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Caped Crusaders?

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2011 by erikball123

There is something about masks that I’ve always found very intriguing. I don’t think you’re a true theatre person if you don’t like the occasional trip to the Halloween store and the smell of manufactured latex. From a theatrical stand-point, I’ve always been intrigued by the function of a secret identity and how it plays into a story, character or circumstance? Fun stuff. Superheroes immediately come to mind. Halloween too. Bank robbers, I suppose fall into that category.

Then I thought about how that particular “art” imitate life (to take a giant slice out of that drippy, cliche pie.) Then I started thinking about the masks we all wear, everyday.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a phenomenal cast and crew of “LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS” for the past few months. The show runs until August 27. (Summerlin Library / Performing Arts Center – For Tickets: With that said…it doesn’t feature any superheroes (although I suppose that’s arguable, in the figurative sense)…no references to Halloween…and no bank robberies. But, I’ve found the exploration of the main character, Seymour, to be very much like how we go about our lives: trying to reach that unattainable goal, scared of the circumstances, and ultimately hiding our true selves in the process.

Seymour, the meek geek of a botanist, doesn’t know how to effectively relate. He only has “life experience” and it hasn’t been a very good life thus far. So, his options are limited. In walks Audrey…a prim, perky package of pep in a tight-fitting dress. She’s a delightful caricature and has a strong-hold on Seymour’s heart. (Is it because of over-exposure? After all Seymour doesn’t get out too much. Or is it because she desperately needs rescuing…and Seymour desperately needs to rescue something because of his circumstance. Who’s to say!) One thing leads to another and before you know it, Seymour’s feeding bodies (limbs of the people who were obstacles in his mission) to an alien plant who talks. (Oklahoma it is not.)

Seymour is an underdog. Someone an audience member would want to root for. He’s brow-beaten. He’s only known the gutter. And here walks in a beautiful young lady who is simply out of his league. She’s abused, humiliated and a tower and a dragon away from being a textbook damsel. Any audience who wouldn’t yell “grab a sword, Seymour and rescue yon maiden!” is missing something. The plot is what one might call…a bit predictable.

The reason I like the musical so much has to do with Seymour. Sure, it’s a plight we’re all accustomed to. Sure we can imagine what might come next. But, here’s a guy who is willing to change his ways, and ACT on his feelings…to do what he thinks is right. You see it doesn’t matter if it IS morally right…or ethically right. All that really matters is that the character THINKS its right. That’s what creates such affective heroes and villains.

The mask I wear in front of my high school drama students is not the same mask I wear in front of my boss, or my next door neighbor or a police officer who just pulled me over. All are different (and perhaps a simpler) adventure then, say, Seymour’s…but the act of donning a different personality to do what’s “right” is very much the same.

Okay, now let’s take two giant steps back.

Ever been to Comic Con? I haven’t. I don’t collect comics…but I find them amusing. I have a deep respect for those who love comics, science fiction and fantasy. I think there is a place in this world for those whose energies are drawn to projects and efforts that are outside the realm of reality. In my eyes…that’s a hiccup away from theatre.

You ever wonder why people get such a thrill from dressing up and invading these conventions with their painted squirt guns and way too tight tights? “Whoa! Don’t get too close to that crazy chick who is spilling out of her unitard and trying in vain to convince us she’s Firestar! The situation may be combustible.” Yes. Combustible. Heh.

I sure have to give credit where credit is due, however. You cannot say these people aren’t passionate about their loves. (I mean, have you ever argued that Superman is better than Batman with any Super or Bat fan? By the way…Batman is WAY better.)

One thing that I’ve noticed about these Comic Con crazies is their willingness to don a mask (physical or otherwise) to completely immerse themselves into a character for the sake of an event…or rather a “coming together of like crazies.” This fascinates me, but not for the reasons you think. For the same reason I can enjoy the occasional Renaissance festival, but I would never keep an outfit of guilded, rustic armor in my hope chest in anticipation for the next event….I think Comic Con, Renaissance festivals, and even the first day of school (which is a mere week and a half away for me….yikes) all fall under the same category: they are meetings of like individuals, with common passions and a willingness to don a mask so as to create an acceptable character in the hopes that the performance will be well received. Arguable? I bet you ever teacher at Faith Lutheran has purchased their new outfit for the first day. My shirt (costume) is red.

