Tag Archives: The Dark Knight

Song, Dance, and Commendation: Turning the 2009 Academy Awards into a Television Event

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Song, Dance, and Commendation:

Turning the 2009 Oscars into a Television Event

When the Academy Awards brought on a set of new producers, there was the usual buzzwords: on time! Big surprises! Excitement! On time! Thrilling! And yet, we all doubted that it could live up to the expectation, especially after the year’s most populist films were all but shut out of major awards, and the chance for big surprises was more or less out the door the second that the runaway train of Slumdog Millionaire pulled into the station. The odds were stacked against this show from being something that felt like a real television event, which is really the point of this whole affair.

Or, well, one of the points. In reality, this is an event that is about celebrating the best in the year of film, but that is an idea that is always so subjective and often disconnected from what the movie-going public actually experienced. At the very least, then, it’s supposed to be a celebration of the talent in Hollywood, something that is always tough with the red carpet affairs and the grasps at star power drive attention towards those with the most cache. And all the while they have to be entertaining, keeping us moving between awards and keeping our attention.

And while it didn’t run on time (who ever expected it to?), and there weren’t many major surprises (here’s a full list of winners), tonight’s Academy Awards will go down in the books as one that provided entertainment you’d see nowhere else, a celebration of the year in movies and not just those movies which happened to be nominated, and one where the fine line between indulgent self-aggrandizing and commending the year’s finest actors was walked with great control. And that, at the very least, created three and a half hours of engaging television.

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Credit Where It’s Due: The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

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Credit Where It’s Due:

The Golden Globes are not (entirely) Irrelevant

It is often very easy to discredit the Golden Globes for being one thing or another, or for not being one thing or another. It is not that these are all false: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are not cinematic or television authorities, and it is often very clear in their choices that their criteria is both highly erratic and highly suspect on most occasions. The 2009 Golden Globes were in part a testament to this particular part of their mystique, with a variety of winners which felt like they were entirely unrelated to the film or television series beside their name.

But we have to admit that there are certain points where this type of crass favouritism can actually intersect with what we as both award show viewers and as appreciators of good film and television considering to be something approaching justice. While I could easily speak to how Slumdog Millioniare’s numerous wins are a result of its international production (Always a big thing with the HFPA, see Babel defeating The Departed), or how Tina Fey’s victory is only the result of her time in the mainstream as Sarah Palin, does this really override the fact that I loved Slumdog Millionaire and that Tina Fey is a comic sensation on 30 Rock?

While the sheer cynicism with which we view the subjectivity of the Golden Globes is not wholly unique within the major awards circuit, I nonetheless feel like it is sometimes overstated in the case of the Globes for the purpose of focusing on those winners that we don’t like while choosing to view good decisions as the exception to the rule. This isn’t going to stop me from attacking the HFPA for being irrelevant with some of their choices, especially as it relates to nominees, but when it comes to the winners I think it’s safe to say that they might have actually paid attention to what they were watching in the past year.

Even if it was, per usual, for the wrong reasons in some instances.

[For a complete LiveBlog rundown of the show, click here!]

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The 2009 Golden Globes LiveBlog

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Open Bar. Slavish appreciation of celebrity and the cult therein. The Golden Globes are not about who wins, really, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever miss an opportunity to complain about it. Watch as I discuss the television awards with a false sense of authority, write about the movie awards with an even more false sense of authority, and gossip about celebrities with the exact amount of zero authority almost all internet commentators have on the subject.

I am not live-blogging the pre-show per se, but I have been writing some tweets, so follow me on Twitter for more fun on that front. But, really, we’re here for the judgments of the Hollywood Foreign Press – those guys are crazy.

7:49pm: First word of warning – time might jump forward an hour, I’m adjusting Atlantic Time to Eastern Time for your benefit and might occasionally screw up. Time for the pre-awards ten minutes of pre-show blogging.

7:54pm: Basics of the pre-show – NBC mindbogglingly combining people in a line so that they could get through more people, resulting in some enormously random combinations. Only real moment of any interest was Mark Wahlberg quite hilariously calling Jeremy Piven out on his mercury levels, and then Piven getting gravely serious about it, resulting in a lot of awkwardness. Otherwise, no drama of note, and I won’t attempt discuss anything related to fashion.

7:56pm: Okay, I lied – Kate Winslet looks really, really good. That is all.

7:58pm: Brooke Burke and Tiki Barber aren’t allowed to have opinions, silly Nancy O’Dell – that’s not why they’re there!

8:00pm: And here we go – wait, the Jonas Brothers are there? Oy vey.

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On a Grand Scale: The Similarities between “The Wire” and “The Dark Knight”

As has been noted many times when my guest spots on the /Filmcast (Which, excitingly for Kevin Bacon potential, has Kevin Smith as its guest on Monday night) end before the group gets into discussing the latest new release, I’m not much of a moviegoer. When my own visual media renaissance hit a few years ago, Television was just what I gravitated towards – it happened in such a way that I’m still one of those people who has to pretend I’ve seen various classics I haven’t. Just last night I pulled I “I think I’ve seen parts of X” when, in reality, I’m clueless.

But, like a whole boatload of other people, I headed to the theatres last evening to check out the biggest film of the summer. And like any multi-layered epic film of this nature, I do have a lot of things to say, but I don’t really want to write a review. Cultural Learnings is, at the end of the day, a television blog, and part of my life’s curse is comparing everything I read/watch to some sort of television example.

So, I decided that I’d kill two birds with one stone. I’m halfway through Season Four of The Wire, David Simon and Ed Burns’ HBO masterpiece, and I see a lot of connections between the construction of that series and what Nolan has accomplished with The Dark Knight. I’m not suggesting that the two shows are identical, or that Nolan achieves the effect or quality of The Wire’s five season long story arcs within a single two and a half hour film, but rather that some of the decisions and emphases he makes render this story as much an exercise of scale as Simon’s visionary work.

And both in the world of television crime series and superhero cinema, this type of scale is unprecedented.

[Note: Yes, believe it or not, I am going to try to discuss both of these examples without any major spoilers. This means that, while I’m going to talk about themes and characters in both series, I don’t plan on going into major details on either of them. So, people who have seen both can fill in the blanks, and maybe those who’ve only seen one may be intrigued by the other.]

In Terms of Scale

What sets The Wire apart from other crime shows on television is its emphasis on all impacts of a particular event or scenario. It is not a story of the police fighting against the Baltimore Drug Trade, but a show about the expansive impacts of that trade on the people fighting it, the people trapped inside of it, and the people who are simply innocent bystanders caught up in a game they’re not playing.

Similarly, The Dark Knight isn’t a film about one man’s crusade against crime. It is, instead, about Gotham’s reaction to the rise of crime and, in particular, the introduction of the diabolical terrorism of the Joker. Batman is but one of the many players we see – whether it’s new district attorney Harvey Dent, Lieutenant Gordon, Rachel Dawes, or even the people of Gotham themselves. The Joker’s terrorism impacts all of them, and such a broad viewpoint takes this from being a traditional story of good vs. evil to a whole new level of social inspection.

In Terms of Character

While some have criticized The Wire for lacking traditional character development, what it allows is for later seasons to go beyond its set of main characters into something deeper and more thematically interesting. Because the expected actions and reactions of various characters were already in place, Simon and Burns were able to use their time in establishing new characters in relation to them. By constantly adding to the universe, you get a very complicated but rewarding structure wherein heroes are not always playing the hero and villains are not always plotting villainy.

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