I'm back, faithful readers. After a delightful week in the Caribbean with the Geek Beat Gal, I have returned to my laptop to pound out another edition of the wildly loved (well ... by me anyway) Geek Beat. Before I break into today's topic, let me quickly address the reply to my recent "Movies to Date By" column.

Boy did we get a good list. Over 80 movies were suggested by readers, and while either Holly or I had seen a good majority of them, there were at least 60 or so we had not watched together, which makes them great date-experiment fodder. I've compiled a nice little list, and we're busy deciding exactly what to do with it. I'll be sure to let you know my plans for sharing the results with you soon -- and once we get through the list, a prize or two will be awarded for the top suggestions.

On to today's topic: Heath Ledger. When the announcement of Ledger's casting as the Joker in Nolan's Batman sequel The Dark Knight first broke, I had no legitimate opinion to share, but I promised one as soon as I had time to figure out what it was. I've been sitting on that thought for several weeks now, trying to settle my mind on the prospect of Ledger as The Clown Prince of Crime. It didn't sit well with the community at first blush, and it hasn't exactly gained steam in the meantime. After a number of days thinking on it, my entirely personal opinion is one of cautious optimism. Let me explain.

First, you should know I'm an optimistic guy at heart. I've been very accurately described in the past as a cynical optimist, although I'm not entirely sure of what that means. So keep it in mind when you dissect my thoughts for what they are worth to you.

Ledger can do charisma. I may not particularly enjoy A Knight's Tale or lavish praise on Casanova, but I will admit he pulls off those roles with good flair and panache. He does the likable rouge thing rather well, and that will work to his advantage when playing the Joker. He'll hopefully be able to give the character at least some depth -- a must for actors aspiring to the Joker role. He hasn't displayed anything yet which makes me believe he'd be a great fit for the part, but who is to say this won't be the role which proves it? Maybe he's just a one-trick pony of an actor; it wouldn't be hard to believe. But maybe he's got what it takes for this sort of role, and just hasn't chosen a movie to prove it yet. It'd be easy to be very negative about this, and trust me, I'm fighting the urge with every word I write. I'm not saying he's going to be good yet, I'm just saying I'm not convinced he's as bad a choice as everyone seems to think.

In truth, I find the heart of the debate lying with another man entirely -- director Christopher Nolan. Ultimately, I'm forced to ponder this question (a question I promise you will be asked by far better minds than my own in the coming year or two): is Nolan a talented genius capable of gallantly reviving a proud franchise, or just a guy who got lucky once? For now, I'm choosing to believe the former. Batman Begins was a great flick, largely thanks to the talented cast assembled by Nolan for the first flick (Katie Holmes aside, of course). Let's also not forget Memento, his earlier work which also earned him high marks. I praised Nolan when the Batman film hit, and I have no reason to back down on that praise yet. He has earned my trust, and he's keeping it until he gives me reason to take it back. Unlike directors such as Tim Story and Jon Favreau, he has proven his chops and earned his cred in the superhero realm.

Would Ledger have been my top pick? Certainly not. His name wasn't even on my radar for good candidates. Like most of you, I had my hopes lying with one of the other hopefuls out there being supported by the rumor mill. There were several good names mentioned who I feel would have been excellent casting choices for the role, and most of them I would have picked before even thinking of Ledger for the part. However, I don't think this diminishes Ledger's ability to play the part. I don't know if he will make a good Joker. I have the same doubts as everyone else. But I'm willing to give him, and Nolan, the benefit of the doubt here. My advice for now is to relax and accept it. Leave the directing to Nolan, he has more than earned your faith by now, hasn't he? If he screws up, you can meet me back here with a big "I told you so." But hey, we're talking about Christopher Nolan here. Do you really want to put your chips on him failing?