(5) Potter Movies = (0) Oscars

So why is that? Three guesses:

(1) Lord of the Rings planning: All the Oscars will be awarded at the end of the series.

(2) They are not very good movies: the story and special effects carry fair to poor acting (especially among the junior set) — and the story is too involved to be a star vehicle.

(3) ‘We wuz robbed!’ The Academy never rewards the Best in Show. Warner Brothers doesn’t need an Oscar bounce for the all-time movie money-making machine called ‘Harry Potter;’ they took their winnings to the bank and don’t need any more attention, thank you very much.

Your thoughts?


  1. I’ve been thinking #1 all along, though I don’t know that they’re ultimately good enough to beat the other stuff that’s winning. They’re not as good as Jackson’s movies.

    Though I can’t see how a few special effects nominations and awards would be out of place. Cuaron should have gotten something for the visuals of PoA.

  2. revgeorge says

    I think that one of the reasons is that the Academy sees them as children’s movies & thus not worth seriously consideration. And as much as I like the movies, I think you are right, John, in that they aren’t all that particularly good artisticly. I don’t think anybody’s performance has really stood out. Imelda Staunton, maybe, but she was only in the one. And I think we all know a certain person who plays Dumbledore isn’t going to be winning any awards for his performance in this series.

    Anyways, Warner Brothers will just have to comfort themselves with all that cold, hard cash sitting in the bank.

  3. The Oscars seem to me to trap themselves a lot. A lot of times, they ‘owe’ someone an award- case in point, Paul Newman was nominated 7 times before actually winning (he went to the first 6 and not to the 7th, the one he won). So, even if they feel like someone may have done a better job that year, someone else gets it. Series in particular suffer in this one because everyone knows they have another chance to recognise the filmmakers (even though in the case of HP they’ve had a number of different directors). I think this is less planning than a self-perpetuating cycle of making up what someone deserved earlier. Of course, sometimes choosing a winner is like choosing between jewels– and if you know something has another chance, you’re more likely to choose something else.

    As much as I enjoy watching the Oscars, I do get the feeling that is is very much as I described above– always making it up to someone. (Apparently, Lost in Translation was a strong contender for best director for Sophia Coppola the same year Return of the King was up — by the time the awards were over, it seemed kind of like she’d gotten best original screenplay in part in consolation for the fact that she didn’t have a chance at best director against Peter Jackson et al.)

    Another thing is, you know, I had no idea that Voldemort’s face was ENTIRELY CGI until I watched special features on one of the DVDs– it was just so good I didn’t even think about it.

    I hope/predict that HP will be nominated and hopefully it will win some of the following:

    Set Design
    Set Decoration
    Sound Editing
    Sound Mixing
    Visual Effects
    Score (Dramatic)
    Art Direction
    Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

    I’m wary of putting up Best Director, although I think it may well happen, and even more so of putting up Actor awards. HP is definitely more centered on one character than LotR was (you see much more of Harry than Frodo), but that may not necessarily translate into Actor awards. If anyone gets anything, it would likely be Daniel Radcliffe or Emma Watson, probably not Rupert Grint (and, were he to be nominated, it would be for Supporting, whereas the others I think would be Leading). I don’t know if Ralph Fiennes would get anything for Voldemort, simply because we don’t see enough of him in DH, and it’s going to be split.

    anyway, my movie-love is showing… I’ll stop now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. revgeorge says

    In 2004, POA took the BAFTA award, considered the British equivalent of the Oscars, in the Children’s Film & TV category.. I think if any film so far would’ve won an American award, it would’ve been POA.

  5. Red Rocker says

    revgeorge, watch Gambon totally misread the Astronomy Tower scene and then get nominated for best supporting actor Oscar for his performance.

    I agree that of all of the movies so far, PoA was the likeliest contender for the visuals – and I would add for direction as well – and Staunton was the likeliest contender for her performance.

    I must confess that I don’t really understand how the Academy makes its decisions. I do know that the studio has a lot to do with the nominations – and winners – though. It seems that studios put a lot of money into advertising their pictures for Oscar nominations and awards. I found one article which quoted the New York Daily Times’ estimate of $25 million dollars per movie. Here’s the link:


    At the least, this tells us that nomination don’t happen by some natural process of the best rising to the top. Someone has to make a push for it.