Whether you are the actor portraying Seymour Krelbourn in the story “Little Shop of Horrors” (and an effective piece of theatre) or a scared freshman looking forward to embracing the trials of high school (again, an effective piece of theatre!)….everyone wears a mask. I think it is expected, appropriate and ultimately what brings people together. But just like every masked character, they go forth with the firm understanding that they will face conflict. (Otherwise, why wear the mask?)

As you waltz into Comic Con as Firestar (or rather, Math class as Jeff)…take a look at the wonderful fun house that surrounds you. All the lush characters and fun masks. Please remember that underneath each one lurks an actual person….with passions, feelings and secrets.

Perhaps if we embraced this…it would bring worlds together and make wearing capes socially acceptable! I don’t think you need superpowers, Excalibur or a stage to do that.


Posted in MY "TOP" LISTS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by erikball123

When you’re backed into a corner in some hyper-exaggerated, super enhanced tale of super powers versus super evil…who will certainly swoop down and rescue you at the last second and save the day? That’s right! The faithful neighborhood sidekick. After all, the superhero has better things to do, right?

I never understood the reasoning behind a sidekick. (From the sidekick’s point of view anyway.) I mean…if you were a super hero who is obviously doing well and highly respected, why on earth would you settle for babysitting a second-hand, second-class super hero as a tag-along? You’d spend your precious time narrating city-saving plans in great detail when you could be freeing people from burning buildings. You answer questions that don’t need to be answered. There are two sets of tights to wash now!

Rarely do I think of super-side-kicks without getting rather annoyed about the whole affair. I mean…what’s SUPER about any of them. They’re nothing more that plot devices to further story lines, or joke setter-uppers.

With that said…I pay tribute to the most PATHETIC sidekicks of all time by presenting the TOP 20. Mind you this is my personal opinion…and yes, my list expanded beyond just these 20…so for all of you who are surfing the Internet for a good Mr. Green Jeans ribbing, move along. He’s number 21.

20. CHEWBACCA (Han Solo’s sidekick)

20 chewbacca

I am totally planning on waking up tomorrow morning to a small army of Star Wars ninjas at my front door ready to slice me in two with their plastic light sabers and over-sized social calenders for even suggesting Chewbacca is pathetic. But, face it…the dude is not very bright. He’s easily distracted, loud and obnoxious…and does anyone really buy the fact that his weapon of choice is a crossbow? (“He’s the hairiest Star Wars character yet. Let’s give him a weapon that would require the exposed firing mechanism to be completely unobstructed. Brilliant!”) On top of that, we never know what he’s saying! Sure, Jabba gets subtitles…but not the overgrown Chinchilla with a crossbow.  I think the REAL purpose of Chewbacca is to give Han Solo more sway, you know. He’s cool anyway…but with a giant bodyguard behind him who is fiercely loyal….shoot, I won’t mess with the guy. Would you?

19. ETHEL (Lucy Ricardo’s Sidekick)

19 ethel

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more enjoyable than a blast from the past as we watch Lucy and Ethel cram chocolates into their mouths, or gawk over William Holden…Ethel earns a spot on my elite listing not because she can’t set up a joke for the lead, or because she isn’t remotely sympathetic. More so, I’m mad at her for marrying a man that is clearly her grandfather. Fred Mertz is the walking dead and Ethel is his crypt keeper. The whole situation isn’t the least bit funny. A funny old man is at least “use-able”…then we’re laughing at the situation because it’s just plain dirty. But, what the heck!? The whole thing is played off as totally convincing, and it is SOOOO not. As a result the whole situation just fails, big time. I wind up not liking Ethel because of it.  I’m a theatre dude, and I’m cool with the whole suspended reality thing…but, come on. Ethel will always remain an unfortunate CRYPT KEEPER!

