(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  • The Dark Knight for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay

Come on. You knew this was coming.

Drawing from a mish-mash of the Joker’s comic book debut in 1940, the 1988 graphic novel The Killing Joke, and the 1996 comic series The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight tells the story of the titular hero’s fight against the rising threat of a criminal mastermind calling himself “The Joker” (Heath Ledger, giving an Academy Award-winning performance). Released in 2008, it grossed a staggering $1.005 billion and received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. I wonder whether the Academy members ever look up movies on Rotten Tomatoes…

It’s no exaggeration to say The Dark Knight (2008) is the film that shaped the entertainment industry the most in recent times (Sorry, 2010 Best Picture nominee Avatar). Rumour has it this is the film that got the Academy to change their number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten because of its omission from the list. The Academy’s former president Sidney Ganis said: “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words Dark Knight did not come up”. Sure, if you want to make a good movie, you need a pretty darn fine screenplay. And damn if The Dark Knight has it. Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and based on a story by David S. Goyer and Christopher, it’s a thrilling read on a par with Gone Girl (2012). If not better. The writing is incredibly sharp, absolutely dazzling and effective. In its own way, The Dark Knight is one of the most quotable movies ever. Though I’ve seen it over two years ago, some of its lines are still there in the back of my mind. Some writers can only hope they could write something as good and memorable as it. The dialogue is truly well-crafted, the characters are three-dimensional, fully developed and interesting. All of their arcs come full circle by the end of the film in a satisfying manner. Also, The Reader (2008) is an okay film, but can you really say its screenplay is Oscar material when compared to the Nolan brothers’ work?

The Dark Knight raised the bar for comic book-based screen ventures and blockbusters altogether. It redefined them. You can see shades of it in everything, from the tone of the CW‘s Arrow (2012–present) and the look of the also Batman-based FOX television series Gotham (2014–present) to the IMAX-shot action sequences in the dreadful 2009 film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Mr. Bay, you keep popping up, don’t you?). Man of Steel (2013) could also be easily boxed as lesser rip-off of Nolan’s film, with its gritty tone and use of the superhero’s sobriquet as the title. But it’s no wonder The Dark Knight has made such an impact. It’s considered to be one the best films of the past decade, one of the best comic book-based films of all time and the best Batman-based film ever. It’s one of the most engrossing crime films of the new millennium. The Dark Knight is the best. It’s THE BEST.

“The parking meter ran out”… Got it? GOT IT? Come on! Don’t you people watch “Gotham”?!

If you like Batman more than the casual moviegoer, it’s even better. It’s got the Joker, Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) and even a lovely cameo of Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow. It’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal (replacing Katie Holmes, who I think did fine in 2005’s Batman Begins, but… You know, that Gyllenhaal charm…). It’s got masterfully executed action scenes. It’s got a great, complex, thrilling, suspenseful, deep, interesting, brainy, raw, elemental and very human story that has been analysed as a thesis on the war on terror, evil vs good, anarchy vs order, corruption, hope, hope lost and human nature. It’s clever, sleek, creative, original, unforgettable and managed to defy expectations. It’s got an emotional centre more present than in many action films. It’s got beautiful cinematography, set designs, props and wardrobe. It’s got a lot of style but never crosses into style-over-substance territory. It’s got some truly excellent acting from the entirety of its cast, as well as superb standouts. I could go on and wax rhapsodic on how amazing Ledger was, but this is an article about Oscar snubs, not winners.

I think we can agree the Academy deserves an applause

If the aliens ever decided to drop by and asked what a cleverly-written blockbuster looks like, I’d show them The Dark Knight. Then, if they ever wanted to know what an egregious Oscar snub is, they’d already know where to look.

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2 thoughts on “(Awards season) At the Movies: Revisiting recent Oscar snubs

  1. Good call, and a very good film. A bit of a departure for Cronenberg, but excellent to see how he allowed the plot to develop through actors talking to each other, trusting their body language and the things they said to keep it going instead of inter-cutting with superfluous action scenes e.g. some visual representation of their dreams.

    As for Keira Knightley, she really did shine in it. Quite something to come out of a film starring Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as the most memorable performance, but then she stole it with the development of her character, the facial and bodily contortions in the early scenes of her hysteria blending into controlled poise, whilst the emotions are writ just as large.

    A shame about the Oscars snub, though in fairness I think the voting process within the Academy often has so little to do with the best work and performances that who gets it is rendered meaningless. This was the year that Meryl Streep won it for playing Margaret Thatcher, wasn’t it? Not a bad impersonation, not a patch on this, but then it’s Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher. It was a shoo-in.

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  2. There’s no denying there’s some real issues at the moment with the awards. And as you pointed out – it’s not just BLACK or WHITE. I had this discussion with a friend earlier about race and cinema. The idea of a black James Bond. Fair enough, but…what about an Indian James Bond? Or Hispanic? Or Asian? The awards highlight such issues even more, focusing so much on race….in many ways when clearly it should just be a case of the winner goes to ….whoever was the best, so open up the flood gates and start to recognize more films and talent from all over the planet. It’s mad isn’t it?

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