Thursday, January 31, 2008

8th Shot of Ennis Del Mar (and more on Heath Ledger)

Brokeback Mountain just keeps getting better. The more I look at it the more classically and perfectly structured, shot, acted, and edited it is. Since I'm still reeling from the tragic loss of Heath Ledger, I was looking at the movie this morning. Ang Lee's deliberately quiet and langorously paced drama introduces Ennis Del Mar in longshot as he walks to his destination and waits. And waits some more. He rarely lifts his head up, but stays all stiff and internal. We get our first closeup at the sixth cut to him as Jack Twist's (Jake Gyllenhaal) sputtering vehicle disturbs his peace and quiet. But when Jack gets out of the truck and looks at him, Ennis immediately shrinks back into himself, head bowed, staring at the boots (the bottom right highlighted image, which is the eighth).

It isn't until Jack's back is turned that Ennis Del Mar finally allows himself a peek...

Jack, in contrast, isn't so shy about the looking.

And 8th extra: Ennis Del Mar's eighth line in the movie (only one of which -- "I don't eat soup" -- isn't delivered to Jack):
I'm saving for a place myself. Uh, Alma and me, we --we'll be getting married when I come down off this mountain.
It's only the second personal thing that Ennis has told Jack. Jack, sympathetic to the first story about Ennis's parents, ignores this one completely and jumps immediately back to his previous griping about their work.

Aside about this new 8th series: Why do I love minutae and lists and numbers so much? 20:07? 08th? top 10s? Who am I, Peter Greenaway?

Um. So... OK I'll just let this out. All navel gazing averse readers please be off to other blogs but I guess I have to get this off my chest...

Having dealt with terrible real grief in my lifetime I am not prone to judge how other people do the same. So I've waffled on whether or not to even mention Heath Ledger's tragic passing again, or rather the media and public reaction to it... because I've felt (surprise!) judgemental. Grief is a personal thing and the aftermath of sudden death, especially, is so beyond the realm of normal human emotional pain that when I hear people talking about Heath Ledger, I try and detach. We all deal with these things differently. Live and let live Love and let love. So why am I having such a hard time listening to Hollywood talk about him?

Daniel Day-Lewis's remarks on Oprah (the day after Heath's death) felt extremely genuine and sad to me --the less said about Oprah trying to deal with the sudden disruption of Oscar conversation the better --but his dedication of his own SAG trophy to Ledger @ last weekend's ceremony made me uncomfortable. Even though I feel the same way in regards to Monster's Ball (FB win) and Brokeback (FB win). I understand that this same exact speech really affected others deeply. Which I'm glad for. But the only thing I could think was: again? And 'oh god, no'.

Maybe I'm just jaded from so many years of awards show watching but I've seen the way a speech from one ceremony will mirror a speech from the last one and so on and so on, until it's as clichéd as Jamie Foxx's call and response or Hilary Swank's 'girl from a trailer park dream' or as baffling as Jennifer Connelly's inability to memorize the words "thank you" after winning every prize or any number of repetitive awards season thank yous. Is Daniel going to keep tying his awards run for There Will Be Blood to memories of Heath Ledger. And if so, why?

I keep reading about how great he was in I'm Not There but before his death he was barely mentioned in the Blanchett-obsessed reviews and media coverage. I'm distrustful of the sudden great love. I was also reading some annoying bits about John Travolta slobbering over Heath at Out in Hollywood and it felt so distasteful. Why is Heath Ledger suddenly everyone's favorite actor? Was he their favorite actor before his untimely death? I'm skeptical. Where were Hollywood's votes when he lost the Best Actor Oscar two years ago? He lost despite giving a performance that was so obviously going to become legendary. No offense to Phillip Seymour Hoffman (honestly, no offense. He's quite good in Capote) but Ennis Del Mar was a legend-making performance that was pitted against a traditional type of very good performance. Excuse the generic analogy but it's like comparing a Mona Lisa to a fine painting and choosing the latter. Maybe the Mona Lisa is just too hard to really stare at. Too much to see?

So I'm sorry to brain vomit but I've been uncomfortable. If we're talking about the 5 stages of grief I guess I'm in my anger phase. But better to let it out than to hold it in like Ennis.

The truth of my discomfort might be simply this: I just don't like to connect Heath Ledger to other actors. I mean, other actors not named Jake Gyllenhaal for obvious reasons. The greatness of movie stars is often intrinsically tied to the way they are only, in the end, themselves --no matter how much people want them to be "the next" ...whomever. I don't want to connect Heath Ledger to James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or any other celebrity lost too soon. I don't want to look at Daniel Day-Lewis and think of Heath Ledger. When I look at Daniel Day-Lewis I am looking at him to see Daniel Day-Lewis. Whom I also love. When I look at John Travolta I don't... well, I don't want to look at John Travolta.

