Remember when the Academy Awards expanded their Best Picture nominee list from five to 10 - ostensibly to give worthy “commercial” films a chance to compete against the usual slate of art films?
“Hurrah!” went the cry from the multiplexes. “Now there’s room on the list for crowd-pleasers like The Hangover and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.”
It wasn’t to be, of course. Last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences limited its Oscar pix list to nine, rather than toss the masses a bone with a nomination for, say, Bridesmaids or the Harry Potter finale.
This week, many Christopher Nolan fans are dreaming in Technicolor of an Oscar nom for their long neglected hero, following overwhelmingly positive reviews for The Dark Knight Rises, the denouement of his Batman trilogy.
After all, didn’t Heath Ledger win a posthumous best supporting actor Oscar for The Dark Knight? And wasn’t Inception, Nolan’s serious-minded blockbuster nominated for best picture (though Nolan himself was snubbed for a director nom)?
Not going to happen. For one thing, it’s too early in the year, and Academy voters have the attention span of fruit flies.
But there’s also still a huge amount of snobbery in the Academy, and even amongst much of the public towards comic books and “fanboy culture” (as underlined by the satirical headline in the latest Onion, “Comic-Con is once again marred by the increasingly popular Bully-Con”).
As for Ledger, though his performance was deserving of an Oscar, his then-recent death had everything to do with his actually winning it. I don’t think he would have even gotten a sniff if he’d lived, the Academy’s prejudices being what they are.
That schism is going to be a lot more pronounced in a year when the box office was pretty much eaten up by three super-hero movies (The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises) and two films taken from best-selling “young adult” book series (The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2).
Still, Nolan has a long way to go to be in the Overlooked Filmmakers Hall Of Fame. Steven Spielberg himself made people rich for years before winning an Oscar for Schindler’s List, almost 20 years after Jaws. Post-Schindler, Spielberg would be reminded again that big is bad, when his Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare In Love.
George Lucas got an invite to the Oscars with Star Wars, but it lost out to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
For that matter, you could create your own Hall of Fame with great directors who went to their graves having never won the little man – including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman and Charlie Chaplin.
Not bad company for Nolan, if indeed, he remains too popular to be taken seriously for the rest of his life.