How could anyone who knows that Heath Ledger is dead (everyone) pretend to objectively evaluate Heath Ledger's performance in "The Dark Knight?"
I certainly can't. But I'm going to try, because the problem has been on my brain since I left the theater.
So here goes:
Heath Ledger is alive and well; he never died and won't die anytime soon for all I know. And I believe that, in his performance as The Joker in "The Dark Knight," he has showcased a range of talents that I never would have expected he possessed. He plays a very convincing murderous sociopath, a role I never would have imagined him pulling off with much success given his previous work. It's really neat that they took The Joker in such a dark direction because it made for a really interesting dynamic between Batman and The Joker. Oscar worthy? I guess, maybe. Either way it'll be cool to see what they do with The Joker in the next one.
Heath Ledger is gone; we're back to reality. And I believe that, in his performance as The Joker in "The Dark Knight," he has showcased a range of talents that I never would have expected he possessed. His presence is positively riveting whenever he is on the screen. I have never seen such a subtle, nuanced performance. I ended up wanting to see more of The Joker than Batman. And his lines near the end held an eery double meaning. In fact, his creepy character and his creepy lines and his creepy mannerisms were made a lot creepier by the fact that I know he's dead in real life. I caught myself more than once remembering that I was watching his last performance. I think that he's a deserving recipient of a posthumous Oscar.
The problem on my brain is that I believe that both of these evaluations are equally true. I don't think I'm the only one who can't objectively evaluate his performance. Almost every review I've read has lauded him with every possible adjective of praise. I believe his performance is remarkable. But if Heath had lived, I think we'd be taking some shine off of the apple.
History will likely remember this movie as Heath's last film, not the triumphant return of Christopher Nolan's dark knight. One of the guys I went to the film with immediately started mocking Christian Bale's over-the-top 'menacing growl,' and we laughed. Batman seemed less real this time, less human.
Beyond that complaint and a thirty-minute-too-long run time, I have nothing but praise for the movie. I predict that the box office report on Monday will prove that Batman has surpassed all competitors as the biggest earner of the summer.
Which will present two problems for the franchise going forward:
1. How can the producers of the next film leave The Joker out? The temptation for them will be to find someone to take over the role after the success this film is about to have. Why? Because that's how big studios think. If this film is as big as I think it will be, you can bet that there will be a lot of old men in suits next week brainstorming a short-list of candidates for the future Joker. They're not going to give a plugged nickel about character continuity or the hard-core fans. Mainstream fans don't care about continuity and the hard-core fans aren't the target audience anymore if The Dark Knight franchise is going to do as well as I think it will. You'll hear a lot of outcry if they try to bring The Joker back, but ultimately curiosity will win. And what if they got an interesting casting like a Johnny Depp, or a Sean Penn, who could redefine the role again?
2. How interesting will Batman be if they do leave The Joker out? Especially now that we've had a taste of how exciting and vital their dynamic can be? Is it time to trot out The Riddler? The Penguin? God forbid, Mr. Freeze again? The Joker is Batman's arch-nemesis, and the only villain in the mythology with as much depth as the protagonist. Batman the character is ultimately defined by the villains he faces. If it's back to jewel thieves and freeze rays, the Batman renaissance of the new millenium will have run its course.
When I brought up these questions to my friends after the movie, they disagreed. They thought that there would be no way to do it without Heath now that he had done it so masterfully. I definitely agree that there would be no way to do exactly that Joker again, and I definitely think that the studios would risk upsetting the core fans like my friends and I if they trotted out a sub-par replacement.
But I also know that these $100 million budgets don't pay for themselves, and if The Joker puts butts in the seats then we're likely going to get more of The Joker, whether it's The Joker we want or not.
I have enough ignorance about physics to accept that there may be an infinite number of realities and therefore an infinite number of Chris Wehkamps inhabiting them.
Recent events have led me to imagine one of my doppelgangers in surprising detail. Also, I've always wanted to use that word.
My alternate self is taller than me and much paler. He sports a pencil-thin mustache. He believes that it lends him an air of sophistication, but it actually makes him look like the Red Baron. He smokes very expensive French cigarettes. He has less hair on his head than I do and wears cologne every day. He owns and regularly uses a shoehorn.
His profession (no, passion) is as a wine critic for a respected national publication, one which provides an expense account and a business-class travel upgrade to him. He spends the majority of his time either tasting wine in his mahogany-paneled study or reading other wine critics reviews. He pays special attention to which adjectives seem over-used (and therefore out of fashion) and keeps an impeccably accurate list of them in his head.
