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In late 2008, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” — a zeitgeist-infused superhero sequel that would come to be widely regarded as the best in the genre — was on a crash-course with major Oscar recognition. Nominations from the producers, directors, and writers guilds, as well as a monster domestic box office haul north of $500 million (back when just one other film, “Titanic,” had managed it), only firmed up expectations.
Then, “The Reader” happened. The Stephen Daldry drama, steeped in Oscar-friendly Holocaust trappings, was muscled into the race by Harvey Weinstein at a time when the now-disgraced mogul’s Miramax glory days were fast-becoming a distant memory, and the awards outlook for his newly formed Weinstein Co. was increasingly dim. (Movies like “Mrs Henderson Presents” and “Bobby” had failed to connect with voters.) “The Reader” nailed down nominations for best picture, director, and adapted screenplay, effectively boxing out Nolan’s critically acclaimed blockbuster in the top fields.