A thank you letter

by Blair on Jan.23, 2009, under NEWS

Last night I received an email message with the subject title “thank you” that everyone should read because it’s really meant for all of you here. Sometimes at the end of a long journey, it’s things like this that truly move you and make it all worthwhile.

hey — not sure who to address this to as it looks like a collective effort, but I just wanted to pass along my thanks.

It’s truly humbling that you guys would take the time and effort to try to get the film recognized. I, like you, was disappointed that Chris didn’t get some recognition this morning, but for Heath and so many of the people who worked so hard on this thing to get nominated is thrilling.

Any nominations for a comic book movie is a thing of beauty no matter how you slice it, and that takes the sting out a bit.  Besides, I’ve been to the big show before, and, like any of these things, it’s a little disappointing. Did you know it’s not even an open bar once the show starts? At least this time I would have remembered to bring a little cash so I could buy myself a drink after losing.

The best part of this experience is seeing other people getting passionate about the film the way that we did. It has been a truly incredible experience. So thank you again.


jonah nolan

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Hollywood reactions on “Dark Knight” being snubbed for “The Reader”

by Blair on Jan.22, 2009, under NEWS

What a find most interesting is how baffled even Hollywood seems to be about the bizarre pick.  How the hugely popular and critically acclaimed film got displaced by an unpopular bomb that received mediocre reviews continues to unravel.  I’ll withhold judgment for the time being, but certainly by choosing such a strangely bland and unliked movie to replace “The Dark Knight” in the Best Picture race is raising eyebrows.

AP talked to “Benjamin Button” producer Frank Marshall:

(AP) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is the Academy Awards heavyweight with 13 nominations, yet the shadow of Batman loomed large with the absence of “The Dark Knight” in the best-picture race. The Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight” had picked up so much momentum from honors by Hollywood trade unions that awards watchers generally thought it would land a best-picture nomination.

“Benjamin Button” producer Frank Marshall said “it was a bit of a surprise” that his movie would not be competing with “The Dark Knight” for the top prize. “The fact that `The Dark Knight’ did so well at the box office was probably a good thing and maybe a not-so-good thing,” Marshall said. “People tend to think films as successful as that are not well made, but certainly, `Dark Knight’ is exceptionally well made.”

LA Times talked to Milk’s producer Michael London:

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. 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.”

As for now it appears that “The Reader’s” baffling appearance in the Oscar race is due to the clever work of Harvey Weinstein:

‘Dark Knight’ snubs and ‘Reader’ triumphs — did Oscar get it right?

So the big question is, did Oscar get it right?

Obviously, Harvey Weinstein, who willed “The Reader” into this year’s race against all odds and the objections of original producer Scott Rudin (who took his name off the film), thinks so on the evidence of a triumphant five nominations, all in key categories like best picture, actress, screenplay, directing and cinematography.

UPDATE: Harvey Weinstein just called sounding deliriously happy about his latest Academy Awards success story and he’s just getting revved up with that old Oscar mojo of his. “I tell people its nice we got all the nominations but do not count yourself out. You have a real chance to overtake this all. We’ve seen that happen with ‘Crash’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’. It’s all great. The only thing I can say is the race ain’t over. It’s just beginning,” he said.

In the end, my only sense of loss as part of this campaign is the sense of loss of interest in the Oscars.  Tomorrow “The Dark Knight” will be back in theaters and IMAX screens around the country.  People will still agree it’s their favorite movie in years.  And “The Reader” will still be an unpopular poorly-reviewed film that no one wants to watch.

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A Dark Day for The Dark Knight

by Blair on Jan.22, 2009, under NEWS

Looks like I won’t be watching the Oscars this year.

Oscar Snubs: A Dark Day for Dark Knight

The Dark Knight, Christian Bale Warner Bros. Pictures

Maybe fans should have seen it coming: The Dark Knight, after all, does not have a happy ending.

The genre-busting Batman movie, a critical and popular favorite that earned more money in Hollywood history than all but one movie and, up until today’s Oscar nominations, spent award season being lauded as one of the Industry’s top films, was denied a shot at the prize of prizes: Best Picture.

