The Joker is Wild (Heath Ledger)

A week before the release of Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel "The Dark Knight," no one is talking about the Caped Crusader. They’re talking about his nemesis, The Joker.

"Heath Ledger didn't so much give a performance as disappear completely into the role," filmmaker Kevin Smith wrote on his MySpace blog after previewing "The Dark Knight." "I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but he'll likely get at least an Oscar nod (if not the win) for best supporting actor."

If that happens, Ledger would be one of seven, James Dean and Spencer Tracy among them, to be posthumously nominated.

Predicts Ledger’s co-star Gary Oldman: "He may be the first actor since Peter Finch to win the damn thing." (inch, of course, took the prize for his role as mad-as-hell newsman Howard Beale in "Network." Dean was nominated for "East of Eden" and "Giant;" Tracy for "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner." )Other posthumous nominees are Ralph Richardson for "Greystopke," Jeanne Eagels for "The Letter" and Massimo Troisi for "The Postman.")

Whether Ledger is nominated or even wins the prize unforgiveably denied him for "Brokeback Mountain" is immaterial. What is consequential, say those who have seen "Dark Knight," is the tailspin Ledger puts on his character, a smeared, sneering streak of anarchy destabilizing Gotham City’s fragile balance.

In this summer of superheroes, of "Iron Man," and "Hancock," why do you think the "Dark Knight" villain -- and not the Caped Crusader played by the supremely talented Christian Bale -- is getting all the buzz? Why are advance tickey sales for the film outpacing that for "Indy Jones"? Is it for love of Ledger, who consistently played against the grain of his characters?

Methinks that the buzz, in part, is in anticipation of a generational displacement, that fans are itching to see Ledger’s serious take on a character played to camp-comic effect by Jack Nicholson. Youthinks?