    But beyond that, I don’t think any of the movies – with the possible exception of PoA – have been artistically distinctive examples of great movie making. Competent, yes, but not great.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    As far as acting goes, the films are ensemble work, really. If Alan Rickman had a more prominent part, he might have had a chance.

    The films have come at a time in which fantasy special effects abound. I mean, really. Spiderman 2 was just fantastic in this regard. I knew it would blow (was it Goblet?) out the door. But I do feel PoA was unfairly shunned. The special effects, applauded by all the critics, were amazing, especially Buckbeak.

    Another reason is that “summer popcorn” fare is usually bypassed in favor of “serious” fare in the autumn, depressing and dark, though it may be. Action films rarely get respect. The Rings films were masterpieces in combining dark fare and fun effects.

    Fullatricks sees a bug as both dark fare and a fun effect–there she goes!…

  7. I think Red Rocker, once again, has found our answer. If Oscar nominations require studio financing for publicity, etc., that is why Harry is 0-5.

    The studio would have to choose, from a large ensemble, who to push, which would be a formula for acrimony on the set for the next film.

    And if they succeed? They have to pay more the next time around for the same actor/actress, now with Oscar, or are stuck with producer, director, gaffer, whatever.

    Warmer Brother’s best tack is to nominate no one until the last movie is in the can and then shoot the works for everyone involved with the 7th film. I predict Half-Blood Prince will go Oscar-less, as well; WB has no incentive to make the Academy pay attention.

  8. Arabella Figg says

    I don’t know, John; there’s a lot of politicking and the Academy tend to prefer certain types of films and Potter wouldn’t fit this type. And they have an overweening sense of self-importance about “Art.” But they do get it wrong, lots of times.

    How many people will remember and watch Saving Private Ryan? Lost to Shakespeare in Love. SiL, 50 years from now? A fun flick. SPR? Historic.

    And last year, Enchanted and Amy Adams were ignored, except for songs. Winner? No Country For Old Men. I didn’t see it (and I’m not saying it wasn’t great), but which one will be most loved and remembered over time?

    They got it right with Return of the King and it was super payback time for Jackson.

    I’d like to hear what Janet has to say.

    Luscious Badboy deserves The Sulking Cat award at the moment…

  9. revgeorge says

    George C Scott put the spectacle of the Oscars very succinctly & colorfully when he said, “”The whole thing is a (expletive deleted but it involves taking the Lord’s name in vain) meat parade. I don’t want any part of it.”

  10. Red Rocker wrote:

    “revgeorge, watch Gambon totally misread the Astronomy Tower scene and then get nominated for best supporting actor Oscar for his performance.”
    I feel your pain Red Rocker. Keep in mind as well that if WB decides to film the “Kings Cross” chapter in the movie version of DH (part 2), Gambon (Dumbledore) has to act that moving/dramatic encounter with Dan Radcliffe (Harry) perfectly in the right emotional state as it is written in the text or else it will not set the stage properly for how Radcliffe (Harry) will then be inspired to return to the Wizarding World and fight the final battle with Voldemort.

    As far as the HP movies lacking Oscars.
    “These are children’s films”, Yes, but only particularly up to maybe POA.
    With GOF, OOTP you have moved into a teen/adult genre.

    I agree with Travis on the fact that the HP movies are not in the same ballpark on the screen that Jackson’s LOTR was in the action/battle/adventure category. The HP movies have some amount of mystery,magic and emotional interaction between characters but it’s run through so quickly at times because of the length of the books and the pressure to fit as much into 2 1/2 hours screen play, that they don’t have the time to develop a strong (Oscar winning) drama between any set of characters. In Jackson’s LOTR you had 3 1/2 hours to each film, plus longer versions on the DVD’s.

    The other reason for no Oscar for HP may just the politics that runs Hollywood itself. They have a tendency to follow only the biggest flashiest stars in the business that make the daily headlines in the news good or bad and not what Joe Q. Public votes for out there by box office sales.

