‘The Dark Knight’ snubbed in best picture race

Jan. 22, 2009 | 8:30 p.m.

UPDATED: Here’s a story I have appearing in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times tomorrow:

Batman_atop_police_car There are always a lot of emotions on Oscar nomination day, but there was an especially bittersweet surge on Thursday when the late Heath Ledger’s name was called out in the category of best supporting actor for his portrayal of the maniacal Joker in "The Dark Knight" — it was, after all, one year to the day after his death.

Even as the team behind the Warner Bros. film embraced the posthumous honor for Ledger, they also dealt with the disappointment that the acclaimed blockbuster was left out of the best picture race.

No superhero movie has come close to the marquee category in the past, but Warner Bros. had high hopes that "Dark Knight" could follow in the footsteps of "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Beauty and the Beast" and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" as a youth-skewing hit able to transcend its popcorn-genre roots and earn a best picture nomination from the stuffy academy.

In the barest appraisal, "Dark Knight" was yet another summer sequel about a masked-man fighting crime. But after its July release, the film, directed by Christopher Nolan, started racking up so much box-office success (it now stands as the second-highest grossing movie of all-time in the U.S. behind "Titanic") and such intense critical acclaim (only "WALL-E" scored a higher quotient of raves among the year’s wide-release films, according to Rotten Tomatoes) that Oscar talk began to gain traction.

Ledger’s performance as the scabby and diabolical Joker was clearly regarded as an Oscar contender early on, but the conversation widened considerably this month when Nolan was nominated by his peers for the Directors Guild award for achievement in a feature film. That came on the heels of a best picture nomination from the Producers Guild, whose top category typically mirrors the academy’s picks for the best films of the year.

On Thursday, "Dark Knight" was nominated in eight categories but not the ones Warner Bros. had pursued with a lavish promotional campaign and the re-release of the film in theaters Friday.

It’s been an especially bruising month for Warner, with pending layoffs and a forced settlement with rival Fox that will cut into the profits of the studio’s next superhero epic, "Watchmen" in March.

Still, a legacy moment for "Dark Knight" might be yet to come — an Oscar night victory for Ledger.


"His performance was an amazing thing to watch, thrilling and exciting," said "Dark Knight" producer Charles Roven. "Everybody from his peers to the audience to, now, the academy has seen fit to give him these accolades and these honors and I’m sure his family feels completely wonderful."

The other nominees for "Dark Knight" are Wally Pfister for cinematography; Lee Smith for film editing; John Caglione Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan for makeup; Richard King for sound editing; Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick for sound mixing; Nathan Crowley and Peter Lando for art direction; and Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin for visual effects.

"A lot of amazingly talented people worked on the film and many of them have been rewarded with these nominations today, one of them who is not with us anymore," Roven said. "And all of us were following this amazing vision of Chris Nolan and that’s the only little thing for me that seems too bad. The movie gets eight nominations, and he’s not on that list in any place."

It’s telling that by the end of the film’s journey of credibility, Hollywood insiders were surprised when it wasn’t called out as a best picture nominee.

"People were surprised ‘The Reader’ got the fifth slot instead of ‘Dark Knight,’" said Michael London, a producer on "Milk" and "The Visitor." "That seemed to be the biggest surprise. People are talking about it. I don’t know what it means. I love ‘The Dark Knight.’ It was a fantastic movie, but I suppose it’s difficult for successful popcorn movies to get serious attention from the academy. It’s a knee-jerk thing where smaller movies are perceived as more artistic."

— Geoff Boucher

This story updated from an earlier version with minor edits and added links.


Batflight_3But can Heath Ledger win the Oscar?

Christopher Nolan says his Batman doesn’t play well with others

How to follow-up "Dark Knight"? Angelina Jolie as Catwoman

Christopher Nolan analyzes his favorite scene in "Dark Knight"



28 Responses to ‘The Dark Knight’ snubbed in best picture race

  1. Richard says:

    Don't worry: Heath Ledger WON'T win the Best Support Actor trophy, 'cause the Academy has proven once again that they love dropping the ball when it comes to those who deserve to be nominated, or win…

  2. Carlos says:

    The second highest-grossing movie of all time is still LOTR: The Return of the King. We have to consider ALWAYS the worldwide gross, not just the US gross.

