'Dark Knight's' best picture snub no surprise

Top-grossing pics rarely get nominated in main category

At the end of the day, the fact that "The Dark Knight" failed to earn best picture status shouldn't have come as a surprise.

"Knight" was easily the most popular film of 2008, but in recent years, summer blockbusters have had to sit out the Academy Awards -- at least as far as the major categories are concerned.

True, director Christopher Nolan's second foray into Batman's Gotham City dazzled both critics and fanboys, while attracting audiences of all ages as it climbed to a domestic gross of $531 million. Worldwide, it is just shy of a cool $1 billion.

But the top-grossing picture of the year becoming a best picture nominee remains the exception rather than the rule.

It last happened with 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," and before that 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" and 1997's "Titanic."

Still, "Knight" has gone where no Batman movie has gone before. It earned respect from the producers, directors and writers guilds. And even if Nolan himself was cold-shouldered by the Academy, the film still racked up eight noms.

That's better than 1989's "Batman," directed by Tim Burton, which was recognized in only one Oscar category -- best art direction, for which it won an Oscar for Anton Furst and Peter Young.

And when Nolan revived the franchise with a brooding makeover in 2005's "Batman Begins," the Academy doled out just one nomination, for Wally Pfister's cinematography.

Pfister scored another nomination for "Knight" -- and this time, he may even win.
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