Oscar Watch: Could Christopher Nolan's 'Batman' Trilogy Score a Best Picture Nod?

[caption id="attachment_125144" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Warner Bros."]Christian Bale in "The Dark Knight Rises"[/caption]

Christopher Nolan fans waiting for their beloved auteur's epic Batman trilogy to get some Academy love could finally be rewarded come Oscar time.

"The Dark Knight Rises" has a fabulous shot at scoring a Best Picture nod next February. While it's too early in the year to call the film a shoo-in, the final installment in Nolan's Caped Crusader reboot has all the prestige elements necessary (not to mention a unique history with the Academy) to snag more than just the usual list of technical nominations: critical appeal, an award-winning cast, dazzling cinematography and serious themes that elevate it far above the average superhero adventure.

As any of Nolan's army of hard-core fans can tell you, the Academy snubbed "The Dark Knight" for Best Picture (and Best Director) in 2009, causing a frenzy of outrage that ultimately led to the expansion from five to 10 possible nominees. Although "The Dark Knight" did win two Oscars: one for Best Sound Editing, and the other a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger's masterful performance as The Joker, "The Dark Night Rises" is the series' last chance at the major awards.

According to Oscar pundit Tom O'Neil, The Academy hasn't forgotten the glaring omission from 2009. "'Batman is holding a giant I.O.U. from the Oscars," the GoldDerby.com writer tells us. "Outrage was so deafening when Academy voters failed to nominate 'The Dark Knight.'"

[caption id="attachment_2684" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Warner Bros."]Christopher Nolan[/caption]

Still, it's only July, and many of the year's biggest Oscar contenders have yet to come out, including Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" and Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" – all of which have fall or holiday releases. Since those films also boast previously nominated or winning directors, they could obviously threaten "The Dark Knight Rises" chances.

"If it's a competitive year,' Dark Knight' may find itself on the outside looking in, much like 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2' did," says HitFix editor Gregory Ellwood. "Whether the membership believe the scope of Nolan's trilogy deserves a nod remains to be seen."

But there's plenty of reasons for the "Batman" crusaders to have hope – especially in categories like screenwriting, score and even directing – which would be a welcome first for Nolan, whom many thought was snubbed (again!) when 2010's "Inception" wasn't nominated for directing. On the bright side for Nolan, several movie critics have proclaimed "The Dark Knight Rises" even better than "The Dark Knight."

That's high praise, considering "The Dark Knight" is the best-reviewed movie of Nolan's critically acclaimed career. The Miami Herald movie critic Rene Rodriguez says there's no question that Nolan delivered the perfect coda to an excellent trilogy of films.

"I think you go into this movie expecting nothing less than greatness. We know it's the last one, and we've seen what the other movie did, and you go into it thinking 'You better show me something good,'" he tells NextMovie. "And I think what he gives you even exceeds those expectations. Everything in this movie works so well together."

[caption id="attachment_70339" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Warner Bros."][/caption]

In particular, Rodriguez points out Anne Hathaway's performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's nuanced portrayal of rookie Gotham City cop John Blake. "Anne Hathaway is amazing. Who would ever have thought that character could ever be that fantastic? Joseph Gordon-Levitt was so good too. The acting in this film is just so strong."

With the overwhelming buzz for "The Dark Knight Rises" widely considered completely deserved, O'Neil thinks it would be easy for the Academy to right its past wrong with a nomination, but when it comes to the Oscars, you never really know until announcement day.

"It's clear that 'Rises' is worthy of being added to the Best Picture rundown. The question is: If it doesn’t get it, will the Academy need to call on Batman to save it from the throngs of angry fans storming its headquarters in Beverly Hills?"

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