27 October 2009

Skandies: Best Performances of the Decade, #2



Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
originally placed: #1, Actor, 2005.

32 comments:

Froilan said...

His milkshake got him voted to the top?

Anonymous said...

It brings all the boys to the yard.

The Hunting of the Snark said...

Yipes. The clip illustrates everything wrong with the film ("... no reins") and right with Ledger. You shoulda gone with the "more like Jack Nasty" bit.

Robert Fuller said...

"Yipes. The clip illustrates everything wrong with the film ("... no reins") and right with Ledger. You shoulda gone with the "more like Jack Nasty" bit."

Indeed. And plus that music has already become such a cliched joke that I let out an involuntary giggle when it started.

Michael said...

Re: milkshake / Brokeback theme -

Do we always instantaneously ironize those contemporary artworks that manage to successfully pervade the culture? Is this just High Art's time in the penalty box for becoming popular?

Anonymous said...

he not she?

Robert Fuller said...

Actually, I always hated the Brokeback theme. Now it's unavoidably ironic (due mainly to all the parodies that have sprung up over the past four years) in addition to being irritating (and I certainly wouldn't call Brokeback "High Art").

The Hunting of the Snark said...

Anything that wrangles control of public consciousness for more than 48 hours - high/lo/no art - automatically becomes Seltzer-Friedberged. It's a nervous sociological tic. Ridicule rather than digest.

Plus gay + cowboy = comedy 101. Murderous oil baron + milkshakes = American Comedy X.

Nictate said...

An amazing performance in a sadly-veering-into-soap-opera-land film. Actually, two amazing performances. Jake conveyed so much with the subtlest of expressions.

I actually wish Heath would've won for THE DARK KNIGHT, but am happy to see him here.

Hey, two Australians in the top three performances. Will there be three?

md'a said...

Hey, two Australians in the top three performances. Will there be three?

(Should we tell her everyone else knows who the winner is now?)

However, that remark does call to my attention something that I hadn't previously noticed: According to the AVB, the best performance by an American actor over the last ten years was by Summer Phoenix. [shoots self in head]

Victor said...

Yep ... and the only other American in the top 10 was Laura Dern for INLAND EMPIRE ... (vjm goes to join Mike in Bulletland). Americans do however do much better in the second 10.

Someone else noted on my site, apropos my actor list, that every Anglophone performance on it was not by an American — an Icelander, a Canadian, two Australians and two Britons (though nobody would think of referring to the films starring the Canuck and the Aussies as anything other than American movies)

James said...

I'm just glad it looks like Queen Latifah is going to win for Chicago! It's one of the greatest performances in American cinema along with Agnes Moorehead (The Magnificent Ambersons) and Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver)!!!

Nictate said...

I'm just glad it looks like Queen Latifah is going to win for Chicago!

You and me both, sunshine. I just hope MD'A picks the clip where she sings:

"They say that life is tit for tat
And that's the way I live
So, I deserve a lot of tat
For what I've got to give"

Bilge Ebiri said...

>>"They say that life is tit for tat
>>And that's the way I live
>>So, I deserve a lot of tat
>>For what I've got to give"

[insert breathtakingly irritating howls of appreciation and "you go, girl!"s from the thousands of musical-theater-trained SAG members in attendance at the only goddamn press screening this overrated hackjob got in New York.]

[[no, i still haven't forgotten or forgiven...]]

Anonymous said...

Sorry Latifah and America but don't forget it was Academy Award-winner™ Catherine Zeta-Jones who sashayed away with the big prize.

Adam Wisniewski said...

Thanks for reminding me of that nightmare, Bilge.

Michael said...

What? You mean it isn't Tom Green for Freddy? Man, color me shocked.

Stephen said...

I thought Heath Ledger was good in this, but I thought a major issue with his performance was that he mumbled every line. I could never understand what he was saying.

Anonymous said...

I could never understand what Tommy Lee Jones was saying in NCFOM either.
Still, it's an outstanding film, mind you.

lee said...

re the mumbling: that's how a lot of guys talk out there, and Heath's is the only performance I've ever seen do it justice.

Michael said...

Ang Lee: spiritual father to Bujalski and Swanberg?

Sky said...

I somehow doubt Ang had much to do with what makes this performance special, just as I doubt Nolan had much to do with the Joker.

Victor said...

Naw ... spiritual grandson of James Dean

Nictate said...

The Hulk was a mumbler, too.

Skander said...

I somehow doubt Ang had much to do with what makes this performance special, just as I doubt Nolan had much to do with the Joker.

Why bud.

Sky said...

Why bud.

Because Nolan and A. Lee err towards performances that are competent, serviceable, and little else. I have a hard time picturing either of them coaxing out of Ledger what he gave--the evidence suggests he coaxed it out of himself.

Victor said...

Someone who gave decade points to ESTHER KAHN dares to criticize directors who get performances that "err" toward "competent" and "serviceable."

Actually, I suppose that does make sense. Certainly Summer Phoenix doesn't err in the direction of competence.

Victor said...

And also, it is by definition the case that all directors (and all human enterprises, really) err towards the mean -- that's what "mean" means. The fact that "competence" (as distinguished from what ... incompetence?) is considered an erring mean really says it all.

md'a said...

You're not making any sense, Victor. I don't necessarily agree that Ledger created those two performances all by himself with no helpful guidance from Lee and Nolan. But if we're seeking an explanation for something deemed extraordinary, that a possible factor generally errs to the mean of mere competence—assuming we stipulate that, which I would not in this case*—certainly qualifies as a point against and not in favor.

* Especially vis-à-vis Nolan—I don't think Carrie-Anne Moss or Hugh Jackman have ever been better than they were working with him, and he even got a decent performance out of Robin Williams.

Victor said...

But if we're seeking an explanation for something deemed extraordinary, that a possible factor generally errs to the mean of mere competence ... certainly qualifies as a point against and not in favor.

Put that way, sure. But the argument proves too much because there are no factors contributing to extraordinariness in a given case that don't, under most circumstances, not contribute to extraordinariness. That was "extraordinary" means. Sure, Lee has never (in our collective judgement) gotten a better performance than he did from Ledger here, but then ... Ledger himself has never been better (again, in our collective judgment) -- so you can't dismiss Lee because he errs toward non-spectacularness most of the time. My point was that all endeavors err toward the mean. And seeing "competence" as some mean seems to reward perversity and privilege incompetence. I don't see why this is not clear to a guy who once threw up his (cyber-)hands and wrote "Craft. Matters."

Sky said...

Someone who gave decade points to ESTHER KAHN dares to criticize directors who get performances that "err" toward "competent" and "serviceable."

Number of Ang Lee performances finishing in the decade poll: one.

Number of Christopher Nolan performances finishing in the decade poll: one.

Number of Arnaud Desplechin performances finishing in the decade poll: two.

I'm not necessarily criticizing Nolan or Lee, by the way--I like BROKEBACK altogether--just trying to construct a mental image of the working relationships on set. Perhaps there's concrete evidence out there that would dispel what I assume.

And seeing "competence" as some mean seems to reward perversity and privilege incompetence.

... which is preferable to privileging competence in trying to understand the creative source of these performances? Ledger's mumbling as Ennis is arguably borderline-incompetent. Clearly, some of us don't much care.

What I'm saying is that for me, they stand out as anomalies in Lee and Nolan's sensibilities. But I don't follow those directors very closely, so maybe I'm ignoring something important.

Sky said...

Sorry, "which is preferable to privileging competence in trying to understand the creative source of these performances?" is misphrased.

I don't see why privileging incompetence would be any less useful than privileging competence in understanding the roots of something great, which is to say that both are useless.