Thoughts on the 81st Academy Award nominations.

22 January, 2009

I was so confident in a Best Picture nomination for The Dark Knight that I would’ve put money on it. Luckily I’m a spineless coward and don’t bet because I was only 80% right in my predictions for this category. Which picture filled the fifth slot instead? I thought perhaps WALL-E or even The Wrestler would sneak in, but no, it would be The Reader. Yet another Holocaust-themed film. Boy was Ricky Gervais onto something.

As someone who was never on the bandwagon for The Dark Knight, it’s interesting to look at its snub from this position. Despite its massive box office and prestigious reaction from critics, it will not join the ranks of Jaws, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. Now the film will have to age on its own without the presence of Oscar gold to automatically denote quality. Every picture is flawed, and to me, The Dark Knight’s flaws are deeply glaring and even damning to its quality as a truly great film (“One set piece too many,” as the great Mark Kermode said.), so years from now when the mystique created by Heath Ledger’s untimely death washes away(Exactly one year ago today.), people will start to realize just how good or bad the film really is. That includes your humble skeptic.

But now there is the question of relevance, something the Academy has been struggling with lately. 2007 was a marvelous year for film buffs such as myself but the general public doesn’t give a damn about the Coen Brothers or Marion Cotillard. They care about the movies they saw, and everybody and their mums saw the latest Batman flick. Still, Heath Ledger’s posthumous nomination for his already iconic performance should be reason enough to tune in at least for a little while. Every year there is one actor or actress who simply has no competition despite what the nominations list says; it was Helen Mirren two years ago, Daniel Day-Lewis last, and this year it is the late Heath Ledger. Also the presence of Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Robert Downey Jr., and both esteemed members of Brangelina have to count for something. Last year all they had was George Clooney whose powers as a box-office draw are questionable to begin with. Surely the ratings will increase considerably after last year’s telecast but by how much is the question.

The majority of bloggers around the globe are likely clenching their fists over the Dark Knight snub but there is only one that has me a little irritated: No Bruce Springsteen! Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a huge fan of the Boss to begin with (I think he peaked with Born to Run), but I felt his song for The Wrestler was among the best of his career and more importantly complimented the film beautifully. And as much as I liked Slumdog Millionaire, one nomination in the song category is enough. I’d personally pick “O Saya” over “Jai Ho” but that’s just me.

Well now I have to see The Reader to discover what all the fuss is about. In all honesty, any complaints about relevance go right over my head because I almost never agree with the nominations anyway. I’m used to this sort of disappointment and therefore this is one of the few areas in my life in which I look for the positives as opposed to the negatives. And this year I count three positives: Danny Boyle, Martin McDonagh, and best of all, Werner Herzog. Two great artists and one downright cinematic genius. I’m happy.

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on the 81st Academy Award nominations.”

  1. Mr. Russell said

    Just saw The Reader today. It was better than the book, I thought. A little different than your standard Holocaust fare in that you’re meant to sympathize with a Nazi prison guard. I’m biased, because I like anything Kate Winslet. I hope you saw her episode of Extras. It all seems somewhat prescient now. (Star in a World War II/Nazi flick. Get Academy Award.)

  2. Noah said

    But of course! If she does win it’s only fair that she thanks Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant steering her in the right direction.

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