Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 40 - 13 of Heath Ledger's Films

As I sat at my desk last week, typing away at my computer, I had the news on TV to my left. The words "the body of actor Heath Ledger" sliced through my thoughts. My head turned as I took in the sight of his picture in the top right corner of the screen, an announcer speaking words that cut at my heart in jagged stabs.

Heath Ledger has been a particular favorite of mine since I first saw him in the fantasy series Roar in the late 90's. Not just for his sexy voice and charismatic presence, but for his obvious acting chops - head-and-shoulders above his peers from the very beginning. My husband and I own a lot of his film work on tape and DVD, and as my husband is the Bat Fan Incarnate, we were waiting and waiting for the release of The Dark Knight this summer. For me, the news that Heath was playing The Joker was a sign that all was right with the world.

I still feel like I'm trying to process the reality of his death. To borrow the words of Daniel Day-Lewis, "I feel very unsettled at the moment. I didn't know him. I have a strong impression, I would have liked him very much as a man if I had. I'd already marvelled at some of his work, and had looked forward so much to seeing the work that he would do in the future."

Today's Thursday Thirteen salutes some of Heath Ledger's body of work.

1 - Roar - 1997 - 2000

View Roar compilation

"Roar features Conor, the freedom fighter circa A.D. 400,in the new sword-and-sorcery adventure series. This show doesn't pull that Hercules trick of inserting modern slang and sensibilities into an earlier era; it's more an attempt at the brooding romanticism of Koslow's bodice-ripper, 1987-90's Beauty and the Beast. And Ledger, a knockabout Australian, is handsome and muscular in a refreshingly non-bodybuilder way. The result is a TV show that looks great - all dark green forests and deep blue skies - but if it wants to distinguish itself from its genre, it has to get a lot more moodily grim." - Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

2 - 10 Things I Hate About You - 1999

View Trailer

"10 Things I Hate About You is inspired by Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Two guys want to take Bianca to the prom. One is shy and likable. The other is a blowhard. But Bianca's father (Larry Miller) has forbidden her to date until her older sister Katarina (Julia Stiles) starts going out. So they hatch a plot to persuade Patrick (Heath Ledger), the school outlaw, to ask Kat to the prom. He takes a $300 bribe, but then realizes that Kat is actually quite lovely, etc., and really falls in love with her, after which, etc. I liked the sweet, tentative feeling between Ledger and Stiles. He has a scene that brings the whole movie to an enjoyable halt. Trying to win her heart, he waits until she's on the athletic field, and then sings `I love you baby' over the P.A. system, having bribed the school's marching band to accompany him." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

3 - Two Hands - 1999

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"Star-on-the rise Heath Ledger is both attractive and charming, the perfect matinee combination, as the naïve would-be crim and spruiker (hoodlum), Jimmy. He is also a deft dramatic actor with a charismatic screen presence not seen in the Australian cinema since Russell Crowe. It's a sharp black comedy, a farce (a robbery scene which is hilarious), a romance, a thriller and of course the classically structured gangster film. All of which are masterfully directed by dazzling first-time feature director, Gregor Jordan, who not only effortlessly displays skills here as a visually impressive movie director, but his detail of character is brilliant." - Paul Fischer, Urban Cinephile

4 - The Patriot - 2000

View Trailer

"The moment war threatens his family, Benjamin (Mel Gibson) becomes the guerrilla fighter he was during the French and Indian War. Determined to rescue Gabriel (Heath Ledger) from the gallows, he sneak-attacks twenty of His Majesty's soldiers from a bluff. Gibson, himself the parent of seven, brings ardor and complexity to this conflicted father. His scenes with Ledger (Ten Things I Hate About You) - the Aussie newcomer has the talent and looks to become a major star - provide an intimacy that holds an overlong film together against the winds of bombast, irrelevant romance and relentless revenge." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