To be fair I can tell you that I relate to the urge to make everything about oneself. I cringe at Mickey Rooney's SAG antics and Travolta's "everyone in Hollywood is my best friend" neediness because I probably see too much of myself in it. But then I also know it's not just me. I think we all have moments of self-absorption but we civilians don't think of it as a character strength and our weaknesses don't get broadcast for the masses. Famous people are playing in a different universe. They are essentially asked to succumb to this urge fully. Everyone wants a piece of them. Everyone wants their picture. Everyone wants to hear their thoughts about everything they feel about themselves and everyone and everything else --even shit they know absolutely nothing about. Who can blame them for disappearing up their own asses?

But still... If you didn't know Heath Ledger and you're famous why not say something simple like "our thoughts go out to his family" and leave it at that? The only people I really want to hear from at this point are Heath's family, Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts and Jake Gyllenhaal. And even then, I don't want to hear from them unless they need to speak to work through their emotions. Grief is intimate and important to work through in an honest way. The media always makes it into something generic and public and cheap.

[/therapy session]


Anonymous said...

I actually think it's quite lovely that you don't see Jake Gyllenhal or Naomi Watts or Michalle Wms all over "Entertainment Tonight," "Larry King," et al. It shows that they had real relationships with him that they don't want exploited. Hopefully that will not change...hopefully they'll keep quiet. But you never know, I'm sure Barbara, Diane, Katie, etc are aggressively plugging away for the "first exclusive interview" especially now since the February ratings sweeps begins today. BTW - it's always a real pleasure to read your think pieces.

Dame James said...

That was quite a moving piece. I feel exactly the way you do (especially about Daniel Day-Lewis' SAG award dedication...I couldn't believe he went there). In a way, this whole situation reminds me of "The Queen": Gyllenhaal, Watts and Williams are all Helen Mirren, being forced by a savage press to come forward and publicly mourn but they don't feel it necessary when someone like Tony Blair, who hardly knew her, comes forward with a beautiful speech about her.

Anonymous said...

Ummm... haven't you come up with an idea that Daniel Day-Lewis and a number of people might actually have been moved by "Brokeback Mountain" the way you were? And it's not a bad thing to express your grief, even if you didn't know him.
I'm sorry but I actually feel uncomfortable reading such articles, because yesterday I saw a suggestion that it's the part of DDL Oscar campaign, which was almost painful to me.

Anonymous said...

Why the sudden backlash for Daniel Day Lewis and his compassionate speech. It truly came from the heart and I think you are overreacting (far too quickly) to assume he will use such a dedication again...

It was fresh on his mind, as it was many others, and he had a difficult time accepting an award when such a loss lingered. So he dedicated the moment to him. Why is this so wrong!!!?

Anonymous said...

Great piece Nat.

Heat's BBM was one of the more quietly devastating performances I've ever witnessed, and Daniel Day Lewis remarks about him were anything but opportunist, much less cynical. (Are we really believe one actor can't have any hint of sympathy or admiration for another?)
The Entertainment Industry can certainly make a mockery of these stories and, sadly, some people follow through.
Daniel Day Lewis publicly and sincerily addressed Heath Ledger's art, and the sorrowful lost of it. No more, no less.
Now I wish the GRAMMYS adressed the art of Amy Winehouse, in spite of her not being able to attend.
Somewhere the wheel of hypocrisy must be stopped.


anonymouses --i'm not saying it's wrong i'm just sharing how it made me feel: uncomfortable.

i love daniel day-lewis but i've seen too many examples of public grief getting really cheap over the years and i'm saying, heath ledger is too important to me for that not to make me feel especially queasy.

i mean, consider this: I've barely given anna nicole smith two thoughts in my entire life and i felt like vomiting almost every day during the months and months of morbid media coverage even though i couldn't care less about her

the phrase is "rest in peace" for a reason

(and obviously i don't think it's bad to share grief: i'm doing that in my own way right here)

Robert said...

I'll be the first to admit that I was not a big Heath Ledger fan when he was a live. His name on a marquee wasn't enough to get my to the theater. And while I greatly admired Brokeback Mountain and his performance I did (and still do) prefer Hoffman's turn as Capote.

Thing is (and I have no proof other than my word) I am among the many people who were utterly devistated at his passing. I truly can't explain why. It still genuinely makes me want to cry.

I think perhaps it reminds me that sometimes calling someone "promising" suggests that they have greatness in front of them and short changes the quality work they've already given us. Great performances are gifts and we should appreciate them for what they are not for what they forshadow.

Sometimes we can't appreciate something like that until we realize it's all we're going to get.

Anonymous said...

One more thing:

I haven't seen Oprah before I saw DDL speech at the SAGs. So it was a FIRST time to me.
If we are to feel with cynicism, we really need to be bothered about the perpetual "Death Parade" that is the clips showing of people gone in the year in EVERY AWARDS CEREMONY. (And there are many!!)
And I don't think anyone is PUSHING THE ENVELOPE THERE.
So no, I didn't feel uncomfortable.
I felt moved.

Anonymous said...

