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Top 12 Film Industry Stories of 2008:
#1: The Dark Knight. Duh.

By David Mumpower

January 15, 2009

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The Dark Knight earned $531 million. Duh.

We had a debate about whether or not to quit right there. Some of these are not rocket science, and there is clearly a "duh!" factor to naming the Batman film's performance as the Top Industry Story of 2008. In point of fact, for the first time in the seven years we have been doing this series, we did not even vote over number one. We were all unanimous in our agreement that The Dark Knight was going to be the top story of the year. Ballots only included the other stories on the list. That's how certain we were about this selection.

How did The Dark Knight become the biggest story of the year? It began with tragedy almost a year ago on January 22, 2008. Heath Ledger was discovered naked and unresponsive, face down on the floor. A housekeeper at an apartment owned by Mary-Kate Olsen (although she would deny this fact later on) found the actor in this state and immediately contacted the actress as well as the local authorities. Attempts to resuscitate the 28-year-old Academy Award nominee were unsuccessful. Dead from an accidental drug overdose, Ledger's tragedy accidentally raised the profile of what was already anticipated to be one of the biggest films of 2008.




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Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise, had salvaged the character's reputation after the unfortunate period now known as the Joel Schumacher Era. Gone were bad puns and nipple-y costumers. In was Frank Miller-flavored realism, especially the concept of how real people could evolve into emotionally tormented superheroes and sociopaths. The first film had squarely taken on the legacy of Jack Nicholson as The Joker by showing a playing card at the end, leaving no doubt who would be the primary villain in the sequel. The casting of Ledger in that role was viewed as a masterstroke by many (although I must confess I was not one of them), and glowing reports from the set indicated that it was a role he was born to play.

Ledger, who had mumbled his way through his storied role in Brokeback Mountain, had long ago come to appreciate the importance of cadence in character development. While I am not a fan of his work in Brokeback Mountain, one of BOP's finest voices, Jamie D. Ruccio, is and he has offered this summation of Ledger's intent: "His character was so repressed about his feelings that he even strangled his words. He was so confined he couldn't even really speak." Ledger successfully used the medium of inarticulate mumbling to give a deeper background to the torture of his closeted homosexual cowboy. He used similar ideology in his development of The Joker, at some point having the epiphany that making the man sound like a ventriloquist would imbue the character with the appropriate amount of creepy disembodiment. The results of course speak for themselves as Ledger recently won a Golden Globe for his Best Supporting Actor for his role, a first for a comic book adaptation. He is also the overwhelming favorite bordering on a mortal lock to win an Academy Award for his performance.


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