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No room for Nolan: Why Oscar keeps snubbing Christopher Nolan's work


Why do we get snubbed? So we can learn to pick ourselves up...

No room for Nolan: Why Oscar keeps snubbing Christopher Nolan's work

So here we are, approaching that special time of year again, the Oscars. Whilst for many cinema fanatics it is one of the most exciting events of the year, we should bear in mind the attitude towards them that is adopted by some, even those who have in the past been well-recognised by the Academy. This is to say, as much as the handsome statuettes are valued for the earning potential and notoriety they provide, their artistic relevance and merit as recognition of the year’s best work is often arguable.

Upon receiving his Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman said, “To that artistic family who strive for excellence, none of you have ever lost, and I am proud to share this with you.” It is a moving sentiment, beautifully expressed, summarising rather well the truth that a great deal of wonderful work throughout the year – by all sorts of people – in front of and behind the camera, does not even make the Academy’s shortlist. The notion that we can present one particular film, score, or performance as a yardstick by which all others are judged is, when you think about it, ridiculous. When you can have Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino nominated for utterly different, and yet equally compelling, performances, you can understand why Hoffman said he refused to believe he beat anybody.

Indeed, with the people responsible for the movies we enjoy so often putting their heart and soul into a piece of work, without regard for reward other than the result itself, it is a rare occasion when we can honestly say one nominee clearly stands as objectively, demonstrably the best. With this said, it is perhaps understandable that we do not always comprehend how the shortlist for categories for the big night are compiled, and it is maybe even fair enough that from time to time we, personally, feel something in particular has been overlooked.

Poster from one of Christopher Nolan's modern classics, 'Inception' (2010)On the other hand, every now and then, it appears the misstep is so clearly wrong, an omission so obtusely unreasonable, that we stare aghast in disbelief! This year, sadly, is one such year, and it is this which brings me to my point...I want to talk about Christopher Nolan.

The bigger the hit, the harder the fall is to take

In 2011, Mr. Nolan’s masterpiece, Inception, garnered nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, and rightly so. It won neither. Whilst I can solidly argue that it was a hugely romanticised view of the very good, but rather hyped The King’s Speech that lead to Inception being robbed of at least one of those accolades, it seemed strange that it was not shortlisted for its editing; and beyond the pale that Nolan himself was completely snubbed in the category of Best Director.

Incidentally, in case you need reminding, Tom Hooper picked that one up instead, again, for The King’s Speech. Being beaten to the post by another film is disappointing, but as Hoffman suggested, this does not mean much. If you have created something magnificent, the regard held for you by your fans and your colleagues is undoubtedly of higher importance, and indeed awards certainly do not dictate most people’s favourite films. To not be in the race at all, however, for one of the biggest cinema hits of 2010, is quite a different type of blow. Personally, though, despite Inception being my film of the year, I took it on the chin, accepted that the movie received some accolades at least, including a win for Wally Pfister’s cinematography, and moved on.

The Dark Knight may have risen, but Nolan is again left behind

I saw The Dark Knight Rises at the IMAX in London last year, and I very much enjoyed it, as expected. You will find a slightly more comprehensive view of it a little later, but the bottom line is that upon announcement of the Oscar nominees this year, I was most shocked to find Nolan’s film had not turned up on any list, for anything!

Now I am a tremendous film fan and not unrealistic; I admire various aspects of all sorts of movies, and the fact that I have been a huge fan of a particular actor, writer or director for quite some time does not impede my understanding that their film cannot win everything. A Lord of the Rings obsessive can rave all they like about The Hobbit, but it does not automatically mean it will, or indeed should, sweep the floor in every category. In the end certain films are going to be voted as being better than others in particular areas and that is just the way it is; this is the reality I accepted when Inception missed out; and although the director did not receive a nod that year, it was good to see it had some recognition.

This year is a different story...

"A more obvious suggestion for why the Oscars have ignored TDKR and  one I have not seen brought up enough is political sensitivity over the Colorado theatre shootings..."

Upon writing a review for The Dark Knight Rises, I specifically stated I would consider it criminal if it did not at least receive a nomination (not a win, you notice, but a nomination), for Best Cinematography and again, Best Director. Not to disparage any other films, but when you see David O. Russell and Tom Hooper up there again, it really throws into relief how wrong it is for the awards to be completely without one nod for the epic conclusion to Nolan’s Batman series. We are not talking about a small, strange film that was a bit on the edge, but instead the climatic finale to a gripping franchise. Simply put, we are talking about Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises!