  3. jason says:

    Dark Knight is a masterpiece of filmmaking and storytelling. The award isn't best "artistic" film, it is best picture. There is no way that Dark Knight isn't one of the top 5 best films, screenplays or director achievements of this year. I think any person in the academy if they were being honest would put it in the top 5. What are their votes made public or something?

  4. Stu says:

    I really liked Dark Knight but I don't know if it's really Best Picture quality. It's entertaining and was better than I expected and some roles were acted well (Ledger was really good, everyone else was okay). The directing was alright but I wouldn't say great, same with the writting. It's a pretty good movie that was made better by Ledger's strong performance but overall it's lacking in too many other areas to be called Best Picture.

  5. Charles says:

    I am not a HUGE fan of Batman, but not to nominate TDK is silly. That was hands down the best direction, editing, and possibly scenery ever filmed. The acting was flawless too.
    Once again, I will turn into one small part of the oscars, and that is it; for Heath Ledger.
    It is sad they will not allow popular films to win Oscars. Half of the movies mentioned in Best Picture people have never even heard of or care about.
    Oh well… the ratings will continue to fall. : (

  6. Geoff Boucher says:

    well consider the fact that in past years movies such as "Ghost," "Working Girl" and the original "Doctor Dolittle" (!) were nominated for best picture, maybe you're viewing the category with a bit too much reverence?

  7. Matt says:

    The Dark Knight was a good movie. I`m pissed it is not nominated for best picture. It at least should have been. It should have also been nominated in best director, best music, and screenplay. I`m glad to see Heath Ledgers get nominated(shut up Richard) and it`s good that it is nominated for technical categories and cinematography categories. It is unfair it`s not nominated for best picture. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. I`m sick of the oscars nominating crap no cares about or has seen. I hope ratings go down the toilet for this.

  8. I'm a little disappointed by TDK failing to get a Best Picture nod, but the omission I'm really disappointed about "Wall-E". Like most other years, the Best Animated Feature category is populated by an excellent Pixar movie and two mediocre movies. But this year, the difference in quality between the frontrunner and the other two nominees is so startling that it's almost insulting, like a college student at Thanksgiving forced to sit at the kid's table.
    Of course both of these movies suffered from not only being outside the Academy's comfort zone, but outside of their short-term memory as well. Both movies opened in July. Not counting festival screenings, the earliest release date for any of the nominated films was November 12th, and three of them were released in December.
    Let's face it, if you want a movie that stretches the boundaries of Oscar's usual tastes, you're going to have to release in the fall. But if you want to make a bunch of money, you should probably release during the summer.
    And, as Warner Bros. has learned: No one cares about re-releases.

  9. O Solis says:

    Regarding the lack of a best picture nomination for "The Dark Knight", I can only say time decides the real best picture of any particular year.
    2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't nominated and it is probably the greatest film to come out of 1968
    Same thing could arguably be said about Blade Runner, King Kong (the original and best one), Days of Heaven, and too many others.
    The film doesn't necessarily always mean the most popular since I feel that given time another film that was mostly overlooked by the academy will come to join the list: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
    So take heart, Dark Knight fans and I'm one. Time ultimately decides.

  10. jeff Kantor says:

    The Academy is brain dead if they can nominate "The Reader" instead of "The Dark Knight" for Best Picture.

  11. Dreggor Gade says:

    To the Academy:
    Epic fail.
    Just like "Return of the King" received proper accolades, so should this film have similarly been recognized for many of the same elements. The Academy is nothing but Hollywood filth politics. The least that these rat bastards could do is vote respectfully when it is their duty, but no. Instead like the swine that they are, they end up stroking themselves, their close friends, and whomever the hell is most likely to give them a leg up during the next fiscal year, even when it's incestuous.
    So, go ahead, you damned greedheads. Spread it and take it deep and painfully so that each of you can make a few extra lucrative deals in the coming months. You deserve it. And we won't be watching. Keep your little soccer trophies and swap them around with your friends and to the jerks you so desperately want to pay attention to you. No one cares anymore. You degraded what once was a proud Academy and turned it into a syphilitic cesspool.
    Enjoy your parties and don't be surprised when you wake up hungover a week later with an incredible rectal pain and a few million dollars lying on your dressers. You may be rich and famous, but you are still just plain and simple whores to the rest of us.

