Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Awards Preview: "The Dark Knight"

The Dark Knight is, without a doubt, the most popular film of the year so far. In fact, it's currently the second highest grossing film of all time (and when it's re-released this winter, it'll probably pass Titanic for #1 on the list).

Fuck all that. Can it win an Oscar? Fuck THAT. Can it even get nominated?

My gut instinct is yes. I think it can. It can certainly count on a slew of nods in the technical categories, and the late, great Heath Ledger looks to be a look for at least a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

But how about the only one that really, really matters: Best Picture?

Well, Buzzmeter's got it at #4, which I take to be a very good sign that the hoopla over the summer is actually very real. david at All Things Fangirl (guy?) is not so optimistic:
...as far as the big race is concerned, you can all just go ahead and forget about the DARK KNIGHT.
Okay. Dave Karger, for one, thinks that Obama winning the presidential election actually helps The Dark Knight's chances:
Usually I'm not the kind of guy who thinks that outside events have too much influence on the Oscar race. I generally think it's about the movies, more or less in a vacuum. But I do think that this week's election-day results may have a profound effect on the Best Picture chances of two films. For starters, there's The Dark Knight. I thought the sequence involving the two ferries (in which a group of commuters and a group of convicts have the power to blow up each others' boats but don't) was a bit too reality-show-ish for my taste. But I know most viewers loved it. Either way, that part of the film speaks to the innate goodness of human behavior. And let's remember that Oscar ballots are due next January 12, just a week before Barack Obama is inaugurated. It's safe to say most Hollywood types will also see that event as an example of innate human goodness. All of this only helps The Dark Knight's chances, don't you think?
The problem with The Dark Knight, of course, is simple: It's THE DARK KNIGHT. It's not your "typical" Oscar movie - even though "typical" Oscar movies frequently suck (Atonement, I'm looking at you). In fact, Karger today started a mini-maelstrom of sorts by asking this question:
will voters really check off a popcorn movie?
Zing! To which the revered movie/geek/pop culture expert (seriously, check this girl's blog out) LoquaciousMuse responds:
I understand that for some people, the Dark Knight hype got the better of them..well...I sort of understand...in that way that I'll pretend I understand if you want...but so far, it's hands down the best picture I've seen so far this year. To insult my taste and the taste of millions of others just doesn't seem right to me. The whole reason this movie made as much money as it did, beyond your average comic book movie's total, and why it's getting Best Picture talk in the first place is because it ISN'T just a popcorn movie. It reinvented and elevated the superhero genre to a whole new level and to demean that accomplishment and ignore its quality is condescending at best. Those who are at this moment considering nominating Dark Knight are doing so because it's a great god damn movie and won't change their minds last second, "Bradley Effect" style. Those academy members who won't be nominating Dark Knight? They were never entertaining the thought in the first place.

I stand firmly by the belief that in the end Dark Knight will pull out a Best Pic nod. If it doesn't, it's due to that faction of the academy that will always point their noses down on superhero films, no matter how great they are. But look at this years contenders - Slumdog Millionaire is pretty good, Frost/Nixon, you know, gets the job done and from what I hear (and will be able to confirm soon) Milk is more of an accomplishment for telling the story it tells rather than an achievement in filmmaking and Benjamin Button leaves the audience oddly emotionally detatched in what should be a tearjerker. All four times I saw Dark Knight, I did laugh, I did cry, I marveled at the gorgeous IMAX sequences, I noticed new things, was affected by new things, I was always impressed with the performances and was consistently left itching for the continuation of this story. Some say the film is too didactic, but one element of the superhero genre that should always be maintained is the moral lesson, the grand themes of right and wrong and the epic battle of good versus evil. It's why the genre was created and why it's not going anywhere.
Okay, soooo... here's what we can conclude:
  1. Everybody liked The Dark Knight.
  2. Because everybody liked The Dark Knight, its Oscar chances are iffy.
  3. None of this actually makes any sense.
Christopher Nolan made a film that has become one of the biggest hits ever, thanks to a perfect storm of factors surrounding its release: it was a sequel to an extremely popular film, it fits into a well-established and revered pop culture franchise, it was impeccably well-made and well-acted and, it must be said, transcended the normal world of fandom with the tragic, internationally-reported death of Heath Ledger, who happened to give a performance that was bound to be hailed as visionary and legendary anyway.

There's never before been a movie to which all that has happened. So, even though The Dark Knight may be *gasp* a popcorn movie in the end, it is at an almost Titanic- or Star Wars-like level in terms of pop culture phenomena. Both of those films - popcorn movies - got boatloads of Oscar nominations, and Titanic, of course, won Best Picture. The Dark Knight might not win anything (big) come Oscar night, but I do expect it to be nominated, if for no other reason than it is one of those rare, once-or-twice-in-a-generation pop culture EVENTS that, by nature, throw all rules of normalcy out the window anyway. The Dark Knight has, as LoquaciousMuse says, rewritten the superhero genre. It's poised to rewrite Oscar history as well.


Brendan M. Leonard said...

I think it gets Picture, Director, Best Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and a bunch of technical award nominations.

LoquaciousMuse said...

Well said! You got it! EW Dave seriously needs to have you write his predictions.

david said...

there are a bunch o' reasons the dark knight won't (or at least shouldn't) get nominated, but chief among them is it's putrid rewatchability - a critical factor in the world of screeners and potential theatrical re-releases. Unless you're a certain someone who saw it 4 times and could likely have seen it 4 more, the film's narrative clumsiness and decidedly less-than-impeccable construction really come to the forefront on repeat viewings, what with the adrenaline and wow-factor of the first screening a thing of ze past.


am i really saying that a movie WON'T be nominated for best pic because it isn't all that great!? best pic... at the oscars!!??! okay, nevermind, it's going to win literally every award, including best animated short.

NOW i'm confused.

LoquaciousMuse said...

david marghy!!

haha you know i think you actually like dark knight a lot...you'll see...YOU'LL SEE AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
i love rewatchibility rewatchability rewatchamiolity chdhsrewat

that is all