18. ROBIN (Batman’s Sidekick)18 robin

Now, let me preface this one. I actually like ROBIN as a sidekick in a sense, but ONLY from a Batman television series perspective, for two reasons. One, my wife and I adopted our Great Pyrenees from a rescue shelter in California that is owned by Burt Ward and his wife. (GREAT people, by the way who I wouldn’t say a bad word about.) Secondly, in the realm of hokey television superheros, I think Robin has a place. Without a “Holy Hairspray, Batman” before the ensuing, captioned fist-fight, I think I would feel empty inside. It’s just hokey-pokey silliness, and silly = good in my book when done right. Now, Robin in the freakin’ George Clooney/Uma Thurman Batman remake disaster, that’s just plain dumb, dumb, dumb. (That goes for Silverstone’s pudgy Batgirl…and ANY sidekick that has “boy” or “girl” attached to their moniker.) So, for the record…cheers to Burt Ward’s Robin. Keep on soarin’! To all the other Robin’s out there…I give you the bird.

17. IGOR (Dr. Frankenstein’s Sidekick)

17 igor

Granted, Marty Feldman can do just about anything and make me laugh, but we’re not talking about the “Eye-Gore” from the Mel Brooks film. Rather, Igor in general. It’s just a lumpy, dumpy, ho-hum character. The subservient, “jump when I say jump” type of character gets old quick, and soon you find yourself wishing he’d just pick up a snow shovel and clobber Dr. Frankenstein…or the monster…or a Bunsen burner….or something! Do something, you humped simpleton!

16. SMEE (Capt. Hook’s Sidekick)

16 smee

Again, props to my friend Paul who played Smee opposite of my Hook. This has nothing to do with you Paul…merely the Smee from versions of the story onscreen. I have a hard time liking Smee, which I think is one of the author’s immediate goals. Smee seems to always be portrayed as a dolt. You know…a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Bob Hoskin’s Smee in “Hook” was the only thing remotely close to an onscreen interpretation I thought was what Smee should have been: a proud man in a coward’s clothing. That’s a struggle. That’s a sub-plot. That’s fun. A dolt is nothing more than a dolt…and that never does anything for me except leave me wondering if that stupid crocodile would like an after-dinner SMINT.

15. PATRICK (Spongebob’s Sidekick)

15 patrick

I want to be very clear: I do not apologize for this one. Patrick is quite possibly the most annoying character I’ve ever watched. He’s like a perfect combination of the most hyperactive ADHD 7-year old you can find…and…just about any methamphetamine.  This comment will hurt some people, I know. But if you truly are a die-hard Patrick fan, then you are used to the controversy that surrounds Spongebob in general. The whole show is about as controversial as pre-death Michael Jackson. (Too soon?) This, plus,  he looks kinda like a “naughty part” to me. That’s just wrong.

14. WOODSTOCK (Snoopy’s Sidekick)

14 woodstock

Snoopy is so freakin’ cool. I love him. Why in the WORLD would he need a complaining, fuzzy sidekick who does nothing but spew forth indecipherable jibber-jabber? Plus, he looks half-drawn half the time. I don’t have anything personal against Woodstock (which begs the question of “Was someone high at the time the bird was drawn?”) it’s just he’s not needed. Trim the fat!

13. SMITHERS (Mr. Burns’ Sidekick)

13 smithers

I love the Simpsons, even if Family Guys continues to fuel the “silly” section of my brain with up-to-date media references and a constant flow of Broadway references,  Simpsons is still kinda cool. And to piggy-back that statement, Smithers is kinda cool. But, he’s totally pathetic. This lightweight, light in the loafers personal assistant to Mr. Burns is always shedding light on Burns’ crusty, unfocused attacks. He’s picked on, unappreciated, and unsympathetic because he never does anything about it. Who likes a masochist sidekick?

