Oscars – The Opening and The Dark Knight’s Chances?

I guess Oscar season has officially begun. CNN has an article that talks about the beginning of Oscar season through the Toronto Film Festival, where many Oscar contenders begin getting their names out there and recognition. It’s exciting. There are numerous films that ahve been discussed as potential Oscar contenders being screened at the Toronto Film Festival, so we’ll see what comes out of it; critics reception, audience reception, etc. There’s already some buzz about certain movies. I’ll discuss this more at length in another post a little later, perhaps.

But the CNN article begins by discussing the dilemma about The Dark Knight‘s chances come February 22, 2009 (when the Oscars will be broadcast next year). CNN paints a grim picture. A much bleaker one than I would personally give. I don’t, of course, consider CNN (or the AP, where the story originated) any kind of experts on either the Oscars or The Dark Knight‘s chances.

It’s true, The Dark Knight has quite a bit working against it. The biggest one, of course, is the genre problem. It’s a comic book movie; a super hero movie. The only other time I can think of that a movie in the genre was even being tossed around as a contender was Spider-Man 2. Roger Ebert pushed for it to get a Best Pic nod, but no dice. The only thing super hero movies ever get recognized for is their technical achievements. Usually it’s all about the special effects, right? But The Dark Knight has something going for it here: it’s not special effects driven, like so many other super hero movies. And it’s been lauded by both critics and audiences alike as breaking the mold that previous super hero films, like the Spider-Man and Superman films had made.

Heath Ledger is an obvious shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actor nod. And this is one of the reasons I think The Dark Knight‘s chances are better than they might at first appear, the history of the genre with regards to the Oscars. I can’t think of a time that a super hero flick got an acting nomination. That alone breaks a mold that’s been set. It also opens the door to other categories that seemed off-limits to super hero movies before. If they can nominate an actor, why not nominate the screenplay? Or the director?

Although I don’t consider box-office gross a grossly (ha-ha) huge factor in receiving nominations, it’s certainly played a part in the past. Some recent Best Picture nominees (and winners) have been smaller, more independent films that didn’t even make $100 million at the domestic box office. Crash and No Country For Old Men set a modern standard that box office gross didn’t really mean anything. Last year’s Best Picture nominees made well below the $100 million mark, with the exception of Juno. Still, the last time a critically-acclaimed film made half a billion dollars domestically, it went on to win 11 Academy Awards. When asked about The Dark Knight‘s chances of a Best Picture nomination, he replied, “I would be astonished were it not nominated.”

I have to agree with Ebert. Though history seems to be against a Best Picture nomination for it, The Dark Knight has already exceeded many people’s expectations, and then some. It’s entirely possible to break such a precedent. The Lord of the Rings did it. It was the first major fantasy film to ever be nomiated, let alone win, the kinds of awards that it did. When I think of The Dark Knight‘s chances in the perspective of historical precedent, The Lord of the Rings reassures me that such precedents aren’t set in stone.

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