Thursday, January 22, 2009

What the...? YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!

Ok, I try not to write too many things when I’m angry but screw that noise because I’m pissed! The Academy Awards nominations came out today and these were the Best Picture nominees: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, MILK, THE READER, SLUMDOG MILLIONARE and FROST / NIXON. Notice anything missing? You know, maybe like the highest grossing film of the year, the 2nd highest grossing film of all time and yet still one of the most critically lauded films of the year? A film that has wound up on almost every top 10 list of every critic everywhere in America and was nominated by the Producers Guild of America and too many other organizations to list, you know that little movie called THE DARK KNIGHT?

I’ll admit that as a Batman freak I am more than a little biased towards the film but even then I think there are very few people in America, heck the world that will disagree with me that THE DARK KNIGHT was easily one of the best movies of 2008. I’m working on my best of 2008 list right now and when I do I will fully go into my feelings on the film but know this, in my mind it was without equal this year or heck almost any year. It’s not only the best movie of 2008 but also the best comic book movie ever made and hands down one of the single best movies I’ve ever seen and while I know I may be marching to the beat of a different drummer on some things there are countless people that agree with me.

Admittedly I have yet to see all 5 of the Best Picture nominees but of the ones I have seen I don’t hesitate to say that none of them can hold a candle to Christopher Nolan’s brilliant opus. I’m trying to keep an open mind but I’m fairly certain I’m going to feel exactly the same about the other movies when I’ve seen them as well.

The Oscars have been wrong in the past but I don’t think I can ever think of a situation where it’s been this egregious. It’s not like people were expecting them to nominate MEN IN BLACK or INDEPENDENCE DAY, but is it too much to ask to nominate one of the most well made, deeply probing, socially relevant, crime sagas of all time? Apparently it is if it’s a comic book movie.

Remember when the Oscars used to nominate movies that people actually saw and liked? It really wasn’t as long ago as you think. TITANIC, FORREST GUMP BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, BRAVEHEART, UNFORGIVEN, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, STAR WARS, THE GODFATHER, these are all GREAT movies that practically everyone in America saw and loved and the Academy recognized that.

I’ll be the first to admit that the number of truly intelligent and genuinely good, big budget blockbuster films is few and far between now-a-days but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone completely the way of the Dodo and THE DARK KNIGHT proved that. For the past several years the ratings for the Oscar telecasts have plummeted to historic lows because many people complain they’ve lost their relevance. Here was an opportunity to JUSTLY nominate a film that everyone loved and that would have brought in viewers by the truckload. The ratings would have been through the roof and the Academy would have been able to prove that they are still in touch with the American film culture.

For years I’ve argued against all the naysayer that complain the Oscars have become nothing more than a more extravagant version of the Independent Spirit Awards and that they represent the views of a bunch of better than thou, nose in the air, pretentious art snobs. After this I’m throwing in the towel and switching sides because I’m afraid this proves they’re probably right. This group of Oscar nominations has concretely proved that for the most part the Academy Awards are a joke. I guarantee you that not a single one of those five Best Picture nominees will stand the test of time like THE DARK KNIGHT. The Oscars for the year 2008 won’t be remembered as the year SLUMDOG MILLIONARE or THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON won, it will be remembered as the year THE DARK KNIGHT should have been nominated and the year the Academy added one more nail to their coffin.

Will I watch the Oscars? Of course, I’m a whore, they and I know it. Will I be as pissed off then as I am now? Maybe, we’ll have to wait and see, regardless though I really think this is a travesty for the artistic community and all those who think just because you have money, prestige and are a tent-pole film doesn’t mean you have to phone it in. Hollywood used to understand it and I think it’s shamefully sad that the few people that set out to show that can still be done only get slapped in the face for their efforts. Shame on the Academy and everyone too myopic to pull their heads out and smell the brilliance.


Christina said...

"I think there are very few people in America, heck the world that will disagree with me that THE DARK KNIGHT was easily one of the best movies of 2008."

Unfortunately, I'm one of them. I really didn't connect much to it. And the sour feeling it left in my soul afterward was not really worth it. Though I do agree that technically speaking, it was excellent, and the Joker was played perfectly.

Peter Wagenet said...

I'm entirely with Christina on that. Sorry...

Megan said...

While I think it deserved to be nominated that's half because I want to shake the Oscars up a bit. I do think it deserved recognition somehow.

On the bright side this leaves room for one of my Superman movies to be the movie that breaks that threshold. :)

Adam said...

I occupy a strange sort of middle ground on the subject. Was "The Dark Knight" one of the year's best films? Yes, easily. Is it being overhyped? Yes, absolutely. I don't believe that it's the best comic book movie ever made. For my money, "Spider-Man 2" is a more consistent film that plays almost perfectly. "The Dark Knight" has a few moments that really stretch the real-world believability factor that the film works so hard to create.

That said, I would have been ok with a Best Picture nomination for the film. The fact that "The Reader" is the film that squeezed through is ok with me too. I liked it a lot.

Let's be honest. 2008 was not the year for movies that 2007 was. '07 had two superb films in the Best Picture race alone, "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood." I haven't seen all of this year's nominees yet, but none of the three that I have seen can match either one of those two films stylistically or in terms of consistency.

All that said, I really like "The Dark Knight" and think that its gritty approach was one that served the superhero film genre well. I guess I can sympathize slightly (but only slightly) with Peter and Christina, as I felt that it did take quite a while to get moving. But once it got going . . . oh dear lord, it rolled like a freight train!

Adam said...

I should have gone all hyperbolic on my Oscar nomination article. Maybe then I would have gotten some comments too.

Oh, wait, I did!

Kelly said...

I agree with Chris on this. All of these movies are good (or have at least received wonderful reviews for those that I have not seen), but personally, I would trade out Benjamin Button's nomination for Dark Knight.

My reasoning of why it may have not been nominated: It was released in the summer. It was a great movie, but all of these movies were released afterward, and they were great, also. It doesn't seem to work that way most of the time, but apparently this is the case now. With the kind of response Dark Knight got before and after its first showing, it just doesn't make sense, and there is no other reason in my mind that this has happened.

Anonymous said...

"My reasoning of why it may have not been nominated: It was released in the summer. It was a great movie, but all of these movies were released afterward"

Pretty much, its no great secret that comic book inspired films have been getting the shaft for years by the academy but even I was hopeful TDK would get nominated in light of The Return Of The King's unexpected win a few years back.

I think the hype could have hurt it as well and they snubbed it for fear of it winning and getting the "Oscars have gone too commercial" backlash.

I agree with Adam, I have not been too impressed with many films this year BUT I would have at least had Knight on my list. Personally I thought that Batman Begins worked better as a film even though TDK raises some interesting questions that you spoke of, but kind of felt incomplete to me in the end.

Off topic, I enjoyed Spider-Man 2 but I'd put Iron Man slightly above it in terms of Marvel adaptations, it wasn't Oscar worthy but it was one of those rare film these- an entertaining summer film.

As for Superman, so long as the next one is better than the last one. This decade has not been kind to quality sequels, remakes, and "re-imagining's" and that one was one of the worst I've had to sit through.

Adam said...

You know, Chris, you're acting like this is the first time the Oscars have snubbed a movie that everyone thought was a sure thing.

They've been throwing curveballs like this for YEARS, man.

Besides, this wasn't even the worst snub of this year's Oscars. . .

Megan said...

I think most of us just want to agree more than anything that this years nominees leave us with a lack luster feeling.

The thing I am looking the most forward to is seeing Hugh Jackman as host.