Monday, September 12, 2011

Five reasons why 'Potter' probably won't get a Best Pic nom

I feel it's important to address this now while the Oscar season is still young. I know y'all want it to happen. You saw Avatar, Inception and District 9 get nominated in a ten-film field, you've been breaking out all the comparisons between Deathly Hallows 2 and Return of the King - the money-making final chapter of a series of acclaimed films based on a line of fantasy novels beloved the world over - and you really, really love Harry Potter and want to see him finally make it to the big Oscar dance party (even though eight films and billions of dollars worldwide means he's had a pretty good dance party of his own going on for awhile).

I wouldn't completely rule it out... but the odds do not look good on it happening. And here's why:


- No precedent for a Best Picture nomination. Everybody comparing DH2 to King is forgetting something: yes, King got a Best Picture nomination, but so did Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. In a ten-film field, Deathly Hallows 1 did not make the Best Picture cut, and anybody who thinks that DH2 can get in on sentiment is fooling himself. And don't bring up Toy Story 3 because animated films come with their own set of rules that don't apply here.

- No precedent for a Best Director nomination. Sasha Stone from Awards Daily always says that the director is the star of the Best Picture race. The Potter films have had four different directors in eight films. The Lord of the Rings films had just one - Peter Jackson. So when King won Best Picture, it was as much an affirmation of Jackson's singular vision guiding the entire series as it was a reflection of their quality. Jackson was nominated for Best Director for both King and Fellowship, winning for the former. Give David Yates credit for being the ironman for the final four Potter films, but neither he nor any of the other Potter directors were serious enough contenders for Best Director. And in a field this year that includes Spielberg, Eastwood, Malick, Daldry, Payne, Reitman, Crowe, and Allen, Yates will be lucky to get into the conversation.

- No precedent for any acting nominations. This one is key. Ian McKellen got nominated for Fellowship. That right there is one more acting nomination than any Potter actor has received. If there's any area that DH2 needs support in, this is it. Actors make up the single largest voting bloc in the Academy by a ratio of greater than three to one, and over the course of seven prior films, not one Potter actor has gotten nominated. And it's not like the cast is full of Joe Shmoes: you've got Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, the late Richard Harris, Emma Thompson - I mean, these are some heavyweights here. If these guys couldn't get nominated after seven films, why would they get nominated now?

- Sometimes money isn't enough. The Dark Knight made over half a billion dollars and got near-universal praise and you saw what happened there. Avatar made money and did get into the Best Picture field, but James Cameron had already been to the party before, with an epic drama without any aliens, superheroes or wizards. And as we have learned, the director is the star of the Best Picture race. The Potter films have made an insane amount of money over the years, but the most it has been able to come up with Oscar-wise is only technical nominations. (As an aside: I think Christopher Nolan is at a comparable point in his career as Cameron was after Terminator 2: an innovative director who makes crowd-pleasing, critically-acclaimed genre work that gets little love from the Academy. If The Dark Knight Rises gets nominated for Best Picture next year, make no mistake, it'll be because the Academy decides that it's finally Nolan's time, but if not, then he may have to make a Titanic, or to use an example from a different director, a Benjamin Button. Of course, I say "have to" facetiously; Nolan will do as he will and I doubt he cares that much about the Oscars anyway.)


- The competition is stiff. Warners alone has Clint's J. Edgar, along with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, two huge films that will be in the mix for almost every major category. Warners may start a Best Picture campaign for DH2 as well, but when you also add films like Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, The Help, The Descendants, The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Ides of March, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse - well, you can see how this will get mighty crowded. And don't forget that a ten-film field is not guaranteed this year.


Like I said, I would not completely rule out DH2 from the running, but I just don't see any way Harry pulls off this magic trick unless some of the competition falls by the wayside somehow.


Agree? Disagree?

15 comments:

  1. You make some nice points, and they would be true if they maxed out at 5 Best Picture nominees. If I remember correctly, The Dark Knight would have been nominated if there was the option for 10 at that point. Especially considering the lack of movies that will be nominated so far (Tree of Life is about it), I expect that Harry Potter will get a nod. I could be wrong, but I feel like the good will toward the entire franchise will pay off in the end.

