Is ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ an Oscar Contender?

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
Tom Hardy and Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
Photo: Warner Bros.

Matt Patches over at asked for my opinion on what kind of chance The Dark Knight Rises has at the Oscars this year and has since posted my comments. Problem is, those comments are 12 days old and wow what a change 12 days makes.

As opinions on The Dark Knight Rises begin to settle in and we remove ourselves from the hype machine that led up to the film’s July 20 release, the comments I emailed Matt on July 19 seem to be a bit dated. Here’s how I initially responded:

Dark Knight Rises is gonna be interesting and I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I think this is one the people will actually put in the race more than anything else (well, maybe Django too). Ebert’s review didn’t help but Dargis loving it is pretty big. I think Turan was big on it as well. It’s probably a no-brainer for a Best Pic nom, but probably a pat on the back and a placement outside the top five when all is said and done.

First, let me clarify one thing. Where I wrote “I think this is one the people will actually put in the race more than anything else,” I was referring to audiences. Reading it back, what I wrote doesn’t make much sense, but my thought was that if the film can manage to have the legs The Dark Knight had perhaps it would be able to get beyond its dark and brooding narrative. This was also a statement I made about 12 hours before the Aurora, Colorado shooting. Like I said, things have changed.

Looking back, the only thing I’d probably remove from my reply is the “probably a no-brainer for a Best Pic nom” statement. I do, however, still believe that should it be nominated it will be a “pat on the back” gesture for a trilogy well-done and remain an “outside the top five” placement. There was also talk that an Academy screening was not received all that well, which doesn’t help.

Suffice to say, The Dark Knight Rises will not be winning Best Picture and I’m rather confident a Best Picture nomination would only prove to serve as an apology for ignoring The Dark Knight in 2008, and at this time I don’t even see that happening.

That said, where does the film stand a chance for a nomination?

Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Rises
Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Rises
Photo: Warner Bros.

Realistically, I don’t think we will be looking at any acting nominations despite how good Michael Caine is in the film and him being, what I believe to be, the film’s best chance for an acting Oscar nom. You can point to the hallway conversation between Caine and Christian Bale as a perfect Oscar clip and one where Bale nails it as well.

I don’t think Christopher Nolan is going to get a directing nomination unless this Fall’s crop of helmers fail to live up to even moderate expectations and I think the film loses out in editing, art direction, sound and screenplay.

Wally Pfister has been nominated for his cinematography on Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Inception, winning for the latter, and I can’t say I felt his work here stood out nearly as much as it has in the past, which would have him placing him out of the top five at this point.

Pfister is looking at a strong lot in terms of competition with the likes of Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi), Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln), Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina), Robert Richardson (Django Unchained) and Mihai Malaimare Jr. (The Master) all posing serious threats for those top five spots before I’d consider Pfister this early in the game.

Then there’s Emmanuel Lubezki‘s work on Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder should it qualify, Simon Duggan for The Great Gatsby and Danny Cohen for Les Miserables. Frank Griebe and John Toll for Cloud Atlas are strong contenders and I would never dream of counting out Roger Deakins, even if it’s a Bond film he’s doing. Deakins’ work with Sam Mendes has always been beautiful.

Finally, after Hans Zimmer‘s score for The Dark Knight ended up eligible for the last Oscars (despite a long drawn out process of “will it or won’t it?”) I have to assume his score for Rises isn’t “original” enough to qualify this year. Even if it was eligible, his score for The Dark Knight didn’t get a nom so why would this one?

No, overall I would look at the film’s Oscar chances and call them dismal at best despite what I said back on July 19.

As for my overall Oscar Predictions, those will begin once I return from the Toronto Film Festival, the week of September 18, so stay tuned. In the meantime share your thoughts on the Oscar chances for The Dark Knight Rises. I would love to hear where you disagree.

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