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On the Road: On to Frisco and Thoughts of Oscar

By George Thomas Published: January 22, 2009

Oscar too serious?
You know the weird thing about switcing to a gig that's basically a 24/7 deal such as that of an basketball beat writer?  You're amazed when some rituals quickly go by the wayside.  Sleeping? Gone.  Eating healthy and exercise?  Are you kidding me? Waking up for Oscar nominations, uhhhh.  Considering I'm on the West Coast already popping up at 5 a.m. after watching the Cavs beat the Portland Trail Blazers last night wasn't in the cards.  I consider myself sane.  Others may argue that point.
But for the prior 15 or so years, I never missed the live announcement of the Oscar nominatons on NBC's Today Show - until today.
But you know the weird part?  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences somehow manage to remain consistent in the way they screw things up.
This year's big snub?  No best picture nod for The Dark Knight or best director nod for Christopher Nolan.  Not to put the other nominees down in this category, primarily because I've not seen some of them, but personally I want to ask the members of the Academy one question:  ''Why so serious?'' to quote Knight's Joker.
Yes, they did the correct thing in nominating Heath Ledger for his haunting performance of The Batman's arch nemesis, but they nullified that by not at least honoring Nolan's achievement with nominations in those other two categories.
Some will say it's just a comic book movie and they'd be wrong.  The beauty of the Oscars is that it is supposed to honor those films that transcend filmmaking to become part of the popular culture Zeitgeist. 
 There are some films that may not have deserved best picture or director nods and won - Titanic quickly comes to mind because L.A. Confidential should have won that year - but you could at least  understand from where the academy was coming.  It was a popular, fantastic achievement that struck a chord with a mass audience.
One could argue that is the same of The Dark Knight and they would be painfully wrong.  The Dark Knight is a film that transcends its genre. While one cannot deny it's a comic book film - Batman's suit kind of gives it a way don't cha know - it satisfies on very different levels.
In his screenplay and film, Nolan don't just blow things up.  He crafts a multi-layered crime tale worthy of any Martin Scorsese film.  It's a film that runs more than two-and-a-half hours and none of it is wasted. The characters are fully developed and Nolan mines the depths of human emotions to get that.
Bruce Wayne's Batman isn't really a heroic figure; he's a tragic one.  Forced into action because there are very few willing to work to save the city he loves and rid it of the slime that inhabit it.  Gotham City is a cryptic metaphor for America.  You can feel it slipping away.  Right now it's of little surprise that many Americans wonder aloud who will save it.  So is Gotham.
The Joker is far from tragic, but he is the result of a society that's completely lost its way and Ledger - who rightfully got a nomination and will probably win the award posthumously - brings him to full, gloriously scary life.
Now read this analysis again.  This is a movie based on a frakkin' comic book and you can get that deep into it psychologically and present a compelling case for its worth.
But Hollywood, in all its snobbery, cannot and will not see that.  It keeps its caste system where if you have big bucks pedigree at Oscar time, you're left out of the party.  Ironic isn't it? Being punished for popularity by the most self-absorbed, superficial inhabitants of one metropolis on the planet.
I have little doubt that those who received nominations in these categories deserved them. David Fincher ( The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard ( Frost/Nixon) and Danny Boyle ( Slumdog Millionaire) are among my favorite directors.  Normally when they make a movie, I rush out to see it. But so is Nolan.
Here and now Hollywood's pretentious nature has caught up to it.  The Dark Knight deserved a far better fate and because it won't be well respresented in major categories Oscar night, the Academy Awards broadcast won't need my pair of peepers watching.  I suspect a lot more folks will feel the same way.
Thankfully, I will be covering the Cavs vs. Detroit in a nationally televised game.
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