There are always a lot of emotions on Oscar nomination day but there was an especially bittersweet surge in sentiment this morning when the late Heath Ledger’s name was called out in the category of best supporting actor — one year to the day after his death.
The nomination for Ledger’s scorching performance as the scabby and diabolical Joker in "The Dark Knight"; had been considered a certainty in recent months but there was still a collective sigh when it was announced. Now the question is, ‘Can he win?‘ There has been a posthumous actor winner in the past — Peter Finch’s widow Eletha Finch memorably accepted his best-actor Oscar for the unforgettable 1976 film "Network" — but Finch died a month after he was nominated. Ledger’s accidental prescription-drug overdose hasn’t lost any of its tragedy, of course, but the beloved Spencer Tracy and even James Dean (whose life and early death were evoked by many of Ledger’s eulogists) were in similar nominated-after-death situations, and they did not win the trophy.
There’s also been some quiet talk in town lately of realpolitik realities of Hollywood that say the studios campaign harder for living actors (who will, after all, make more movies) and that those actors present for interviews and press statements in upcoming weeks are powerfully wooing Academy voters who are "auditioning" for winners.
Perhaps, but I think Ledger will win because his performance was so very powerful and because those same Oscar voters love drama. I think on Oscar night we will see little Matilda, the young daughter of Ledger, smiling as her father’s name is called out once again. Beyond the joy to Matilda and her family, it’s nice to think of that shining moment as the final image in the public’s memory of this gifted performer.
– Geoff Boucher
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CREDIT: Heath Ledger photo by Associated Press. "The Dark Knight" images courtesy of Warner Bros.