‘Dark Knight’ snub puts it in great company

Posted by · 9:20 am · February 7th, 2009

Christian Bale in The Dark KnightWhile I, too, am tired of the carping and griping about this years Academy Award nominations, I still have not been able to wrap my head around how this group could have snubbed “The Dark Knight” and Christopher Nolan. They obviously liked the film, something akin to “Dreamgirls” two years ago, landing many nominations but lacking best film and director.

But “The Dark Knight” is in pretty fine company in terms of great films not nominated for the big prize. I have always found it incredible that a group of people so close to the industry (working within it, actually) could miss films that we as critics and audience members know to be great films.  How does that happen? Are the Academy Awards truly elitist? Are they wrong-headed? Or are they that political and so controlled by the studio campaigning system that they really can be swayed like the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

Yes I am still smarting about “The Reader,” whether it really was #5 or not, because I share Kris’s opinion of the film: sloppy, not very well put together, not particularly moving, and aside from Kate Winslet, in a SUPPORTING role, the film did not not seem to have very much going for it. Yes I have heard all those nasty rumors and theories about Holocaust films getting nominated, and until now, I have never put much stock in them, but I have to tell you, this one stunned me.

Would I be so miffed if it was “Gran Torino” or “Revolutionary Road?” No, because with the former I would understand the Eastwood love, and with the latter I believe it should have been nominated, but “The Reader” has left me in a spin.

Mr. Nolan, you made a great film, something the Directors Guild of America (God bless them) recognized, and legions of admirers anxiously await your next work, Batman or not. And rest assured you are in good company, here are some of the great films that the Academy chose not to nominate for Best Picture:

“City Lights”
“The Bride of Frankenstein”
“Red River”
“The Bicycle Thief”
“Seven Samurai”
“Night of the Hunter”
“Some Like It Hot”
“Cool Hand Luke”
“In Cold Blood”
“Planet of the Apes” (1968)
“They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”
“The Last Detail”
“Last Tango in Paris”
“Seven Beauties”
“The Tin Drum”
“Nosferatu” (1979)
“Blow Out”
“Prince of the City”
“Das Boot”
“Under Fire”
“Once Upon a Time in America”
“Fanny and Alexander”
“Stand By Me”
“Au Revoir Les Enfants”
“Empire of the Sun”
“Cinema Paradisio”
“The Last Temptation of Christ”
“Casualties of War”
“Do the Right Thing”
“Miller’s Crossing”
“Thelma and Louise”
“Ju Dou”
“Malcolm X”
“The Age of Innocence”
“Ed Wood”
“Natural Born Killers”
“Bullets Over Broadway”
“Dead Man Walking”
“The Bridges of Madison County”
“Toy Story”
“Leaving Las Vegas”
“The Crucible”
“Boogie Nights”
“The Sweet Hereafter”
“The Apostle”
“The Truman Show”
“Fight Club”
“Almost Famous”
“Requiem for a Dream”
“A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”
“Far from Heaven”
“Catch Me If You Can”
“Minority Report”
“Atanajurat: The Fast Runner”
“A Very Long Engagment”
“The Passion of the Christ”
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
“Pan’s Labyrinth”

All great films, some of them among the finest EVER made, all snubbed for Best Picture.  But what about the 10 GREATEST films never to be nominated for the big award?  Easy.  In no order:

“King Kong” (Merian C. Cooper, 1933)
It was a marvel of special effects and just simply a grand adventure. The Academy snubbed it in every category, not even nominating the special effects or giving it some sort of special award for its achievement. Shameful, because this was by the far the best film of its year.

“Singin’ in the Rain” (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1953)
It’s often regarded as the greatest Hollywood musical ever made, and though I prefer my musicals darker, the sheer joy is infectious throughout. Gene Kelly never made a better film, and the infamous sequence of the film’s title is a classic movie moment. Oscar? What happened?

“The Searchers” (John Ford, 1956)
Ford brought a poetry to Westerns in the visual language that few directors have been able to touch since.  He also had a knack of bringing brilliant work out of John Wayne, who was superb as Ethan Edwards, the seething rage all but burning a hole in the screen.

“Some Like It Hot” (Billy Wilder, 1959)
This comedy, voted the greatest of all time by the American Film Institute, was snubbed for Best Picture in a year that saw William Wyler’s epic “Ben-Hur” win a record 11 Oscars.  Billy Wilder’s wonderful farce showcased career-best work from Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.  AMPAS blew it.