12. MINI ME (Dr. Evil’s Sidekick)

12 mini meOkay…before I say that little people are funny (and I refuse to enter the “why the word midget is okay to say” debate)…let me just say that in the performance industry you have to understand your limitations in order to effectively market yourself. Little people have it easy in the sense that the demand is usually a short list. Ahhh…excuse me. What I mean to say is, little people are in demand and take advantage of these acting gigs to heighten their exposure…ah….sorry. Little people are funny!!!! They’re smaller than normal. They’re travel size!

Joking aside, you have to appreciate someone who can laugh at themselves which is exactly what actors do when they accept roles like “Mini Me.” But, beyond the subject of Little People actors (and the fact that those Mini Buffalo Ranch Chicken Burger at Jack in the Box look good without or without the Little People dancing around them)…Mini Me in general is yet another example of an under appreciated sidekick. Ask anybody why they like Mini Me. You usually get an intelligent response like, “he’s funny” or “cuz he’s smaller…and he’s funny.” It’s just a comedic bit that lasted beyond the normal length of a traditional bit which is one of Mike Myers’ trademarks: overextending himself. (Or, rather “under-extending” himself??)

11. TINKERBELL (Peter Pan’s Sidekick)

11 tinkerbellI’m assuming we’ve all been to the land of merriment and high marketing called Disneyland. My last trip I had a single goal: bring my wife back something with the Cheshire Cat on it. (Her favorite.) For the love of all that is holy…I couldn’t find anything more than a freakin’ key chain featuring the pink and pesky puss. The stores were infiltrated by floods of Tinkerbells! It was borderline ridiculous. I get it. Little girls wanna be a princess or a fairy. Fine. But, c’mon!!! Do we really need Tinkerbell toilet paper and Tinkerbell elbow pads?? (Both can be gift wrapped.) And what helps me round out the bottom portion of my top 20 list with this green fairy is the simple fact that she’s not very nice. Don’t let that smile fool you. Why Peter chose her as a companion is beyond me. I suppose everyone likes to be fawned over. (But, c’mon. How much fawning can one gal do at two inches tall?) She’s the epitome of that jealous girlfriend you had in high school that told all her friends to be mad and ignore you because you took of breath of the same air Betsy Jones did in math class. She’s mean! She’s the perfect commentary of how WRONG today young ladies are being raised. “Here you go girls….here’s a role model you can be proud of! Now get that tiara on! We’re gonna be late for our Sunny Apple Beauty Pageant. We’ll kill those hussies!”

10. PINKY (The Brain’s Sidekick)

10 pinky

There’s a lot to be said for the Anamaniacs series. I thought it was incredibly funny stuff, and they always hugged that line of trying to keep things educational, which I liked. Then there was the secondary storyline of “Pinky and the Brain.” What’s to be said about a Dr. Evil-like rodent and the dim-witted…borderline mentally incapacitated…sidekick. They were certainly funny…but the storyline got really old after the first second. We knew Pinky would mess things up. We knew the Brain would get angry and eventually caught because of Pinky’s shenanigans. We knew it. Plus, his name is first, which makes us think the Brain is the sidekick. So, for me…it was a predictable, abrasive, shove-the-joke-down-your-throat, attempts at bringing together a legit comic team. Leave the honeymooner bits to Ralph and Norton.

#9 VANNA WHITE (Pat Sajak’s Sidekick)

9 vanna white

I love Vanna White. That doesn’t mean she’s not a pathetic sidekick. I recall watching a taped interview with Merv Griffin about how Vanna was hired. The good-ol’ boy proceeded to recount how he told his secretary to pick 12 random head shots out of hundreds and lay them on his desk. He walked in a pointed to one and said “that one.” From there, Vanna has lived countless years on television as a household sex symbol. She apparently never ages. She’s constantly in demand. She’s bloody rich and famous and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. All she does is walk back and forth and flip letters. (Actually, now all she does is touch the screen and they pop up.) And all this opportunity, recognition, fame and celebrity was brought upon by one old fart’s libido. Gotta love the performance industry. Pathetic, isn’t it.

