The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released this morning the list nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. Also known as the Oscars, the awards are ostensibly bestowed upon the best the year's cinema has to offer, but conspicuously absent on 2008's list of nominations are works by Clint Eastwood, Darren Aronofsky and Bruce Springsteen. Most surprising among the Academy's omissions is "The Dark Knight," the hugely popular film based on the classic DC Comics superhero Batman, which has been shut out of nearly every major category.
Though Heath Ledger was, as expected, honored with a posthumous nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of The Joker, fellow actors Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman were snubbed in the acting categories. Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan was also ignored for his contributions to what was arguably the best reviewed film of 2008.
A big winner in the early awards season, "The Dark Knight" was also passed over for the Academy's Best Motion Picture of the year. Films that did make the cut include "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Milk," "Frost/Nixon," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Reader."
"The Dark Knight" stirred Oscar controversy in the weeks leading up to the nominations, when Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's superlative score for the film was deemed ineligible as a technical consequence of the number of composers listed on the music's cue sheet. The Academy's Music Branch Executive Committee eventually reversed its decision, although "The Dark Knight" was ignored in the Original Score category as well.
In addition to Ledger's nomination, the Batman film does have a good chance of winning up to seven Academy Awards in other less glamorous categories, including Best Achievement in Art Direction (Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Wally Pfister), Best Achievement in Film Editing (Lee Smith), Best Achievement in Makeup (John Caglione, Jr., Conor O'Sullivan), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Richard King), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick) and Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber, Paul Franklin).
Also based on a comic book superhero, "Iron Man" earned similar Academy Award nominations for making things explode with the highest quality of visual and audio fidelity. "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" is nominated for Best Achievement in Makeup, and "Wanted" is nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.
The 81st Academy Awards will be presented February 22 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. The ceremony will be hosted by Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman, who will now be spared the indignity of presiding over an awards show where Batman wins the most coveted trophies.