Harvey & the Joker: Can There Be a Tie at the Oscars?


sean penn milk twn 2.jpgheath ledger joker twn 2.jpg
What else can be said about Sean Penn other than that he is an unbelievably extraordinarily gifted actor with a sense of self and social conscience matched by very few in Hollywood.
I was totally captivated by his ability to channel Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to major political office in the United States, and to to just become him on the screen. The themes of Gus van Sant’s brilliant film titled Milk are rolling around in my head, stuck there — clearly, loudly relevant today.
San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and his political network helped definitively beat a social conservative-designed anti-gay referendum in California known as Proposition 6. Had Harvey Milk been alive today, I don’t think we would have seen California give its nod to the discriminatory referendum, Proposition 8, that targets and bans same sex marriages.
My hunch is that either Sean Penn will now get the best actor Oscar at the Academy Awards — and/or the film Milk will win. Hollywood should have done more to stop Proposition 8. I should have. We all should have — but Hollywood and the performance community in my view probably feels some guilt for not having united in a more powerful force to stop the anti-gay machinery that the referendum proponents were able to put together.
So, Milk will win something big — and should.
But on the darker side of performances, I have seen no actors reach the depths (or heights?) that Heath Ledger did as Joker in The Dark Knight.
Spencer Ackerman in an insightful review depicted the battle in this latest and darkest Batman to be one between Dick “willing to do anything to win” Cheney as Batman and a criminal in the form of the Joker who wants to kill and destroy just because he can. The Joker, according to Ackerman, was a metaphor for al Qaeda.
Whatever was animating Heath Ledger in his art, however — his performance convinced me of an innovative, brilliant evil that also rattles around in my thoughts a lot.
Can both Sean Penn and Heath Ledger win?
Can we have one Oscar for the Dark Side? and one for the, well, Good Side?
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “Harvey & the Joker: Can There Be a Tie at the Oscars?

  1. Mark says:

    You are completely transparent and make no attempt to disguise that you are “rooting” for Sean Penn primarily because he portrayed a homosexual person. Sean Penn’s character didn’t break any new ground or go well out of the boundaries of his comfort zone. You are nothing more than a big silly.


  2. chopper says:

    I’ve heard that whole Batman theory before. It doesn’t really work.
    The Joker is a force of chaos that seeks to destroy all order.
    Al Qaeda is an extremist religious sect that seeks to INSTILL a draconian religious order.
    The Joker and Al Qaeda are only similar in that they things up. In purpose, they are completly opposed.
    Cheney also, is not motivated by the simpler altruistic drive of Batman. He has a strong economic agenda. In short, Batman is not a war-profiteer, nor would he associate with them as Cheney does.


  3. ed says:

    Oh, and for the record, the Oscars are shite. Utterly vapid, completely unimportant, self-indulgent shite.


  4. ed says:

    I haven’t seen Milk (don’t like bio-pics, I’ll stick with documentaries), but Ledger’s performance, while good, is overrated. As with other overrated performances (Pitt in 12 Monkeys, Dusty in Rainman, J-Phoenix in Gladiator), the actors found a line and held it just dandy, but the characters never evolved or needed to stray from that line (which is fine in Ledgers case–it’s a friggin’ comic book). It’s tragic that he died so young, but let’s not get carried away.


  5. david says:

    screw u all hath better win


  6. Californian says:

    The West Hollywood gay couple who hanged Sarah Palin in effigy helped contribute to the passage of Prop 8, as did the news coverage of Halloween ribaldry (counteracting the wholesome images in TV ads and mailers), and Obama’s drive to get out the African American vote, which went 70% for Prop 8. The film Milk would not have been seen by anyone not already voting against Prop 8, so I doubt releasing it earlier would have made any difference.


  7. Steve Clemons says:

    Interesting point Edgar — I guess I only remember the Joker from that film…!
    best, steve clemons


  8. Edgar says:

    Certainly we can. I don’t think they’d even be in the same category. Sean Penn would be in the Best Actor in a leading role category and Heath Ledger would be in the Best Supporting Actor category. As much as the film revolved around Joker, Christian Bale was still the leading role for The Dark Knight.


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