Once again, The Academy proves that it is far outside the mainstream when it comes to recognizing the year’s best films. As they have done in recent years, well made, popular, blockbuster films have been ignored in favor of indie fare. The correlation between box office success and Academy nominations has become less and less every single year. Didn’t the Academy learn a thing when last year’s broadcast yielded the lowest television ratings of ALL TIME? Apparently not.

In a way, we are pleased that cutting edge, low budget, independent films are more recognized. It is a stark contrast to the mid-90s, where at most you could expect one film from a Fox Searchlight or Focus Features to make the cut. But now they have taken it too far in the other direction. Films like Capote, Milk, and There Will Be Blood find themselves up for Best Picture simply because they featured great performances and/or dealt with important subject matter. These films did not appeal to a general audience and were not especially well made movies in terms of story-telling and emotional strength. Instead, they are unique and raw. Well, that’s why we have the Independent Spirit Awards for.

Just because something is popular does not mean it lacks quality. In fact, these filmmakers should be praised even more for creating art that can both make people think AND entertain at the same time. The Dark Knight is not a “comic book movie.” It has themes that parallel our society in terms of the crippling power of fear, the true meaning of heroism, and the goodness or selfishness of humanity. If the Dark Knight were simply a “popcorn, action flick,” people of all ages and gender would not be seeing it again and again, allowing it to become the second highest grossing film of all time.

In addition, The Academy missed the ball by not bestowing even a single nomination on Clint Eastwood’s brilliantly subtle drama Gran Torino. Yes, the legendary Eastwood has set the bar for himself pretty high with exceptional fare such as Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. But he shouldn’t be competing against himself every year. He should be competing against the field. Yes, Gran Torino is somewhat sentimental and the story is one we have seen before. But it is flawlessly executed, which is a lot more than can be said for more original experiments like The Reader and Milk.

One has to wonder today, on the one year anniversary of Heath Ledger’s death, whether the Academy would have nominated him had he not suffered his tragic fate. Perhaps the performance would have been not dramatic or serious enough. And here’s a final thought, when someone or something does what they do better than anyone else could have, isn’t that worthy of recognition? Even if you classify The Dark Knight as an action movie, when is the last time you witnessed a movie that kept you on the edge of your seat in utter suspense and fascination for two and a half hours. Christopher Nolan deserves better. The Academy, on the other hand, deserves another year of guaranteed low viewership.