#8 TATTOO (Mr. Roarke’s Sidekick)

8 tattoo

I’ll tell ya…as cheesy as Fantasy Island was, I still found value it the show. But the reason Tattoo is on my list…an rather high on the list…is because I always thought should I ever die after a terrible nightmare, it will be because someone like Herve Villechaize was standing over me with an axe waiting for me to abruptly wake from my shaky slumber. It’ll be like a dream about me being chased by an army of rabid bagels through some Jewish deli. In my frantic attempts to escape I’ll run into Sammy Davis Jr. He’ll be like “Who’s chasing you, baby? The Sesame? The Poppy Seed?” And I’d be like “I DON’T KNOW!!!!” Then I’d wake up! Tattoo, axe in hand, would say “It’s Da Plain! Da Plain!” And then he’d kill me.

#7 MARCIE (Peppermint Patty’s Sidekick)

7 marcie

It seems that every time Marcie and Peppermint Patty come up in conversation the subject of lesbianism is always suggested. I will not exercise lesbian jokes. Marcie was secretly in love with Charlie Brown and every true Peanuts fan will know that. Just because we never saw Peppermint Patty in anything but husky sandals doesn’t mean a thing. I live in the desert, I see that sort of thing all the time. They can’t ALL be lesbians! And it’s not that I’m not fans of sandals or anything. (Heck, I own a pair, doesn’t make me a lesbian….wait a minute….actually, I suppose I am a lesbian. *pondering* Hmmmm.  How the heck did I get on this topic!!) Anyway…back to Marcie. She’s the quintessential “follower.” She hangs on Patty’s every word and can’t wait to one-up her in intelligence. She’s the brains behind the brawn you might say, and everyone knows that the brains rarely get the recognition they deserve.

6. AL BORLAND (Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s Sidekick)

6 al borlandWhat a pathetic sidekick. Behind every funny man is a sidekick who sits frozen with a disapproving smirk on their mug. I used to hate the never ending banter between Al and Tim about the stupidest things. (I can’t believe I watched that show as often as I did. Those are hours I’ll never have again!! Darn you Jonathan Taylor Thomas and your stupid popularity!!) It was just a bad show that flourished in the post Cosby era that should have been cancelled as quickly as Tim Allen used to juggle dime bags. At Least Richard Karn (who played the role) landed a sweet deal with Family Feud after the show ended. “Survey Says? ERRRRRRRRRR!”

#5 TWIGGY (Buck Roger’s Sidekick)

5 twiggy

Yeah…I can’t stand this character. “Be-de-be-de-be-de-be-de.” This character found himself on my list strictly because of the voice over. It’s like the Darth Vader thing all over again. Except this time the actor looks like he can’t even move in that suit. Seriously, doesn’t TWIGGY look like he’s gonna fall over half the time!? Just a terrible idea. Yet…people liked him. I don’t get it. It’s like Klingons, I suppose.  Armies of people memorize the the Klingon dictionary and find great joy travelling in packs and ordering Big Mac by saying “AGGGKKKPP. GUNNNG, POOOOG YAAAGGG!!!” Just…..WHY???

#4 PAUL SHAFFER (David Letterman’s Sidekick)

4 paul shaffer

I would be remiss to leave Paul Shaffer off of my top ten list.  His less-than-sharp, more-than-cheesy segue music for late night guests is just…well…lackluster. His contrived laughter after every twinkle of Letterman’s eye drives me nuts and what’s with the giant, stupid ear plugs? Does he has swimmer’s ear? Does he take on water? Simply put, in a cage fight featuring  Ed McMahon and Paul Shaffer…McMahon would be the world champ (and I’m NOT just saying that because he’s dead) and Shaffer would be a bald pile of goo underneath the turnbuckle. A bald pile of goo with gigantic ear plugs. (If the guy is going deaf, I’m going to feel really bad now.)

