Essays

The Dark Knight Will Win Every Oscar. Or Not.

The movie with the best shot at garnering multiple Oscar nominations might not get any.
By  · Published on October 21st, 2008

Yesterday, when I went to go rent a certain movie about a genius engineer who builds an iron suit to fight crime in, I was asked if I wanted to pre-order a certain movie about a billionaire playboy who builds a bat suit to fight crime in. Suddenly, The Dark Knight was thrust back into my mind. Of course, if I was any good at my job, it probably should have come to the forefront when we reported last week that several Oscar-bait films had been pushed back to 2009. After all, for every film like The Soloist that gets delayed out of contention, The Dark Knight‘s chances of a nomination or win increases.

Then I read Christopher Cambell’s piece on TDK‘s chances over at the Spout, and I realized that we’re not going to get away from this movie anytime soon. Neither is the Academy.

Since even before the film was released, people were chattering about Heath Ledger deserving a nod for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s likely now that he’ll get it. He might even win if the field continues to be this lackluster. And it’s because the field is so thin right now that the movie has chances at loftier awards – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor – and could arguably hear their names read when the nominees are announced.

Even putting aside the fanboy mantel for a second, The Dark Knight has been the year’s best film so far. It’s dark and brutal, marked by incredible writing and excellent delivery by a slew of seasoned actors. Christopher Nolan showed strong ability at the helm, and the writers certainly have produced one of the more engaging features of the year. The only category that seems incredibly suspect is a nod to Christian Bale for Best Actor. The guy deserves one, but not for Bruce Wayne or his gravel-throated Batman.

Getting optimistic, The Dark Knight could also pull down nominations for Best Score, Best Make Up, and Best Costumes. Best Editing is beyond optimism even, but these other categories work in the film’s favor. Make Up and Costuming are both strong, and show something that most films don’t have an opportunity to show – that actual costumes can be realistic.

If the pace continues (which is most likely won’t), The Dark Knight could be looking at 6 to 8 nominations – a fantastic improvement on Batman Begins‘ single nod. Certainly, other films will have something to say about that, but there’s something more formidable standing in the way of TDK actually getting more than Ledger’s Supporting shout out: The Academy itself.

The movie’s only hampered by the asinine politics of the Academy, the utter predictability that they’ll drool over a movie no reasonable human being enjoyed during the season or one that no one got to see because it was released on December 31st while the rest of us with souls were celebrating the coming of a new year.

It seems both automatic and improbable that The Dark Knight would be nominated for Best Picture. On the one hand, it’s an incredible film. On the other, it made more money than Bill Gates this year and is a widely popular movie. We all realize that the last time that combination took home the top prize was when Titanic somehow made it to the top of the list, and that’s where the similarities between those two films end. So, at the end of the day, popular appeal may actually be the ice berg that sinks TDK.

Christopher Nolan will probably be boxed out for a Best Director nomination by Demme, Aronofsky, Boyle (taking the slot now allotted to the hip new indie), Eastwood, and Fincher. Not to mention Sam Mendes and Gus Van Sant waiting in the wings.

He, Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer have a better shot at Adapted Screenplay, considering the strength of their work and the source material. Plus, that category isn’t as strong this year. Now if the Academy feels comfortable nominating comic books as a source material. Stranger things have happened – like, say, theme-park rides as a source material.

The Best Actor nomination is as much a pipe dream as Ledger’s Supporting nomination is a sure thing. It would be hard for Bale to pull a nomination or a win considering he wasn’t the most dynamic or memorable performance in the film.

As for the technical awards, there’s no denying that music, costuming and sets did a lot of heavy lifting to create the tone of The Dark Knight, but the Academy has a bad habit of not paying attention to films set after 1900. Period pieces and costumes are much more difficult to design and make right? Keep that in mind when Australia is nominated for its costumes and set design but not for Best Picture.

So it seems like The Dark Knight would be a strong contender for several awards. Or not. It will be left up to whether the Academy cares to break its cycle and nominate a strong film despite how strong it is. And part of that strength comes from being released in the summer and still in the front of our minds. It stands out and deserves recognition. Hell, I remember more from The Dark Knight than I do from W. Luckily for us, the film-loving community, we’ll be able to see the process in action with how thin the AMPAS veil of absurdity is. The groveling politics of it all. The glad-handed press releasing style of voting.

I imagine we won’t be able to escape The Dark Knight or the Oscars for the rest of the year. Get your engines revved up and ready to complain, revel, moan, celebrate, boo, and applaud up until the big night when, most likely, no one will be watching.

Would you be upset if The Dark Knight were to be completely overlooked come Oscar night? Also, if Heath Ledger wins one, is that enough?

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