When the Oscar nominations are announced for Best Supporting Actor, it would be surprising if Heath Ledger’s name were not announced among the nominees, but don’t expect to hear his name after the envelope is opened on the big night.
There have been many great acting performances in the category this year thus far, and there will be many more to come as we hit the height of Oscar season. So far, actors like Josh Brolin, Michael Shannon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Michael Sheen are getting a lot of buzz, and there will likely be a few late runners at the end of the season. So Heath Ledger is up against some pretty stiff competition.
To be nominated for playing a comic book character is a feat within itself, but when is the last time you’ve heard of anyone winning an Academy Award for acting in a film like ‘The Dark Knight’? This is because these types of films just aren’t considered Oscar material, except in technical categories. Another problem with the film is that it was released pre-November, and any films released in this time period have a hard time ever winning in major categories.
Another big problem is that the Academy doesn’t like giving away posthumous Oscars, unless they are special awards. They kind of consider it “wasting a win” if the recipient isn’t alive. Case in point: if James Dean can’t win a posthumous Oscar, it’s doubtful that Heath Ledger will. In fact, the only person to win a posthumous Oscar in any of the acting categories is Peter Finch for his performance in ‘Network’, and his acting in that film is still considered some of the greatest ever. His line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” is still well-remembered and quoted to this very day. He also died right at the end of Oscar season, which might have helped him win, sadly.
It is unfair the way the Academy works, and many great actors and actresses have been snubbed over the years. In 2006, for example, Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson could have both been nominated for their performances in ‘Black Snake Moan’, but neither was because the film came out too early in the year. This is the reason so many great movies are released at the end of the year, not because it’s the holiday season. Academy members are notorious for voting for films that are the freshest on their minds, and filmmakers have taken note of this. This is perhaps why, the day after the Academy Award nominations are announced, there will be a re-release of ‘The Dark Knight’. Will it help Heath’s cause? Apparently all those involved with the film are hoping so (it would mean bigger bucks for them).
It’s also hard for many fans that consider Heath Ledger’s performance to be so great to get past the fact that he has died, which greatly affects the opinion of those who believe he should win. Academy voters realize this and will likely try to look past his death. The characters of the Batman films, comics, and television shows are also a big deal to the general public, which affects their view on the issue. This isn’t so much the case with the Academy.
So it’s very likely that Heath Ledger will not win, but that doesn’t make his performance any less of a great portrayal of one of America’s favorite villains, and it is one that will be embraced and remembered by many fans of ‘The Dark Knight’ for years to come.