Maybe fans should have seen it coming: The Dark Knight, after all, does not have a happy ending.
The genre-busting Batman movie, a critical and popular favorite that earned more money in Hollywood history than all but one movie and, up until today's Oscar nominations, spent awards season being lauded as a top film, was denied a shot at the prize of prizes: Best Picture.
Also turned away: Christopher Nolan, who, despite his Directors Guild and Writers Guild nods for the film, went wholly unnominated by the Academy.
The Dark Knight did earn eight overall nominations, but aside from its expected acting honor for the late Heath Ledger, it didn't bash its way out of the gilded ghetto for big-budget superhero movies: the special-effects and technical categories.
Other snubs and surprises:
WALL-E desired a Best Picture slot; it made do with an Animated Feature nomination.
Five movies were nominated for Best Film by the Producers Guild. All but The Dark Knight were nominated for Best Picture by the Academy.
If the Producers Guild nominations were the template, then it was The Reader that "stole" The Dark Knight's berth in the Best Picture race. As pointed out on Dark Campaign, the fan website that lobbied for the Batman movie, The Reader didn't rate nearly as many glowing reviews as The Dark Knight. But The Reader is about Nazis, always a popular group come Oscar time, and it was produced by two beloved Hollywood figures, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, both of whom died last year.
Maybe it was Doubt and not The Dark Knight that got royally robbed. The Catholic school-set drama dominated the acting categories. It scored an Adapted Screenplay nomination. In short, it did everything a film is supposed to do to get a Best Picture nomination. Except it didn't get one. (It didn't rate a Best Director nod, either.)
Clint Eastwood has never won an acting Oscar. And acclaimed turn or no in the surprise box-office hit Gran Torino, he won't win again this year, either. The role was seen as his best shot at a nomination, despite a busy year that saw the 78-year-old direct and produce two hopefuls (Gran Torino and Changeling) and compose the score for one of them (Changeling).
Kate Winslet, who won two Golden Globes this month, was both a surprise nominee and a surprise snub-ee. She got a Best Actress nomination for the film (The Reader) that was supposed to net her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. And she didn't get any kind of nomination for the film (Revolutionary Road) that was supposed to be her big shot.
Winslet's Reader nomination caught the Los Angeles Times by surprise, too. In the rush after the announcements, the paper's website initially listed Winslet as being nominated for Revolutionary Road.
The argumentative Revolutionary Road clearly didn't win over the Academy. The A-list drama earned three nominations, but not one for any of its A-list names (director Sam Mendes and the Titanic trio of Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kathy Bates) or its screenplay.
Slumdog Millionaire clearly won over the Academy—its 10 nominations, including ones for Best Picture and director Danny Boyle, were the most after Benjamin Button's 13. Still, not one of its actors was nominated.
Even Benjamin Button's big day wasn't big enough to allow Cate Blanchett into the Best Actress field.
Robert Downey Jr.'s welcome-back nomination for Tropic Thunder aside, the Oscars once again frowned on funny. Colin Farrell and Sally Hawkins, who won Globes for In Bruges and Happy-Go-Lucky, respectively, were among the shut-out comedy stars.
On Oscar night, the only thing Bruce Springsteen might win is a shout-out from Mickey Rourke. The rocker, who penned the Globe-winning title track for The Wrestler, was shut out of the Slumdog-dominated Original Song race.
If it makes Christopher Nolan feel any better, Miley Cyrus didn't get a nomination, either.
(Originally published Jan. 22, 2009 at 6:44 a.m. PT)