Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Academy might completely screw the best cinematic sequel of all time.

So the Golden Globes aren't the Oscars but they're seen as a prequel to the Oscars. Golden Globe nominations usually closely mirror those of the Oscars a few months later.

This summer, a little movie entitled The Dark Knight hit theaters and proceeded to blow away some of the highest expectations modern day cinema goers have had for a movie. It instantly shot to the #2 greatest film of all time on the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 films of all time. ALL TIME! It's since settled nicely into the #4 spot but if you look at the top 20, all of those films have Oscar written all over them. And if the Golden Globes are a true precursor to the 09 Oscars, The Dark Knight is going to get the greatest cinematic shaft of them all. Now, you may be screaming the words Shawshank Redemption at your screen right now but remember, it got NOMINATED FOR SEVEN OSCARS! The fact that it didn't win a single one is truly tragic but as of now, The Dark Knight stands to get one and only one nomination come March. So, I'm throwing the first stone as I expect the Oscar nominations to closely mirror those of the Golden Globes. Here's my list of ten reasons The Dark Knight should be getting more Oscar press than it currently is. Of course I'll be happy to eat my words if it gets the nominations it deserves.

10. It's the first film EVER to use a combination of IMAX and 35mm formats in a theatrical release. All of the action sequences were filmed in IMAX so if you saw the film in IMAX, you were treated to some of the most awe inspiring images you've ever seen on an 80 foot hight movie screen. And it's not getting a cinematography nod because???

9. Oscar winner Hanz Zimmer and Oscar nominee James Newton Howard collaborated to create the movie's score. Haunting and terrifying harmonies pushed you to the edge of your seat when you were watching the movie. Its score is sure to be used in trailers for decades to come. The score itself was just as much of a character as the actors in the frame. Where's the nomination for best original score. Can't nominated it because it's a sequel and the music has been done before? Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings are a few movies that come to mind.

8. Special effects. Everyone saw the big rig flip in the trailers and when we got to the scene in the film, we all knew it was coming. But we still laughed and clapped our hands when we saw it happen. When Batman and Mr. Lau were zipped from the blown out building in Hong Kong, applause. Nearly all of the effects were done for real but using a computer to enhance these effects is a skill all in its own. And the Oscar goes to Indiana Jones for making big ants look really really scary and for making a Jeep chase in the jungle look really really bad!

7. Directing. How do you make a two and a half hour movie worthy of re-watching it a mere seconds after the credits start rolling? Two words. Christopher Nolan. Think that this was a fluke? Have you seen Memento (IMDB #28), The Prestige (IMDB #82), and oh yeah, Batman Begins (IMDB #99)? Some films like are great fun to watch because of the special effects and action scenes such as Mission Impossible III and Aliens (IMDB #64). But then there are films such as Heat (IMDB #132), Saving Private Ryan (IMDB #57), Casino Royale 2006 (IMDB #242) and The Bourne Trilogy (Ultimatum #139) that bring emotion and complexity to the equation. Nolan did that in spades when he directed the fourth best film according to voters on the IMDB.

6. Why do we care about a semi-psychotic billionaire that dresses up in a bat suit? Because Oscar caliber writing makes us believe in Batman and his motives. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan deserve a nod for adapted screenplay. Yes, the story of Batman has been told for well over half a century but making the new Batman story is a work of genius all in its own.

5. The cast. Now, there isn't an Oscar for best cast but let's take a moment to look at the caliber of actors and actresses that have contributed to the film. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, and Christian Bale.

4. The impact of The Dark Knight on the action hero and super hero genre. No longer do we follow our hero without wondering where they came from or why they do what they do. We movie goers want to feel what the hero is feeling. We want to hurt when they hurt. We want to see the world through their eyes and not through that of the third person. We have yet to see The Dark Knight's true influence but look back on this post in a couple of years and you're sure to see that many films have used Nolan's work as a template for their own.

3. The Dark Knight is a masterful collage of genres. It is an action film. It is an adventure film. It is a love story. It is a summer blockbuster. It is a tragedy. How do you put all of that into a a package and make it believable as well as entertaining? See #7.

2. $530,722,000. The Dark Knight's current domestic ticket sales total. $600,788,188 Titanic's domestic ticket sales total. Difference = $70,066,188. Did I mention that The Dark Knight is going to be released on January 23, 2009?