5 - A Knight's Tale - 2001

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"The hero of A Knight's Tale, William (Heath Ledger), is locked into serfdom, and is determined to change his stars. William wants to be a knight and seizes the opportunity when the knight he serves dies. He pretends to be nobility and adopts a ludicrously royal-sounding name, since 'only noble knights can compete.' Mr. Ledger has a courtly manner and he's very likable; he pays attention to the other actors and is bowled over by Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). Although he's the star, he cedes scenes well. To further connect with the young audience, William's dirty blond hair is stylishly tangled in dreadlocks. He's an antediluvian skate punk dancing to Bowie's Golden Years, with action sequences playing to The Boys Are Back in Town, We Are the Champions (of course) and Rare Earth's lugubrious cover of Get Ready." - Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

6 - Monster's Ball - 2001

View compilation from YouTube - WARNING: major spoiler at the end. If you stop it at the 3:15 mark you're still safe.

"Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank Grotowski, a prison guard on death row. Emotionally, Hank's a hollow shell, filled to the brim with hate spewed from his invalid Klansman father (Peter Boyle). Hank pours his bile onto his grown boy, Sonny (Heath Ledger). The broken lad seeks solace in whiskey-blurred couplings with a truck-stop whore. Emotional tension in the Grotowski household boils over when Sonny, also a guard on death row, bungles the solemn 'walk' that brings condemned murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean "P. Diddy" Combs) to the execution chamber. Hank beats him in public, setting a calamitous chain of events in motion. In the aftermath, Hank finds solace at a local diner where a new waitress, Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry), serves him chocolate ice cream, which he will only eat with a plastic spoon. We already know Leticia is Lawrence's widow.

Ledger is surprisingly deft at playing a wounded soul; though he's already a respected actor in his native Australia, this performance will help him shed the pretty-boy image that Hollywood has slapped onto him." - Tor Thorsen,

7 - The Four Feathers - 2002

View compilation from YouTube

"Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) is the son of a decorated general. He's part of England's elite — an officer cadet at a top military academy, attends balls with his similarly pampered chums, and is engaged to a fetching debutante, Ethne (Kate Hudson). However, Harry's upper-crust bubble bursts when it's announced that the Madhi, an Osama-bin-Laden-like cleric leading an army of 'fanatics', has attacked a strategic British fort in the Sudan. Harry and his classmates, including Jack (Wes Bentley) are ordered to pack up and ship out. On the eve of his departure, Harry has second thoughts. He questions what business England has in the Sudan in the first place, abruptly resigning his commission the next morning.

His friends and fiancee send Harry four white feathers as symbols of his lily-livered-ness. In order to redeem himself, he hops on the next ship to the Sudan. The Four Feathers is as much a personal journey as it is a cross-continental trek. As well as ace lensman Robert Richardson's cinematography conveys the desolation of the Sudanese desert, it's the actors who add detail to The Four Feathers canvas. In the case of Ledger and Bentley, each does a splendid job of showing how war quickly makes grizzled men out of fresh-faced boys. The duo also acquit themselves off the battlefield as two sides of a love triangle." - Tor Thorsen,

8 - Ned Kelly - 2003

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"The picture that emerges from this presentation of Ned Kelly is a Victorian police force that is as amoral as it is vicious and largely to blame for Ned’s life of crime. The film gives Heath Ledger a terrific vehicle and Ledger relishes it, creating a strong, silent type of Ned full of inner anguish, and a desperation born of circumstance. Several times he tries in vain to avoid killing police who are hunting them, and expressing his regret when he does. He is a tragic hero figure, but a hero figure all the same and Ledger makes a great impression, a real lasting image, as Ned Kelly. The story touches on the very roots of Australian pioneering society and should trigger a robust debate about the man and the myth." - Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinephile

9 - The Order - 2003

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"Alex Bernier (Heath Ledger) is one of the few remaining priests belonging to the Carolingian, an order that recognizes the existence of spirits, the paranormal and Latin-only Mass. In Rome to investigate the death of their friend, that couldn't be a suicide, they meet Eden (Benno Fürmann), a Sin Eater. Unfortunately for the Sin Eater, he keeps the sins that he 'eats' and will suffer a damned eternal life unless he can delegate his job to a new candidate. Now centuries old, Eden wants to retire and pass the important job of saving the excommunicated on to Alex, who is understandably hesitant about the proposal. Ledger does a great job portraying a character who should be much older than he is, always able to express the right amount of emotion when necessary. Crafty cinematography by Nicola Pecorini constantly keeps the surroundings dark and gloomy." - Scott S.,