His loftiest professional goal is to invent a new adjective in one of his reviews that so perfectly describes a flavor or smell that it immediately becomes the new descriptor of choice for wine critics everywhere. This achievement, he dreams, will be his greatest legacy.
He likes the sound of 'smackulent' but can't decide if a smackulent taste should be tart or sweet. His second choice is 'clappy-whappernt' but fears that there may be pronunciation problems. Deciding which new word to unleash upon the world keeps him up very late some nights.
I will never be this Chris, you may all rest assured.
But I was provoked to imagine him the other day, when I discovered to my surprise that I had won the Grand Prize in a national wine reviewing contest.
The short version of the tale is that our friend Christie put Sarah up to putting me up to writing a 100 word wine criticism for a contest sponsored by the Hall Vineyards Wine Club, of which Christie and her boyfriend are members.
I drank a glass, tossed-off some flowery speech, and pressed send. A week later, and I'm a nationally celebrated wine critic. Or, Christie is. The link to the website and contest results are here.
Still, a limo and a fancy meal for us and eight friends is a startlingly generous reward for typing some guesswork while drinking.
Below I have included my first-attempt, National Grand-Prize Winning wine critique:
“Hall Merlot 2005 presents itself on the palate as a sublimely dry cloudburst. This wine is as masculine and arid as licking the page of a Hemingway novel. At first. Then the aftertaste presents a sumptuous surprise. The grape reveals its sweetness in a five-count past the first toast. It would be right at home shattered across the prow of a manly schooner, but would shine at the opening night of your next art gala. The guests will admire this wine’s robust class and indulgent finish. Hall Merlot 2005 is a power lunch that concludes with your promotion.”
As my Kansas relatives would say, you better get your wading boots on. It's getting deep in here.
The truth is, I'm happy to have won. Even happier if a Hall Vineyards representative comes to the dinner to meet Christie, their star wine critic. I'm sure she'll be willing to give them an on-the-spot review of the Miller Lite she's drinking out of a can.
We love you Christie, you've made our lives more interesting. And thanks for giving me cause to get a glimpse of my doppelganger.
Today started like any other normal day. I ate my cereal, I watched some Regis, then I accidentally let a wasp's nest into my house and spent the next 20 minutes taking down 8 wasps with Resolve carpet cleaner.
It's really a win-win. You kill the bugs, and your carpets get clean! I highly recommend Resolve carpet cleaner for all your wasp-cleaning needs.
After finishing my bug zapping, I went down to the car to start my errands. I turned the key in the ignition, and nada. Dead car battery.
Took the car to Mill St. Battery shop. Mill St. sent me to Sears. Sears sent me to Auto Zone. Auto Zone sent me to City Garage. And City Garage sent me to Chick-Fil-A.
Okay, they didn't send me to Chick-Fil-A. But a growing impatience with cars, and anything that has to do with cars, led me to food.
For me, trying to talk and haggle with a car mechanic is like trying to make my own shoes.
I don't know how to make a shoe, I don't know what goes into making a shoe, and I don't know how much it should cost to make a shoe.
I don't want to make my own shoes, fix my own shoes, I just want them to be there everyday and for them to work.
"Well, you put the switch brakelight alternator piston on the 98 with a torso wrench at a 45 degree angle and drop the buckle rod down and you've got yourself some new brake light pad jobbies.
You could do it yourself, or we could charge you $97 to do it."
Orrrrr...you could take this little car of mine, fix it for $10 and I don't throw my hot coffee in your face.
I had all but given up on getting my car fixed fairly.
As I neared the Chick-Fil-A though, I saw Christian Brothers Automotive.
I always thought this was just their last name "Christian." I didn't anticipate finding anything but more sleazy, nonsense auto guys trying to take advantage of me, but it was right next to my lunch, so what could it hurt?
I went inside with my guard up and my frustration above its boiling point.
I walked in to find myself surrounded by bible verse pens, a Christian music station playing in the background, a bookshelf full of Christian books...I walked up to the counter waiting on a shepard of some sort to come out and ask me for my most holy of automotive needs.
As I was waiting, I read the Christian Brothers mission: "At Christian Brothers Automotive we seek to glorify God by providing ethical and excellent automotive repair service for our customers."
