Monday, July 21, 2008

Dark Knight: Oscar Worthy?

For all the buzz the late Heath Ledger is generating for his performance as the Joker in the Dark Knight (well-deserved buzz, BTW), it does raise the question: does the movie itself deserve to be nominated for Best Picture?

Some would turn their noses up at the notion of any movie based on a comic book/graphic novel being up for an Oscar, conveniently forgetting that "Road To Perdition" was based upon a graphic novel and turned out pretty well.

Certainly, Oscar seems to overlook many action-oriented films that gross big numbers at the box office, yet will throw practically every gold statue that the committee has at something like "Titanic," which also generated big box office numbers.

If one classifies "Dark Knight" as a fantasy film rather than a comic book movie, it certainly has some good company in the Oscar field, being right up there with the likes of "Star Wars" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Or, look at it another way: compare "Dark Knight" with last year's winner, "No Country For Old Men." Both movies center around a serial killer and the confrontation between the justice and anarchy.

The differences? Well, "No Country" was a snoozefest that robbed the viewer of the final dramatic confrontation that it had spent three hours setting up. In addition, in a film full of moral ambiguity, it doesn't end up making any sort of statement. (And plot-wise, the inciting action to get the whole movie going was so ridiculous that it made the movie pointless.)

Meanwhile, no one can say "Dark Knight" dragged at any point. It sets up perfectly the confrontation between Batman and the Joker, and later, Batman and Two-Face. It raises the questions of moral ambiguity by making us question whether Batman's actions are justifiable, and gives us an ending that attempts to answer the question while leaving the matter open for debate.

Look, in addition to Ledger being a shoo-in for a nomination (and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent could easily have been up for one as well, but no way does the Academy give two acting nominations in the same category to "Dark Knight"), the movie will grab several other ones, most notably Wally Pfister's beautiful cinematography and the film's incredible makeup work. You could easily make a case for Christopher Nolan for Best Director, given the movie's amazing action sequences. (Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, also deserve credit for Best Adapted Screenplay).

And, even though it's July and we haven't gotten to what is considered Oscar season yet, name five films this year that are better than "Dark Knight." Good luck with that.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Now back to the small screen. The Emmy-popular duo of "The Closer" (TNT, 9 p.m.) and "Saving Grace" (TNT, 10 p.m.) offer new episodes.

Speaking of superheroes, "The Middleman" (ABC Family, 10 p.m.) continues its run.

Showtime presents new episodes of "Weeds" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" beginning at 10 p.m.

7 comments:

zodin2008 said...

Couldn't agree with this post more.

At minimum, Oscar nods should be given for Best Picture, Best Director (Nolan), Best original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Ledger), Best Special Effects, Best Editing and on and on.

Knowing the stuffed shirt 70 year olds that do the voting, Special effects and editing maybe the best we can hope for. Seriously.

I was emailing with some various friends this morning about the wonder that is "The Dark Knight". The best movie of the year. Right now, the best TWO movies of the year - halfway through - are 1) The Dark Knight and 2) Iron Man. Yup, you saw that right, two (the horror) genre, fanboy, comic book movies, oh, that happen to have phenominal directors, actors and writing associated with them.

The thing that makes me laugh is when the stuffed shirts of the west coast moan and cry about low ratings for Oscar, and 2007 being the lowest in history.

reality check - it had less to do w/ the writer's strike and more to do with nominating boring, odd films (No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood) with strange stories that a grand total of 15 people have seen.

Shockingly, the highest 4 rated broadcasts of the last 20-25 years? The 3 with "Lord of the Rings" and the one with "Titanic". I know - amazing, isn't it? The broadcasts watched by the most people nominated films that everyone saw.

Now this is not to say every movie that makes $200 million should be nominated. Of course not. No one wants to see "Transformers" or "Hancock" anywhere near an awards show unless Shia LeBouf and Megan Fox are presenting.

However, since 2005, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Ocean's 13, The Bourne Ultimatum and Casino Royale are all POPULAR, big budget movies, that were excellent films, with great casts, directing and writing, and had they been nominated for best picture, gee, a few more people might have been interested enough to tune in.

As my one friend just said to me, if "The Dark Knight" is nominated and goes head to head with this November's next Bond film, "Quantum of Solace" (assuming Solace matches the greatness of 2006's "Casino Royale"), he will watch his first Oscar broadcast in history.

The irony in all this? On TV, it's the crappiest most mainstream stuff ("Two and a Half Men, "Grey's Anatomy" or "desperate Housewives") that typicals steals Emmy spots from much better quality, albeit lower rated fare such as "Battlestar Galactica", "The Wire", "The Shield" or others.

They basically have both backwards and that's why the Emmys gives out awards, typical, to unworthy actors and material (although, every year we get positive exceptions such as "Lost" and "Mad men") such as "Boston Legal", the worst show to always steal nominations, annually, and the Oscars pick films like "No Country for Old Men", that many people don't even like, and very few have actually seen.

Considering how many people I trust on movies have said they hated "No Country", I can't even bring myself to ad it to my Netflix Que.

Phillip Ramati said...

Zod, good point about the low ratings and the oscar voters being out of touch.

Look, they don't have to pick five blockbusters over independent films. They need to pick the five best films. If it happens to be a record-breaker like Dark Knight, so be it. If it happens to be a small film like Juno, I enjoyed that too.

More often than not, though, the Academy turns it nose up at big, audience-friendly hits. And I don't know why a "comic book" movie is any more or less legitimate than a romance, a war film or a western.

zodin2008 said...

For the SAME reason the Emmy voters pick trash like "Boston Legal" which most critics despise, but keep ignoring one of the five best Dramas on Television, "Battlestar", because it's Sci Fi.

The people on these committees are noses in the air snobs. End of story.

I certainly agree that it should be the five best movies, and not five, "Batman" or "Titanic" sized hits.

I always point to 2005 as an interesting year because I think maybe one of the nominated movies deserved a nod, but you had a mainstream comic book film ("Batman Begins") that was one of the five best, and two independent films that were the other 2 best movies of the year "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (w/ Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) and "Thank You for Smoking" (with "Dark Knight" star Aaron Eckhardt).

If I were actually voting on the five best movies that year, I would have had all 3 of those films in my short list, and only one of them was a so-called, 'box office giant'.

My 2006 best picture list would have included "Casino Royale", and among my 2007 pics of the five best movies, I would have in fact included two, mainstream, sequals: "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Ocean's 13".

Yes, enough with a film having to be an independent release in December. It's beyond narrow focused.

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