  11. Okay … the HP movies are intended to be blockbusters. Few blockbuster style movies get nominations in major categories — period. If Janet is still lurking about, perhaps she can explain why it’s so. But blockbusters start at a disadvantage. To garner nominations for anything more than technical aspects (like effects), they have to be incredible films.

    The first two were strictly kiddie fare. Although the effects were dazzling, the acting by the leads (who were still very young) and some of the plot-pacing and storytelling was not. They are very enjoyable movies — but not great art.

    PoA was a big improvement — better acting, especially on Dan Radcliffe’s part … better story-telling and pacing … better blending of effects and actual performances. Alfonso Cuaron definitely raised the bar from kiddie fare to real film-making. It was a stronger film on all counts. Oscar worthy? Maybe the director … and effects (always a given for these).

    GoF did a good job of condensing the huge book to a tight, fairly well-paced thriller. Something was needed between Task 2 and Task 3 and it would have been better without the extended dragon chase in Task 1. Ralph Finnes was chilling as Voldemort, playing the rapid mood swings spot-on. Radcliffe’s work continued to improve. Amos’ reaction to Cedric’s death actually made my husband cry (I’ve only ever seen that a few times!) Strange as Gambon’s and Newell’s/Kloves’ take on Dumbledore may have seemed at the time, it is surprisingly close to the Dumbledore revealed at the end of the series. This time the screenwriter, Steve Kloves, might have merited a nomination … and maybe Finnes for a brief, yet thoroughly chilling, portrayal of soulless evil.

    As for OotP, like Janet said, it was a trailer for the movie we’ll never get to see. As a film, it would have been stronger if the focus had been on Harry’s internal struggle. I concur with a critic who noted that Radcliffe did a very good job of dillineating between normal teen angst and the Voldemort induced turmoil. In the book, Harry has both — and the film could have done more with that drama. The posession sequence, while longer than in the book, lacked the intenisty. The equally climactic conversation with Dumbldore after that was lacking. The cast had the ability to carry this off, so fault probably lies with the screenwriter and director. Had the decision-makers tightened the focus and put more of Harry’s internal struggle upfront, there might have been some buzz about possible nominations.

    What will happen with HBP? Far too soon to tell. But like the previous ones, it will come in with the same blockbuster disadvantage.

  12. korg20000bc says

    #2 all the way.

    The films are not really the stories from the books but just what the studio and the director believes makes a successful movie based on the books. The studio doesn’t care if the movie has critical acclaim, only if it makes a truck-load of moolah.

    They have a guaranteed audience who will see the movies no matter what so there is no pressure to make a particularly pleasing movie. That’s why we’ve been fed the tripe we have. When we go to the movies and the lights go down we are given the mushroom treatment ie. kept in the dark and fed cow poo.

  13. Yumm! Hollywood meadow muffins — see the trailer today!

  14. Dave the Longwinded says

    To build on top of korg’s comments…the Oscars have also developed into something of a marketing campaign, too. They become an excuse to drum up interest in lesser known movies, and, thus, create the mindset that “thinking movies” have to avoid being overrun by teenagers rushing to the theaters to watch The Latest 80s Ripoff Part 4.

    It’s only the last two films that really dove headlong into “serious” movie conventions — darker storyline, moodier sets, existential crises, etc. Unfortunately, GoF was tasked with making sense out of a nonsensical plot and OotP was forced to condense an 800 page novel into 2 hours and 18 minutes.

  15. Red Rocker says

    Oscar loves “serious” movies, ’tis true, but he’s also got a soft spot for musicals (Oliver, Chicago), tear-jerkers (any movie starring Hilary Swank or Sally Field), historical adventure (Gladiator, Braveheart) historical romance (Titanic, English Patient) and movies by respected directors which otherwise fail to capture the public’s imagination (The Departed, No Country for Old Men). He’s also known for inexplicable choices (American Beauty and Shakespeare in Love)

    Looking at the winners since 1970, I don’t see any pattern, except that with a few exceptions, they are all superbly made movies. Not necessarily the best in their year, but standouts in terms of some combination of directing, acting, script, cinematography and art design). None of the HP movies, in my humble opinion, belong in that class, although PoA is the closest.

