Hammond On Oscar: Can 'Harry Potter' Finally Crack The Best Picture Race?

This weekend Harry Potter proved he can rule the worldwide box office in a big way but can he wave his magic wand at the Academy and get a Best Picture nomination to put a cherry on the Potter pie? “The Academy has never really favored us in that way before. I’m just happy that people seem to be liking the movie,”  David Yates, director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II told me on the eve on Potter’s phenomenal opening.  Last week  I also asked the same question of Chris Columbus , director of the first two Harry Potter flicks. Does he think now that the final chapter has been written on the most successful franchise in film history that the Academy will finally recognize it with a prized Best Pic nod?  “You never know about these things,”  he said shrugging his shoulders but considering the Oscar track record of the previous seven Potters I could tell he wasn’t putting money down on the prospect anytime soon.

But why not?  Although the Academy historically shuns this type of film and doesn’t favor fantasy, sci-fi or kid flicks you can point to the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and say there is an exception to every rule.  Between 2001 and 2003 the three Rings films racked up a total of 30 Oscar nominations including an unprecedented three Best Picture nods  with a total of 17 Oscars including a grand sweep of 11 wins for 11 noms for the finale, Lord of the Rings: The Return Of The King in 2003.

Some pundits have speculated that like Rings maybe the Academy has just been waiting for this finale to shower that kind of love on Potter which to date has racked up a total of nine nominations spread among the seven films. The first, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone got the largest number with just three, all in technical categories.  The Academy branch that seems most impressed by Potter would be the Art Directors who have nominated three different Potter films in the past. No Harry Potter has won a single Oscar unlike Rings which just seemed primed for ultimate Oscar success by the time its finale came around.

But considering the impact this franchise has had on the industry, the record-breaking numbers and the near-unanimous critical acclaim for Deathly Hallows Part II is it time for the Academy to take a serious look at Harry Potter for the first time awards-wise? It currently stands at an impressive 97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (and that’s out of 233 reviews) , the best showing for a wide release of any film in 2011, even over such presumed awards-magnets as The Tree Of Life and Midnight In Paris. Plus the series , and the finale in particular , has regularly attracted a who’s who of British acting royalty, a fact that if emphasized should certainly impress the large actor’s branch whose opinions carry a lot of weight in the Academy. And as Lord of the Rings and Titanic have certainly proven acclaim and money can equal Oscar. There’s also heavy emotion in this edition, a big plus among voters.

Warner Bros won’t reveal their Oscar campaign strategy on Potter yet but they are already showing signs that they plan to give this final send-off a big push into categories even Harry’s magic hasn’t been able to crack. The studio has always seemed to support each Potter film equally (trade ad wise at least) with their more likely contenders but no one’s ever really believed it would reap results outside of the tech categories. But Thursday night Yates appeared before a packed SAG Nominating Committee crowd at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood. They gave him a standing ovation. This is the type of thing the studio does for its big fall contenders or Christopher Nolan summer blockbusters, not usually Potter. It’s a potentially smart strategy because an appeal to actors reducing emphasis on all the special effects could open doors campaign-wise.

A Sunday afternoon “official” Academy screening was held at the Acad’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre and , despite Carmageddon fears, drew a house about three quarters full, I am told with enthusiastic, if not overwhelming, applause at the end.  I asked my Academy voting spy if he thought it had a prayer for a Best Pic nomination and he seemed even surprised at the question. “Usually you can smell it (Best Picture buzz) in the room like I did for Titanic, Crouching Tiger, Lord Of The Rings among those types of epic movies but here I didn’t smell it, even though it did seem to be received very well,”  he said adding he thinks the usual technical nominations are more likely.

The 3D technology could be a turn-off. Other than Avatar and Pixar, 3D movies have not figured heavily into the Best Picture race  plus new rules that say five to ten movies may be nominated instead of the solid ten of the last couple of years could kill any chance Harry Potter has of grabbing a ticket to Oscar’s big time. Are there really at least 250 to 300 first place Best Picture votes out there that would likely be needed to place this wizard in the race?

Ultimately the Academy snob effect could kill Harry’s chances at a Best Picture nomination. But it’s fun to speculate.

  1. aside from the Picture race, it will be a sin if Alan Rickman and/or Ralph Fiennes don’t garner nods for their compelling perfs.

  2. You never know…depends solely on the other nine films to be nominated.

    Right now, AMPAS members will be hard pressed to find 10 films for this category as most of the really good movies don’t release until after the summer glut of blockbusters completes its annual summer slam.

    Who knows….

  3. I watch the Oscars every year with great anticipation. Unfortunately, I am starting to really question what it matters. It is tough to have faith in a group of voters that forgot what movie magic truly is. We can hope Harry Potter gets the credit, as I would say at least four of the movies, including the last one, is much better than Avatar. But that is just opinion I guess. Thoughts?

    1. Better than Avatar, maybe. But not best picture material. They’re not great films. Prisoner of Azkaban was good, and Deathly Hallows Part One. I still haven’t seen Part Two, hope it doesn’t disappoint.

  4. This is a british movie so a BAFTA is more likely.
    No way that the american members of AMPAS voting in high numbers for Harry Potter.
    And another turn off factor is that the voters must have seen almost all movies before or else they won’t respond to the movie as well as someone who’s seen all 8 movies.

    So an Oscar nod for best picture is not going to happen.

    1. Many British films have gone on to win Oscars for best picture. In this century the 2 most recent winners have been Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. There are been 8 others before that. Does that mean Harry Potter will even be noiminated, no, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. Really, the best of these films worthy of an Oscar was Prisoner of Azkaban.

