Heath Ledger

The Orrscars 2009

What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.

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Toward the end of Terminator: Salvation, one character explains, "What is it that makes us human? It's not something you can program. ... It's the strength of the human heart, the difference between us and machines." As philosophical rumination it's not much, but as self-critique, it's spot on. Terminator: Salvation is a sharp-looking film with a few impressive action sequences, but one almost completely devoid of emotional resonance or human connection.

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As many of you have probably already heard, Heath Ledger was found dead in his SoHo apartment today, evidently of an overdose of sleeping pills. It's not clear whether it was an accident or suicide. It is of course always tragic when someone so young (he was just 28) passes so needlessly, and more tragic still given that he had a young daughter with actress Michelle Williams. But it is also saddening that the world has been denied whatever his fierce talent might have offered in the coming years.

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I'm Not Here

‘I’m Not There’ ignores the cost of Bob Dylan’s transformations

How can you pack a life as multifarious and contradictory as Dylan's into a biopic without blasting the whole glib genre to smithereens? In I'm Not There, the acerbic and visually fastidious Todd Haynes attempts a solution: dispatch six actors—among them, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, a black child, Cate Blanchett, and a close friend of his Holiness the Dalai Lama (ahem, Richard Gere)—to capture the life of pop culture's most slippery genius. But the film misses a crucial twist in the story.

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No Man's Land

For fans and critics alike, Brokeback Mountain will forever be known as the "gay cowboy" movie. Almost invariably, the emphasis will be placed on the first half of that label--and understandably so: The love, briefly indulged and long inhibited, between Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist is the narrative and emotional core of the film and of the Annie Proulx short story on which it is based.

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Conventions Upset

 Cachè (Hidden) (Sony Pictures Classics THE NEW FILM YEAR BEGAN in at least one heartening way: Daniel Auteuil arrived in a new picture. This French actor is so incredibly credible, so unostentatiously fine, that he makes his way from film to film without attracting the hoopla that attends more consciously virtuosic actors. I mention here only two of his many roles. In The Widow of Saint-Pierre, set on that French island, Auteuil was a nineteenth-century army captain whose spiritual tenor changes while he waits for the arrival of a guillotine to execute a murderer in his charge. In Apres Vous,

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