Batman and Oscar: A History
I’m in the midst of writing an Oscar quiz for MSNBC.com — the fifth I’ve done in five years. It should be getting old but it’s not. Basically I look at the nominees, dig, find interesting facts, write the questions. I don’t know if this makes for good questions but it definitely makes for interesting answers.
The quiz will probably go up tomorrow or the next day but here’s a headstart on one aspect that I found fascinating.
Although “The Dark Knight” didn’t get any best picture respect, it did receive eight nominations overall — twice as many as any superhero film has ever garnered. The previous record-holder was “The Incredibles,” with four, but you can also make an argument for “Superman: The Movie,” which, in 1979, received three noms and one “Special Achievement” award for visual effects. I assumed this meant the Academy ignored visual effects until recently but they actually began nominating in that category in 1939 (“The Rains Came” over “The Wizard of Oz”), but for some reason stopped throughout most of the 1970s. Instead they just gave out these “Special Achievement” awards. If they’d actually done the nom’ing, “Superman: The Movie” would’ve had four noms as well.
Here’s a list of AA nominations for superhero movies, in chronological order, with wins in italics :
- “The Mark of Zorro” (1940): Original Score
- “Superman: The Movie” (1978): Editing; Original Score; Sound
- “Batman” (1989): Art Direction-Set Decoration
- “Batman Returns” (1992): Makeup; Visual Effects
- “Batman Forever” (1995): Cinematography; Sound; Sound Effects Editing
- “The Mask of Zorro” (1998): Sound; Sound Effects Editing
- “Spider-Man” (2002): Sound; Visual Effects
- “Spider-Man 2” (2004): Sound Mixing; Sound Editing; Visual Effects
- “The Incredibles” (2004): Animated Film; Sound Mixing; Original Screenplay; Sound Editing
- “Batman Begins” (2005): Cinematography
- “Superman Returns” (2005): Visual Effects
- “Iron Man” (2008): Sound Editing; Visual Effects
- “The Dark Knight” (2008): Art Direction; Cinematography; Editing; Makeup; Sound; Sound Editing; Visual Effects; Supporting Actor
Yes, mostly in Sound and Visual Effects, and mostly for Batman, Superman and Zorro — characters created before 1940. No “X-Men,” for example, despite two good movies with tons of visual effects, and, I assume (not that I know), Sound.
The main point is this: Despite a seeming defeat, “The Dark Knight,” and Heath Ledger in particular, expanded Oscar's palette.