Archive for the ‘Heath Ledger’ Category

MOVIE: Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)

December 31, 2008

I’ve been chewing on this movie for several days now, trying to think of some coherent and organized things to say about it.  But the more I ponder, the more I’m realizing this is really a movie I’m going to need to see more than once to fully appreciate, in part because I was so distracted most of the time by the brilliance of Heath Ledger’s Joker that I know I missed some important elements of the themes and plot.  So, pardon me if the following paragraphs don’t make complete sense — you get what you get, yo.

Surely you are all familiar with the concept of Batman, and his never-ending battles against a variety of bad guys in Gotham City, so I feel comfortable skipping over the plot synopsis.  What I really want to talk about in regards to this film — the best so far in the entire Batman series, old and new, in my opinion  — is its challenge to the typical comic book “good vs. evil” story.  What used to be fairly black and white has here merged to a rainy shade of gray, as characters on both sides of the battle muck around constantly with both our sympathies and our outrage.

At first, the “evil” guy (The Joker) seems like a monster of the purest form.  He kills for kicks and cackles with glee as he does so.  But it’s not long into the film before he manages to snag some  sympathy when it’s revealed that his scars — both mental and physical — are the result of some horrific childhood abuse by his father.

And the “good” guy?  Batman?  Well, let’s just say he does a whole lotta stuff he probably shouldn’t have.  In fact, it seemed to me that The Joker’s primary focus was in challenging the ethics of others — forcing people, especially widely-pronounced “good” people, to make choices that it was  almost impossible for them to make correctly.  Sometimes they still managed to; other times, not so much.  But no matter which way they went in any given situation, we were constantly challenged to evaluate both the bad guys and the good guys in a new way.

Ultimately I think the entire movie serves as an ethical challenge for us, the viewers, as we struggle with a variety of questions that chomp onto us like a crocodile, spinning us around and refusing to let go.  (How’s THAT for an analogy, yo?)  The Joker and Two-Face are people who have suffered greatly and turned to evil either as a way to process and cope with their pain, or because what they’ve suffered has somehow left them irreparably damaged, right?  It’s almost impossible, therefore, NOT to feel a great deal of sympathy for them (for me, anyway).  Yet how much sympathy are you “allowed” to feel for a man who “just wants to watch the world burn”?  Is it okay to feel a lot?  Is it okay to feel none?

Now rethink your stance as you recall that Batman himself had a childhood that was significantly less-than-peachy.  Both the good guys AND the bad guys in this film are the way they are because of extreme trauma.  If two people suffer the same fate and one comes out “good” and the other “evil,” does that negate the suffering of the “evil” one somehow?  I often get the sense that people think it does — that it means the “evil” one could’ve chosen good and wasn’t strong enough to, or didn’t fight hard enough to, and that, in the face of their destructive response to it, their suffering thus loses all value.

But is it actually more complicated than that?  Does it boil down to brain chemistry or some other biological factor involved in the coping mechanism, something over which neither person might have any actual control?  Or was it a series of additional external factors — a friendly person, a kind word, support of some sort given or lacked?  How much blame does the bad guy deserve for his actions?  Lots?  None?  Some?

I can’t stop thinking about these questions.  It sort of reminds me of my reaction to Sean Penn in  Dead Man Walking, actually, another movie that took the generic simplicity of the “good vs. evil” concept and sent it flying arse over teapot.

Another major theme in this film is, of course, 9/11 and its aftermath.  The Joker certainly displays some parallels to a 9/11 terrorist, at least if you think in terms of how we perceived those terrorists (we en masse, by the way, not individually or personally).  We saw al Qaeda as having motivations that made no sense to us — i.e. just wanting to watch the world burn, for no comprehensible reason.  And Batman himself demonstrates the immense potential absolute power has to corrupt absolutely.  When faced with the choice of protecting Gotham City citizens’ privacy or locating and taking out The Joker, for example, Batman can’t help but think the sacrifice of personal privacy is worth the end result.  It works out okay in the movie because Batman is a comic book “good” guy.  But in the real world, this is the exact type of reasoning that brought us the Patriot Act (and far, far worse).