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (Stanley Kubrick, 1969)
It seems a likely case of the Academy admiring the film but not being able to make heads nor tails of it. Ironically, they nominated Kubrick for his direction but could not see fit to nominate the film, which was groundbreaking and a major step in the New American Cinema movement.

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
This was Spielberg’s first film after “Jaws,” which made him a household name. A beautiful tale of aliens contacting earth is filled with images that leave us in awe. When my brother and I stumbled out of the theater we overheard a woman mutter, ‘My goodness…that was like seeing God for the first time.”

“Manhattan” (Woody Allen, 1979)
This film landed Woody Allen on the cover of Time Magazine and was hailed as the decade’s best. The beautiful black and white dramedy was Allen at the height of his considerable talents. Mariel Hemingway was heartbreaking as Tracey, while, as always, Diane Keaton and Woody were perfect together

“The Empire Strikes Back” (Irvin Kirshner, 1980)
The sequel to George Lucas’s groundbreaking “Star Wars” was a better film, but only managed a few technical notices.  Deeper and darker, with a strong epic sweep, this was easily one of the five best films of 1980. I remember clearly the audience’s sharp intake of breath when Darth Vader reveals his secret.

“Blue Velvet” (David Lynch, 1986)
This film was actually attacked mercilessly by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel who went from talk show to talk show running it into the ground, no doubt causing it some votes. The National Society of Film Critics named it bthe est of the year, and it just have might have been.

“Magnolia” (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
This was simply the most daring film I had seen in years with a director in absolute control of what was happening on screen.  He merged his style with that of Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese, yet never imitated, because he is simply too fine a director to need to do so.

Okay, make it top 11 — I’m cheating:

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Simply because it so moved me and was so beautifully made on every level. I recently saw the film again abnd I marveled at Roger Deakins’s haunting cinematography, the sublime work of Casey Affleck and the tragically brilliant Brad Pitt as Jesse James, who seems locked in step with Ford in a curious dance of death.

There’s mine…yours?

→ 30 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

30 responses so far

  • 1 2-07-2009 at 9:56 am

    yanny said...

    every year the academy just prove how irrelevant they became, and if they keep this bullshit up, no one will pay attention.

  • 2 2-07-2009 at 10:10 am

    Casey Fiore said...

    many of my favorite movies actually
    – Fight Club
    – The Big Lebowski
    – The Royal Tenenbaums
    – The Incredibles
    – Dazed and Confused
    – The Empire Strikes Back
    – The Terminator
    – Raising Arizona
    – Mean Streets
    – Cool Hand Luke

  • 3 2-07-2009 at 10:13 am

    Ephemeral said...

    Just let it go! It wasn’t that great to continue whining about it! Why don’t you dedicate a whole article to WALL-E being snubbed for Best Picture. I don’t know why The Dark Knight gets all this spotlight when better movies were snubbed. I guess it’s because it’s the populist movie, but The Wrestler and WALL-E deserve a spot over The Dark Knight.

  • 4 2-07-2009 at 11:09 am

    N8 said...

    I was equally mortified that The Reader muscled in, but I definitely feel Winslet’s role in the film is a LEAD.

  • 5 2-07-2009 at 11:24 am

    Mike said...

    Why TDK fans are going after The Reader and not Frost/Nixon is beyond me. Frost/Nixon was overly accesible pseudo-political tripe. The Reader atleast showed some degree of thought and complexity.

  • 6 2-07-2009 at 11:25 am

    Jacob said...

    We’re still talking about this?

    Good list though.

  • 7 2-07-2009 at 11:37 am

    red_wine said...

    Christ its the same thing over and over again.

    All of us know this year’s Oscars don’t matter at all and are happening just as a form of formality. Why give them credibility by discussing that they missed this or missed that. I believe this year’s collective nominees across all categories categories comprise a new low-point in the Academy’s history. The year was admittedly very weak but they are making it out to be weaker than it is by the quality of most of the nominated films and the fancied front-runners.

  • 8 2-07-2009 at 11:51 am

    Milan said...

    Erm, isn’t it Bicycle Thieves? (I know in the late 1940s it was called Bicycle Thief).

  • 9 2-07-2009 at 12:15 pm

    John Foote said...