I think the media and everyone else just need to let the man rest in piece. There are many dead soldiers from Iraq. A stunt double from THe Dark Knight set died in the summer. Their deaths are no more or less special than Heath's. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but people die every day.

What exactly did you want Oprah to do? Was she supposed to stop her show to talk about Heath Ledger's death? She was supposed to bring up bad news. I'm sorry, people pick on Oprah sometimes for no good reasons.

El Gigante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

For what it's worth, I saw I'm Not There after he died, and he is extremely good in it; he's just completely overshadowed by Blanchett's performance. If I were writing a review, that's the performance I'd focus on for all the obvious reasons, but of the other main players, there's no question to me he gave the strongest performance. I don't think it reflects any hypocrisy for critics to note this after his passing.

Michael Parsons said...

In regards to DDL, it was definitely from the heart and although I know he didn't know Heath personally I figure he, like so many others, felt a real kin-ship to Heaths work. Since he also made his feelings heard on Oprah he may have felt some pressure to do so again in front of peers. And yes I did find it uncomfortable, but that is just me. Death should be private.
Something the world media seem to forget.

Perhaps I am naive, but I am appalled by the lack of morals on display with the press. A human being has died, how can someone turn grief and death into a profit?

The crowds around his apartment taking pictures turned something that was sad and tragic into something disgusting and ugly.

The way the press is running ramped with the story making speculations, just because he was in the public eye, is disgusting.
I am so lucky when I lost my mum and sister because I was able to mourn in private, something I hope his friends and family are able to do (unlikely).

I understand your reluctance to write about it, but thank you for approaching it in a way that puts it into perspective.

Anonymous said...

I, too, love DDL ( as an actor ) but as I posted to you the day after the SAG awards, I thought his dedication and speech were inappropriate... no one even respnded to that blog entry.

Anonymous said...

I think you've articulated something that's bugged me these past few weeks too.

I also felt the same watching Day Lewis's SAG acceptance. I'm sure his intentions were honourable, and the sentiment sincere, but I just didn't feel it. Then I felt guilty that my unease really came from my own cynicism. Cynicism that this is an actor in the midst of an awards season campaign, and an actor who looked like he'd get that second Oscar a few years ago before stumbling at the final hurdle. Maybe an emotional connection would seal the deal for him.

And then I hate myself for feeling that way; it's really unacceptable of me. Yet we live in cynical times and that's not only a shame, but diverts us from the tragedy that Ledger's family and close friends are enduring.

Ledger was already in my Top 5 for "I'm Not There"; I thought his was the best performance in the movie. But he's not taking my #1 spot on sentiment. Just as, if I'm honest, I preferred Philip Seymour Hoffman's "Capote" turn to Ledger too. However, cinemagoers have lost a supreme and promising talent, and "Dark Knight" will be a poignant viewing as a result.

One last thing worth remembering: it bugs me that we keep commenting on the dignified way Jake Gyllenhaal is not publicly reacting. But really, I'm not sure why he'd be feeling the loss any more deeply than any other of Ledger's co-stars over the years. Why is nobody speculating about how the likes of Paul Bettaney or Julia Stiles or Billy Bob Thornton or Christian Bale are feeling right about now? Because if we make Ledger primarily about "Brokeback", then we do him a disservice.


Michael Parsons said...

Hey "anonymous said..." you may not know, but Heath and Jake became good friends and I believe Jake is Godfather to Heaths little girl (correct me if I am wrong)

adam k. said...

I don't see anything wrong with nothing Heath Ledger's greatness now that he's died. Better late than never. Would you rather they NEVER acknowledge his greatness. It is annoying sometimes how much people care more about others once they're dead, but that's just how things work.

And it's very likely that people like DDL who are now praising the Brokeback perf voted for him two years ago as well. 5 or 10 or 50 or 100 actors voting for you won't win you the award... but I'm sure he had a sizeable chunk of the vote.

And re: DDL, it may just be me, but I totally saw the SAG speech coming a mile away. And I didn't mind. I'm glad somebody said something. I've once experienced the sudden death of a young person who I didn't know well, but who I felt a kinship with and hoped to maybe get to know more in the future. It is very unsettling in its own way. I don't blame DDL for paying tribute. If he does it AGAIN at the oscars, it may start to feel cheap and I may get annoyed... but I'm not convinced he will.

And thanks for reminding me that "call and response" and "little girl from a trailer park with a dream" were both in the SAME YEAR. No wonder I was so apathetic about that year's oscars. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree Rob, why is everyone so concerned about what Jake has to say? He has had a lot of other co-stars in the past.I'm sure Jake & Heath were good friends, but I'm also pretty sure he had a lot of other good friends. I agree, with everyone else, let the man R.I.P.

Anonymous said...


Jake was the most important person in Heath's life. You didn't know?

Anonymous said...

What a gift.

You have no... no idea how much I needed that. Thank you Nathaniel.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I take some of the last comment back...

I actually read/ re-read the whole thing and I'm shocked...