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  2. TDK absolutely would've gotten in with ten nominees, as much due to the strength of Christopher Nolan as director as anything else (he was a Director's Guild nominee for TDK). Potter had four different directors over its eight films, and none of them distinguished themselves enough to warrant any major awards consideration, and that's a huge minus.

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  3. I would also argue that for something as fantastical as Potter to be nominated, it would have had to set a new bar in the genre (ie Avatar's special effects and scenery). In general, the Academy seems more interested in realism and technical merit than entertainment... so I'm not holding my breath for this, either.

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  4. Good point. I thought about that when writing the part about directors but never actually wrote it.

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  5. I shall quote this article until the end of days if it indeed does happen ahah ;)

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  6. Why do you think I said 'probably' and not 'definitely'? I had to cover my ass somehow!

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  7. It's tough to say at this point because many of the Oscar-type films are yet to be released but right now, I think it can make Best Picture with a field of 10. At this point, I can only think of The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris and The Help being worth any consideration.

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  8. But a field of ten isn't guaranteed thanks to the new rules. We might get as many as ten or as few as five.

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  9. I don't think it will be nommed, nor should it. It's a solid action film, but that's about as far as I go.

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  10. I've read recently that WB will give DH2 a big Oscar campaign, so I guess it'll be in the hunt, if nothing else.

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  11. Wow, this was a really good article. Interesting take on why DH2 will probably not get nominated for Best Picture.

    Although I hope against this information that DH2 will receive a nom, I think that using the reason of movies that have yet to come out yet isn't credible . . . at least not yet. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has a great British cast and has already been released in the UK last month. But as for whether American critics will receive it as well is clearly up for debate until it comes out. Also, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is only the first in its series. Typically, first in these types of series (movies based off young adult fiction trilogies/series) are less likely to be nominated as opposed to the final film in a series (Fellowship of the Ring is an exception). I think The Descendants has potential, but it's hard to say until it comes out. Clooney already has the Ides of March out there, and although it has received high reviews, more than likely the Academy will look at one or the other instead of both as possible nominations for Best Picture. That leaves open another slot. War Horse looks like it's going to be geared toward a younger audience, so that movie is not guaranteed anything until its release. I do agree with you that The Tree of Life (divided critics) has already received some serious Oscar chatter and probably has the highest potential to be nominated out of all the movies you listed. I also think The Help has great potential, but that movie divided critics more than The Tree of Life did, and it got only a mediocre percentage on Rotten Tomatoes (mid 70 percentile). Although Midnight in Paris is a sweet Woody Allen film (and he's done something at the Oscars before), I don't know if it quite meets Academy standards. Only time will tell on that one.

    Personally, I think 50/50 and Drive should be included in the list of possible Best Pictures. Both received very high reviews and received great praise.

    I think you have a great take on the possibility of what will and won't get nominated. Great article--thanks for getting me thinking!

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  12. Also, I think you should include The Iron Lady and We Bought a Zoo in the possibilities for Could-Be-Nominated-for-Best-Picture films. Phyllida Lloyd/Meryl Streep and ESPECIALLY Cameron Crowe/Matt Damon combos = good possibilities!

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  13. 'The Descendants' has been seen already by a number of critics and festival audiences and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many have it as the favorite to win Best Picture at this point. The large British contingent within the Academy assures 'TTSS' will be in the running at the least. I'm not so sure that 'War Horse' skews younger; Dreamworks certainly won't market it that way. And 'Iron Lady' and 'Zoo' are still unknowns at this stage.

    Thanks for all of your comments. I'll have more general Oscar discussion on December 9 as part of my next Freeze Frame roundtable discussion.

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  14. I think the whole as many as ten as few as five thing is mainly to add legitimacy to the ten... they didnt HAVE to fill out the field of ten... they all EARNED it. I could be wrong, they could start nomming less... but going in to it... I'm thinking not.

    Anyways, I'm rooting for this one. Not hard or anything, but it was easily the best film in the series, and the best blockbuster this summer by a mile. I like it when the Academy lets their hair down...

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  15. http://www.thewrap.com/awards/column-post/new-best-picture-rules-could-discard-hundreds-ballots-or-more-28412

    This explains the new voting rules. I'm still not 100% sure I understand it all, but I am certain that ten films are no longer guaranteed.

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