Friday, January 30, 2009

Top Films: Seriously, Good but Not Quite Best

The Dark Knight is a great film. It has been suggested as the best ever comic book movie, and it was the top grossing movie of 2008. (It actually is one of the top 5 grossing movies ever!) It received 8 nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So why is it not in the running for Best Picture? There are a lot of reasons that the Dark Knight may not be the best picture of the year, even as it remains a great picture and one of the best of the 2008 crop.

First of all, it is a little long. Of course, there is a history of Best Picture winners being long, but in the Dark Knight’s case, we are talking too long. Not that the running time in minutes should be shorter, it’s just that the movie outlasts the story. The enemy Batman faces in this film, the Joker, is a villain that simply wants chaos. He is evil. Late in the film, the story shifts away from this evil and starts telling a new story—about justice vs. revenge. It is a new story, Batman 3 in fact. There is talk of there not being a third installment because Chris Nolan can’t think of another story that needs telling. That may be because he went and told it already… in 30 minutes at the end of part 2.

Also, there’s the Joker. Here is a case of pure evil personified. It is a great performance and a great role. However, one cannot help but think of another similar villain from last year—Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. Now that was a creepy role. Mainly because Chigurh is not evil personified and done up crazily, he is just evil… period.

Finally, there is the critique (that feels forced) against the current US policies such as the Patriot Act. Batman’s cell phone spy machine is confusing cinema, and it is a bit inconsistent as a statement. “Oh my gosh! That is so evil, Batman, that I quit! I will let you use this one time, as circumstances are really bad, but then I quit!”

Other than that though, and considering the weaker nature of 2008 in film, it might be one of the best two or three films of the year. Time (and more viewing) will tell.

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