Need a few moments to write response.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, DDL comments on Oprah came the day after Heath's death.



i think the reason people mention Jake Gyllenhaal so much is twofold. 1) obviously brokeback mountain --but you are correct Rob in that it's a disservice to reduce him to that so if it reads like i was doing that, i apologize. But really I don't feel that way. As my site bears witness, I was on his team since 2001.

2) they were close friends, however much anyone wants to reduce it to "just another co-star"

I'm also a godfather and you don't generally get asked to be that unless you're close to the parents.

Anonymous said...

the less said about Oprah trying to deal with the sudden disruption of Oscar conversation the better

What is this implying? I didn't see the interview when it aired. Was Oprah uncomfortable with Daniel's display or something, or did she change the subject? Something else?

Anonymous said...


First of all, in my view Lewis’s speech was nothing, nothing like Swank or Foxx’s. It may have been the second time that week Lewis used one of his
very-rare public appearances to talk about how deeply Heath's death affected him, but it couldn’t have been more appropriate or sincere-
especially considering the unimpeachably of the source. You want an arbiter of acting talent and someone who's not a slave to celebrity
and media hype, you couldn't do much better.

Someone needed to pay VERBAL tribute to Heath at the SAGS… and something should be said at the Oscars (especially if the WBC is going to be ranting-and-raving outside)

Its kind of ironic; Lewis and Ledger were similar on so many levels- from their media/publicity phobias to their respective hand tattoos, to their down-to-earth-nature and brooding acting skills, these guys were incredibly alike.

Nathaniel, I’m frankly shocked you aren’t fully on board with these public tributes to the untimely death of such a kind, rising star. Ledger was unique-the finest the actor of his generation- there is no question he would have gone on to match the successes of men like Lewis, Penn and Brando. And Lewis obviously saw that.

His SAG speech/ tribute to Ledger is an awards show memory I will cherish forever.


she just started talking about the autopsy, as if that solved something.


to be fair to Oprah that's a really difficult spot to be in. But still... Please just let the guy rest in peace or acknowledge that we're talking actor on acting and not go to the physical details of the thing. Not what Day-Lewis was talking about at all.


ryan again ---i said i'm very glad that it was moving to other people. Iand i'm freely admitting that i might be just jaded. I DID NOT say it was akin to jamie foxx and hilary swank's speeches, just that thattype of repetition is something that makes me suspicious of "repeating" comments.

i hate feeling this way. but i was just trying to work through it honestly.

again: love Day-Lewis. don't think it's disingenuous. I'm just uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

anon 3:35 No Oprah wasnt uncomfortable, she just didn't expect him to talk about it. I'm pretty sure Oprah didn't know Heath that well and for her to start talking about him for the entire show would provoke a sense of fakeness.

Still why is everyone so concerend about what Jake has to say? All his other co-stars and friends are just irrelevent.

Anonymous said...

Heath Ledger is the Mona Lisa? I realize this will make me extremely unpopular, but isn't it time the hyperbolic hagiography brought the volume down a tad?

Ledger was a fine actor, no doubt. He'll be missed. But he's been buried under tons of excessive and overly sentimentalized praise in the last week. I'm stunned at endless parade of blog posts, magazine puff pieces, and Access Hollywood profiles. Yes, I see the parallels to River Phoenix, and can even stomach the James Dean comparisons. But I rolled my eyes back in my head when the Brando, Orson Welles, and John Gielgud allusions started floating around. It's a shame Ledger didn't win the Nobel Prize and solve world hunger before he died.

Now, before everyone starts ripping me apart, let me be clear: I think Ledger held great promise. He had really started to come into his own as an artist, and BROKEBACK in particular makes it sad to think about the great performances we'll never get to see from him now. But I hope it can eventually be put into perspective. In a world where the horrifying, ongoing deaths from Katrina, Darfur, and Kenya can barely get a mention in the national press, our obsession with celebrity has rarely been more misguided.

(And yes, I know this is a film blog, and yes, I don't think The Film Experience is the problem, and yes, people love Hollywood actors and feel like they know them, and yes, I understand that. Love Nathaniel, love TFE, love Heath. RIP.)

Anonymous said...

While I loved Daniel Day-Lewis's SAG speech and was fine with him dedicating it to Heath Ledger, I don't want to see a repeat of it at the Oscars (if there is one this year). I want that moment to stand alone for what it was. Replaying it for the Oscars might come off as being insincere, and that's not something I want attached to his shoulders. B/c then that'll lead to an inevitable backlash for him (it's there already in this blog post), and I don't think he deserves that. His heart is in the right place. He needs to work through things more than just saying generic "our deepest condolences in your time of grief" kind of spiel. But for the Oscars, I want more of his processes, his thoughts, his time with "Blood", the industry, etc. I think that's what the audience would want from him there too. They obviously adore him and want to be in his elusive head for all the seconds that they can be. By February, it'll be "time" to put the grief talk aside and focus more on the film and the performance itself when Daniel picks up that 2nd Oscar.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, so someone needed to pay VERBAL tribute to Brad Renfro as well???? Another young actor who died? If SAGs or the Oscars make a lone memorial for Heath that would be very disrespectful to the MANY actors who lost their lives.

