The Joker: Ledger versus Phoenix

One of film history’s biggest roles is the Joker, with his psychopathic yet oddly witty personality thriving in his dominance and absolute carelessness. He is not only unlike any other character on screen, but also unlike any villain, nor superheroes thereof. To portray a realistic, complex, and suitable character is an art in itself, but to create a villain on screen demands serious techniques beyond any other. Especially the Joker, since he above all is an established favourite amongst the comic book characters and is presented with such ludicrous manners parading in his suit of a clown. To make this character in a non animated film, that also thrive to be taken seriously, is therefore a project of great complexity; especially in casting the best suited actor for the role.

_0895888a-3639-11e8-90dd-823da00706aaImage source.

Presented in I Am Heath Ledger (2017), the actor of which the documentary was created to praise was not highly respected or trusted to take on the role of the Joker. When Christopher Nolan released that he would cast Heath Ledger as the Joker in upcoming sequel to Batman people were not overly excited, not even his close friends by seen in the documentary. By this time Ledger was not an A-lister, only having done a few roles and even by mastering the role of Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2006) he was not seen as an actor of value in the eyes of the public. However Ledger delivered and performed his part as the Joker with such depth that the success rate of Batman: The Dark Knight (2008) skyrocketed, landing on many best-movies-of-all-time lists. It also established Ledger as a force to be reckoned with, and being considered as one of the greatest actors and delivering one of the best performances of perhaps the century. Most importantly, he didn’t fall flat in comparison to Jack Nicholson and his interpretation of the Joker in Batman (1989), however Ledger stand beside him; even above in many eyes (including mine).

While the Joker has indeed been portrayed after Ledger by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad (2016), the performance and even simply the appearance of Leto easily can be compared by George Clooney’s lousy attempt at taking on Batman in Batman & Robin (1997), it would have been better never proceeded, here we stand again; letting the role of the Joker move forward to another actor with both anticipation and fear. This time to Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming film Joker (2019).

Phoenix is formerly known for his performances in The Master (2012), Her (2013), Gladiator (2000), and Walk the Line (2005), also recognised for his activism including being cast as the narrator for the documentary Earthlings (2005). And while the anticipation of watching Phoenix playing the Joker is remarkably higher with him already being an established actor, it also allows for a higher downfall if he doesn’t succeed. It is not with distrust in Phoenix as an actor this is pointed out, but with the element of surprise. Previously mentioned Ledger was not thought of much before he wooed everyone with his performance, which while it was a disadvantage leading up to the release of the movie quickly turned to an advantage. Ledger could enter the role of the Joker completely and dominate everyone with his brilliance, partly because no one thought he would. However, in the case of Phoenix, its the opposite. He has the advantage leading up to the release of the origin story of the Joker being highly trusted and already dominating the discussion of upcoming films, but the question is if he can stand tall when the film is let into the world.

Also, the success of both the film and the character of the Joker is not simply based upon the performance of Phoenix. It also depends on the entirely of the movie, primarily based on the techniques of film making and adaptation of the story line. An in this, Batman: The Dark Knight had an advantage. A origin story is not for everyone’s consumption, since it usually is far less exhilarating and much more straight up geeky than a protagonist versus antagonist element to the narrative. If the latter appears in Joker, the character of the Joker is also determined by the portrayal of Batman, since the chemistry is crucial to the story. Another interesting aspect to this is the idea of protagonist and antagonist duos, in the theory of film making is set to being an absolute. The Joker performs best with a specific opponent, any form of good hearted fellow won’t do. A deeper analysis of this is presented by the Lessons from the Screenplay, which dives deeper into why Batman: The Dark Knight was the ultimate film for both Batman and the Joker. This a key point in the infrastructure of which the Joker has to exist in to be able to perform as a character, which is probably hugely missing in an origin story.