10 - The Brothers Grimm - 2005

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"Terry Gilliam rarely has it easy making movies. Whether its his unfinished Don Quixote or the brilliant Brazil, the suits always want him to change things. The Brothers Grimm, with the shots called by the brothers Weinstein, is no exception. If you're a Gilliam junkie, as I am, you go with it. Starring Matt Damon as the skeptical Will Grimm and Heath Ledger as his susceptible brother Jacob, Ledger fares better as the nerdy brother who goes along with Will's plan to scam German villagers with fake witches that the boys banish for a fee. But Jake keeps looking for real magic. Ledger lets us see the hope in Jake's eyes when the brothers enter a forest ruled by a genuinely evil Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci). Gilliam is Jake at heart. It's Gilliam's chance to run amok, and watching him do it is eye-popping fun." - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

11 - Brokeback Mountain - 2005

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"Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet when they are hired to tend sheep on Brokeback Mountain during the summer of 1963. One thing leads to another between these young men of such opposite temperaments, and a summer romance blossoms in the isolation of their mountainside campsite. They return to their separate lives in one of the finest films of the year, a heartbreaking tale of the price paid for keeping desire and one's true nature a secret. It's Ledger who is truly transcendent. With Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, he breaks through to another level. Ennis is a man of few words who rarely shows what he's feeling, but Ledger, through body language and expression, is able to convey each conflicting emotion that has turned Ennis' life into something akin to purgatory." - Pam Grady,

12 - Casanova - 2005

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"He’s Casanova (Heath Ledger), and he has so many admirers he doesn’t need to sleep with the same woman more than once, and seldom does. How does he do it? Heath Ledger is proving himself as versatile as any working actor. This year, he’s successfully portrayed two entirely different roles; he’s gone from serious-as-a-heart-attack closeted homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain to Casanova himself, a charming, playful socialite of a ladies man. If it doesn’t take talent to convincingly portray those characters in back to back movies, then what does? As Casanova, Ledger doesn’t play the material over the top; he lets the comedy speak for itself and focuses his attention on defining the cunning, seductive traits of the famed character. He's perfect for the role." - Blake French,

13 - The Dark Knight - 2008

View Trailer

Opening July 18th, 2008

"Christian Bale once again embodies the man behind the mask in The Dark Knight. The film reunites Bale with director Christopher Nolan and takes Batman across the world in his quest to fight a growing criminal threat. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman has been making headway against local crime...until a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham City. To stop this devious new menace--Batman's most personal and vicious enemy yet--he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and confront everything he believes." - Synopsis from


Rhonda said...

Holy cow, that was detailed! And yes, so sad and crazy how we're here and then we're not.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The good people at Netflix would like to thank you for ensuring that I won't be cancelling my account any time soon...

Annette said...

I didn't realize he had such an impressive body of work.

Another great TT, Julia!! :-)

Rhonda Leigh said...

It's very sad. He was much too young, and much too talented. I had no idea he played Connor in Roar. I loved that show.

Dont make me get out my flying Monkeys! said...

The Patriot! My favorite!

Great Thursday list! Come by and pick off a game from my list!

detoxer said...

He was a great actor but he was also a casualty of prescription drug abuse. Why was he taking these drugs? Was it because it was legal heroin? As the director of Novus Medical Detox we daily see the ravages of drug addiction. How many more have to die before we realize what a monster is loose in our midsts.

steve hayes

Kristi said...

You know I'm still sad about his passing...especially for his friends and family who've been hounded by the press.

Four Feathers and The Patriot were my faves of his...

Happy TT!

pussreboots said...

I've only seen two of his films. Happy TT. Thanks for stopping by. said...

Hello.I'm a psychic and I sometimes dream about people after they have died,trying to get a message to their families. I had a dream about Heath and he told me he would like his family to know these 2 things: 1. He would like for his daughter to think of him as a father,not an actor. and 2.that he will be watching over them always. He didn't mean for this to happen and he would so like to send this message to them. Thanks

Shelley Munro said...