#3 BOO BOO (Yogi Bear’s Sidekick)

3 boo boo

Boo Boo opened the door for any undiagnosed couch potato suffering from depression. He’s the biggest ho-hum on television. Droopy Dog was ho-hum, but at least he was blue and had his OWN cartoon. But, Boo Boo, he’s just a downer. I feel depressed after watching a cartoon with him in it. He’s like,  “It’s okay to sponge off of your friends’ picnic baskets.  It’s okay to say that you’re worried, or sad, or gloomy. And furthermore, it’s okay to lumber around with a frown on your face and droopy eyes.”  Boo Boo is a sad little bear. (And I think he’s a “cutter.”) I feel sorry for him. Now that he’s old and gray, I hope he’s found some happiness in his life. But, truth be told, Boo Boo is quite pathetic and was Hannah Barbara’s biggest boo-boo.

2. ORKO (He-Man’s sidekick.)

2 orkoYes, yes…I know, Orko wasn’t officially He-Man’s sidekick. And C-3PO wasn’t Luke Skywalker’s. Whatever. He was “pretty much” his sidekick…so I’m going to count it. And NO, Kringer should not have made my list because as Battle Cat…he’s a freakin’ pimp. Orko is just annoying. He’s like that little nephew that won’t leave you alone at family functions. You know the type. You just can’t wait till he follows you into the backyard for a slice of watermelon so that you can trip him in the doorway. That’s Orko…I just WANT him to get comeuppance. Anytime he gets electrocuted or made fun of…or when one of his tricks doesn’t work…I’m like “yeah! Take that stupid hovering…thing.” ORKO…what a dork-o.

1.) SCRAPPY-DOO (Scooby-Doo’s Sidekick)

1 scrappy

Words cannot express my utter hatred for this character. Scooby-Doo has never been, in my book, a television masterpiece. Yet, I watched and enjoyed. I think I was just totally hot for Daphne…but that’s besides the point. The whole show was a hot mess from day one, and it came to a screeching halt when Scrappy hit the scene. What an annoying little bugger. (Kinda like that chicken hawk twirp that bugged Foghorn Leghorn.) You just wanna smack ’em. Scrappy remains the top of not only my Pathetic Sidekicks list, but also my “Most Annoying Television Characters list” and my “People I would Beat to Death with a Garden Weasel” list. Scrappy…”puppy power” your over-sized head off…these Scooby snacks are all mine!


Well, that’s all folks…..there’s my list.

Sure you may think to yourself, “how dare he leave Barney Rubble off.” His laugh makes me laugh. “How dare he leave Fozzie Bear off.” I actually like his sad attempts at jokes. “How dare he leave Ernie off.” I consider Bert and Ernie one puppet. “How dare he leave Sancho Panza off.” Too literal.

I’d love to hear about your LEAST FAVORITE SIDEKICK. Perhaps there are a few out there I haven’t thought about.

“wHy so sERIous?”

Posted in LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2008 by erikball123

I was inspired by my MS Clowning & Puppetry Class to talk about the world’s coolest villain: the Joker. Yeah, I’m a die-hard Batman fan. Forget web-slinging fools or Superdorks in spandex, the Bat is the man. In class my students are working on building their own clown characters based on classic clown types, which can be very hard to do. Clown characters are supposed to be extensions of yourself…to a degree. They are exaggerated, overly physical, comedic beings that are supposed to be offered as a “caricatured you.” Everyone, of course, wants their clown to look like Heath Ledger portrayal of the The Joker…and at that age, everyone seems to associated clowns with psychopaths. (Not a class period goes by when I ask for examples of Whiteface Clowns that a student doesn’t shout out “IT!”….from the Stephen King movie/novel. Like, I’ve seen it, or something! Heh!) But, truth be told, clowns (whether good, bad or ugly) remain a highly respected and under-appreciated form of performance art to this day.

But, back to Batman. First and foremost, I must give kudos where they are deserved. I’m not one to throw award predictions around or make idle comments on the scope of an actor’s worth based on a single performance…but if Ledger gets an Oscar nod, or an actual posthumous award, I wouldn’t be surprised. His portrayal of the deformed, destructive, smiling lunatic in THE DARK KNIGHT, is simply amazing. What a multi-layered performance! I truly enjoyed the movie.