However, the origin story also has advantages to the classical good versus evil narration. The time frame of which the Joker will have in his own movie is much larger, focusing primarily on him as a character and allowing all elements to explore and develop the role further than what could be done in a film following another character. Every element of Joker can be used to benefit the story of the Joker, in his madness and insanity but also have time to gain understanding regarding other sides of the character such as his background and perhaps more vulnerable emotions. And this, hopefully, nuanced portrayal of the Joker will succeed gracefully if Phoenix step forward into the role as he previously has done, being nominated for three Academy Awards and a sea of other honorships.

All things considered, my personal view of the matter is that while Phoenix might perform with elegance and deliver a well rounded version of the Joker the premises of him conquering the leader of the role to both Nicholson and Ledger seems too unlikely for him to succeed. Especially with the shock factor of what was the work of Ledger’s acting combined with an less outstanding but still honorable performance of Christian Bale playing Batman and the directing by Nolan that created the masterpiece that is Batman: The Dark Knight. However, it will bring much interest and contemptment to follow the path to the release of the Joker and hopefully Phoenix, and the film, will not only amaze me, but also prove me wrong.



Call Me By Your Name

In regards to films and series I’m someone who is drawn to the bizarre, mysterious, surrealistic, and slightly insane, topping my favourite list of movies and series are titles such as Batman: The Dark Knight (2008), Maniac (2018), Twin Peaks (1992-2017), and Black Swan (2010) etc, all leaving me feeling shaken to my core of fear and overwhelmed with the satisfaction of it all, it’s a mysterious kind of drug. However, the exception to this is Call Me By Your Name (2017).

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Call Me By Your Name is based on the book, with the same title, released in 2007 by author André Aciman. It tells a coming of age story exploring matters of the human range of emotions, both beautiful and miserable, regarding relationships, sexuality, and primarily love depicting a whirlwind of a relationship between the two main characters. The film is a masterpiece by director Luca Guadagnino with wonderfully hurtful but beautiful original songs by Sufjan Stevens, a pastel colour palette that set the tone of the story perfectly, and a screenplay with such elegance it won an Academy Award. Both the film and the book can be discussed during endless hours only for their craftsmanship and other matters of production, such as storyline and characters depictions. The film can also applaud itself on forming one of the most well acted performances by lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who deliver electricity with their characters Elio and Oliver and mostly, the chemistry between them.

The plot explores and develops the theme of falling head over heels in love with someone, and what that entails. It explores sexuality, both in the matter of its definition but also like a phenomenon that forces human beings to obey and surrender to one’s desires. But what sets this story apart from other love stories for me, is the complete acceptance of love not only being the cause but often the reason of feelings of confusion, shame, and sadness. Call Me By Your Name explores not only the beauty of being in love, but the agony with it. To have such strong emotions towards one person isn’t always easy, it never is. This isn’t a mediocre feeling of liking someone, or the wholesomeness of loving someone dearly, this is the kind of feeling that knocks you over completely. The moment Elio fell in love with Oliver, he also fell apart. Every cell of him disintegrated into nothingness, an act so subversive he had to follow. Oliver, throughout the story, was completely controlling of Elio, not in his action but in his mere existence. And completely broken down, Elio had to rebuilt himself with Oliver within every cell of his body. Elio could never be the same. People might say that this is insanity and that love shouldn’t make you feel this strongly, and to a certain degree that is correct. To feel this strongly is highly self destructive, especially if the other person doesn’t share the experience. It knocks the power balance out of the game. However, emotions are not under human control, they are free spirits of chemicals that rush through people without needing consent of existing. And yes, feeling such love is truly insanity.

The book explores this insanity much deeper than the film, it can easily explained that while they both share the same core theme, love comes with pain, the film focuses more on the matter of that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved, but the book is centered around the idea that being in love is not only beautiful and happy. And while this separation is necessary for the film to have been received as it was, and it brings beauty to a specific topic of love, people who only have seen the film are missing out on a serious matter. The book dives deeper into Elio’s thoughts around his own feelings about being in love, much more personal than what Oliver ever is a part of. For being in love is so much seen as something you share, and while part of it is, a huge part of this feeling is only for oneself to explore and live with since you also have to live with yourself being in love, without the person you’re in love with. One’s whole personality might change, curb to the person one is in love with, and the fundamental feeling of existing is altered.

