This Is Nothing To Joke About

Note: Originally Published 8-1-06

First and foremost, if you are not a fan of Batman Begins or, more specifically, Batman, than this little article will not interest you in the least.  However, if you are a Bat-Fan, then you must read on.

It has been confirmed by Warner Brothers that Heath Ledger will play the role of the Joker in the sequel to Batman Begins, called The Dark Knight.  Now, a lot of the fanboys have already started with the “Brokeback Joker” tirades and are dismissing Ledger as a respectable Joker.  I couldn’t disagree more.

First of all, highly respected filmmaker and director Ang Lee hired Ledger to star in Brokeback Mountain, a very serious drama that required real courage to take part in.  Second of all, Ledger has had some nice moments in his acting career thus far.  For instance, I thought he was very good in The Patriot, and though it was a comedy, I also thought he did a nice job in Ten Things I Hate About You.  And yet, I will admit it, he’s had some flops as well.  But, you have to think, if Christopher Nolan, the director of Batman Begins and its follow-up, has faith in Heath Ledger, than shouldn’t we as well?  After all, he brought in Christian Bale, someone I never would have dreamed of, and Bale brought an intensity to Batman never realized on film.  He brought in Cillian Murphy, a truly creepy villain as the Scarecrow, and need I mention all the big names he brought in to play minor roles.  Nolan is respected and Nolan is intelligent.  He knows what he’s doing.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “But Scott William Foley, Ledger will never be able to out-do Jack Nicholson’s hilarity as the Joker!”  You’re right.  You’re exactly right.  You’re right because Jack Nicholson, as awesome as he was, was playing Jack Nicholson.  You looked at the screen and you didn’t see the Joker, you saw Jack Nicholson in white make-up.  And what was fine!  He rocked!  I loved his Joker.

However, you want to realize that what makes the Joker work is not his flamboyancy, it’s his utter and psychotic maliciousness.  The Joker is a mass murderer.  The Joker is sick and twisted, he is terrifying, remorseless.  Imagine a Joker who wasn’t funny at all.  Imagine simply a psycho who looks like a joker from your deck of cards.  Imagine the intensity required for that sort of Joker.  I think Ledger can pull it off.

I will now undo all of my previous arguments by saying that I still wanted Crispin Glover to get the role.

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My Thoughts On John Mayer In Concert

Note: Originally Published 2-18-07

So, lo and behold, we had a major artist visit Central Illinois!  When my wife and I had the opportunity to see John Mayer at the US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, how could we resist?

Let me get this out there from the get-go, I’m not a huge John Mayer fan.  I’ve never disliked him, but it’s been a long time since I sat down and listened to any of his CDs. 

That being said, just the excitement of being at a concert with a Grammy winner performing had me hitting on all cylinders, so I think Mayer would have had to really offer us a terrible performance to disappoint, which he did not.

In fact, I was surprised at what a good showman he was.  Also, he struck me as very genuine and personable with his audience.  He made a point several times to comment on the energy in the Coliseum, and he was right.  He had a very appreciative and enthusiastic crowd.  Hopefully that news will get around and we’ll see more big names in the heart of Illinois.

He’s a fine singer, but for me, his songs get a little old.  They’re very mellow, which is awesome if you’re reading a book or trying to have a little romance, but I found myself at time wishing he’d move along to whatever song he had planned next.

But, I can tell you for sure what was certainly not mellow-his guitar playing!  I’ve heard Mayer was a pretty good guitarist, but let me tell you, he is tremendous!  I couldn’t believe the things he was doing with it, and he gave us a little funk, a little rock, and a bit of everything in between.  I just wish he’d take some of that raw energy and put it into his songs, but alas.

Of course, his back-up band was very talented, and Mayer made a point of introducing them and giving them each a moment in the literal spotlight.  He also had a giant set of screens behind him that would light up in various colors as well as a pretty cool light show.  Again, he talked with us quite a bit, and he really was pretty funny and, again, very genuine.  He even got tongue-tied on several occasion and made light of it.  He signed all the posters in the front row, talked about two little girls that he thought had to have been his biggest fans in the whole US, and made a point to try to acknowledge all the signs he could read in the audience. 

Like I said, a great musician, but I would love to see him take his guitar skills and apply them to a little edgier music.  But hey, he’s his own man, and I commend him for doing it his way.

His opening act was a guy named Mat Kearney, and man, would I hate to be an opening act.  First of all, he was very good.  But, you know, people were still milling in during his entire set and getting beer and talking to each other; in other words, just generally not paying him any attention.  I was on the floor, row 32, and I stood, along with the rest of the floor, during the entire Mayer set.  We all sat for Kearney.  Poor guy.  Especially because, like I said, he really was pretty good.  Anyway, finally, he played his last song, and boom!, everybody recognized it.  Then you saw all the camera phones flashing and people started clapping.  Ah well, that had to make him feel a little better.

On another side note, the people in my section kept looking back at the sound area, which was not too far behind us.  There were rumors that Jessica Simpson was sitting in there.  You know, she and Mayer are supposed to be an item these days.  Anyway, I gave in and looked myself, and was pretty sure I didn’t see her.  But, when Mayer had nearly finished his encore, there was some commotion behind us, and I turned around and yep, there she was, in the middle of a pack of security guys being led out of the arena.  Let me just say that Jessica Simpson seems to be the antithesis of everything John Mayer stands for, so I don’t see what is going on there.  Well, I do see it, and I guess he’s a red-blooded American male, but c’mon John!  You write songs; you play the guitar, you dress like a normal dude!  She is so far below you in terms of talent, John . . . just please don’t let her drag you into an MTV reality show.  … Please … 

So, all in all, good show, great crowd, awesome guitar playing, and a lot of fun!

Good Call On Gyllenhaal

Note: This Post Originally Published 3-10-07

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Maggie Gyllenhaal has all but signed on to the Batman Begins sequel (called The Dark Knight) to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes.  Let me say, I couldn’t be happier about this decision.  First of all, the sequel will tout the talents of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, and Aaron Eckhart.  Does Katie Holmes really stand a chance of standing up to talent like that?  No way.  But does Gyllenhaal?  Most definitely.

Listen, I liked Katie Holmes just as much as you did up until the literal day Batman Begins opened.  I didn’t care she was linked with Tom Cruise, didn’t bother me at all.  However, what did bother me was when she brought him along to the premiere and everything and everyone got overshadowed by all-powerful Tomcat.  I’m sure Christopher Nolan was seething that his hard work had turned into just another media circus for the Hollywood power couple. 

Listen, Holmes, by doing that, proved that she cared more about herself than her art and the film she was promoting at that moment, and, in my eyes, that contradicted everything the rest of the cast and crew were doing. 

To top it all off, in my opinion, Gyllenhaal is twice the actor Holmes is, and I think her every-woman appeal will prove a good match with Bale.

Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut

Note: This Post Originally Published 4-12-07

If you haven’t heard, the great American writer Kurt Vonnegut passed away.  He died from brain injuries suffered from a fall a few weeks ago.  I think it’s only fitting that we know every move Spears and Hilton make on a daily basis, but no one I know, many of whom are avid book lovers, had heard the news about Vonnegut’s fall.While I don’t agree with everything Vonnegut ever said, I couldn’t agree more with his views on maintaining one’s individuality and thinking always for one’s self.

You will be missed, Mr. Vonnegut.