Friday, January 23, 2009


So. The Oscar nominations were announced. So how many of the major categories is The Dark Knight nominated for? One! A measly one nod for Best Supporting Actor for the late Heath Ledger.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy he was nominated. I'm ecstatic he was. And I'm sure he'll win.

Let's face it: It can't be easy to take a character from a 2-dimensional cartoon drawing and turn it into a 2-hour 3-dimensional performance. Jack Nicholson did a good job in the original Batman movie, playing the character much darker than it had been before, with just the right touch of violence. But his character was still largely cartoonish in nature, and somewhat comedic, and you never took his scenes too seriously.

That was NOT the case with Ledger's Joker. His portrayal stripped away all traces of the comic book. There was nothing to laugh about here. His Joker was an anarchic agent of chaos and death, uninhibited by rules of either law or society. His Joker would just as casually shoot you as look at you. And, unlike the Jokers of the past, Batman could not defeat this Joker, not as long as he held fast to his own rules. In the end, the only way Batman can beat him is to sacrifice his own reputation.

But Ledger's performance was not the only thing to admire in this movie. There were excellent performances elsewhere as well. Christian Bale has, for me, become the character of Batman. Michael Keaton did an adequate job in the first two movies, but his performances could not match the sheer intensity portrayed on-screen by Bale in both of the latest movies. Val Kilmer? Forget about it! George Clooney? Two words: Bat. Nipples.

Aaron Eckhart also did well as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. His fall from shining white knight to murderous disfigured vigilante was easily believable. And Maggie Gyllenhaal did a much better job than Katie Holmes. I know Katie hails from my hometown (Toledo, in case you were wondering) but she just doesn't have the talent. Sorry Katie. Gary Oldman as Lieutenant/Police Commissioner Gordon does well in a largely thankless role as an honest cop trying to play by the rules pitted against an enemy who has no rules. And As far as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are concerned, well, by my count they have 11 academy award nominations and 3 wins between them. 'Nuff said.

And the direction is spectacular! Many of the scenes in this film were shot using IMAX equipment, so the visuals are stunning. (I never managed to see an IMAX version of this film, unfortunately, something I hope to correct at some point in the future.) The movie itself, while over 2 hours long, never drags or lacks for action or suspense. And when a movie can make a theater full of people sit in stunned silence no less than four times (by my count), you know it is effective.

But, like all summer blockbusters, the movie was robbed of the Oscar nods it deserves. Oh sure, it got its share of nominations for the less prestigious categories: Editing, make-up, sound editing, etc. (And it should win the make-up category hands down based on Two-face's make-up alone), but those are minor in comparison.

Oh well. I can console myself with the fact that the movie swept nearly every category in the People's Choice awards. For my money, those are the REAL Oscars, since the winners of those awards often tend to out-earn the Oscar winners by a factor of 5 to 1, or more.

And the producers of the movie can console themselves by sleeping on the huge piles of money they made off the second-highest grossing film in box office history.

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