Public Enemy #3: The 2008 Academy AwardsFiled under Public Enemies
I was perusing the interweb the other day when I stumbled upon this headline: “Germany Arrests 3 Nazi Suspects.” Three Nazis, aged 88, 92, and 94, finally being brought to justice for their crimes against humanity. What a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to right historical wrongs.
Which is why I want to talk to you about the 2008 Academy Awards, and the snubbing of The Dark Knight in the Best Picture category. The members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences have never been held accountable for that deplorable decision, and that ends today. Here is my case for a boycott, presented to you, the jury, in two parts.
Part 1: The Dark Knight Is Fucking Amazing
The Dark Knight is not a stupid action flick --- that’s just the disguise it wears, because that’s the movie we needed, but not the one we deserved. The Dark Knight is actually a brilliant critique of American civilization at the dawn of the 21st century. It deconstructs the “War on Terror,” relentlessly poking holes in the logic of that interminable struggle. Here are just a few of the powerful themes swirling beneath its surface:
1) The Cycle of Violence. It’s made abundantly clear that the Joker would not exist without Batman (for textual evidence see Joker: “You complete me” or Alfred: “You crossed the line first, sir”). The Joker is inspired by Batman’s theatricality and his flagrant disregard for the rule of law --- he uses the same means to different ends. So is Batman really a hero? Or is he responsible for escalating the violence? Do the bombs we drop in Afghanistan secure us against future acts of terrorism, or are we just scattering seeds of hatred that grow into something monstrous?
2) Our Ambivalence Towards Justice. To preserve Gotham’s freedom, Batman takes it away, transforming every citizen’s phone into a surveillance device. The innocent Gothamites on one ferry vote to blow up the criminals on another ferry, but no one will volunteer to push the button. Batman obviously has very little faith in the criminal justice system, and yet every time he catches a villain he hands them over to the police. The Dark Knight is all about unjust justice, ethical two-facedness. It’s about the same society that protects the freedoms of Western Civilization with Guantanamo Bay, the NSA, and drone strikes on American citizens.
I could go on, but I won’t. Wait, just one last thing, I promise. Doesn’t Alfred’s classic line: “Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn” perfectly describe the United States Congress?! Ok ok, sorry, let’s move on to Part 2.
Part 2: Slumdog Millionaire Is Fucking Stupid
So what could have possibly beaten out The Dark Knight as the best movie of the year?! What could have possibly triumphed over its immense thematic complexity?! Slumdog Millionaire.
You have got to be kidding me.
What is the main theme of Slumdog Millionaire? What is it about, really? Fate. It’s about a poor Indian guy who is destined to win an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
I hate fate. I think it’s a stupid theme for stupid people, some bizarre socially acceptable form of witchcraft. What you call “fate” I call “a series of terrible things happening for no reason.” Just because an event has a low likelihood of occurring does not mean that if it does happen, everything in life is controlled by a crafty supernatural architect.
Do you realize the statistical improbability of your existence? That of all the billions of possible genetic combinations, someone with your particular set of alleles emerged from the womb? Does that fill you with awe? Should someone make an Oscar winning movie about your parents having sex? I don’t think so. Not unless your parents are Charlize Theron and Christian Bale.
Look, I liked Slumdog Millionaire. It’s very entertaining. But it’s also a vapid, contrived piece of garbage. It was essentially a remake of another equally entertaining, vapid, contrived piece of garbage called Forrest Gump, the other movie about fate that also happens to have won an Academy Award for Best Picture, despite the fact that it was competing against vastly superior films like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption.
Please join me in boycotting the 2014 Academy Awards in protest of their 2008 decision. Unless Her wins. Then it’s legit again.