The Oscar Warrior: Where’s Dark Knight At?


It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my first Oscar Warrior piece of the year, looking at some of the movies that will be discussed during awards season – if you missed it, you can read that here. One of the questions that came up, rather quickly, was why I hadn’t even mentioned Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

At the time, it probably seemed like a huge oversight and I’ll freely admit that I hadn’t even thought about its chances. The odd thing was that I was asked this very question by Matt Patches at back in July and here is an extended never-before-seen version of what I told him:

“‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Oscar question is an interesting one, especially when we get into the Best Picture territory, since many people felt that ‘The Dark Knight’ should have gotten in and may have been snubbed merely by the limitation to five Best Picture nominations that year.

“Four years later, we have a sliding scale of nominations, but we also have a movie that’s not nearly as strong as ‘Dark Knight’ and many wonder whether the Academy will just do the same as they did for Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and give Nolan everything this time.

“The question is whether the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy is really one that has had that same kind of support among Academy members up until this movie and the answer is ‘no.’ Neither ‘Batman Begins’ nor ‘The Dark Knight’ received Best Picture nominations and while the various branches agree that the films are technically proficient enough for awards, overall, they’re still seen as comic book/superhero movies. Since ‘TDKR’ is closer to ‘Batman Begins’ than ‘The Dark Knight’ (which was very much a ‘Heat’-like crime story), we’re probably going to see another Best Picture snub, and probably only technical awards.

Obviously, enough Oscar voters liked Heath Ledger’s performance to give him a posthumous Oscar as well as awarding it tech awards, but the directors won’t give Nolan a nomination for anything, and if they wouldn’t do it for ‘Inception,’ a far superior movie, I can’t see them doing so for ‘TDKR’ either.”

Over two months later, that’s still pretty much how I feel and really we need to look at The Dark Knight Rises‘ Oscar chances more logically.

2008’s The Dark Knight was an absolutely masterpiece even compared to the excellent Batman Begins as Nolan successfully created an amazing big screen crime-thriller set in the world of Batman. Much of that had to do with the portrayal of the Joker by the late Heath Ledger, and he went on to win an Oscar, but the movie was snubbed in the Best Picture category. This was seen by many, both fans and normal moviegoers alike, as a huge oversight on the part of the Academy, and I fully agree. In some ways, this may have contributed to their decision to extend the Best Picture category to ten nominations – which since has been changed to somewhere between five and ten.

The Dark Knight still was nominated for eight Oscars, seven of them below the line for technical achievements, and it ended up winning two, one for Ledger’s performance and the other for Richard King’s sound editing. The lack of nominations for its writing and direction were somewhat telling that those two divisions of the Academy did not feel that a genre film was worthy of nominations in those categories.

Two years later, Nolan’s 2010 film Inception was an even bigger tour de force, a masterpiece based on an original idea that really blew away moviegoers and amassed close to $300 million domestically. While that one got nominated for Best Picture with the expansion to ten, Nolan only got nominated for his writing and not his direction. While the movie did win four Oscars for under the belt categories like Wally Pfister’s cinematography, sound and visual FX. The point is that if the Academy were not willing to give Nolan credit for his direction for such an astounding piece of work like Inception, we can’t see any reason why they’d honor him for returning to the Batman franchise for a finale that’s considered by quite a few people as a letdown following The Dark Knight, despite the amount of money it made anyway.

The biggest argument for the The Dark Knight Rises is that it’s the third part of Nolan’s astounding trilogy ala Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” which did receive nominations and won Oscars in almost all major categories outside acting, but that also received two previous Best Picture nominations, which is not the case with the Batman movies. Last year’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was an amazing conclusion to the series and it only received three Oscar nominations, all below the line, and it didn’t win a single one. Clearly, Academy voters don’t feel the need to honor blockbuster genre movies regardless of the critical accolades or the amount of business they did.

We should also point out that The Dark Knight is #8 on IMDb’s Top 250 of all time and Inception is at #14, while The Dark Knight Rises got in at #29. The latter is nestled between Hitchcock’s Psycho and Rear Window, which seems pretty crazy and points more to fanboy finagling than a movie deserving to be mentioned in the same sentence with those movies.

So yeah, let’s end the discussions and any argument that Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises deserves Oscar and awards attention and Warner Bros. should stop wasting any money trying to make it otherwise, because it would be a waste of their money.

There’s no denying that Nolan is a genius and a brilliant filmmaker and we think his name will be back in the Oscar race soon enough, but fans need to stop trying so hard to make it happen with his “Dark Knight” movies.

On that note, that’s it for now. We were hoping to write something soon about the Oscar animated feature race now that the list of 21 qualifying movies has been released, but that will have to wait until we see more of them, although I hope to be upping the regularity of Oscar Warrior columns in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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Weekend: Feb. 20, 2020, Feb. 23, 2020

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