Anonymous said...

Now, before everyone starts ripping me apart, let me be clear: I think Ledger held great promise. He had really started to come into his own as an artist, and BROKEBACK in particular makes it sad to think about the great performances we'll never get to see from him now. But I hope it can eventually be put into perspective. In a world where the horrifying, ongoing deaths from Katrina, Darfur, and Kenya can barely get a mention in the national press, our obsession with celebrity has rarely been more misguided.

modfab-THANK YOU

THe BEST post of the day.

Anonymous said...

Heath Ledger is the Mona Lisa? I realize this will make me extremely unpopular, but isn't it time the hyperbolic hagiography brought the volume down a tad?

But somehow pissing over the way people are re-evaluating his work in light of his death makes you so much more knowing and above it all than the rest of us sheep? God I hate it when crap like this surfaces everytime someone famous dies. When people genuinely seek the work out of the deceased in a new light and start to re-appraise it, there's always some level of cynicism lurking around the corner with it. Why NOW? Why not appreciate him when he was ALIVE? Your feelings aren't GENUINE! Sympathy's gone to your head! Stop with the HYPERBOLE already!!!! The work wasn't all that!

That's bullshit. Let people feel what they're feeling and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

That's bullshit. Let people feel what they're feeling and be done with it.

How Ironic, maybe you should take some of that advice. Let modfab feel how he feels, let DDL , HIlary and Jamie Foxx feel what they feel during their speeches.

Anonymous said...

What ModFab said. There is no way that performance in BBM was to become legendary. I mean - now it is, since he is dead. But it still a very good perfomance with no genious moments, which clearly doesn't reach the devastating complexity of Hoffman's perfomance (and I'm not talking about mimicry).

I love the way Ledger does a restrained and fine work, but standing still with an uninteligible accent doesn't equal to deepness or internal struggle just because. I think Ledger himself would be genious in this role if he had more experience and technique. The way it is, I just feel bad about it when somebody mentions Newman or Brando.

I just wanted to say that not because I disliked him, but unlike many people, his death will not make him the best actor of the 2000's. Sorry if it sounded rude.

- cal roth

Anonymous said...

I honestly think Heath's most memorable performance will be from the Dark Knight. I mean have you guys seen the trailer? Personally, I didn't think BBM was that great of a movie. The performances were fine, but there are better movies that deals with the same issues.

Anonymous said...

How Ironic, maybe you should take some of that advice. Let modfab feel how he feels, let DDL , HIlary and Jamie Foxx feel what they feel during their speeches.

When "feeling how he feels" results in pissing on other people's grief and how they're allowed to express it in public outlets, then nah, it should be called out for the crap that it is.

Anonymous said...

When "feeling how he feels" results in pissing on other people's grief and how they're allowed to express it in public outlets, then nah, it should be called out for the crap that it is.

Oh so you're calling out Nathaniel too, I get it.


i was just sharing. sorry it offended . everyone can (and should) grieve how they need to grieve.

E Dot said...

Here here on your post. Couldn't agree with you more. I have a question though. Is it more Ennis, and less Heath, we all feel so connected to? Or rather, Heath's ability to create someone as beautiful as Ennis?

Calum Reed said...

I understand where you're coming from. The media makes everything generic, public and cheap, but I don't think it's hard to distinguish between sentiment and showcase. Daniel Day Lewis' SAG speech was definitely the former, and I thought it was pretty brave since there's such a fear of people "rocking the boat" on a big stage. It's probably what a lot of people wanted to hear but I don't think that's why he did it.

I completely get your reaction, because 90% of the world will be like, "Oh that Australian actor died, how sad", but likely won't give it a second thought. It will end up as another celebrity death to list on E!'s 100 Shocking Moments or whatever, but that's not really where it matters. It matters here and now with the people who actually got something from his work. Let the frenzy burn itself out.

lylee said...

I'm with anonymous 3:45. Was very touched by DDL's dedication of the SAG award. Do not want him to do the same thing at the Oscars. Sadly, the act of repetition cheapens even the most genuine tribute.

Anonymous said...

I completely get your reaction, because 90% of the world will be like, "Oh that Australian actor died, how sad", but likely won't give it a second thought

This is what bothers me,when people complain about this. Why should they give it a second thought? Do you give a second thought to the dying soldiers in Iraq or the Darfur crisis or the starving children? Like someone else said," people die everyday" do you give it a second thought? Or do you only give it a second thought when it is a celebrity that you probably don't know? I don't know Heath personally, I'm sure he was a great person, but it sickens me when the media or people act like a celebritiy's death is so much more important than all the other bad things that is going on in the world. Why does it take Don Cheadle & George Clooney to get a LITTLE media attention to the Darfur crisis?