Wow. This was serious stuff. I felt like I needed to kneel in front of the counter and ask for forgiveness for letting my car break. Say a prayer that it would be mended. Sing a holy hymn. Drop a lug nut in a offering plate.
Will came out to help me, and long story short, he not only glorified God with his service, but he glorified a short-tempered girl who wanted nothing more than her car fixed.
I don't know if God wants to be glorified with excellent automotive repair. It seems like he normally shoots for feeding the hungry and building houses for poor people. But hey, if we can glorify with fixing cars, anything is possible right?
Why not have a Christian Brothers dentist office? Christian Brothers DPS. Christian Brothers phone company.
Let's take all the things and people we normally hate to deal with, find some willing Christians to set up shop, and make everyone's life a little brighter.
Dear Producers of ABC's "The Bachelor" & "The Bachelorette",
Last Monday my friends and I watched the finale of The Bachelorette. A show where in 6 weeks, two total strangers get to know each other and then decide to get engaged.
This is inarguably the worst way to choose a spouse.
Why not have the men and women agree to a one-year contract in which they go on real dates, and only have a rose ceremony once every month? You can still start with 25 men and one woman (or vice versa), but the men have a full month to prove their interest, rather than one night. There will be no million dollar date budgets. Whatever the guy or girls got, that's what they use to plan the date. And there are no make-up artists or clothing designers.
Jane and Bob can date long enough to have conversations about religion or what faith their children will be taught. Jane can find out that Bob is really a Swahili war prince who believes flying dolphins will one day escort him to McWombatland. Mary can discover that Tom loves snowboarding so much he someday wants to use their retirement money to build a mountain of snow for the people of Hawaii.
After a year of dating, the field will be narrowed to two, and the second year could begin: The Bachelorette: Engagement Exploration.
Would people still be watching after a year? My friends and I were pissed we wasted just 6 weeks watching this last time.
Would there be anything to make fun of? Would we have any way to feel smarter about ourselves and our good decisions?
So look, as long as you're going to make the show as un-real as possible, we're going to continue to feel superior about the way our real lives have turned out.
Chris and I have been getting settled and back into the swing of things.
We still have about 16 boxes of gifts to open and quite a few more boxes we need to start closing.
Thursday was Chris's first day back on the job at Fidelity. What better time to tie on an apron and get in the kitchen to cook up some dinner for my husband?
Little fact about me...I have never made the same meal twice.
I like to experiment and try new things.
I have never broiled anything in my life, so I decided our first married meal would be a good time to give it a go.
I've also never defrosted frozen veggies in the microwave. Let's go ahead and try that too.
I made the marinade for the chicken and put it in the fridge. While waiting the prescribed 20 min. for the marinade to sit in the fridge (who knows why?!), I put some water in a glass and put that in the fridge too so it would be cold for Chris when he got home.
After 20 min. in the fridge, I took out the marinade and starting reading the next instructions.
"Place chicken in pan and place in oven."
Wait, what do I do with the marinade?!
After reading back a few steps I realized I was supposed to put the marinade on the chicken, then put it all in the fridge.
So I basted the chicken with my handy pastry brush, because did I register for a baster?...nope.
Into the oven it went.
Chris came home 20 min. later.
I relayed my story of how I was cooking dinner for him and how we were going to have our first married meal at home together.
As I turned to get his water out of the fridge, the smoke alarm started sounding wildly.
The smell of burning filled the entire kitchen.
We opened the oven to find the chicken wasn't burned, but the pan was.
In fact, the chicken wasn't even done at all! Still pink inside.
Chris offered to make himself a turkey sandwich to which I told him if he even dared lay a finger on any lunch meat I would dissolve into a ball of tears on the kitchen floor. My first married meal...ruined!
We managed to move the chicken to another dish and waited another 20 min. for it to cook.
Meanwhile the rice was getting cold and the veggies were getting soggy.
The water though...yum. Super cold.
When dinner was finally ready, Chris smiled and ate and made me feel like I had done something more spectacular than setting off the smoke alarm and burning a pan.
He even helped do the dishes. Using a brush to brush a brush.
After a two hour cab ride down windy dirt roads, a 3 hour wait in an un-air conditioned hanger, a 2.5 hour flight to Miami, an hour wait on the tarmac, an angry confrontation with a Chili's waiter, a 2.5 hour flight full of screaming children, and an aimless search for the truck we parked over 10 days ago...
We are back in Dallas.
We are still married, still happy and ever so eager to see all our friends and family again.