Christopher Nolan on Heath Ledger

  • Sunday, January 27, 2008
  • Payton Bartee
  • Taken from Newsweek, this a very cool memorandum from Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan on the kind of actor/person Heath Ledger was. Really good stuff.

    One night, as I’m standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for “The Dark Knight,” a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I’d fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you’d asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn’t know. That’s real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That’s what Heath had.

    Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren’t many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.

    One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they’d really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It’s tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there’s plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they’d given him.

    Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He’d brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he’d made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I’ve never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn’t take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.

    When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we’d have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we’d done with all that he’d given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.

    Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it’s Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can’t help but smile.

    Top 10 of 2007, Redux

  • Payton Bartee
  • WELP, I've seen some more contenders that I had wanted to see before I made this list, so I wanted to revise it a bit. No major changes except for the inclusion of Into the Wild, one of the most impressive films of 2007. It forges a spot in my top 3 due to magnificent atmosphere, message, and technical prowess. As much as I was anticipating There Will Be Blood, I left the theater extremely disappointed with PTA. Daniel Day-Lewis was epic, as usual, but I found it to be PTA's sloppiest film by far. A beauty to look at though, as always. Here's my Top 10, Version 1.5...

    Honorable Mentions:

    15. Knocked Up
    14. Ocean's Thirteen
    13. Superbad
    12. I Am Legend
    11. Juno

    The Top 10:

    10. 3:10 to Yuma
    9. Ratatouille
    8. The Kingdom
    7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    6. Zodiac
    5. Atonement
    4. Gone Baby Gone
    3. Into the Wild
    2. The Bourne Ultimatum
    1. No Country for Old Men

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk -- Midseason Report

  • Monday, January 21, 2008
  • Payton Bartee

  • Well, my beloved Jayhawks have finally entered Big 12 conference play. To be totally honest, I didn't think we'd be 18-0 coming into it, either, so the level of play I've seen from my boys has been quite the surprise. There were too many "ifs" present on this team for even their biggest fan to justify a preseason undefeated prediction. Rush's knee, Collins's foot, post presence, heart. This group has always had the talent to succeed, but the will to put away opponents and play their high octane brand of basketball on both ends of the floor has sometimes been questioned. Not anymore; at least, not from me.

    High Points:
    1. Team unity--With all the early injuries, I had my doubts about how well the regular starting 5 would play together once they all were back on the floor. But I underestimated the three years of growth they've all endured through their Big 12 challenges and early NCAA tournament losses. Now, they're all playing together like seasoned veterans, even though some pieces have been added along the way (Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins).
    2. Big men--The play of senior Darnell Jackson has been nothing short of heroic. I've observed him his entire career, and he's never played with this much fire. The guy's playing 24 minutes a game (2nd lowest of the starting 5) and leading the team in rebounding, while also coming just a hair behind fellow big man Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers for 3rd in scoring. He's been aggressive (upped his RPG by 2), smart (67% from the field!), and an overall team leader on this squad. Arthur has been exceptional as well--together, they give the Jayhawks a dynamic duo of fluid big men to run the floor...something Sasha Kaun simply cannot provide. Let's just hope Arthur doesn't declare for the draft.
    3. Bill Self--This is the Bill Self I've been waiting for since he came over from Illinois. I want the mean, motivating, blue-collar defense Bill Self, not the "Ive been to Final Fours, my team will be fine without me" Bill Self. The coach has been fantastic this year, not letting his talented team rest on their laurels at any point this season. See for instance KU's blowout of Loyola of Maryland, which for Self was apparently not a well-executed victory. He knows the limits, but I really hope he continues to ride these guys into conference play. The last thing they need is to 1) get overconfident 2) get in a trap game (hello, Mizzou) 3) choke in the NCAA Tournament again

    Low Points:
    1. Sasha Kaun--I was really hoping he would make his senior year special, but the 7-footer just doesn't seem to have the hustle necessary for this running team. He's upped his PPG and FG% from last year, but I just don't see a presence from him like I do from Jackson/Arthur.
    2. For as long as I've watched this current squad, the potential is always there for them to lose focus and drop a few games in these dog days of winter. Don't get me wrong, Big 12 play pretty much guarantees a good matchup, but the Jayhawks have one of/if not the best starting 5 in the nation. The confidence and poise they've played with on offense AND defense should be present in every game.

    1. Big games ahead--1/30 @ Kansas State could be an upset if KU isn't mentally prepared. Super freshman Michael Beasley teaming with RS freshman Bill Walker has me scared of the Wildcats. 2/11 @ Texas is always a tough place to play, but DJ Augustin is one of the best PGs in America. Oh well, at least Rick Barnes is coaching the Horns. 3/8 @ A&M reeks makes me nervous, partly because I still have nightmares about Acie Law. Mark Turgeon's a good coach, and while the Aggies have lost some depth, they've still got some great pieces in Joseph Jones and DeAndre Jordan.
    2. The NCAA Tournament--I'd be lying if I said I didn't have high expectations for this team. I love their chances in the tournament, because they have all the ingredients you need for a good run--solid post play, 2-3 scoring guards, good coaching, and defense. KU is the only team in the nation to rank in the Top 5 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency (4th for each last I checked). That speaks volumes for how well-built they are for the Big Dance.

    My Top 10 Movies of 2007

  • Monday, January 14, 2008
  • Payton Bartee
  • 2007 has been an incredible year in cinema for me. Assembling this list was both easy and difficult; there were so many excellent films, yet so few spaces in a Top 10. I'd love to call an audible and branch out to 15 spots, but I'm just going to use 15-11 as Honorable Mentions. I have never done more than 10, but there's too many good films to talk about. I have seen virtually every major release I've wanted to before making this list, but a few potential Top 5 spoilers could warrant future editing. Until then, here we go...

    Apologies To:

    -There Will Be Blood
    -Into the Wild
    -The Assassination of Jesse James
    -Michael Clayton
    -The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    Honorable Mentions:

    15. Charlie Wilson's War
    14. 1408
    13. Knocked Up
    12. Ocean's Thirteen
    11. I Am Legend

    The Top 10:

    10. Juno
    "What's the prognosis, Fertile Myrtle?"

    9. Ratatouille
    "After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"

    8. 3:10 to Yuma
    "If I don't go, we gotta pack up and leave. Now I'm tired, Alice. I'm tired of watching my boys go hungry. I'm tired of the way that they look at me. I'm tired of the way that you don't."

    7. The Kingdom
    "The end comes no matter what, the only thing that matters is how do you wanna go out, on your feet or on your knees? I bring that lesson to this job. I act, knowing that someday this job will end, no matter what. You should do the same."

    6. Superbad
    "The guy's either going think 'here's another guy with a fake ID', or here's McLovin, 25-year-old Hawaiian organ donor. Okay? So what's it gonna be?"

    5. Gone Baby Gone
    "Kids forgive, they don't judge, they turn the other cheek, and what do they get for it?"

    4. Atonement
    "I can become again the man who once crossed the surrey park at dusk, in my best suit, swaggering on the promise of life."

    3. Zodiac
    "Do you know more people die in the East Bay commute every three months than that idiot ever killed? He offed a few citizens, wrote a few letters, then faded into footnote...Not that I haven't been sitting here idly, waiting for you to drop by and reinvigorate my sense of purpose."

    2. The Bourne Ultimatum
    "Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look at what they make you give."

    1. No Country for Old Men
    "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say 'Okay...I'll be part of this world.'"

    This can't be right...

  • Tuesday, January 1, 2008
  • Payton Bartee

  • My site is worth $59,048,640.
    How much is yours worth?

    Copyright 2010 occasional contemplations