We watched A Knight's Tale this week. He was so talented and worked on such a broad range of movies.

Happy TT, Julia

Anonymous said...

So very sad -- he was such a talented young actor. Your T13 is wonderful -- a heartfelt tribute to his excellent body of work.

julia said...

Walksalone05 - as I was putting this T13 together, I had two audio 'visits' that my regular readers will understand. Thanks so much for commenting and I hope his family receives his message.

Joyismygoal said...

I did not know he did all of those he was very talented-- Hollywood is a tough life is the lifestyle ness. for the fame?

Darla said...

I didn't realize he'd been in so many movies--I've only seen 5 of them.

Amy Ruttan said...

I loved Roar, absolutely adored it. I am a big sucker of all things Celtic especially around the times Romans were invading.

Great TT as usual Julia! :D

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I was a huge fan of HL and was extremely saddened by his death.

Tempest Knight said...

Great T13 and honor to a wonderful actor!

Robin said...

He was stupendous in Brokeback Mountain, what a loss...

Karina said...

A great way to pay tribute to a true actor. He will certainly be missed by his fans (and of course his loved ones).

Now, I have to add most of those movies to my queue, even the ones I've already seen, because they're all worth a second (or third, or forth as it may be) look.

Sandy Carlson said...

That's quite a resume of films you created. It is a lovely tribute to an artist you admired very much.

Open Grove Claudia said...

Such an incredible loss. It's so very sad when the young bright flames die out. This is a lovely memoriam.

Happy TT!

Malcolm said...

Even though I haven't seen much of Heath's work, I was saddened by his sudden death. My favorite part of "10 Things..." is when he sings "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" to Julia Stiles.

Akelamalu said...

Now some people may think this is unforgivable but I'd never heard of him until he died!

Sniz said...

I find it so amazing that he completed Batman and this happened before it even came out. It is SOOOO sad. I've seen most of those movies...the Four Feathers is one of my favorites.

FRIGGA said...

I've only seen 2 of those movies and I think Brokeback was a disgusting piece of filth - but I generally really liked him.

Happy TT :-)

the teach said...

julie, I too think it was a terrible thing for Heath Ledger to die. Thanks for all the work and the links to the trailers. I really appreciate it. :)

spyscribbler said...

That's just heartbreaking. He was such a great actor.

Such a loss.

No Nonsense Girl said...

Happy TT Julia! I'm back :)

Great TT!!!

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Ten Things I Hate About You and The Brother's Grimm are two of my favorites.

Joy Renee said...

thanx for this. i confess i didn't know who Heath Ledger was until the day they announced his death. i've not seen any of these movies and they all sound so good. i've seen most of their trailers over the years but we have seen very few movies in the theater in the last ten years

thanx for visiting my room makeover pics.

Flowerpot said...

I had no idea he'd been in so many films. I've only seen Brokeback.

Gabriella Hewitt said...

You put together an amazing post. What a tribute.

I think it's always sad to see someone with so much potential die so young. It was very sad news. Thanks for doing this.

Toni said...

At what cost? Heath died waaaay too young and I'm left pondering that question. What was the cost, personally, eternally, publicly? A sobering reminder to me to consider what my foundation is, as well as what my crutches are.

Jenny McB said...

I have only seen 10 things I hate about you and when I did, I went right to IMDB to find out who Heath Ledger was. I loved his character and yes, he was a great actor. Maybe some can't handle the fame/pain that comes with talent.
I never realized how many movies he was in, but am not surprised.

Camille Alexa said...

Poor little Heath.

storyteller said...

I don’t see many movies any more so I’m unfamiliar with most of these, but I am impressed with the body of work you’ve highlighted here. Thanks for the education about his career and for stopping by Small Reflections. It's nice to meet you and I'm sure I'll return.
Hugs and blessings,

Tink said...

My favourite is A Knight's Tale, but they all are worth watching. He was a great actor and a handsome one! ;-)
Thanks for visiting my fridge TT!

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