“I didn’t know what I was afraid of, nor why I worried so much, nor why this thing that could so easily cause panic felt like hope sometimes and, like hope in the darkest moments, brought such joy, joy with a noose tied around it. The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t” page 59

The insanity of being in love is not very often portrayed in medias of consumption, or at least any similar to Call Me By Your Name. The usual imagery of someone being crazily in love is slapstick comedy, while Elio’s emotions are stripped of any kind of humorous character. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s insane. And throughout the story it is never fully considered to straightforwardly wrong, the insanity of Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are depicted with such ease that it seems… given? And perhaps this is why the sad love story of Call Me By Your Name stands strong with my favourite films amongst more outspokenly insanity, the movie depicts something alternative to the very normative narrative of love and makes my personal emotions and experiences feel less… deranged.


Tinder and the Art of Selection

Tinder and other online dating services have rapidly increased in both its usage and social acceptance over the last few years, to have met a romantic partner through an online site seven years ago was considered embarrassment of horrendous amount but having one’s first encounter on Tinder today is the new norm. And the accessibility is truly remarkable, everyone with a smartphone can sign up for free and swipe the night away finding people in their close surroundings that turn out to be a perfect match. Whatever someone might want in a romantic partner can easily be put into numbers and statistical matters, such as height in someone’s biograph section or those perfect dark curls. It filters through a lot of meaningless tries; political standpoints and sexual preferences that don’t match can easily be swiped away. Left!

It can’t be denied that online dating is convenient, it allows for people to hold higher standards in their relationships and not accidentally get emotionally involved with others who might be disrespectful or who they don’t share the same fundamental values, however it also allows for people to set unrealistic standards for people, and ultimately not view people as people. On Tinder you might swipe left on someone because they are too short, even with just an inch, or because their third image made them seem weirder for your liking, but someone can be utterly miserable at presenting themself online and be that inch “too short” but in real life be incredible compassionate, caring, and attractive enough for you to flutter just at the thought of them holding your hand. And reflecting upon your current relationships, the closest ones in our lives are not perfect (if it ever would exist such a thing), mostly far from, and the primary reason we find liking in them is because of an unexplainable connection that only can be experienced in interacting with them personally, usually in real life. Also, thinking about them in matters of qualities it doesn’t matter if they tick the boxes of “the ultimate friend”, which they usually don’t, because they provide personality traits that you wouldn’t ever imaging finding appealing. The same principle works for romantic relationships. The person you might fall in love with and have an amazing relationship with might not be a morning person which you anticipated, but they can perhaps speak several languages, and while they can’t cook even if their life depended on it, again which you wished, they woo you with their skills in bouldering. But most importantly, being that inch shorter than wished for will never undermine the fact that someone will make you laugh until you cry and cuddle you all throughout the night when being ill and make you feel the best version of yourself. Love doesn’t grow and bloom from the shallowness of specific details, but from the connection between people. People are not their qualities that can be specified and written down into a character limited bio on an online dating app, they are complex and diverse individuals which needs to be explored fully in regard of wishlists.

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Ultimately, people should not be open to love everyone, I can’t disagree with that. But to find a romantic partner is more than statistical analyses. It’s wonderfully weird to fall in love with someone who you never thought you could love, and most of the time those relationships last the longest. Tinder will never be able to provide that.



The Beginning, Again

Once again I’ve found myself gravitating towards the mystery that is writing, like trying to return to a long lost lover that never really left me through multiple other.

Let’s meet, again.

This space is for me to express my never ending interest in the art of writing, through scrapping down ideas and thoughts on both nonsense and life defining matters such as literature, film, relationships, politics, and other things that keep me awake at night.