The year isn’t over, but best of 2009 awards and nominations are already being handed out. If like everyone, you’re a Dark Knight fan, things aren’t looking good. So far, it’s been a near total shut-out (with far too few exceptions like the Critics Choice Awards) for Nolan’s record-breaking superhero masterpiece, as other movies and other actors were awarded by early honoring critics and given the top places on their top whatever lists. The shutting out of the year’s best film reached its zenith this morning, when the Golden Globe nominees were announced, and except for a single Heath Ledger nomination The Dark Knight was left off.
Instead of nominating the year’s best reviewed, most loved movie the Golden Globes honored movies which no one really cares about. Movies which have received solid, but not spectacular reviews and which are for the most part, good but not great. In another year ignoring a movie like The Dark Knight might be justifiable. In 1977 for instance, the Academy honored Annie Hall instead of Star Wars. They were wrong, but at least you could make a case for giving the award to one of the industry’s most talented directors at the very height of his powers. This year there is no Annie Hall, in fact this year’s collection of Oscar hopefuls, aside from The Dark Knight, are decidedly mediocre. Apologies to The Reader, but you’re no Annie Hall.
Call me and the other 99% of moviegoers who love this movie biased if you want, but this is more than just our opinion. It’s also the opinion of many of the people leaving it out of their awards. Shortly before its debut in theaters, critics were hailing it as one of the best movies ever made, a life changing experience. It is, for a fact, one of the very best reviewed movies of the year. According to RottenTomatoes it has received a higher percentage of positive reviews than literally any of the other movies nominated in the Best Picture category by the half-mad Golden Globes… and it’s done that in spite of being much more widely reviewed. It’s more than just the year’s best movie, it’s also almost unquestionably going to be the year’s most influential. Like Star Wars before it, The Dark Knight is fast becoming the new mold from which all future movies will be poured. Its impact, its influence on cinema will be felt for decades to come.
The Golden Globes are the Golden Globes, a vague entity run by a strange and mysterious European shadow organization which no one seems to understand. It sucks that they’ve decided to ignore The Dark Knight but they can get away with it, they’re the Golden Globes and they never make sense anyway. They have that luxury. Film critics: You don’t. Ignore The Dark Knight at your peril.
Film critics can no longer afford to champion pet films which no one has ever seen, at the expense of what even they have to know is probably the better film. Here’s why: They’re all about to be out of a job. Most end of year critics awards are the product of voting almost exclusively by print film critics. Few awards committees recognize the opinions of online reviewers, so most of the time when you see these awards announcements they’re all the result of voting from newspaper writers. Newspaper film critics who, by the way, are increasingly becoming extremely unemployed. If American newspapers are in trouble then American newspaper reviewers are in double trouble. There are many theories as to why this is happening, Roger Ebert came up with some good ones here. But at least part of the problem is that increasingly, people are turning away from the old media film critic and turning to places like Cinema Blend for their film related discussion and opinion. Why? Because they feel those critics are out of touch.
For print critics, a vote against The Dark Knight is a vote for your own irrelevancy. It’s a vote for the unemployment line. It’s a conscious choice to ignore a cultural phenomenon in favor of pushing some undeserved indie-film agenda over a movie which people have already seen. I’m not saying some of these smaller films aren’t good. They are. Milk for instance, deserves every bit of the praise it’s getting and there’s still room to give it some love right alongside TDK. Right now though, Dark Knight isn’t even in the conversation. That’s a travesty, one which must be corrected before it’s time to start talking Oscars. In any year, but especially in this, a particularly weak year, there’s nothing out there which compares to The Dark Knight. It must transcend your petty big box office biases since it has already changed the way we think about movies forever. It’s more than the best movie of the year, it’s one of the best movies ever made. Snub it and there will be consequences.