So I went to see ‘The Dark Knight’ again tonight. And I just may go see it a 3rd time – if I can find someone to sit through it with me again. And you know what? It’s just as captivating the 2nd time around.
Of course there’s been all kinds of talk about a posthumous Oscar nomination for Heath Ledger. And he deserves it. His interpretation of ‘The Joker’ is completely creepy, yet so full of life. You get the feeling he’s just enjoying the ride, no matter what happens. He’s an agent of chaos and anarchy – something very difficult to play. How do you play a character who really doesn’t care about anything without making him two-dimensional? Heath Ledger gets past that, and while we hate ‘The Joker,’ we can’t help but be in awe of his cleverness and knowledge of humanity. He understands Batman more than Batman does. His scene with Harvey Dent in the hospital is compelling and full of questions about morality, fate, chance and justice. He’s a haunting presence throughout the film; when he’s not onscreen, you can still feel him.
Another person who should be considered for an Oscar nomination is Aaron Eckhardt, who stars as Gotham’s ‘White Knight,’ DA Harvey Dent. His character’s descent from stardom and epic heroism is both stunning and captivating. You understand why he takes the turn he does, but you want him to go back. His closing scene in the blown-apart warehouse, holding the Gordon family hostage, was possibly the darkest, scariest, most spellbinding five minutes of film I’ve seen in a long time. Gary Oldman was amazing, too, in that scene; he is really the perfect Commissioner Gordon.
What about Christian Bale? Of course he’s good – but he doesn’t have the material the other two actors had. ‘Batman Begins’ was Bale’s showcase; ‘Dark Knight’ is all about ‘The Joker’ and ‘Two-Face.’
Of course I can’t remember where, but I read somewhere that ‘The Dark Knight’ should definitely be an Oscar contender for ‘Best Picture’ because ‘Titanic’ was. And that got me thinking about whether on not ‘The Dark Knight’ SHOULD be an Oscar contender.
My answer: Hell, yeah!
‘The Dark Knight’ isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill superhero movie. Sure it’s had mega box office success, holding records for best opening weekend, best single-day, fastest climb to $300 million (only TEN days). But while it’s certainly entertaining (remember how the 18-wheeler completely flips over? Or how crazy Batman’s leap from a tower in Hong Kong was?), it’s soooo much more:
There’s an undeniable sense of one-upmanship at work in this sleek, luxurious-looking production—a subtext of “Oh yeah? Top this.” But for all The Dark Knight‘s occasionally bombastic excess, it sort of does top them all, and not only in star power and sheer number of things blown up. Nolan turns the Manichean morality of comic books—pure good vs. pure evil—into a bleak post-9/11 allegory about how terror (and, make no mistake, Heath Ledger’s Joker is a terrorist) breaks down those reassuring moral categories.
It’s true. I was completely fascinated by all of the moral dilemmas the characters tackled. Sure they were cruel and crude in some cases, but in a post-9/11 world, the questions the movie asks are pertinent and, in some cases, exactly what our governments and law enforcement agencies deal with on a day-to-day basis (think of the cellphone-tapping scheme Batman comes up with and his conversation with Fox about its ethical implications). It’s ultimately about how far we go to protect ourselves.
I could spend all day writing about my fascination with the moral complexity of ‘Dark Knight.’
But back to the Oscars. The much over-hyped ‘Titanic’ won 11 Oscars and was nominated for 14 in 1998 – ten years ago. Why did it win? Well, it had ridiculous box office totals. It was a massive undertaking (the sets, special effects). And it had historical roots; don’t discount that fact (I’m convinced the only reason Reese Witherspoon won for ‘Walk the Line’ was because she was playing an America icon; Felicity Huffman was so horribly robbed that night). But look at the categories it won in:
- Art direction
- Costume design
- Directing – James Cameron
- Film editing
- Original dramatic score
- Original song – ‘My Heart Will Go On’
- Best picture
- Sound effects editing
- Visual effects
What did it miss?
- Kate Winslet – Performance by an actress in a leading role
- Gloria Stuart – Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Notice it lost in the ACTING categories. By a long shot (though I still don’t understand why Helen Hunt won – or why everyone loved ‘As Good As It Gets’).
‘Dark Knight’ could win every single category ‘Titanic’ won in. Except for ‘Original Song.’ It doesn’t have one. PLUS, it could win a Best Supporting Actor nod for Eckhardt and a Best Actor nod for Ledger (this supporting actor stuff for ‘The Joker’ is silly; he’s pretty much the catalyst for everything that happens in the movie. If that doesn’t define a central character, I don’t know what does).
‘Dark Knight’ deserves a Best Picture nod not only because of its box office success and spectacular effects/cinematography. It deserves it because of its dark, brooding story filled with such startling moral consequences. It deserves it because of its rich performances from the entire cast. It deserves it because it rises about the ‘superhero’ niche and becomes an epic film.
And because if ‘Titanic’ can be named Best Picture, even though it was mediocre at best, and ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Frodo can get accolades and statuettes, why can’t the Caped Crusader?