nicole Kidman (third-billed in The Hours, behind Supporting nominee Julianne Moore), and going further back, Best Actor winners David Niven and Maximilian Schell, who were both below the top line in their respective ensembles. So the precedent exists. But I agree with Kris – a win for Ledger (in supporting) is possible, but would be quite a leap for the Academy.

  • 14 6-29-2008 at 3:17 pm

    Josh said...

    I think those are exceptions to the rule. Also I just don’t think Warner Bros is going to campaign Ledger as the lead over Christian Bale. Remember back in 2005 when Warner Bros tried to campaign for Batman Begins? Bale was pushed as the lead actor. I don’t think they are going to deviate from that. On another note can someone please tell me why Julianne Moore got second billing in Children of Men. She is in the movie for 10 minutes. Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Pam Ferris, and Clare-Hope Ashitey all have much more screen time than Moore.

  • 15 7-01-2008 at 10:25 pm

    Panther said...

    I agree completely with Kristopher. He is in a role that could go either way, lead or supporting, since it is an ensemble type of film. But getting a lead nomination is so much better than getting a supporting actor nomination. I think that he could very well win Best Actor for The Dark Knight, if he gets nominated.

    There were plenty of people who wanted to vote for him for Brokeback, but thought they would have many more opportunities down the road. I am not trying to negate the impressiveness of his Dark Knight performance by saying he will get extra votes from Brokeback fans, I am just saying Warner bros should not shy away from campaigning for him to get a Lead Actor nomination.

    No one really remembers who wins best supporting actor, but everyone remembers the best actor winner years later. And I want Ledger’s performance here to be remembered, along with his other work, which is why I say go for it. Go for all of it

  • 16 7-02-2008 at 12:46 pm

    Mario Borroto said...

    There’s simply not enough exposition of The Joker in The Dark Knight for it to qualify as a lead performance. The character is the driving force of the story but the performance stays within the supporting category and never takes center stage. Kris is buying into the hype.

  • 17 7-02-2008 at 1:50 pm

    Travis said...

    I dont think you can base his chances on lead or support nominations based on billing. In most cases an actors name is billed based on the actor. Michael Cain’s role doesnt come close to nearing let alone exceeding Ledger’s but he’s billed ahead of him because he is Michael Cain.

    Its like if a movie or tv show has a well know or top actor but the front of the credits are loaded with others they get the last spot where the credits are finished with for example…..

    and Martin Sheen

    Being labeled at the end with an “and” before your name is considered a spot of importance.

    What will determine where Ledge is nomination, and he will be nominated, is the amount of screen time he gets.

    Where he is the mail villian, he will surely get significant screen time and in the end a Best Actor nod wouldnt be surprising.

  • 18 7-02-2008 at 2:49 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “There’s simply not enough exposition of The Joker in The Dark Knight for it to qualify as a lead performance. The character is the driving force of the story but the performance stays within the supporting category and never takes center stage.”

    Kind of sounds a lot like Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs” no?

    “Kris is buying into the hype.”

    Pointless comment. What hype? Who else has made the case for lead?