The Oscars: 'Robin' Nolan of deserved accolades

Did Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in 'The Dark Knight' (2008) mean that 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012) was always going to be overshadowed?It implies a sort of whitewash, and the reasons could be numerous. Perhaps it's the fact that TDKR is, technically, a superhero blockbuster, although this surely leaves us to wonder whether The Dark Knight only gained so much attention due to the sad loss of Heath Ledger. Despite many people claiming his iconic performance did, all on its own, put the film beyond any follow-up’s reach, the fact is that The Dark Knight Rises has a classic-inspired, exciting, relevant story to tell, an intimidating villain, and is an epic conclusion to a much loved trilogy. In short, it is hardly believable that it could not realistically make any nominations list.

Sorry, Oscar...but we're not buying it; especially when we see Marvel’s The Avengers up for Best Visual Effects. Equally as likely is a sort of artistic cynicism, since the film is the last in a trilogy, so often a franchise’s let-down. Again, history does not agree, and in any case, this would not be a valid way of judging a piece of work.

A more obvious suggestion, which I have not seen brought up enough, is political sensitivity over the Colorado theatre shootings. It was a sad event, and the strange link Nolan’s Batman had to it, with the shooter James Holmes adopting the Joker as an inspiration, did cast an unfortunate shadow over the movie; and whilst it was not a bad move, Christian Bale’s visit to the victims did emphasise the issue.

With America in hot debate over gun control – and seemingly happy to cancel film premieres out of sensitivity – it is conceivable that they would view this as reason enough to blacklist The Dark Knight Rises. This does, however, bring up the question of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained which, despite coming under fire for gun violence, still received numerous nominations. There is, of course, a difference in that there is no clearly defined link between that movie and a specific tragedy. In any case, whilst such a move would perhaps be well-meant, it would still be a very sad reason for snubbing what was undoubtedly a piece of work worthy of nomination.

And yet, since I cannot give credence to any of the above, I am left at a loss as to what has prevented The Dark Knight Rises being considered, at any point, for an award, and we can only speculate about things going on to which we are not privy. Nevertheless, I hold that Christopher Nolan is a film fans’ filmmaker, one who has a talent for making incredible, blockbuster movies with brains, and infusing what could be popcorn fodder in someone else’s hands with an art-house aesthetic.

See also Daniel Elford's further thoughts on Christopher Nolan's genius:

Christopher Nolan: A film-by-film career overview


If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.



#1 I totally agree TheNoah 2013-01-26 21:26
I totally agree with you on this topic. There were many fantastic films this years. Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Django, Lincoln, but none measured up to the majesty of the Dark Knight Rises. It didn't even get nominated for best sound editing. I was very disappointed when I saw that this movie was not nominated for best picture. Then I scrolled down the list, and there was not one goddamn nomination. I thought that the academy didn't want another 2008.
#2 TDKR isn't the only one. Silrian 2013-01-27 02:41
I agree, and I think it also has a lot to do with buzz. Contrary to many fans at home, it seems to me TDKR has been quite consistently publicized as a let down, regardless of how good it actually might be. And, might I add my unbelievable disbelief at how Cloud Atlas is received (and by that obe could mean ignored)!? My number 1 film of the year.

I have never been so out of touch with the Academy's choices and, even though they have the full right to their own opinion, I'm simply tremendously disappointed in them, so much so that after three Nolan-snub/Zimmer-snub Years (09/11/13) and now adding Cloud Atlas (and there are other films) I've pretty much had it with their consistent period-piece hype picks.

Though I think both TDK and Inception were more deserved to win big at the Oscars, than TDKR, not even rectifying that with noms this year is pretty much the final straw to me. I've simply stopped caring for the Oscars.
#3 The best article iv'e read in a while dvir971 2013-01-27 17:37
I agree with every word, the fact he is not nominated this year its a shame. Well done on the good article!
#4 Nolan isn't the first Oliver 2013-01-28 11:20
'Alien' and 'Aliens' weren't nominated (though Sigourney Weaver was); 'T2' wasn't nominated (though it won in all the technical categories); Michael Mann's 'Heat' wasn't nominated.

You need to get used to the Academy snubbing excellent action and spectacle, as well as their directors, because, however unfair, it's nothing new. As it is, you're coming dangerously close being to the fanboy who complains why The New York Times Review of Books doesn't mention the latest Wolverine min-series.
#5 I take it on board Daniel Elford 2013-01-29 20:19
As a cinema fan, I take your 'fanboy' comment on board, but reiterate this is not about being a bias fan, but judging the cinema itself. I do not think I am "dangerously close" to be anything of the sort :)

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