I’m not going to give you a whole slew of Oscar predictions except to say I bet this year’s telecast will be remembered as a night belonging to two men with disfigured faces: the Joker and Mickey Rourke. (That keening sound you hear round about 8:15 will be me having a moment to myself if Mr. Rourke’s last shot at glory trumps the extraordinary Sean Penn.)
Anybody with a heartbeat knows that the late Heath Ledger will be named Best Supporting Actor. He would have won even if he hadn’t died—his quietly pained Brokeback Mountain portrayal lingers in the memory like a wronged lover and the Joker is its loud-mouthed opposite—although Ledger did not give his category’s best performance. That honor, in an odd twist, belongs to Doubt‘s Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose work in Capote earned him the Best Actor Oscar Ledger arguably should have brought home for Brokeback. Hoffman this year deftly accomplished a difficult task: He played his besieged priest straight down the middle of everybody’s perceptions, so that I could come out of the movie feeling one way but you could run into me in the lobby afterwards and swear that I was nuts.
The other supporting actor competitors bested Ledger, too: a remarkable Robert Downey Jr. put on blackface, for chrissakes, and said “Aint no thang” to Ben Stiller in the otherwise schlocky comedy Tropic Thunder; Josh Brolin made us see a murderer as a frustrated human being in Milk; and Michael Shannon turned a frustrated human being into a harbinger of middle-class doom in Revolutionary Road , a movie so indelibly depressing that the Academy decided to otherwise ignore it (I don’t blame them; the damn thing is still bumming me out).
But Ledger is dead and he avoided turning the Joker into a Jack Nicholson joke—and who doesn’t want one last public mourning over the loss of a talented young man?
As for Rourke, well, apparently everybody loves a loser. But I can’t drag myself to The Wrestler no matter how many people sing its praises. My instinctual revulsion even tops the resistance I managed against that wisecracking lil mommy Juno (don’t get me started). Plus, Rourke dedicated his Golden Globe win this year to his dogs—and that was before his Chihuahua died earlier this week. Just imagine the kind of speech Rourke’s capable of now.
Listen, I talk about my cat probably more than most people talk about their pets. But I wouldn’t thank him on television if I won an award because I know my cat would not be watching an awards show even if I were a shoo-in to win. Why would he waste the time? That’s a good three-hour block during which he could perhaps figure out how to work the bathtub faucet. And when he dies, he will not be worrying about the Oscars. He will be out there in the universe, still generally disagreeable but happily licking his own butt. Much like Mickey Rourke before someone gave him another shot at acting.