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Batman KO'd by a Seductress in the Oscar Race?
Author: Cary Ashby
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In one corner is a beautiful, demure Japanese woman trained in the arts of seduction and companionship. In the other corner is a handsome, haunted billionaire trained to be the greatest street fighter ever.

So you think you know who would win this confrontation? Think again.

Both Memoirs of a Geisha and Batman Begins have been nominated for an Oscar in cinematography, but let's be real. There's no way the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is going to select the unique vision of director Chris Nolan's Gotham City and its gruesome guardian over the lush, lovely landscapes of Rob Marshall's historical drama.

Brokeback Mountain, Good Night, and Good Luck and The New World round out the cinematography Oscar nominees. Let's face it, Batfans: We won't have to tune in March 5 to ABC to know the Dark Knight is going down in a TKO.

Batman Begins star Christian Bale has at least one Oscar claim to fame this year: He was in two films nominated in the same category (Begins and "The New World).

A quick history lesson: Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman won an Oscar that year for art direction. Batman" Returns (1992) was nominated for makeup and visual effects while Batman Forever (directed by Joel Schumacher) got nods for cinematography, sound and sound effects editing in 1995. Batman Begins was the only super hero film nominated for an Oscar this year.

Here's another bit of Batman trivia related to the 78th annual Academy Award nominations: George Clooney, the star of 1997's abysmal Batman & Robin, is making history. He has been nominated in three categories: supporting actor for Syriana; director for Good Night, and Good Luck; and for the Good Night screenplay with Grant Heslov.

Useless super hero film trivia No. 2: As anyone with a pulse has heard, director Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain about the relationship between two gay cowboys is getting a lot of press for getting eight nominations.

The connection? Lee directed 2003's The Hulk. Before its release, critics pegged it as a summer blockbuster (it took in more than $132 million domestically), but those same critics expressed disappointment in The Green Goliath's box office returns.

Fans and critics either loved "The Hulk" or hated it.

Many people were bummed they didn't to get to see enough of the "Hulk smash!" type of moments they wanted. Instead, Lee delivered a partial drama dealing with the scarred childhood psyche of The Hulk's alter ego, Bruce Banner.

I've heard more than one person say, "Leave it to Ang Lee to make 'The Hulk' an artsy film."

Personally, I enjoyed it very much. While moviegoers expected to see The Big Guy destroy things -- and trust me he did -- I was impressed with the Taiwan director's story, which remained true to the spirit of the comics yet delved deeper into characterization than most comic book movies.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Hulk on DVD and listening to Lee's comments about the artistic choices he made. My respect for the director skyrocketed when I watched the making-of features, in which Lee himself energetically acted out The Hulk's rage that was translated later into computer graphics/animation.

Lee actually addressed the relationship between the comic book film and Brokeback Mountain when questioned by the press after The Golden Globes.

Lee, as quoted in the Jan. 17-23 issue of "The Hollywood Reporter," referred to the Western as personal "salvation" from The Hulk which apparently "left him depressed and shaken." Lee went on to say he made Brokeback as a way to make himself "come to life."

"Even if The Hulk had been like Titanic, I still would have made this movie. If I didn't do it, somebody else would have and I'd be jealous," Lee said.

LOOK WHO’S TALKING:

Yours truly has decided to put his two cents in about the reported "Bat meetings" on the set of Nolan's latest film.

Call me a psychic. It seems my prediction that Batman Begins sequel discussions taking place on the set of Nolan’s new film, The Prestige, had some merit.

A person working as a grip told the Super Hero Hype! Web site Nolan has been talking to Bale and Sir Michael Caine (who played Alfred Pennyworth) each day during lunch breaks about the next Batman flick "at a table under a tent away from everyone."

Bale plays Alfred Borden (ironic, isn’t it?), a magician who competes with Rupert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) to the point they may kill each other. Caine, David Bowie and Scarlett Johansson also star

The Prestige.

The Super Hero Hype! tidbit has as much credibility as an unnamed source on the Internet can have. But, keep this mind, comics geeks: Begins co-screenwriter David Goyer said in a DVD interview that he and Nolan discussed the original screenplay and storyline over several lunches before filming started.

In the words of Arsenio Hall: "Things that make you go, ‘Hmmm….”

BOF contributor Cary Ashby writes a twice-monthly comic book column for the "Norwalk Reflector." He is the newspaper’s crime reporter. Cary has an extensive collection of Batman comics and has been an avid fan for nearly 30 years. He can be reached via e-mail at ashby@goreflector.com.

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