    Mike — I am not “going after” “The Reader” at all — I truly believe it is an inferior film having no business as a best film nominee — as for ‘Frost/ Nixon” I quite liked it, one of Ron Howard’s best works I think — do you honestkly believce that Frank Langella’s performance as Nixon did not demonstrate both complexity and great thought? I think any time any actor attempts to portray Nixon they have a challenge akin to portraying Willy Loman or Macbeth or Lear — Nixon was among the most brilliant statesman of the 20th century, a keen political mind, but eventually undone by his own tragic flaws — how does an actor begin to portray that?? Again I am not “going after” any film, I truly did not care for “The Reader” and do not for one moment believe it should be nominated for best director, best film or best actress…period.

  • 10 2-07-2009 at 12:28 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    That’s not a bad top eleven, John. In fact, the only thing I can do to improve it (for me, at least) is take out The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and add Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Days of Heaven, Vertigo, Brazil, and Do the Right Thing to make it a top 15!

  • 11 2-07-2009 at 12:32 pm

    Casey Fiore said...

    Mike I think the reason supporters of TDK are attacking the Reader is because it was the film that replaced TDK as a nominee. Frost/Nixon was an expected nominee but The Reader essentially represents the rejection of the comic book genre. It basically is the personification of voters writing in any film but The Dark Knight

  • 12 2-07-2009 at 12:53 pm

    Bill said...

    On the lead nom for Winslet:

    I havent seen the film, but I imagine that the categorization of the performance might have more to do with screen prescense than screen time.

    For example, Sir Anthony Hopkins was only on screen for about 15 mins in 1991. But his character and performance commanded the film.

    Would you call Orson Welles lead or supporting for The Third Man? He wasn’t on screen long, but his prescence dominated the entire piece.

    It also solves the problems of the female acting categories: Winslet’s double nom/vote split, the 6 deserving women in supp category, Winslet’s fans wanting a lead win after 5 losses + the percursor’s partiality to her Reader performance.

  • 13 2-07-2009 at 1:52 pm

    Ryan Hoffman said...

    I think those are all fine picks.
    I would add to the discussion films like

    Aladdin (1992)
    The Lion King (1994)
    Chasing Amy (1997)
    The Last Samurai (2003)
    Children of Men (2006)

    As for the Reader:
    It really is just a very poorly made film. You can see that Daldry, and the actors too, don’t quite know the story they want to tell.
    You just sit there and it doesn’t really accomplish anything great and you just get bored and angry with the film by the end.

  • 14 2-07-2009 at 2:06 pm

    Jordan Cronk said...

    Actually Gene Siskel very much admired Blue Velvet. It made his top 10 for that year I believe. I was Ebert who trashed it.

  • 15 2-07-2009 at 2:47 pm

    Speaking English said...

    How, in any way, is The Reader “sloppy?” I just can’t understand that criticism. If anything it’s tight, taut, and beautifully focused. You have a right not to like the film, but using a word that has no applicability to the film at all makes it seem like you’re reaching.

  • 16 2-07-2009 at 2:52 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Oh, and as for films snubbed for Best Picture, it’s not even worth talking about. We all know quite well some of the best films of all time missed out on the top prize nomination, or even nominations all together, so this is nothing new nor remotely shocking. And do we care? Are the best films of all time lesser works because they weren’t nominated? No.

    Bergman’s “Persona,” “The Silence,” “Hour of the Wolf,” “Shame”… all masterpieces. And they’re still masterpieces even if their collective Oscar nominations add up to a big Zero. No need to shame the Academy.

  • 17 2-07-2009 at 3:54 pm

    JC said...

    “Sloppy” might be reaching a bit, but I feel it implies that the film doesn’t navigate its tricky moral waters elegantly enough to have the desired effect. For instance, I realize the film doesn’t necessarily WANT the audience to think we should sympathize with Hanna on account of her illiteracy, and feel that she’s somehow redeemed by learning to read, but the picture, in its awkward way, unintentionally seems to support that. It also damn near puts the shame of being illiterate on nearly the same dramatic level as her being partly responsible for the death of 300 Jews. Heck, she seems to feel more shame with regards to the former rather than the latter. Personally, I feel it crosses the line when it turns a (seemingly “street smart”, if not “intellectual”) character into a full-on woman-child in the courtroom. Illiterate doesn’t necessarily equal “stupid”. And many of the opening sex scenes almost play like the German version of Red Shoe Diaries, in lingering on Winslet’s body longer than would be required to support any point they’re trying to make, to the point where it becomes borderline laughable. And Fiennes, so good in a number of other roles this year, comes across rather blankly here…the transition from David Kross (who does decent work) to him is rather ineffectual. Regardless, I thought it was an alright film overall, but didn’t really bring anything new to the table, and of the 30+ films I’ve seen in 2008, it’d barely squeak into the Top 20…and that’s only because I’m quite fond of Winslet as an actress.