Also turned away: Dark Knight filmmaker Christopher Nolan, shut out of the directing and writing categories.

The Dark Knight did earn eight overall nominations, including one for the late Heath Ledger, but it didn’t earn the respect that its studio and at least one grassroots fan campaign sought.

It’s been a fun ride but it’s too bad it ended like this. What a bizarre and strange result for the academy. To select a film like “The Reader” which wasn’t even able to crack a %60 approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and most people didn’t even bother watching as a Best Picture nominee… Did not see that coming.

What are your thoughts out there?

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The last day before the announcement! CNN: “Can ‘Dark Knight’ leap into Oscar contention?”

by Blair on Jan.21, 2009, under NEWS

Well tomorrow is the big finale. We will finally know for sure if the ‘Dark Knight’ made the enormous leap from summer comic book movie sequel to cinema history. Here’s one last great article from CNN on the subject. Tomorrow we’ll know for sure…

Can ‘Dark Knight’ leap into Oscar contention?

By Todd Leopold

(CNN) — When it comes to the Academy Awards, Hollywood has some biases.

The late Heath Ledger won a Golden Globe for his performance as The Joker in "The Dark Knight."

Summer blockbusters get short shrift. Comedies aren’t taken seriously. And animated features? They almost never get drawn.

Which, on the surface, doesn’t bode well for three of the biggest movie stories of the year: “The Dark Knight,” Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in “Tropic Thunder,” and Pixar’s latest marvel, “WALL-E.”

Each earned critical plaudits and box office success. And each faces an uphill struggle nabbing major-category Oscar nominations when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its shortlists Thursday morning.

Awards expert Tom O’Neil, who follows the Oscars for the Los Angeles Times’ TheEnvelope.com, says the best-picture front-runners are “Frost/Nixon,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Milk” and Golden Globe best drama winner “Slumdog Millionaire.” Barring a completely out-of-the-box surprise, that leaves “Dark Knight,” “The Reader,” Clint Eastwood’s fast-gaining “Gran Torino” and possibly “Doubt” or “Revolutionary Road” to battle for the final slot. Video Watch who took home the Globes »

O’Neil believes “Dark Knight,” the year’s top box office draw, has “an excellent shot” of making the best-picture list.

“We know that because Oscar voters belong to guilds that have their own awards, ‘Dark Knight’ has a strong chance,” he says, noting that the Directors Guild, Producers Guild and Writers Guild have all nominated “Dark Knight” for their top awards. Read what EW’s Dave Karger has to say about that

“WALL-E,” however, is almost certainly out of the best-picture race, he says. Animated features, no matter how successful, have fared poorly in general categories. Indeed, only one animated feature — 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast” — has ever been nominated for best picture.

With the addition of the best animated feature category in 2001, it’s doubtful that even the best Pixar has to offer will cross over to best picture, particularly since the Academy ignored classics including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Fantasia” and “Toy Story.”

“Oscar voters like reality,” says O’Neil.

Either way, the Oscars could probably use the ratings help a box office success can bring to its broadcast. In recent years, the Academy has nominated several independent or low-budget films for top awards, many of which didn’t crack the $100 million mark at the box office. Oscar ratings have tumbled; last year’s numbers for “the Super Bowl for women” — as the Oscar broadcast is known by advertisers — were the lowest on record and a far cry from 1998, when more than 55 million people watched all-time box office king “Titanic” take home the top prize.

That’s not to downgrade the expected front-runners, especially since the Oscars’ intention is to honor some of the year’s best films and performances (though critics have carped they’ve often not done so). Still, it might behoove the Academy to pay attention to box office as well as prestige, particularly when several films have garnered both. Almost three-quarters of the respondents to an unscientific USA Today Internet survey have said they’d be more likely to watch the Oscar ceremony February 22 if “The Dark Knight” is nominated for best picture.

“If a film is very successful, it shouldn’t be automatically relegated to the minor leagues,” producer Peter Guber told The Associated Press. (Ironically, Guber co-produced the 1989 “Batman,” which, despite big box office and Jack Nicholson’s Joker, was nominated for just one Oscar — for Anton Furst’s set design. It won.)

