Oscar Drops The Ball

Imagine there was a movie built around three characters: a psychopathic killer; a good man who stands up for law and order; and a grayish character that straddles the line between good and evil. In the movie there is a lot of violence, and a coin is used to decide a person's fate. The movie ends up being on most critics' Top 10 lists.

You think I'm describing "The Dark Knight" here? Silly reader, I'm describing "No Country For Old Men," last year's rather undeserved Best Picture.

What's the difference (other than "TDK" following a logical course of events and having an actual ending, as opposed to "No Country")? The latter was based on a novel by a well-known writer; the former was based upon a comic book.

Yes, Oscar's snobbery shined through once again this year, passing over the second-highest grossing movie of all-time for Best Picture and Best Director for Christopher Nolan.

Sure, "TDK" got eight nominations, including the expected and deserved nomination for the late Heath Ledger in the Best Supporting Actor category, but the rest of the categories are all technical.

It's not as if Oscar hasn't nominated popular fare in the past if it has been well-done. "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Lord of the Rings" all received Best Picture noms, and "Return of the King" won the award in 2004.

And, it's not as if "TDK" hasn't racked up nominations with other awards, being named as a finalist for best picture with the Producers Guild, the Writers Guild and the Directors Guild. The main awards show that omitted "TDK" was the Golden Globes, and those foreign journalists probably weren't given enough swag by Warner Bros. to put it on their lists.

Year after year, the Oscars lean toward movies that don't draw a lot of box office. Sure, some of these films are great -- "Frost/Nixon," "The Wrestler" -- that deserve the various nominations they get. But really, Stephen Daldry over Chris Nolan for "The Reader?"

To look at it another way, if someone made a movie that included Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckart and Maggie Gyllenhall, and it was some WWII flick or some legal drama, it'd be getting all sorts of Oscar buzz. But a movie about Batman? In the end, not so much.

The Academy had the opportunity to show that it was in tune with the nation's pulse and think outside the box, ironically, by going with a big summer crowd pleaser. Again, it went the boring route. You don't have to be Batman to solve the puzzle of why the Oscars' popularity and ratings decline every year.

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: OK, rant over. Tonight viewers get the privilege of tuning in for the second episode of "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), assuming they've recovered emotionally from last week's premiere. I'm not sure I have.

CBS is all- new with "Ghost Whisperer," "Flashpoint" and "Numb3rs." "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) is also new.

USA presents new episodes of "Monk" and "Psych," beginning at 9 p.m.

For the younger viewers, Nickelodian debuts the new cartoon "Wolverine and The X-Men" at 8 p.m. It's been generating a lot of buzz.

On Saturday, "Crusoe" (NBC,  8 p.m.) is new.

On Sunday, NBC airs the first part of the miniseries, "The Last Templar" (NBC, 9 p.m.), based upon the popular book and starring Scott Foley and Mira Sorvino. It's supposed to be very much in tune with "The Da Vinci Code." I've always liked those medieval-based conspiracy thrillers, so I'm looking forward to checking it out.

"The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is finally back with guest voice Emily Blunt.

After a new "Cold Case" (CBS, 8 p.m.), Hallmark presents the movie "Loving Leah" (CBS, 9 p.m.) about a Jewish man (Adam Kaufman) who is asked to follow the ancient custom of marrying his late brother's childless widow (Lauren Ambrose).

"Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.) airs the conclusion to the classic "Wuthering Heights."

On cable, the second episode of the wonderfully zany "United States of Tara" (Showtime, 10 p.m.) airs before a new "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" and follows a new "L Word." HBO counters with "Big Love" at 9 p.m.