  • 18 2-07-2009 at 4:02 pm

    Blake said...

    Siskel liked Blue Velvet for the record….

  • 19 2-07-2009 at 5:06 pm

    Ryan M said...

    Do you ever proof-read what you publish on here?

  • 20 2-07-2009 at 5:10 pm

    Jake said...

    I personally wouldn’t include “Fight Club” on the list. I just saw “Singin’ in the Rain,” and, despite it being made in the early 50s and being a musical, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I, frankly, found the movie more entertaining than most of the films I saw last year, including Slumdog Millionaire and Benjamin Button. But that’s just me.

  • 21 2-07-2009 at 5:59 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I don’t know, Jake. Fight Club was one of the most inventive movies of nineties, and as far as I’m concerned it’s aged really well as a quintessential pre-9/11 film. It was certainly more deserving of nods than The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile.

    As for Singin’ in the Rain, it’s not just you. That movie is timeless.

  • 22 2-07-2009 at 6:19 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    I really wish the Academy hadn’t nominated Heath Ledger, because then I would be able to lose all faith in them. Nonetheless I’m still working on it.

    and another thing

    How in the hell can anyone think that fucking Jai-Ho or whatever it’s called is in any way a better song than Bruce’s “The Wrestler”? And whether you like the song/movie or not, you have to admit that Jai-Ho did little to nothing to improve Slumdog. I mean what in the hell was that? It was like some kind of High School Musical dance number. Yet “The Wrestler” so perfectly captures the tormented essence of its film, and alas, nothing.

  • 23 2-07-2009 at 7:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “How, in any way, is The Reader “sloppy?” I just can’t understand that criticism. If anything it’s tight, taut, and beautifully focused.”

    We saw two completely different films. “The Reader” is anything but focused. It’s slapped together, most clearly in the third act, and never has a bearing on its own sense of narrative. It is a victim of its rushed post-production schedule, doesn’t take the time to breathe and fully explore the relationships that were clearly directed well by Daldry and, as a result, is “sloppy.”

    So I’m with John on that one.

  • 24 2-07-2009 at 7:30 pm

    Jake said...

    Scott Ward…haha. That’s kind of how I feel, although I would never take losing all faith in the Academy over Heath Ledger’s nomination.

  • 25 2-08-2009 at 6:24 pm

    Kokushi said...

    Batman Begins (with Sin City) was my favorite from 2005 and deserved just like TDK a best picture nomination, also Zodiac not getting nominated was big fack you to Fincher.

  • 26 2-08-2009 at 7:20 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    In a way, showering Fincher with nominations this year for his worst film yet is even worse than snubbing him for one of his best films last year.

  • 27 2-08-2009 at 7:30 pm

    Chris said...

    This list proves that the Academy has sucked for years. Oh well, who says a movie has to be nominated for it to be a great one? That list is good proof.

    I saw The Reader last night, and I don’t understand why it got nominated. It’s certainly not, in my opinion, one of the five best films of 2008. The Dark Knight was much more deserving of it’s spot in the nominations.

  • 28 2-09-2009 at 5:31 am

    John Foote said...

    Speaking English — I thought, correct me though if youi feel I am wrong, this site was to discuss films, the Academy, the Oscars, and all that is entailed by that — so yes, discussing films that were not nominated falls into that — again, I am not slagging “The Reader” for being nominated, it simply should not have have been, plain and simple — why discuss non-nominated films? Because it is fun, because we learn from one another, and because more than anything else, it provokes discussion from fellow film freaks.

  • 29 2-09-2009 at 12:36 pm

    chris said...

    Re: John

    “do you honestkly believce that Frank Langella’s performance as Nixon did not demonstrate both complexity and great thought?”

    And do you honestly believe that Kate Winslet’s performance did not demonstrate both complexity and great thought as well?

  • 30 2-09-2009 at 12:38 pm

    chris said...

    I also think its really funny how people assume that just because they thought a movie was *cough cough* sloppy, that therefore it was a bad movie. Everyone has their own opinions, and everyone’s is valid. I, for example, was crying by the end of The Reader, and dozing off by the end of The Dark Knight.