  12. i,claudius says:

    I've never understood all the fuss over The Dark Knight. I think justice was served today.

  13. LG says:

    Dark Knight, very good movie and not in the Best Pic.?? The Oscars are a joke. The public should start voting for the oscar nominations.

  14. Joshua says:

    The Dark Knight is going to revolutionize movies for years to come. People will no longer think that action/adventures will be successful simply based off their explosions anymore. Character development, cohesion, transition, attention to detail, and a logical plot will be more expected of comic book movies and big-budget sagas like suphero flicks and series like The Terminator. Christopher Nolan, his brother and David Goyer have raised the standard for all movies. This movie was absolutely brilliant and encompassed themes into as realistic as situations will get in films. The Oscars will not influence movies as much in the years to come as so much will this Dark Knight epic. The stubbornness of the academy should remind audiences that art should not be produced for awards, and thus nothing should be produced for extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivation always produces a more authentic product. Kudos the producers of this piece of art for going against the grain in this genre and putting the academy in an uncomfortable position. Besides, if one wants to look at this movie getting awards, they need only look at all the other award guilds and award shows outside the Golden Globes and Oscars . . . The Dark Knight is sweeping through them all.

  15. shirley says:

    the dark knight should have got nominated!

  16. KB says:

    Talk about over-rated. TDK wants to be in the same class as "Titanic", "E.T.", and "Star Wars". The problem is that besides Ledger's performance – the film is average. The film has been so over-hyped, which led to it's downfall. "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire" are ten times better than TDK. Justice was served. The Academy did it right this time.

    • Amos says:

      Not in the same class…? the film is the best of it Genre i.e. Comic Book movies. Milk and Slumdog have faded over time and The Dark Knight is still recognised as a classic by the average joe who are the ones who matter most

  17. Thom says:

    A producer is quoted "…I suppose it’s difficult for successful popcorn movies to get serious attention from the academy. It’s a knee-jerk thing where smaller movies are perceived as more artistic."
    And so, Titanic was a small, auteur film? What an absolute load. The Academy has so utterly and completely demonstrated its lack of relevance by omitting TDK as Best Picture of 2008, the final year of the Bush era, when heroes were not what they seemed, the good guys and bad were often interchangeable, and torture-as-policy became a reality. Talk about missing cultural touchstones.

  18. Jordan Raup says:

    Here are my reactions (specifically how the hell The Reader could get a Best Pic nom): http://thefilmstage.com/2009/01/22/the-reader/

  19. Movie-goer says:

    To the Academy –
    Thanks for some sanity by not nominating The Dark Knight. Does anyone with brain-cell think this was better than the first Batman with Jack? People really have short memories and if Ledger wins the Oscar, the Academy should give one to Jack retroactively.

  20. Matt says:

    I can't honestly understand why anyone actually cares about the Academy Awards anymore. Some people that work in the film industry like certain films. So what? They're entitled to do so. If people here love The Dark Knight, I don't see what difference it makes whether it is nominated. The movie is still the same. Just as I don't understand why there would be vitriol towards The Reader. I personally was not overwhelmed by it, but if it spoke to some people then let them enjoy it.
    By definition, the Academy is an elitist organization. You have to be a well established member of the film community to get it. So why get upset that the members don't have a more populist bent. It is what it is: an organization that exists only to pat itself on the back.

  21. FG says:

    The Oscars continue their accelerated slide into irrelevance.
    Snubbing The Dark Knight and Robert Downey,. Jr.'s performance as Tony Stark continues to demonstrate the Academy's ivory tower bias towards so-called "entertainments". Memo: they're ALL entertainments. Just like the comedies and comic actor's that rarely get nominated and ever more rarely win(cue Steve Martin in his heyday, i.e., Roxanne) because they're not considered serious, thought-provoking, etc.,etc., "genre" movies get as little or less respect, probably because of their source material, despite the fact that comic books are one of the few legitimate American art forms. Thought provoking, serious, moral, all the damn things the Academy looks for,The Dark Knight was that and more. Just because the 2 leads wore make-up and costumes and form and intimate bond in jail doesn't make it any less so. William Hurt did the same thing once upon a time and won an Oscar for it.
    Maybe if Batman was gay and Iron Man had survivor's guilt, they'd be taken seriously.
    Oh, wait, Iron Man did have survivor's guilt, but not the kind that matters in Hollywood.

