Over the past day or so, since the Academy Award nominations were announced, I’ve read nothing but contempt for the Academy and its voters. “The Dark Knight was robbed,” “Best Animated Feature is not good enough for Wall-E,” “Nothing for Gran Torino? Really?” I gotta say, it’s beginning to sound a little ridiculous. Just because a movie has been in limited release doesn’t mean it should be chastised. “Art house” movies only exist because there aren’t enough investors to make said movie a large release. Know why? Paul Blart: Mall Cop made $40 million last weekend. Taking a risk and telling a good story takes a backseat to an easily marketable idea. If the Academy is out of touch with moviegoers, I thank God, because they would’ve awarded Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Shrek the Third, and Harry Potter 5 all the Oscars last year over truly fantastic films like There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. And you know what, There Will Be Blood was playing in a theater near you before the telecast, I guarantee it was, so don’t throw that “limited release” argument around. It doesn’t stick.
Yes, The Dark Knight is the best superhero film ever released and without a doubt one of the best ten films of the year. Yes, you could make a solid argument for Best Picture, Screenplay, and Director. But no, it’s not better than Frost/Nixon. I’m sorry, it’s just not. The Academy Awards speak for the members of the Academy, not for the People. The Dark Knight won the People’s Choice Award for favorite movie–one of its five wins. Yet somehow I don’t think that appeases the fanboys and girls. The Dark Knight made the most money any film has ever made its opening weekend. It’s the second highest grossing film of all-time. Its notable performance, that of Heath Ledger, is going to walk away with a Golden Guy, paying tribute to one man’s extraordinary transformation which also ended up being his swan song. The producers and crew of The Dark Knight will sleep soundly, and if nothing else, it’ll put a fire under Chris Nolan’s ass to make a potential third movie even better.
Besides, what does it matter to any of you whether or not the films YOU like get nominated? It doesn’t depreciate the film and shouldn’t de-value your enjoyment of it. Look back to the year 2000. Gladiator won Best Picture, while Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Chocolat were nominated alongside it. Do you know which movie is most memorable and has stuck with me since? Almost Famous. Dances with Wolves won Best Picture for 1990, yet Goodfellas is regarded by many as one of the greatest films of all time.
Does this mean that the Academy got it wrong? No. It just means the voters went a different way than the public. The Academy Awards are not a democracy of the people; it’s an organization of professionals patting each other on the back and peers recognizing peers for their achievements. Helen Hunt received an Oscar for being annoying in an above-average romantic comedy. Nicole Kidman got one for putting on a fake nose. Likewise, Charlize Theron was mesmerizing in Monster and Daniel Day Lewis gave a bravura, towering performance worth every accolade in There Will Be Blood. Sometimes their awards are pretty dubious; sometimes they f*cking nail it. But what it really boils down to is:
The Oscars are essentially meaningless. They’re the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma’s quarterback Sam Bradford won the Heisman this year, yet Florida’s Tim Tebow led his team to victory in the National Championship game over the Sooners. The Heisman voters are a select group of people within college sports who voice their opinions. But, if you asked any regular college football viewer they would say Tebow was already the best leader and that Texas’ Colt McCoy was unfairly shafted. Furthermore, whoever wins the Oscar for Best Picture this year will not be “crowned” anything. They won’t have bragging rights like whoever wins between the Steelers and the Cardinals next Sunday will. The Golden Globes, BAFTA’s, National Board of Review, and every critic’s association in the country get to name the movie they feel is best; there’s only one Super Bowl winner.
If it’s an outrage that The Dark Knight was “snubbed” don’t watch the Oscars. If the ratings become so low, next year they’ll start doing it like the Grammy’s where everyone whose album goes platinum will be nominated so that people will tune in to watch them perform. We can nominate Johnny Depp for whatever overrated performance he gives and we can create a special slot where whichever movie makes the most money and gets good reviews can sit. Otherwise, go see The Reader and Milk and Frost/Nixon (because they WILL be out near you before the Oscar telecast) and tell me these snobs in the Academy don’t at least know a thing or two about film. They see films one way; you see them another. I can’t for the life of me see anything wrong with that.