Historically, summer blockbusters haven’t always been ignored. “Jaws,” considered the first of the modern summer blockbusters, was nominated for best picture, as were “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Fugitive.”

And there’s something to be said for giving visibility to smaller films, says John Martin, president and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, an upscale theater chain based in Austin, Texas.

“As an exhibitor, we would love to see those [smaller niche] films make it as well,” he says. “They would have legs [box office longevity] if nominated.”

Martin, a former film executive, was pleased that “Slumdog” and “The Wrestler” — two films his chain got behind — fared so well at the Golden Globes, and he has high hopes for both films at the Oscars. “The Wrestler’s” lead, Mickey Rourke, earned a Globe for best dramatic actor, and is now a leading candidate to win best actor at the Oscars.

O’Neil sees Rourke as the front-runner in the category, which should be “a real slugfest,” he says. “Milk’s” Sean Penn was considered the early leader, with his main competition “Frost/Nixon’s” Frank Langella. But now Rourke is in the picture, which could mean trouble for Brad Pitt (”Benjamin Button”), Leonardo DiCaprio (”Revolutionary Road”), Clint Eastwood (”Gran Torino”) and Richard Jenkins (”The Visitor”). Video Watch Eastwood talk about “Gran Torino” »

And Kate Winslet, a double winner at the Globes, could fall between the cracks in the Oscar balloting, O’Neil adds. Other awards let the performers or studios designate whether roles are leading or supporting; the Academy decides on its own, which means that Winslet’s performances in “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader” could split her support, whether for lead or supporting actress.

Heath Ledger should have no such problems. The late actor, whose performance as The Joker in “The Dark Knight” has been considered Oscar material since the film came out in July, is believed to be a shoo-in for best supporting actor. Ironically, he could be competing against Downey — 2008’s big comeback story — for a performance as an actor who takes his Method a little too seriously in “Tropic Thunder.”

Though comedies haven’t received much nomination recognition, comedic performers have received some recognition, including “Blazing Saddles’ ” Madeline Kahn, “Heaven Can Wait’s” Dyan Cannon and “A Fish Called Wanda’s” Kevin Kline, which can’t hurt Downey. There’s also his personal story, says O’Neil: After drug abuse nearly killed his career, he starred in “Thunder” and “Iron Man,” two of 2008’s biggest hits.

“He’s a hopeful spin on the Ledger story,” O’Neil says.

Martin believes Ledger is a lock. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins [outright],” he says.But “Dark Knight”? Hollywood will have to get past its disdain for “comic-book movies.” Which, O’Neil says, it should.

“This isn’t just a superhero movie,” says O’Neil. “It’s come to the rescue of Hollywood during a dark time.”

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Dark Knight completes perfect trifecta - Nolan nominated for Best Director by Director’s Guild of America

by Blair on Jan.09, 2009, under NEWS

Well it looks like the Dark Knight is pulling it off… after a bit of a rocky uncertain start to awards season, the dark horse candidate has become a surefire favorite for the Oscar nod. Now it’s added a Director’s guild nomination to it’s other nominations by the Producer’s Guild for Best Picture and Writer’s Guild for Best Screenplay…

Another Nomination Day, Another Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Warner Bros. Pictures

At this point, The Dark Knight can only surprise if it isn’t a top Oscar nominee.

The Batman blockbuster padded its resume today with a Directors Guild of America Awards nomination for Gotham revisionist Christopher Nolan.

This is really an astounding turnaround for an amazing “blockbuster” film many considered a long shot for awards season.

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`Dark Knight’ bags WGA screenplay nomination

by Blair on Jan.07, 2009, under NEWS

Another step closer to Oscar glory for the Dark Knight…

`Dark Knight’ bags WGA screenplay nomination

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Add writing to Batman’s bag of tricks. “The Dark Knight” has earned a nomination for best adapted screenplay from the Writers Guild of America.