  22. patricia groom says:

    $1 billion worldwide 540 domestic and you call it average? You sound like your 75% dumb and 25% full retard…
    Or you might a member of the academy..

  23. TDK was indeed a great film. That, coupled with Rachel Getting Married and Wall-E for Best Picture instead of Milk, The Reader and Frost/Nixon (good movies, but not great) woud have made for an awesome Oscar race.

  24. Shadow says:

    I for feel that The Dark Knight was snubbed at the oscars and they missed out on a huge opportunity. TDK had more admissions than the oscars has had viewers in recent years. I looked around for the definition of best picture and there didnt seem to be one true answer. So I decided that this definition
    fit best with my personal interpretation:
    David Carr, NY Times, The Carpetbagger, author of The Night of the Gun
    Best picture should embody the magic of the craft, with everyone involved, most especially the director at the height of his or her powers. It should be the kind of movie that is so good that it brings both civilians and the critical vanguard together.
    If you take a look a the other movies in the category, they are indeed very good(slumdog millionaire) but there are others which simply don’t belong.(The Reader) If you were to put all these movies in a time capsule and view them years from now, which ones will be talked about in say ten years time? 25 years? What if you took into account not just how “good” the movie was but also what it did for the industry? A movie like TDK transcended all other superhero movies before it. Chris Nolan took what was simply popcorn entertainment and crafted it into something memorable, intriguing and relevent in today’s society. He used Imax in a way not previous explored by other filmmakers, as well as a genre not respected by critics and gave it a legitimate shot at best picture. Somewhat like the cardinals franchise in football(Sorry I couldnt resist)did bringing outsiders attention to great players like larry fitzgerald and adrian wilson. Nolan did the same for batman, and we are already feeling the effects of this with current superhero releases. “Dark” movies are becoming mainstream, and it’s thanks to christopher nolans incredible vision and execution as a filmaker. On top of this you add in the excellent acting, especially for a superhero movie and heath ledgers incredible portrayal of the worlds most infamous comicbook villain. now you account for the popularity and praise that this film accquired from fans and critics alike. Factor in the idea that it is the 2nd highest grossing film in american history(lets not deal with “inflation”) and the oscars is looking for ways to boost its viewership one would think TDK would be an obvious choice for the #5 slot. Who cares if it wins, people will tune in to findout regardless. It made more money domestically than the other 4 movies will make combined in their entire theatrical runs.
    I for one will not be watching the oscars, as I feel they are no longer recognizing the real best, industry expanding films of the year. I mean seriously has anyone here actually seen the reader? I cannot even come up with an argument as to why it was nominated.

  25. Karen Yi says:

    I AGREE!!! The Reader is so depoliticized. All of this year's nominees ignore important historical contexts and the politics of its time http://www.indypendent.org/2009/02/06/curious-cas
    This is a great article that pinpoints just that. "OSCAR NOMINATIONS AND A CURIOS CASE OF POLITICS"

  26. Amos Persad says:

    I've realised that the movies that were snubbed big time, for example Star Wars, Citizen Kane and Raiders of the Lost Ark are all remembered to this day, even I can't remember what had won over these films. The Academy is not the voice who say what are 'CLASSICS' the fans do, and The Dark Knight is a classic.

  27. Amos Persad says:

    It was also snubbed Best Adapted Screenplay Nomination and AWARD, The Dark Knight is an adaptation of Batman Comics which compared to the rest of nomination has the biggest archive of source material. And as a comic book fan it was adapted with the beautiful blend of visuals, sound, acting and not forgetting the brillient director Chris Nolan. Could someone please tell me how the f!@# did the film not walk away with all the awards?

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