Following-up the successful “Batman Begins” and “The Prestige”, director Christopher Nolan released his first major tentpole movie in 2008. It also happened to be in the month of July. “The Dark Knight” stormed the box office with a $158 million open and was No. 1 for four weeks. Nolan’s Batman sequel also earned the late Heath Ledger a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. When I saw “The Dark Knight” (at a Drive-In), I was blown away by Ledger’s performance but not the movie as a whole (though it’s still one of Nolan’s better films).
Two Julys later: Nolan re-teamed with Warner Bros. on “Inception”, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week. If you know me well, you know that my criticism of that film sparked plenty of media attention, including commentary from shock jock Howard Stern. I stand by my thoughts on “Inception” – and am still surprised that even with all the “glowing”, “mind-blowing” praise it received, Nolan didn’t receive a Best Director Oscar nomination. That’s one of the things about releasing a movie in July. Sometimes, by the following January, people forget summer movies. (Or maybe, in the end, some thought “Inception” just wasn’t quite extraordinary).
Two more Julys later: It’s “The Dark Knight Rises”, a film instantly clouded with gloom because of the horrific Aurora, CO midnight movie theater massacre. I remember going to the film at one of my local multiplexes on opening day. There was extra security. People were a little on-edge. The theater was at least half-empty. And the movie itself: solid but not amazing. With good but not great reviews (and because of the shooting), I knew the next Monday that “TDKR” had no chance of striking-up awards gold.
Nolan’s next feature, “Interstellar”, was a bit of an oddball for several reasons: the story, the random Matt Damon appearance, the fact that Paramount did the U.S. distribution while WB was just behind it overseas… and that it opened in November, not July.
Thankfully, Nolan went for a simpler, more emotionally effective (and shorter) story with “Dunkirk”, a Warner Bros. July release in 2017. And even though it was a summertime smash hit, Academy voters remembered it fondly enough six months later to reward Nolan his first Best Director Oscar nomination.
And now here we are – on the week that “Tenet” was originally supposed to open. Yet another July release, with Nolan once again paired-up with Warner Bros. And it seems like he’s back to crafting another story surrounding the vivid themes of time. But it’s unclear when Nolan’s latest will actually be released (in theaters) and if he’ll finally win the Best Director Oscar. We’ll just have to see how much time the “cinematic experience” Nolan is willing to wait for the world to soak-in “Tenet”.