But, I grew up with Batman. Reruns from the 60s series ran at 6:30am before I went away to school everyday. (And, no I did not grow up in the 60s.) I used to LOVE the Penguin…he was my favorite villain for a while on that show…but after catching Grumpy Old Men (that cinematic masterpiece), turns out I only really like Burgess Meredith. But, the campy series was like eating a handful of marshmallows. Not much substance, very sweet, easy to swallow…and leaves a weird taste in your mouth afterward. It was just a smidge….eh…..weird. I categorize it under the same file as old-school Star Trek. While a fan…there’s just something about those types of shows that seemed almost “underground” and unpolished. It was like I was watching a late night, cable-access, University television show produced by obnoxious frat boys and brilliant chess club geeks collectively, complete with choppy editing and lame plot structures. But it was fun.

However…I need to talk about the Joker on that series. (Played by a forever mustached Cesar Romero.) First of all, shave your stinkin’ mustache if you’re playing the Joker, dude! I don’t care how in-style they were. Some say it was Romero’s monniker. (Much like Marilyn Monroe’s beauty spot.) Whatever. Under all that make-up Romero just looked….well, skraggly! Second…the dude never smiled. He always looked like he was in pain, and being shocked by a Tazer gun at the same time. He bounced around, and while the contrived laugh he cranked out every now and then seemed out of place at times…it was kinda creepy. The lavender suit, phoney laugh and cheesy plots all kinda ran together for me. Sometimes “Joker episodes” would leave me very unhappy.

I’ve never caught the Batman animated series, but…check it out…Luke Skywalker does the voice of the Joker. What the stink!? Joker Skywalker! Eh. Doesn’t seem like a good fit for me. But then again, who else with ANY star power are they going to find to voice the guy. Hayden Christinsen? Nah. Harrison Ford is still frozen in carbonite and is a bit unavailable.

Then there was Jack Nicholson. There is nothing bad anyone can say about this guy. I think he’s borderline brilliant…and the fact that he’s a grade-A arrogant slob in real life, doesn’t really bother me much. There is something about the way he carries himself in every picture that just “sells!” If you look back at that first Batman movie….completely out of context in comparison to the later Batman films…you HAVE to agree that this film was HUGE back when it was released. Just HUGE. It was the rebirth of Batman….they had huge star power behind the film…and it was a lot of crazy movie magic. Win, win, win. Granted…Nicholson’s Joker wasn’t nearly as tragic as Ledger’s…but the fun house approach to the character was so cool. Everyone wanted to be the Joker after the movie came out. (Just like my students now!) And I think there are moments in that film that are just plain freaky. When the surgeon, in the abandoned hospital carefully unwinds his bloodied bandages….and then the impatient Joker pushes him aside and rips of the rest, grabs the mirror…and slowly laughs as he stumbles away… cool.

So that leaves us with Ledger, who I would argue, presented the Joker character in the flesh for the first time. (Which is something that I think is hard to do with comic book characters. I rarely see it. Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy and Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luther are only a few I can think of. I hear Iron Man is good.) Ledger’s Joker was fun to watch and we wanted to know more about the character so badly that we almost ended up rooting for the guy in the end. The only criticism I had about the movie, and it may be simply because of Ledger’s sudden and tragic death, was the fact that the Joker overshadowed the other characters. Put Ledger the actor aside for a moment…take a look at that storyline and the those performances. It’s actually a brilliant film. Dang…Two-Face is cool, huh? Loved that subplot. But, the film itself won’t get the recognition it deserves because of Ledger’s passing and the fact that for his final performance…he delivered.

I’m not a horror movie fan. My wife is…and if you know her, her soft-spoken, caring and intelligent approach doesn’t seem like the slasher type, but she really loves ’em. I don’t see too many, quite frankly because I like to sleep at night. But there are some movies that skate the fine line between horror and action or fantasy. I can handle those. The Dark Knight was one of those films that really got me pumped up for the closing sequences.

So, my vote goes for Ledger, followed by Nicholson in a close second….followed by anyone without a moustache. Sheesh.

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