Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight

An early whispering campaign has already begun in Hollywood for a posthumous Oscar to be awarded to Heath Ledger for his brilliant performance of the villainous Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

The morning show on KTLA, Los Angeles, raves about Ledger’s “blockbuster performance” that “hits all the right notes.” They say that Ledger turned in the best performance of all time as a villain in a super hero movie.

And they were not the first to say it in print.

The Rolling Stone’s critic, Peter Travers, who calls The Dark Night an “absolute stunner,” a “thunderbolt,” and a “potent provocation,” pulls no punches in rhapsodizing over Ledger’s portrayal, writing, “I can only speak superlatives of Ledger, who is mad-crazy-blazing brilliant as the Joker. Miles from Jack Nicholson’s broadly funny take on the role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Ledger takes the role to the shadows, where even what’s comic is hardly a relief. No plastic mask for Ledger; his face is caked with moldy makeup that highlights the red scar of a grin, the grungy hair and the yellowing teeth of a hound fresh out of hell. To the clown prince of crime, a knife is preferable to a gun, the better to ‘savor the moment.'”

Reviews thus far have been beyond glowing or incandescent; they have been nuclear blowouts for Ledger, as well as for the entire cast, particularly Christian Bale as Batman, Gary Oldman as good cop Jim Gordon, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox the toy-designing scientist, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, and Michael Caine as Bruce’s purring butler, Alfred.

But it’s Heath Ledger’s performance that will remain in your mind, in your soul, and in your nightmares. Dead at 28, The Dark Knight is his last completed picture. If he wins the Oscar, he will be the first to do so posthumously since Peter Finch in 1976’s Network.

Ledger was immensely talented, truly humble, and vastly popular. What could be a more fitting tribute to his legacy than an Oscar? Hollywood seems to be aiming that he gets it.

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