2018 marks an important year for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as the award distributing body, is turning 90. The 90th Academy Awards will be held in Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 4. The awaited nominations are already out which has made the 90th year much more special due to three different reasons.
First and foremost, it’s ‘her’ again and by ‘her’ I mean Hollywood’s own Meryl Streep, who has broken her own record by getting nominated for the 21st time, the highest in the history of the Academy Awards. Second, after a haul of eight long years, a female gets nominated under the best director category, ‘Lady Bird’ filmmaker Greta Gerwig has become the first woman to get an Oscar nomination for best director since 2010. Last and the most important reason to be frenzied about is Christopher Nolan’s first ever Oscar nomination. The extremely well-deserved nomination is bagged by Nolan, whose ‘Dunkirk’ has remained one of the highest grosser of 2018.
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Our entire focus has shifted to this ace director, whose works hold much significance when it comes to modern day film-making. Step by step let us get back to what must have stopped his awaited directorial nomination and why ‘Dunkirk’ can revamp the game for him.
Nolan started his journey, though a film titled ‘Following’ which was made with a budget as less as 6000 USD. Nolan gained critical acclaim through ‘Memento’ which released in the year 2000. Though the film earned the Academy nomination for Best Original Screenplay, for many years Nolan was considered a novice and his films faced a tough competition, especially when fantasy film franchises including ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ were at the verge of their popularity.
To make his presence felt amidst the then extremely prominent directors including Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Clint Eastwood, Nolan took a path less followed. He adopted a sui generis approach to film-making. Nolan touched the non-linear style of storytelling and worked on labyrinthine plots for his big budgeted films.
For the first time in years, a franchise took away some major Hollywood attention and gave us a genre people didn’t see in many years. People truly felt the evil of the Gotham City, they accepted Heath Ledger’s devilish appeal and Nolan’s finesse became a trailblazer. ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ became a highly regarded franchise of all time.
With ‘Batman’ and ‘The Prestige’, big actors including Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale joined forces with Nolan. These films laid the foundations of the most unprecedented set of films which the world was yet to witness in the next few years.
2008 also marked a crucial year for Christopher Nolan. The next installment of the ‘Batman’ series – ‘The Dark Knight’ was released. The film was seen as a major contender for Oscars, however, was snubbed in all major categories except one. It was Heath Ledger, whose contribution to the film was recognized by the Academy, and he was nominated in the best supporting actor category, posthumously. Not many people till date are aware of the fact that Ledger’s death only made Christopher Nolan stronger. He didn’t stop the film’s editing process and the final version turned out to be a masterpiece.
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Still, the Academy didn’t recognize his sheer talent for years. Nolan was completely snubbed from 2008 Oscar nominations despite the fact that the film received universal acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon.
In 2010, ‘Inception’ turned out to be a tour de force with eight Academy nominations including the best picture. However, the film-maker’s abilities were not worth an accolade as per the Academy. At that time the Academy was not used to rewarding films with heavy editing and special effects. Nolan’s omission from the Oscars race was being compared to Steven Spielberg’s. “The puzzling omission is a slap in the face for a film-making wunderkind whose meteoric rise from art house auteur to Intelligent Action Ace has made him, arguably, the hottest director in town,” rhetorically appeared in the inside column of a major publication.
People criticized the Academy once again in 2014 when Nolan’s most ambitious project, ‘Interstellar’ was snubbed at the Academy Awards especially when the film’s entire team comprising the actors, editors, and musicians who created an extraordinary original score, were rooting for Nolan with all their faith. What the critics and Christopher Nolan fans failed to understand over the years was this – For a film to win in the most categories, mixed reviews anyhow do not work, neither the heavyweight perplexing scripts. What most of the viewers could easily understand, read, see and grasp receives a green signal from the jury.
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For years, people have compared Christopher Nolan to a genius, his artistry now needs a well-deserved recognition. This time Nolan fans are rooting for ‘Dunkirk’, and finally, he has been nominated by the Academy. Throughout the film, he has made sure to keep us gripped with the horrors of the war. This time he knew that the possibilities in space, water, and land are going to collate at one point, and that has to be a point other than what we have watched in the earlier versions of his films. Rather than a keeping it like a puzzle where different time zones collate, he took our imagination straight to the war zone where one could feel himself to be nothing less than a civilian trapped at the beach of ‘Dunkirk’.
The ace film-maker has also made sure, to take us home, through a journey which was gruesome, terrifying and breathtaking at the same time. ‘Dunkirk’ is so far Christopher Nolan’s best work we believe, (if for a moment we look forward the heavy-duty special effects used in ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Inception’), it is raw, and fresh and grips your nerves by the time it sends chills down your spine and leaves you teary eye at the end.
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The cinematic appeal of the film is beyond any measure, at one moment, one could see thousands of soldiers on the beach of Dunkirk, a bird’s eye view that holds the very essence of this film. Shot with IMAX technology gives it an edge over others and also to the film’s director who could easily surpass other strong contenders this year. This time Nolan maintains his stronghold on the Oscar for a big reason. ‘Dunkirk’ deals with a historic event, depicting which on the big screen was in itself a big challenge, especially when no major distortions have been carried out with the original set of events.
The film opened to $50.5 million domestic in July and went on to gross $525.5 million worldwide. When Variety asked about the popularity of his blockbuster films, he mentioned, “As a director, I try to show people things they’ve never seen before. At a time when there’s all kinds of storytelling around, movies that gravitate toward things that only movies can do carve out a place for themselves.”
We know that Christopher is one blockbuster director of his generation. Not only his intelligence, out of the box subjects, his perception and skills to bring out the best in everyone and his command over a genre is worth acclaim, in business terms he is so far one of the highest grossing directors of all time.
This year the competition is tough as the Academy has opened gates to genre films. Other than Nolan, Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) and Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) have also been nominated.