    Here is the link to the winners since the beginning, so you may judge for yourselves:


  16. 12th Annual Academy Award: Gone with the Wind. What were they thinking with that one? ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Interesting topic. ๐Ÿ™‚ I say let’s wait fifteen years and see what happens when the BBC makes a really long multiple episode mini-series out of Harry Potter. It will be fascinating then to compare screenwriting and acting with the “blockbusters” made currently. I’ve often thought that it would have been wise (from an artistic point of view clearly, not a Warner-Brother-making-money kind of view) to wait until the entire series was published before beginning to make the movies.

  18. I have been out of town w/ no computer, but happy to jump in now — and thanks to those who wondered where I was!

    Let’s not confuse lack of OSCARS with lack of NOMINATIONS.

    Harry Potter has indeed been honored by the Academy:

    “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”:
    Art Direction (“Moulin Rouge” won)
    Costume Design (“Moulin Rouge” won)
    Original Score (“LOTR:FOTR” won)

    “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” — No nominations (not surprising, since it was essentially a rehash of the previous year’s nominations)

    “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”:
    Original Score (“Finding Neverland” won — very deserved indeed)
    Visual Effects (“Spider-Man 2” won — also very deserved)

    “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”:
    Art Direction (“Memoirs of a Geisha” won)

    “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”: No nominations.

    …All in all, given what the movies have been, these nominations are pretty good.

    What other noms would you give the movies? Acting noms? Not a chance. None of the kids have given particularly stellar performances. None of the adults have had enough chance to shine onscreen to make anyone sit up and pay attention.

    Writing? Nope. The writing hasn’t been all that good. The directing has at times been interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the actual nominees.

    As for the other “below-the-line” noms — The visual effects on HP have not been groundbreaking, which is what those nominations are about (the first CGI animals with real “weight” – “Jurassic Park”; the first realistic depiction of hair/fur – “Jumanji”; the first realistic depiction of water – “Perfect Storm”; the first CGI/motion capture person – “LOTR”). HP has cool effects, and I believe it has been included in the visual effects’ category’s “bake-off” of 7 or 8 “pre-nominees” every year, but it’s just not up to the level of the other nominees for the most part.

    Costumes? Nothing new of note since the first movie. Make-up? The only really interesting make-up is Voldemort’s face — but he’s CGI, so not even eligible.

    So in answer to John’s very interesting speculations above:

    1) No. No one’s holding anything for the last movie. And no one held anything for the LOTR movies either — they were nommed every year, and won a TON of Oscars, just didn’t win Best Picture till the final one. (And that was probably a bit of prejudice against “genre” pictures — horror, fantasy, etc.)

    2) This is the real reason. As movies, the HP flicks just aren’t at the level of their competitors. And as a series of sequels, they’re necessarily building on the work of the previous movies, hence less likely to have new elements that would garner a nomination.

    If — IF — Alan Rickman is allowed to really perform his final scene in the last movie, he could possible get a Supporting Actor nomination. That would be cool… But for the most part, his role has not risen to the size of a Supporting Actor nom.

    3) And this is a tiny part of the reason as well. Many years ago, the Academy nominated big popular movies. Now they really don’t . There’s a bit of jealousy over all that big box office, so it does indeed work against a huge series like HP getting noms.

    Okay, that’s it from Hollywood — or at least this corner of Hollywood….


  19. Thank you, Janet! Great to see you’re back from camp!

    Grateful John, missing your Maven updates

  20. Laserlawyer says

    The most consistently eye-catching, and intriguing character in the films is Snape. That’s where the first award should go.

  21. Great insight, Janet! Always love to hear your POV.

    Now I am going to be heavily rooting for a big Snape/Voldy scene at the end of the DH2 film. Rickman and Fiennes in the same scene for the first time – at such a pivotal point in the series – would be terrific entertainment! (assuming they don’t film the “Dark Lord Ascending” chapter)

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