Batman’s New Villain: The Oscars


Okay, I’ll bite.  It’s time for my reaction as to why The Dark Knight was snubbed by the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Reader.  Where to begin?

There is an ongoing chatter that the taste of the Academy and the public are growing further and further apart.  What happened to the days when the public threw $600 million at Titanic and the Academy acknowledged it as the Best Picture of the year?  Or even in 2003 (only five years ago!) when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King grossed over $377 million and swept its competition, winning 11 Oscars including Best Picture… the times are changing.

There’s been bickering that no one has seen this year’s Best Picture nominees, and you can’t argue after looking at the low box office numbers.  Only one film is over $100 million (Benjamin Button) while the combined sales for all the nominees are barely over $200 million (approx. $210 million to date).  This trend of Best Picture films with low grosses has been something people have their eyes on.

Million Dollar Baby grossed $64 million before The Academy Awards, Crash grossed $55 million, The Departed grossed $131 million, and No Country for Old Men grossed $64 million.  And because no one has seen the films nominated, the ratings have been dropping year after year.  But to be fair to the Academy, there hasn’t been a really good, blockbuster film like Titanic or Lord of the Rings in a long time…

Until this year in The Dark Knight!  Records were dropping like flies.  Millions of dollars were being collected.  Everyone lined up to see the epic journey of Batman, along with the highly talked about performance by the late Heath Ledger.  The stars lined up for The Dark Knight, the fanboys shook with excitement, the critics praised it, the public embraced it… it was easily the most spectacular movie event of the year.

But as January 22 rolled around, The Dark Knight was singing a different tune.  All of the reviews didn’t matter.  Nor did the many Top Ten List inclusions and the number of precursor and Guild nominations.  The Academy spoke and The Dark Knight was no where to be found.

Okay that’s not entirely true.  Heath Ledger got his well-deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination and the film snagged an additional seven nominations for its technical excellence.  But that being said, there is still a huge question mark hanging over the head of the public.  What happened?

The short answer is that the Academy isn’t ready to take superhero/comic book films seriously.  I’ve been reading a lot about how the Academy doesn’t reward “genre” films, but that’s not true because of Lord of the Rings.  I, personally, thought that The Dark Knight was really going to be a Best Picture nominee.  Not only because it would’ve given The Academy Awards a large boost in ratings or because it was actually a phenomenal movie… but all of the precursors were pointing to it.  It garnered Guild nominations from the WGA, DGA, and PGA.  That’s usually a formula for success, but not this time around.

This has resulted in a backlash from Batman fans who are boycotting The Academy Awards.  I’m not that adament about the situation, though I admit I was in shock when it wasn’t one of the movies to be nominated.  Since they announce the nominees in alphabetical order, when Frost/Nixon was announced after The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I gasped.  Anyway, even if The Dark Knight did receive a nomination, no way in hell would it win.  And then if that happened, a similar backlash would’ve ensued.

I guess the only thing to say is that everything is over with and so it’s time to move on.  There are still five excellent movies nominated and they should all be seen.  It’s not the right time for a film like The Dark Knight to be a Best Picture nominee.  Maybe somewhere down in the future.  Atleast what The Dark Knight (and Iron Man) did was prove to the world that a comic-book/superhero film can be successful critically.  That’s one giant leap forward for the genre.  Hopefully it’ll even weed out the crap films like Fantastic Four that are made just to make money and begin a trend of complex, superhero plots and characters who aren’t all about the glitz and glamour.  A great start would be for the highly anticipated Watchmen to not only kick a lot of ass, but be a really good movie as well.  But for what it’s worth, 2008 still remains the year of The Dark Knight.


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