Gran Torino, Dark Knight shut out at the Oscars

Don’t get me wrong — I thought Benjamin Button was a good, entertaining film, but it’s hardly comparable to The Godfather or Schindler’s List.  Hollywood thinks otherwise, giving Button an eyebrow-raising 13 nominations:

The romantic fantasy “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” led Academy Awards contenders Thursday with 13 nominations, among them best picture and acting honors for Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson, and a directing slot for David Fincher.

Other best-picture nominees are “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “The Reader” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

As expected, Heath Ledger had a supporting-actor nomination for “The Dark Knight” on the one-year anniversary of his death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. But the Batman blockbuster was shut out from other top categories such as best picture and director. …

Notably snubbed in the acting categories were Clint Eastwood for “Gran Torino,” Sally Hawkins for “Happy-Go-Lucky” and Kristin Scott Thomas for “I’ve Loved You So Long.”

Doubt picked up four of the 20 acting nominations, with Meryl Streep extending her record to 15 nominations, this time as a Best Actress finalist, and Amy Adams, Viola Davis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman for supporting roles.  This, like Button, was an actor’s film, and it had stellar peformances across the board.  I’m also not surprised to see it honored, given its ties to the scandals of the Catholic Church over the past few years, but am a little surprised not to see it nominated for Best Picture.  Two of the five contenders for the big prize are explicitly political, which keeps in the Oscar tradition.

As for The Dark Knight, its exclusion doesn’t bother me as much. It’s a good comic-book film, perhaps one of the best, but it’s still just a comic-book film.  That genre doesn’t get much respect from Hollywood except at the box office, even with a great performance by the late Heath Ledger.

Likewise, the shutout of Gran Torino does not surprise me.  The politics of the movie run counter to Hollywood’s taste for the most part, although the theme of the futility of vigilante justice should have gained it some notice.  I think Gran Torino is easily a better movie than Button, and for that matter, so is Doubt.  Both have more conflict, more drama, and more reality than the elegiac Button.  The only conclusion I can reach is that Oscar voters didn’t get it, and got too hung up on the rough edges of Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski.  Either that, or they were too busy fawning over the politics of Frost/Nixon and Milk to notice.

Update (AP): Here’s your presumptive winner for Best Picture.