I do send my Condolences to his family & all of his friends. Also to his REAL fans the ones who run his fansites, go to all of his movies and buy mags just because he is on the cover etc.

Cinesnatch said...

RE: Daniel Day-Lewis. I liked his comments on Oprah. They were honest and genuine. I didn't see the SAG speech. However, I wouldn't start gagging until the third time it happens ...

Emma said...

Beautiful piece, Nate.

I can't say this enough but Ennis del Mar changed my life.

R.I.P. Heath.

Cinesnatch said...

... I would have also given him the Oscar. Hoffman was all artifice to me, which isn't to say he wasn't worth watching. I just thought Ledger delivered a completely unique performance, which deserved the big prize. But, my roommate deduces him to "a mumbler." Go figure.

adam k. said...

This is rather obvious, but I think people forget:

Most of what makes Heath's death so shocking and sad and hard to fathom is the unexpected nature of it. He was young, attractive, talented and on top of the world and then, without warning or reason, he died. It's different from soldiers dying in Iraq or children starving in Africa, because, although while those things are tragic, they are certainly NOT unexpected. We've become conditioned to that at this point. And yes it is cynical to admit that, but it's totally true. And we're also conditioned to having celebrities and actors and great films there to make all the other shit in the world a little more bearable. And that's why this is striking a chord.

It's just a different thing when a talented young actor dies. He's become more than a person; he's a cultural figure, and a source of artistic creation. He gave the world a gift. And now it's gone.

Soldiers and civilians dying at war is also tragic, and in many ways worse, but a great actor dying is different. Prominent cultural figures have a significance beyond their mere personhood; that's just how our culture works.

It's not just a numbers game, i.e. 10 soldiers died in Iraq this week, that should be more important. There's a qualitative difference here. That's not PC to say, but it's true.

Plus, yes, this is a film site. Nat and most of his readers love Heath Ledger. So cut him/us a break.

adam k. said...

btw, that was not directed at any one comment in particular. I just felt the need to refute the argument that no one should care about Heath any more than they should care about every other person who dies in the world. That's just a very reductive attitude, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Of course this is a film site and I understand a site called THE FILM experience would be upset about this.

IMO NO one's death is no more or less special and it's a shame that the media is making a spectacle over his death and not making a spectacle over other things that are going on in the world. Sure Heath was a great actor and a great person, but there are so many OTHER people that make great contributions to this world.

To complain about someone NOT grieving over Heath is ridiculous and ignorant. My mom is NOT grieving over Heath and she hasn't given it a second thought. Does that make her a bad person? NO , she has other things to worry about and sick people to care about. All I'm saying is don't complain because some people don't give it a second thought, the world doesn't revolve around celebrities.


well it's not wrong for people not to give things a second thought if they didn't know. We couldn't exist if we had to grieve every single person who passed away.

i always get frustrated with the world events argument though. I mean... what can I do about Darfur? and what does that have to do with my interest in film?

SORRY --way too much sharing today;)

I'm still trying to decide who to vote for on Tuesday. That's the best I can do (for starters) to try and make change in the world I think. one day at a time.

i'm seriously confused.

Anonymous said...

I saw Daniel's speech as being from the heart as well. When he was interviewed on Oprah, he had just heard the news and felt foolish speaking of something so trivial as the Oscars.

The SAGs were less than a week since it had happened. No one else had said anything about it all during the evening, and there was just that still tacked on to the end of the In Memoriam reel.

If someone else had said something about Heath Ledger during the evening, I think that Daniel wouldn't have gone there. But since no one said a word, he decided to. The fact that he used specific examples from those two movies tells me that, despite the fact that he didn't know Heath, he was truly touched by his work and was affected by his death.

It's always sad and tragic when a young person loses their life, but I have to admit that this one affected me much deeper, and I wasn't a fan per se. His career was just beginning to take off, and he had so much potential yet to come.

I think this hit people much more powerfully than the death of other young people who hadn't reached their pinnacle yet.

I'm sure the media is trying to create backlash and claim that he is using this as part of his Oscar campaign, but I don't think so.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

i always get frustrated with the world events argument though. I mean... what can I do about Darfur? and what does that have to do with my interest in film?

Of course as I and some other have said This site is about film so I understand that you would post about this topic. I'm talking about the media, news channel, magazines etc.

BTW you can do plenty about Darfur and many of the worlds events if you take the time out and learn more about them. If you don't want to ,then that doesn't make you a bad person.


I was referring to Cal's statment

I completely get your reaction, because 90% of the world will be like, "Oh that Australian actor died, how sad", but likely won't give it a second thought.

I've heard MANY people who said this, and are they supposed to be bad people? His death hasn't affected them that much is that soo wrong?

Calum Reed said...

"I completely get your reaction, because 90% of the world will be like, "Oh that Australian actor died, how sad", but likely won't give it a second thought."

It's not that I think that everyone should be building shrines or anything, it's that it hurts more to see his death paraded around in the media so cheaply when such a smaller percentage of people will truly miss his contribution. A lot of it feels very false.

