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.