The Batman blockbuster is competing alongside the romantic fantasy “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the Roman Catholic drama “Doubt,” the Richard Nixon saga “Frost/Nixon” and the street-orphan tale “Slumdog Millionaire.”

This is really an unprecedented nomination as I believe this is the first superhero film to be nominated for writing by the Writers Guild of America. Consider this a big step in the final push.

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Producer’s Guild of America nominates TDK for Best Picture!

by Blair on Jan.05, 2009, under NEWS

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) has named its five finalists for Best Moving Picture of 2008:

`Dark Knight’ vies for Producers Guild best pic

LOS ANGELES (AP)  — The Batman blockbuster “The Dark Knight,” slighted in earlier Hollywood honors, was among best-picture nominees Monday for the Producers Guild of America Awards.

Other best-picture nominees were Brad Pitt’s romantic fantasy “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Ron Howard’s Richard Nixon saga “Frost/Nixon,” Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk film biography “Milk” and Danny Boyle’s rags-to-riches tale “Slumdog Millionaire.” Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster in a decade and one of the year’s most-acclaimed films, “The Dark Knight” missed out on a best-picture slot for Sunday’s Golden Globes and was overlooked for an ensemble cast nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The Producers Guild lineup generally is a close match of best-picture nominees for the Academy Awards. The guild picks could give “The Dark Knight” and other contenders a last-minute nudge for the Oscars, whose nomination balloting closes Jan. 12. Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 22.

This is terrific news.  Despite the snub from the nonsensical Globes, TDK is making a big last minute push to pull back into the fight.

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My thoughts on why Frost/Nixon should be dumped from Best Picture.

by Blair on Jan.01, 2009, under NEWS

Having watched almost all the films in the lead running (except Button which I’m catching later today) I’m fairly surprised at one of them being considered.

mainI have a big issue with the Academy nominating “Frost/Nixon” for Best Picture. My problem is not just that this is a really aggressively mediocre film as far as acting and directing.  It isn’t just the psuedo-documentary style they use to explain character motivations.  The film quite frankly is a lie made out of an event that happened within most of the Academy voter’s lifetimes.  How on earth the Academy is considering this as “Best Picture” of the year is beyond me.

I’m going to be discussing spoilers here, if that’s even possible for a film based on such a well known historical event, but here we go.

“Frost/Nixon” is history that doesn’t even meet the standards of Made-for-HBO flicks like “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers,” and “Recount.”  This certainly doesn’t have any of the accuracy of other Presidential historical dramas like “Thirteen Days” or even this year’s “W.”  The film is a dishonest and misleading take on an event that was actually filmed and broadcast on television.  Let’s start with the premise.  Frost/Nixon portrays David Frost as the plucky underdog who must overcome the odds and win the big game at the last minute.  In their version of the story, we end with Nixon confessing to the Watergate cover-up on television.  Anyone who’s ever watched the actual tapes knows that he actually said the exact opposite.  Further, Nixon was getting a hefty percentage of the project’s profits, so the admissions he did make were completely controlled by him to generate ratings.

This movie even has Nixon drunk-dialing David Frost late at night in his hotel room and confessing his sins while blaming it all on popular kids being mean to him in high school.  Does anyone actually believe that really happened?  In the final scene of the movie Nixon’s character actually turns to Frost and goes “did I really do that.”  Frost looks with seriousness and replies solemnly “yes.”  Sorry… nope.

Others have noticed this garbage and rightly called out the film for this nonsense.  Elizabeth Drew’s article calling the film a “Dishonest Distortion of History” is definitely worth reading if you’re considering watching this flick:

But it’s because of the enormously historical importance of that period that the film raises serious questions of its legitimacy. The film’s plot is a contrivance; its telling is so riddled with departures from what actually happened as to be fundamentally dishonest; and its climactic moment is purely and simply a lie.

I definitely recommend reading the rest of her article here.  What’s sad however is that usually Ron Howard’s truth-distorting Oscar bait film tricks work on Academy voters.  Anyone remember “Beautiful Mind” (from the same writer who gave us “Batman & Robin.” Seriously).  Well read the real life story of John Forbes Nash and see how much resemblance it bears to the corny and safe PG-13 flick Howard turned out.