Anonymous said...

Fair Enough.

Anonymous said...

There won't be an Oscars ceremony this year anyway, so no one will have to worry about Daniel Day Lewis giving fake repeat acceptance speeches.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, I'm from Mexico and I'm with you about the comparations between Daniel Day-Lewis and Heath ledger:

First, I don't think in that kind of publicity to a complete gentleman and actor like Daniel Day-Lewis:

1. This Oscar is almost for him
2. If he won't win it, Who cares?... He's only the best of his generation. He doens't proof anything to anyone
3. I feel a true feeling in his speech...

if anyone disturbing the memory of the aussie young actor.... Howard Stern, tabloids (One of them anounces a new relationship between Michelle williams and Ryan Gosling no after a week of Ledger's death... It's awful and pathetic) or stupid religious ministers

It's intersting that two strange actors has very similar things:

*They came from Commonthwealth countries (UK and Australia)
*Acting (same lever and transformation in both)
*Choice for roles (Both worked in one or two films by year. And these films are safe bets for both)
*hands tatoos
*Publicity phobia
*resemblance of their generations
*An instersting and complicated youth... Drugs and rebelion. Maybe true or rumors...
*Down to earth nature and "excentric look"-according fashion designers
*Gay icons (My beautiful laundrette and Brokeback mountain)
*Sex Simbols status
*they began to work almost the same age (Daniel Day-Lewis at 15 and heath Ledger at 16)
*including their relationships (kind, period and conclusion): Daniel day-Lewis (isabelle Adjani, Julia Roberts and Rebecca Miller) and heath ledger (michelle Williams, Naomi Watts and Heather Graham)

I respect Daniel day_lewis and Heath Ledger...

Anonymous said...

A few points :

1) Of course Jake Gylenhaal and Heath Ledger probably shared a deeper friendship.. they had to play lovers (and it was the first time they had to portray love between two men) and Jake G is the godfather of Ledger's daughter.

2) The comparison with James Dean are ridiculous. First, Dean's death was an accident. Heath, we don't know yet. Then Dean had made only three films where he had a big part before his death, all of which are legendary films. Also, he died at 23, so he did not get to do as much films as Ledger but all his films are well-known. He was also a completely different person, he really was the American rebel, he was a young bisexual man from a small town who did not seem to have grow up in a loving family such as Ledger's.
3) Those who think DDL plays the Heath card are obviously not aware of his reputation and the respect he has in the industry : he doesn't have to praise a dead actor to win Oscars. And do you think he cares about winning ? Soon he will return to Italy and work as a cobbler. He doesn't need awards to feel good about his work.
4) Ledger was truly great in Candy. He was quickly becoming one of my favorite young actors after Monster's Ball and Brokeback Mountain. He's gonna rock as the Joker.

Anonymous said...


I suggest you take some time to learn more about Darfur beyonmd what you here on CNN or from George Clooney and then maybe, just maybe, you will realize that there is something you can do.

Anonymous said...

ddl was genuine i feel no one else at the sag did it or mentioned heath,so i think daniel had genuine feeling there,i also think it is better that co stars such as gyllenhaal keep quiet and williams and watts far more dignified,maybe other actors should do the same.

the next thing i say is this and maybe it's bad comparisson yes ledger was phenomenol in bbm but come on people this is not jack nicholson or meryl streep dying it's not reese witherspoon or julia roberts,heath wasn't as famous or as great yet but had the potential to be who knows hif he would ever give a good perf again,it is the potential of another ennis from heath i feel some of us are mourning for that th person who created that character and made us weep at a grown man hugging a shirt is gone.

Anonymous said...


I send money to charities for Darfour, what more can I do ? I'd like to know.

Anonymous said...

//Those who think DDL plays the Heath card are obviously not aware of his reputation and the respect he has in the industry : he doesn't have to praise a dead actor to win Oscars. And do you think he cares about winning ? Soon he will return to Italy and work as a cobbler. He doesn't need awards to feel good about his work.//

I absolutely agree with arlov. I haven't seen the clip of DDL on Oprah nor the SAG speech but I have a hard time imagining that there was anything but genuine feeling either time. DDL is not a media whore, not someone who puts on displays of emotion "just because" or is busy trying to get his name in every publication. One of the things I've always respected about him is that he really doesn't seem to give a damn about conventional wisdom or what the public thinks - and as a result he is one of our finest actors, not a celebrity (in the sense we mean it now - someone who is famous for no particular reason.)

I enjoyed your post on some levels, Nat; I appreciate that you are able to express what you (and many others) feel so lucidly, but - forgive me - I don't see any distinction between DDL's actions and your posting tributes right to Heath on TFE, other than the fact that DDL is more famous and is getting seen on TV by thousands of people at a time. I believe both are motivated by the same thing - "I didn't know him personally but I loved his work, his promise, and suddenly he's gone. What a world."

