'Dark Knight' flexes its wings as the awards season begins

Warner Bros pushes claims of Batman blockbuster for Golden Globes and Oscars
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The Independent Culture

The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's gruelling Batman blockbuster, will return to the big screen next month as part of the painstakingly choreographed behind-the-scenes campaign to have the film laden with Oscars.

With the late Heath Ledger already regarded as a shoo-in for a best supporting actor nomination for his film-stealing performance as the Joker, there is a growing buzz that the picture and its director could also be in contention for top awards. Warner Bros is planning to re-release the film the day after nominations are announced, 22 January, the first anniversary of Ledger's death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

Already, the studio is spending millions of dollars on events and marketing to promote The Dark Knight's chances of becoming the first comic-book spin-off to take home the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is all part of the annual dance designed to woo judges as the awards season gets into full swing. Nominations are due this week for the Golden Globes, traditionally the first signs of momentum for the stand-out films of the past year.

The Dark Knight – which infused the traditional comic-book genre with more portentous discussions of urban amorality – has emerged as an unlikely contender for best picture, beside more traditional arthouse films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Gus Van Sant's Milk and Frost/Nixon, the movie-of-the-play-of-the-interviews that was released in the US this weekend. The Film 4-funded Slumdog Millionaire, which explores the extremes of poverty and wealth in Mumbai, is also generating buzz.

For Slumdog Millionaire, whose success has been given new piquancy since the terror attacks in the city, and The Dark Knight, whose tortured star's death continues to generate conspiracy theories on the internet, the pursuit of awards requires sensitivity – but pursuit there must be.

Warner Bros hosted a lavish cocktail reception for stars and critics last week, where attendees made their Oscar pitch feverishly. "Far be it for me to try to predict, and I think that anybody looks like a jerk if you really try to predict what people are going to vote for," said Christian Bale who plays Batman. "But certainly, for me, I think that the serious contenders in this movie in my mind are Heath, Chris for director, because he's done an extraordinary job, and I do believe best picture, as well."

Hanging in the air this year is a sense that the Academy will want to sprinkle the ceremony with some blockbuster power. The 2008 ceremony, dominated by the duel between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, both in the worthy-but-bleak category, attracted the smallest TV audience ever.

There will, however, be no shortage of star names up for awards. Potential best actor and actress winners include Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road, Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Angelina Jolie for Changeling.