1. The Dark Knight's lasting appeal. This film is timeless. Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker will go down as one of the greatest achievements in acting the silver screen has ever been a party to. Christopher Nolan's masterpiece will be watched for decades to come. And it will be loved and admired. Why do films have lasting appeal? Because they're not only beautifully filmed, but because they've got the entire package. The stars, the director, the dialogue, and the story.

It's not often that a film of this caliber comes along. Sadly, The Dark Knight is set up for one of the biggest Oscar snubs in history. Let's hope and pray that I'm wrong.


Blogger Vardulon said...

You might want to take your own advice and give the film a couple of years for the hype to cool off before crowning it a 'masterpiece'. There are quite a few possible reasons for the film to be overlooked come Oscar time:

Among the bigger ones-

It's about an hour too long.

The main character is so whiny and passive he makes Hamlet look like Rambo.

The last third is edited so awkwardly that it's barely coherent.
All the action is shot and edited so badly it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on.

The plot starts out as a series of holes, then eventually degrades to the point where it's just one big hole with little scraps of plot hanging on around the edges.

Ledger's Joker is the most one-dimensional villain in recent memory.

Characters act so idiotically that the film could act as the feature length definition of what Roger Ebert calls 'The Idiot Plot'

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This dude actually blogs obsessively about one dimensional characters (CSI, Jason Vorhees)...he might know what he's talking about. Or...and this is how I feel...he might have to "suck it easy". Suck it easy Vardtard.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Vardulon said...

So, to be absolutely clear, your argument is that because I have a lot of experience with bad cinema and television, I -wouldn't- know it when I saw it?

Are you sure you don't want to think that through a little further?

1:03 AM  
Blogger JBW said...

Hey amigo, screw that asshole; DK fucking ruled.

But I fail to understand your fetish with the Academy awards: as I see it, it's just a bunch of self-important millionaires handing each other yet another award in front of a bank of cameras. I understand the importance they held 50 years ago when it was the only game in town but there are now literally dozens of awards shows for every conceivable acomplishment in entertainment, and I find pretty much all of them unwatchable (despite my appreciatation for Stewart's self-depricating humor).

On top of that, every year I see great action, sci-fi, comedy, comic book flicks that I love (DK amongst them) being ignored by the Academy while boring, self-important dramas, love stories and period pieces rake in the statues, despite the fact that no one with an actual set of cock and balls under the age of fifty paid to see them (unless coerced by a girlfriend/wife). You can't tell me that Iron Man wasn't one of the best flicks to come out this year, and despite their resemblence, I don't see him taking home an Oscar.

That said, I have to admit that Bale's Batman voice was comicly hoarse, Gyllenhaal was fairly inconsequential (as was Holmes but she was infinitely easier on the eyes, despite her Scientological insanity), and the scene where Joker is picked up on the street at the outset, despite the great foreshadowing and camera work, was a huge hole in the plot point of the other robbers not knowing he was the mastermind behind the bank job. Otherwise, good points, pal.

1:10 AM  
Blogger JBW said...

Sorry, Vardulon; I wrote that last comment before I saw your follow up to Anon's own.

And I'll have to second that emotion: yes, the fact that you have a lot of experience with bad entertainment means that no one should take your word for it when you proclaim something such, especially when I know better.

Example: I might know a fellow who eats in greasy, fast food burger joints all the time (he's you in this analogy); then, I take him to a top of the line steak house for a high quality filet mignon, which he subsequently proclaims to be dog food. Now, do I take the word of a man with a tragically unrefined palate, or do I trust my own more refined sense of taste?

Knowing bad cinema doesn't mean you can discern good cinema when it sits on your face; it just means you know bad cinema. Go back to masturbating to your gore-filled comics, hoser.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Vardulon said...

Thanks for following up, JBW, but sadly, your reasoning was just as flawed as Anonymous' before you.

In your analogy, you seem to be implying that your 'fast food loving friend' having knowledge of trash food means that he's unable to recognize good food when he sees it because he has an underdeveloped palate - but that's an assumption you're making without any evidence to support it.

All that you can say given the evidence in your anecdote is that your associate knows a lot about bad food, and that he would likely know it when he saw it.