Now, when People Magazine opened their tribute to Heath with a quote from Travolta, as if Heath was his buddy, I wanted to vomit and immediately put the magazine down. (The Entertainment Weekly tribute is much better btw.) THAT is the true distinction between someone like DDL and a media whore like Travolta.

It's telling that the people who really knew Heath - Michelle Williams, Naomi, Nicole Kidman (who remained friends with him after he and Naomi broke up), etc etc are remaining relatively quiet because they are working out their grief (other than Chris Nolan gifting us with some classy and low-key comments about working with Heath on Dark Knight.)

And I think the cover-page tributes ironic in some ways, but these magazines exist soley to report on the lives of celebrities (or make it up as need be) and thus what else would they report? Alas, Brad Renfro's death disappears under the radar, but he simply wasn't as famous and that's the sad fact. Famous=more inches of press. (Witness Anna Nicole - famous without having done anything significant.) On the other hand, there may be people in the media who in their own way are feeling Heath's loss as much as we are, who were also fans of the man and so forth.

What bothered me was all the gossip and speculation about why he died (it seemed particularly important to note that he had been found on his bed naked. Is there anyone here who hasn't slept in the nude at least once in their lives? Come on, people.) I don't know exactly why he died and I frankly don't care why or what he was wearing at the time or whose apartment he was found in, etc etc. I think your discomfort and anger might have been more profitably applied to that sort of macabre and salacious speculations than at DDL, Nat.


Anonymous said...

I finally watched DDL's SAG speech (thanks, YouTube) and I must say I was moved by it - there were no verbal pyrotechnics, no "look at me" moments. He talked about the actor, about the work, and what he said of the final scene in BM nearly had me in tears again simply because he was saying exactly what I felt seeing the film the first time and feel now.

And regards Dafur, Iraq, or any other world issue, there are always things that any of us can do, if we chose to. It might mean concentrating on ending poverty here at home, doing what we can locally. But there are ways we can all make a difference.



well i blame myself as a writer for my lack of clarity but I was not expressing any outrage at Daniel Day-Lewis (who is a class act) but sharing/working through my own fears and cynicism about the way media circuses (like awards season --the biggest annual movie circus) can make these things cheap if people are not careful.

The Liz said...

I completely agree with you about the Heath Ledger love fest. To be frank, before his stunning performance in Brokeback, he was just a hunky pinup. In fact, I remember thinking it hilarious that he was going to be in a "gay cowboy movie" because I remember him from "A Knight's Tale" and other such teen fluff. I don't understand why people who didn't even know him are carpetbagging on his memory like he was Marlon Brando or something, when really he was just starting out.

To me, the tragedy of Heath Ledger is that Brokeback should have been the beginning of a stunning career, not the pinacle. By all reports from the new Batman movie, he was really gearing up to be one hell of a talent. His death is tragic because it robs us of so many amazing future performances.

bc said...

DDL's words seemed genuine, and someone like him doesn't need the cheap publicity. However, Travolta's made me gag.

Anonymous said...

Michelle Williams made a statement today:

Please respect our need to grieve privately. My heart is broken. I am the mother of the most tender-hearted, high-spirited, beautiful little girl who is the spitting image of her father. All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day. His family and I watch Matilda as she whispers to trees, hugs animals, and takes steps two at a time, and we know that he is with us still. She will be brought up in the best memories of him."

Middento said...

I started typing up a comment here... and ended up posting it at my own blog instead. Feel free to peruse.

Adele said...

I enjoyed reading your post. And I know exactly what you mean. In even my case... I always knew who Heath Ledger was, i was never a big fan but since his death he has been all over the media and his films are repeatedly played on the TV so Ive seen alot more of his acting and realised how fantastic he was. I only watched Brokeback Moutain after he died... i didn't want to watch it before. great post

bc said...

Sadly, I think we are learning that there WERE similarities between Heath and Ennis. Apparently both were anxious, introverted people who were barely comfortable in their own skin. Look at his interviews, he's nervous and fidgety in most, almost hard to watch. And he could have been spiderman, but he didn't want everything that would have come with the role (mass fan and media attention). Tom 'attention whore' Cruise he was not. How refreshing he was.

As far as questioning the greatness of his acting ability, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But to go from an Oscar nominated gay cowboy to the joker (which people were raving about BEFORE he died) is great in my book. What range. This will stand up twnenty years from now.

Craig Hickman said...

"Most of what makes Heath's death so shocking and sad and hard to fathom is the unexpected nature of it. He was young, attractive, talented and on top of the world and then, without warning or reason, he died. It's different from soldiers dying in Iraq or children starving in Africa, because, although while those things are tragic, they are certainly NOT unexpected."

Depends on what you read, what your hear, what you know and what you believe.

Ledger was likely, by most reports, an addict.

Addicts die. Expectedly. Not at all hard to fathom.

Ledger was also, certainly, an artist. Popular too. When popular artists die, throngs of strangers mourn.

It's really not that deep.

Anonymous said...

sorry 'thelizz' but'candy' was not the work of a 'hunky pin-up'...