"The Dark Knight Rises" is poised to break box office records this weekend. Can this well-reviewed final installment in Christopher Nolan's "Batman" trilogy also break into the Best Picture race at the Oscars?
In 2008, the second film in the series -- "The Dark Knight" -- was expected to contend for the top prize but was snubbed. Back then, the category had only five contenders. The following year, the academy expanded the Best Picture race to 10 nominees and continued this in 2010 before recalibrating the category last year to allow for anywhere from five to 10 nominees (nine films were nominated).
Reviews for "The Dark Knight Rises" have been almost as good as they were for "The Dark Knight." It has scored 80 at Metacritic, just two points behind "The Dark Knight." Two critics that academy members are likely to read -- Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) and Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter) -- both raved about the film.
Turan described it thus: "A disturbing experience we live through as much as a film we watch, this dazzling conclusion to director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is more than an exceptional superhero movie, it is masterful filmmaking by any standard."
And McCarthy found it to be, "entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan's trio, even if it lacks -- how could it not? -- an element as unique as Heath Ledger's immortal turn in 'The Dark Knight.' It's a blockbuster by any standard."
Ledger, who died before the film was released, won the 2008 Supporting Actor Oscar. Two years, Christian Bale, who plays Bruce Wayne/Batman, won the same award for "The Fighter." Anne Hathaway, who plays his feline foe in "The Dark Knight Rises," was a 2008 Best Actresss nominee for "Rachel Getting Married."
Nolan has been nominated for three Oscars -- two for scripting ("Memento," 2001; "Inception," 2010) and one for producing Best Picture nominee "Inception." But his triple play on the first two "Batman" films -- writing, directing, producing -- has gone unrecognized. Is that about to change?