  5. Why not? Because David Yates delivered a good, but sub-standard product. His films lacked real life, tension, romance, mystery. They plod along and ride the shoulders of the fantastic cast and beloved characters. Yates… is a poor director, at least for this kind of film. Alfonso Cuaron’s Potter was a far superior film.

    1. Thank You, but you failed to mention the biggest flaw of the movie: the battle at Hogwarts. What should have been a drawn out battle scene where we finally get to see what wizards can do turned out to be a bunch of 5 second cuts of wizards hurling spells at each other.

  6. Alan Rickman for Best Actor. Alan Rickman for Best Supporting Actor. Alan Rickman for Best Actress. Alan Rickman for Best Supporting Actress. Alan Rickman for Best Animated Film. Alan Rickman for Best Adapted Screenplay. Alan Rickman for Best Picture. Alan Rickman for best set designer. Alan Rickman for best costume design. Alan Rickman for best makeup. Alan Rickman for best foreign language film. Alan Rickman for best original song.

    ALAN RICKMAN FOR BEST ALAN RICKMAN.

    1. I see a Variety ad campaign: Four pages of ads, all text except for a picture on page 4:

      Page 1: He tried to snuff Bruce Willis

      Page 2: He cheated on Emma Thompson

      Page 3: The bastard murdered Dumbledore

      Page 4: For Your Consideration: Alan Rickman as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

  7. Under the rules for the last two years (10 nominees, preferential voting for nominations), this would have been a solid contender.

    But the new 5% #1 votes needed, its chances have gone way down, although certainly it remains a possibility.

    The series has suffered by not being identified with a single drector as creative force, unlike other films in series that have received multiple BP nominations (The Godfather films, Lord of the Rings). This has always seemed like a producer’s effort, like the Bond films, many of whose early efforts were better than the BP nominees their years.

    Also, Warners is going to pushing far harder for J Edgar and the Stephen Daldry/Scott Rudin film at the end of the year than this.

    That said, if it isn’t nominated, and there are 6-7 nominees, this is going to be a major source of audience and media attention come next January.

  8. Sure, why not, give the Harry Potter franchise it’s Oscar® already, and while you’re at it, give Jeremy Pivens his Emmy® for Entourage too! POW!!!

  9. None of the Harry Potter films have been good enough for a best picture nomination. That hasn’t changed with this film.

  10. Definitely should receive some sort of Oscar – maybe a special recognition – there really hasn’t ever been anything like it…

  11. Best Actor With No Nose

    Best Actress Who Looks Like Tim Burton

    Really, this movie has these two locked.

  12. Not going to happen unless the voters grandkids get a say. The Academy would rather give the award to a movie that most of the country has never seen.

  13. as a fan of the books and movies, i don’t think it deserves a best picture nomination. The books are many times better than the movies.

    This last deathly hallows movie got close to capturing only some of the depth of the books. The acting was ok, but it’s still somewhere between twilight and lord of the rings. These young actors still have a long way to go.

    When watching the last movie, I wondered many times if people who didn’t read the books would even catch all the nuances in the movie. If you look at comments online about the movie version of the resurrection stone and the relationship between snape and lily, you’ll see a lot of confusion from people who never read the books. From my point of view, the harry potter movies don’t stand so well on their own outside of the books.

  14. If any “blockbuster” or “popcorn” movie has a chance to win Best Picture, it’s this one.

  15. The Academy governors should consider giving the series some sort of honorary Oscar, just in case.

  16. No way Yates will recieve a nomination for best directing (the movies were a success despite him, not thanks to him). The script could have been done better too with that book material.

    I think DH:II only deserves technical nominations and a nomination for Rickman. That’s it.

  17. If the absurdly unwatchable “Avatar” was actually a contender for little other reason than its billion dollar revuene, then they should give “HP” the Oscar by general acclamation – it was a better movie at every level.

    But – it would def. be an award more for achievement than the actual film. “Hallows Part I” was actually better; “Part II” was basically ‘Transformers’ with witchcraft (though still 100 percent better – as in ‘0’ to ‘100’).

    Rickman should absolutely be nominated. Really, if we were nominated and won, it would be the Academy’s legitimate way of rewarding the series with one marquee Oscar that it deserves, even with no BP recognition.

    After all, to pull off a high-quality, eight-episode series was something no other franchise managed to come close too…if they’re rewarding movie making, “Harry Potter” deserves something.

  18. I have taken my son to see 3 or 4 of the Harry Potter films and while they are inventive and fun, they never seem to have any narrative arc. They just kind of do the same thing for 2 1/2 hours and end. Of course, quality is subjective, and while there can be no disputing the incredible box office appeal of the franchise I think an Oscar connotes a level of quality that is beyond what Harry Potter offers. McDonald’s sells more hamburgers than anyone else but they’re not the best burgers.

  19. My guess is irrespective of its chances for nominations, producer David Heyman has a good chance of getting this year’s Thalberg award. Whether this will be considered sufficient, or help propel the last edition into the Oscar race, who knows?

  20. Harry Potter is a unique animal this year. You can’t judge it like a traditional Oscar bait movie, because like LOTR, this will exist in the Oscars campaign almost outside of the traditional awards fare.

    I absolutely think the movie will get a Best Picture nod – as a tip of the hat for an amazing achievement, across all of the films. Some great points above from hopeless pedant, re: “The series has suffered by not being identified with a single drector as creative force” (very true until recently), but it’s absurd to think that it won’t get a nom this time, for this final film.
    Plenty of ACTORS have won an Oscar for a lesser project in their personal ouevre, clearly as recognition for their body of work, overall, not just for the role nominated. Same logic applies. People have a love/nostalgia/appreciation for this series that could take it all the way.

  21. It should of won something by now: Special effects, art direction costumes, something!

  22. It probably will, but it depends on how many other great movies there are this year. HP stands no chance at actually winning though against some of the competition later this year.

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