Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Big Snub of 2008

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Big Snub is the second in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

Each year, the Oscar nominations announcement presents several notable omissions. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most shocking snub of all (in any category). It has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with what seemed likely at the time and what most people were predicting. Once again, this is a film/director/actor who didn’t even earn a nomination.

The Big Snub of 2008:

The Dark Knight” for Best Picture

Why it was all set to happen: The most popular film of the year seemed like a sure bet by the time nominations were going to be announced. After Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded a Best Supporting Actor trophy at the Golden Globes, the film’s only nomination, the movie rallied with mentions from the DGA, WGA, and PGA. Ledger was unstoppable in the Best Supporting Actor race, and director Christopher Nolan seemed overdue after being snubbed for both “Memento” in 2001 and “Batman Begins” in 2005. The Best Picture lineup had solidified when “The Dark Knight” and “Milk” knocked out Globe-nominated Kate Winslet films “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader” and joined “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “Slumdog Millionaire” as the DGA, WGA, and PGA honorees. In short, the Best Picture lineup appeared to be sewn up before nominations were announced.

Why it probably didn’t: Its “sure thing” status was going to defy the odds. The first Batman film from Christopher Nolan didn’t earn any major nominations. Few sequels have ever earned Best Picture nominations, and none without the first film being recognized as well. Its nomination would also have catered to the idea that the Oscars do in fact represent public opinion in some way, and its snub only served to reinforce the opposite belief.

What took its place: Instead, a movie that grossed almost $500 million less and earned mixed reviews (58 on Metacritic, 61 on Rotten Tomatoes), took its place. In addition to promoting Kate Winslet to leading actress, “The Reader” earned five nominations after having only the Golden Globes as a successful precursor, knocking “The Dark Knight” out of the top three categories.

Consolation prize: “The Dark Knight” was still the third most-honored film, with eight nominations. It won two, for Heath Ledger and for sound editing. Its most significant victory was the expansion of the Best Picture field to include ten nominees the following year, when popular, crowd-pleasing films like “The Blind Side” managed to earn a nomination.

Come back next week for a look at the Big Snub of 2007. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.


Greg Boyd said...

"The Dark Knight" is probably the obvious choice here, but this was really a dual snub: "WALL-E" was also shafted by the Academy.

As for 2007, "Once" and "Ratatouille" are the obvious choices. But I might be missing something.

Movies with Abe said...

You are in fact forgetting something - keep in mind that I'm not just looking at the Best Picture category.

Greg Boyd said...

So it includes the acting categories? In that case, I'd go with Abbie Cornish in 2009 and Sally Hawkins in 2008. Both great performances, both underappreciated.

2007 has a bunch of big-time snubs in the acting categories. Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons in the supporting categories for "Juno". Also Kelly MacDonald for "No Country for Old Men" (I didn't love the film, but her acting was great). In the lead categories, Gordon Pinsent for "Away from Her" and Chris Cooper in "Breach" were big oversights. Finally, Keri Russell's delightful turn in "Waitress" should have been recognized.

Sorry for the long post, but 2007 is my favorite film year of the 2000s. So many good movies were released that year.

Movies with Abe said...

Long posts are much appreciated and encouraged! For this series, I'm looking at the snub that was the most surprising on nominations day - an inclusion most expected but that didn't occur. Hawkins might fit that bill in 2008, just behind The Dark Knight and Nolan. In 2007, there's one actor or actress who fits into that category. But I don't want to ruin the surprise, so you'll see next week!