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Like most of the country, I saw this film on opening weekend. But unlike most of the country, I didn’t think it was going to be the best film of the year. I didn’t love Batman Begins the way most people did and therefore went into this film with lower expectations than everyone else.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is back as Batman and teaming up with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to take down the mob once and for all. In doing so, the mob turns to a maniacal criminal mastermind, The Joker (Heath Ledger), who unleashes chaos into Gotham. Seeing the film in theaters, I really enjoyed it, but didn’t fully love it. Upon repeat viewings, though, I began to realize that it truly is a fantastic, well made film, and easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this film that someone else hasn’t said before, so let’s just get right to it.

Nominations:

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger
Ledger is probably the biggest shoe-in in the awards this year and it’s impossible for us to know if things would be different if he hadn’t had such an untimely death before the film came out. Still, it’s one hell of a swan song and I’m looking forward to seeing who will accept the award for him at the ceremony.

Best Cinematography
This film has got some beautifully filmed action sequences, but it’s also got stiff competition with Benjamin Button, Changeling, and eight time nominee Roger Deakins for The Reader. The first film didn’t take home the gold back in 2006 and I don’t think this one will make the cut either.

Best Editing
This is a great nominee here; even though the run time is nearly 3 hours, the story never loses its pace. It’s like watching a comic book with all of its different arcs and stories that weave together to make the whole of the film. I think it’s a strong contender here, but the award could go to something a tad more concise such as this year’s award show darling Slumdog.

Best Art Direction
The dark, gritty look of Gotham is striking, but also old news. The first film wasn’t even nominated here and while there’s more Gotham this time, I think it’s more likely to go to film with more practical sets such as Revolutionary Road or Benjamin Button.

Best Makeup
This is a very diverse category this year and I don’t yet know which way it will swing. The Joker’s streaky, eerie face paint is perfect for the villain, but the nomination belongs to the special effects make up on a certain burn victim. His brief face time (no pun intended) after said burns may not be enough for a win here.

Best Sound
This is a serious contender here, as this category tends to go to big, booming action films, but it’s got company with another comic book adaptation- Wanted. I’d like to give The Dark Knight the edge here, though, as it’s a far more popular film with a larger audience. Plus with all its nominations this year versus Wanted’s one, I’m sure more Academy members have seen it as well.

Best Sound Editing
In a normal year I’d give this category to the same film I’d give Sound to, but this year is different.

Best Visual Effects
This is a tough category as The Dark Knight’s super hero is a guy in a cape and the villains are some Italian guys and a maniac covered in grease paint. When put next to a guy that ages backwards and an iron suit that can fly, it kind of pales in comparison.

Snubbed?
First there are the obvious categories that most were pulling for: Best Picture and Best Director, which would have been really refreshing to see. But my biggest beef with the Academy is failing once again to recognize Gary Oldman’s amazing performance as Jim Gordon. His material in this film was even better than it was in Batman Begins, but he has been completely overshadowed by Ledger and therefore has failed to get the recognition he deserves. Yet Amy Adams and Viola Davis are recognized for the same film. Dear Academy- you’re not as progressive as you think you are.

****½

Will Angelina Jolie be Catwoman in Batman 3?

“I think that this franchise has shown that it doesn’t have to bring back characters. I mean, there’s still Catwoman. I’ve heard Angelina Jolie really wants to do Catwoman; I think that’s a fantastic idea. I’ll be a happy audience member this time.”

AICN’s Beaks talked to Aaron Eckhart at the press junket for Alan Ball’s “Towelhead” and he had some very interesting things to say about both his character Harvey Dent/Two-Face and some possible details on the next Batman film.Have you heard that Angelina Jolie wants to be Catwoman in Nolan’s next Batman film? Because I hadn’t heard that. Sounds like some insider info to me. And while I absolutely hate Jolie, I think she is perfect for the hooker turned criminal turned crimefighter who wears some very tight spandex.

Read the rest of the mini interview for all of Eckhart’s comments here (spoilers for “The Dark Knight”).