The latest pundit comments however predict that Frost/Nixon remains a lock for a nomination. EW’s Dave Karger makes this rather probable analysis in the current state of the Oscar nomination race:

Oscars ‘09: Dave Karger Predicts…

At this point, you can put money on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, and Frost/Nixon to make the cut. The fifth slot, leaving out dark horses like Revolutionary Road (too depressing), The Reader (too controversial), and WALL-E (too…cartoony), is looking like a race between two very different contenders: Doubt and The Dark Knight. The intimate, powerful Doubt racked up the most Screen Actors Guild nominations — but then again, so did Oscar also-ran Into the Wild last year. If Doubt fails to excite the non-acting majority of the Academy, a certain commercial and critical smash might just end up with a Best Picture nod to add to its half-billion dollar gross.

It is disappointing and I hope some Academy voters take a good long hard look at “Frost/Nixon” before just handing it an honor it most definitely does not deserve.

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Christmas Day sees the release of several more Oscar contenders, and so far none of them are ranking as high with the critics as Dark Knight

by Blair on Dec.24, 2008, under NEWS

A quick glance over at RottenTomatoes gives us an unscientific snapshot of the overall reaction to some of the latest and last Oscar holiday releases before the year ends.

Curious Case of Benjam…

While none of these scores mean these are bad films or that they aren’t going to be nominated or even win… they do indicate a lower overall critical response to these flicks.  Compare to Dark Knight’s current score:

The Dark Knight (2008) 94 %

Consensus: Dark, complex and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.

Another film widely considered to be a contender, Gran Torino, doesn’t come close either:

74% Gran Torino

In fact of all the main contenders, only 2 “long shots” have higher ratings than Dark Knight, Wall-E with 96% positive and The Wrestler with 98%.  The other close Best Picture contenders are Milk and Slumdog Millionaire, each with 93% positive reviews.  So that means that currently The Dark Knight is currently beating most of its major competition for positive critical reviews in the big contenders for Best Picture.

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Interview with E! Online for Oscar Watch

by Blair on Dec.22, 2008, under NEWS

First, it’s REALLY cool to be featured in E! Online’s Oscar Watch. Joal Ryan did a little interview with me via email that he published for his weekend Academy Awards article. Here’s how it went:

eonline_logo1Oscar Watch: Can Dark Knight Fans Make the Difference?

The Dark Knight

Coolest New Campaign (That’s Not Costing Warner Bros. a Dime): Dark Campaign, a self-described grassroots effort to score a Best Picture nomination for The Dark Knight, complete with custom ads and posters.

So Why Does a Studio-Backed Megablockbuster Need a Helping Fan Hand? “Because it’s a genre flick, I think it needs the extra voice of all the moviegoers who loved it saying, ‘Yes, it’s a superhero movie, but it’s also an incredible film that deserves to be considered among the best,’” the site’s Blair Erickson said in an email.

You Could Be Next, Watchmen: While Erickson’s a creative director at a media firm that’s done business with Warner, his Dark Campaign is billed as strictly a fan thing. “But if the WB marketing department is reading this,” he said, “and wants some help with Terminator: Salvation or Watchmen…nudge nudge.”

If Austin, Texas, Ruled the World, Fan Campaigns Wouldn’t Be Necessary: The area’s film critics named The Dark Knight best picture.

But what’s really exciting to me is how positive the comments on that article are below.  Read the reaction people had:

“**** yeah thats how you do it. the dark knight is a great film.”

“What a fantastic idea. I loved The Dark Knight and Batman Begins! And what can I say about Heath’s Joker. The man completely redefined, redid, redecorated one of the most popular villains of all time and we, the fans, never complained once–we rejoiced. The Doobie Brothers can take it to the streets… We’re takin’ it to the Oscars, baby!!”

“That video on darkcampaign.com is one of the best I’ve seen and should be playing in theatres everywhere!”

“I just joined the Dark Campaign on Facebook!”

Thanks to all the fans for keeping up the fight to get Dark Knight to the Oscars.  Great work everyone.

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