I guess what I find the most interesting about this film, as well as the recent Iron Man movie, is the depth to which the good guys have started to go.  It used to be that the good guys were just The Good Guys TM.  They were good because. . . they were good.  And good was right.  And right was good.

But Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are complicated, troubled people.  And I think it’s this depth that has given the recent spate of superhero movies such a sudden, broad appeal.  These stories are no longer just for comic book geeks or action movie buffs — they’re films we can all relate to and learn something from.  Beautifully and thoughtfully made, they challenge us in ways we’re not used to action movies doing.  It’s nothing less than absolutely thrilling.

As for Christian Bale — meh.  I couldn’t help but feel like anybody could have played Batman in this installment and it would’ve made little difference to the character.  Mostly, I spent my time during Bale’s scenes fighting the urge to toss him a Ricola and inquire about the tragic loss of his upper lip.  But I’m kinda snarky that way — best to just ignore me on the subject of Bale, as well you all should know by now.

And as for Heath Ledger, all I can say right now is this:  Goddamn you, you stupid, fraking genius.  If you were alive right now, I’d kick you in the shins for being dead.  Frak, frak, hell, double-f’in-shite.

(Why yes, I AM still flailing around in the “anger”  state of grief, thank you for asking.)

p.s. Gary Oldman rulz.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Science Fiction
Cast:  Christian “No Upper Lip” Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Anthony Michael Hall, William Fitchner, Michael Caine

Heath Ledger Autopsy — Accidental Drug Overdose

February 6, 2008

Just cuz we were talking about this in the comments of my previous post about Heath Ledger, I thought you guys might be interested in the final answer.  Heath Ledger’s autopsy results said he died of an accidental overdose.  Drugs found in his system included:

Two opioid painkillers:
Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
Hydrocodone (Vicodin)

Three benzodiazepines (sedatives):
Diazepam (Valium)
Temazepam (Restoril)
Alprazolam (Xanax)

And an OTC sleep aid — doxylamine.

Here’s the lesson to learn, my friends — if you can’t sleep, don’t just take MORE drugs and more TYPES of drugs to try to fix the problem.  Because unless you know what you’re doing, and most people don’t, you’ll be. . .

Well, let’s just say you’ll be sleepin’ like the dead, which may feel like an acceptable outcome sometimes when you’re beyond exhaustion (believe me, I’ve been there), but it just really, really, isn’t.

Heath — I wish you’d asked for help, man.   And if you got all those drugs from the same doctor, I hope your family sues for malpractice.

Bummer.

And Heath Ledger Makes Two. . . Dead Today at Age 28

January 23, 2008

A friend of mine just sent email to let me know about this one — Heath Ledger, found dead today in New York at age 28.  Drugs also are suspected to have been the cause.  (See AP story.)

Last week, Brad Renfro’s death kind of threw me for a loop, but it wasn’t like it came totally and completely out of the blue (his drug problem had been pretty widely publicized).  This one, though — I literally am just absolutely stunned.  Thankfully, I’m home sick today with some kind of not-actually-a-cold thing, and I say “thankfully” because I literally just yelled, “OH MY GOD” eighteen times in a row and then burst into tears.

Heath Ledger was one of the earliest Boyfriends of the Week, and I always liked to joke I was the one who made him famous.  When I first featured him, he was still a relative newcomer, and I had just fallen madly in love with him after seeing him be totally hilarious and sweet in Ten Things I Hate About You.  And now he’s dead!

HE’S DEAD!  FROM DRUGS!  I AM STUNNED!

You guys know that even though I call them my “Boyfriends,” I don’t really love them, right?  That it’s all just for laughs. It’s pretend.  It’s just a cute way I came up with to give myself a reason to write about movies and music and books and stuff that I really enjoyed and wanted to share with others.  I don’t know the Boyfriends.  Frankly, I don’t WANT to know them (it would just spoil the fun).  Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel like this one is just a little bit personal, in a way Brad Renfro’s death really wasn’t for me.  Heath Ledger — I really expected great things.  I’ve followed his work for nearly a decade.  I thought he was brilliant and handsome and unique and fascinating.  And now he’s dead.

They say these things come in threes.  I’m not sure I can do another one.

Shit.