Similarly, the only information you have about me is that I enjoy critiquing terrible films, and as such, have some familiarity with the things that make a film bad (awful characterization, unmotivated characters, an unending supply of plot contrivances, terrible camerawork, poor storytelling, huge logic leaps and holes, etc...). My assertion that the Dark Knight contains enough of these to qualify as a 'bad' film go unanswered, which is fine - you're not here to defend a film, you're here to attack a critic.

You're extrapolating that I must not know what a good film looks like because I didn't recognize The Dark Knight as a good film, but that argument stems from the premise that DK is, in fact, a good film, a premise that I will not concede, and which, as I mentioned in my original comment, I doubt there can be any kind of impartial analysis on until we have a few years between us and the hype.

I'm the perfect example of someone who got a little distance between himself and the film. I walked out of the film having had a great time (other than Ledger's awful, one-note performance), but the further I got away from it, the more problems I realized I had overlooked because I was swept up in the experience in seeing a new Batman movie by a writer/director I love (the Prestige was my my #2 on a list of 2006's best films). I'm not saying that the filmgoing public as a whole, or even you as an individual, are going to fall out of love with the film once there's been time for reflection and consideration, I'm just saying that, taken solely as a film, DK has enough structural and technical problems to disqualify it for any serious consideration as a classic, or even as a 'good' film.

It's too bad we can't see eye to eye on this film situation, JBW, from a quick perusal of your website, I'd guess that you and I have a lot in common, beyond our differing tastes in vigilantist entertainment.

On the upside, it's thought that you think of me as enough of a friend that you'd take my hypothetical analog to a fine steakhouse for dinner.

Friends are nice.

You can never have too many.

2:55 PM  
Blogger eric said...

Thanks for the comment, Vardulon. You're correct when you say that the plot is filled with holes. But then again, are they really holes? Or are they the true definition of cinematic-coincidence?

I find it interesting that you've chosen to reference Shakespeare and Roger Ebert. For one, Billy S is not the best example if it's a rock solid and easy to explain plot you're looking for. Ever try to explain what Timon of Athens is about? Or how about Twelfth Night? Measure for Measure? I see you as a fan of the Martin Riggs Hamlet.

As for Roger Ebert, here's the link to his Dark Knight Review. I may be blind but I've yet to find the "Idiot Plot" in his review of the film. If it were that convoluted, don't you think he'd have used his own definition in his review?

I appreciate your feedback, but I read your comment and I can't help but see you as that one unhappy guest in a posh downtown restaurant. There are four hundred happy people sitting around you that love what they've chosen, but you don't like your meal because it was a little fatty and oily. But then again you chose the Duck confit so one might say, "the joke's on you."

Look, there's nothing wrong with not liking the film. Just know that saying The Dark Knight is a long winded, poorly edited, poorly acted film is like telling hordes of teenage girls not to watch Twilight because of the plot breakdown during the last minutes of the second act.

3:07 PM  
Blogger eric said...

Yes, the Oscars are a fraternity/sorority and I hate both of those. But there's not a single person that works in the industry that wouldn't want "Oscar winner" in front of their name. Very rarely do the Academy and I ever see eye to eye. This is one of those times when I wish we would.

I don't usually get all Oscar sensitive, but TDK really blew me away.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't one of Ed Wood's favorite directors Orson Welles? And isn't one of Ray Dennis Steckler's favorite directors Ed Wood. Could account for Vardtard's fascination with Nolan.

8:29 PM  
Blogger JBW said...

Vardulon, I must apologize for any personal or ad hominem attacks I leveled against you last night: I was working on my fifth martini at the time and feeling a little confrontational after sparring with some close-minded, mental midgets at a political blog, hence my troll-like behavior.

As Eric says, it's perfectly alright for you not to have liked DK; one's tastes in movies, just as in all art and many other things in this world, are completely subjective. Perhaps a good rule of thumb for all of us to follow would be to say that in my opinion, this was or was not a good movie. Just as I might love the filet, that doesn't definitively prove that it will taste good to everyone; just that it will taste so to me.

On a personal note, I have to admit that the topics you focus on in your blog are not really of great interest to me so I probably won't be checking in there again anytime soon, but please feel free to drop by Brain Rage and comment on anything you might find of interest. As you say, you can never have too many friends.

9:50 PM  

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