Just a few weeks ago, when that image of a pre-on fire Katniss and Peeta surfaced, I explored the idea of costume designer Judianna Makovsky snagging an Academy Award nomination. Then, a short while later, Gary Ross mentioned to EW.com that he thinks Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is Oscar-worthy. He explained, “It’s such an intensely physical role and an emotional one. She carries the entire movie. To be able to do that at that age is so kind of incredible that I was in a little bit of awe. Do I think she should be nominated? Absolutely.”
Okay, Ross is proud of his star who apparently gave it her all, but could another Best Actress nomination really be in her future? Clearly Lawrence is capable of earning one, but The Hunger Games itself might be what holds her back as, regardless of quality, this type of film tends not to be an Academy favorite in some respects.
Here’s where The Hunger Games has some serious potential, as more mainstream franchises tend to sneak their way right in. Back in 2003, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl earned a nod, as did the Harry Potter series in 2004 and 2010. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lions, the Witch and the Wardrobe, King Kong and War of the Worlds populated the category in 2005, and, let’s face it, none of those were of the highest quality. The same thing happened in 2006 with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Poseidon and Superman Returns, and then again in 2007 with The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Transformers.
No, I’m not saying the visual effects category is one relegated to B movies, but it certainly is a category that tends to align itself with eager-to-please material, films looking to become summer blockbusters. And that makes total sense, as those are the movies that usually splurge on visual effects aimed at wowing an audience.
The Hunger Games for Best Visual Effects? Yes
We’ve got a similar situation in the costume design department. These nominations tend to go one of two ways: elaborate period pieces or the fantastical. Last year, save for Alice in Wonderland, it was all about the former with I Am Love, The King’s Speech, The Tempest and True Grit earning nominations. Again, other than Alice in Wonderland, it’s actually been quite a while since a blockbuster-type earned the honor. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got a nomination back in 2005 and then you could go all the way back to 2001 when Judianna Makovsky earned a nomination herself for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Based on the material that’s been released, The Hunger Games has potential, but I suspect that once we see the full feature, that’ll really seal the deal – if it looks as good as what we’ve seen thus far, of course. We’ve still yet to catch the community of Capitol citizens and seeing Katniss and Peeta on fire during the opening ceremonies should pack the power to blow audiences away should it follow the description in the book.
The Hunger Games for Best Costume Design? Maybe
Here’s yet another category for the big ones aiming to dazzle. Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 earned nods in 2010 and this year, Harry Potter is up for the honor again for The Deathly Hallows Part 2.
No, The Hunger Games doesn’t take place in anything that resembles Hogwarts or any other Harry Potter-specific locations, but should The Hunger Games bear the quality we’re all hoping for, perhaps similar to the Harry Potter franchise, it could offer a somewhat accurate forecast for what to expect from The Hunger Games at the Oscars, particularly when it comes to categories like Best Art Direction.
While The Hunger Games’ production designer and art direction team have never been up for an award, set decorator Larry Dias was nominated for one for his work on Inception just last year.
The Hunger Games for Best Art Direction? Yes
Here’s a category that The Hunger Games could most certainly pop up in regardless of the final film’s quality, Best Music. T-Bone Burnett earned nods for the theme from Crazy Heart in 2009 and for the song “Scarlet Tide” from Cold Mountain in 2003. Then there’s James Newton Howard who was nominated three times, for his Michael Clayton score, for his Defiance score and for his score for The Village.
Now that last honor is the perfect example of a non-Oscar-worthy movie sneaking in there courtesy of a solid element. Of course I’m in the camp betting that The Hunger Games will be as good as we’re all hoping, but, just in case, Academy Awards potential could be kept alive by this category.
The Hunger Games for Best Music? Yes
Let’s go back to the Harry Potter comparison. Has there ever been a single Harry Potter cast member up for an Academy Award? No, and the same will almost definitely be true for The Hunger Games. And if the Harry Potter likeness isn’t enough to prove the point, how about Avatar or Alice in Wonderland? Or what about Hugo? It’s as simple as this: films like The Hunger Games just don’t get the acting awards.
Sure, you could consider Ian McKellen’s nomination for his supporting role in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or look at this year’s list of nominations and think the tides might be changing with Melissa McCarthy getting in there for a mainstream comedy, but regardless, the Best Actress odds are certainly not in Katniss’ favor.
The Hunger Games for Best Actress? No
Had the Academy stuck with the ten nomination policy for Best Picture, The Hunger Games could have had a chance, but now that only films that are ranked first by at least five percent of voters can get Best Picture nods, it’s unlikely. First off, The Hunger Games is just not the type of movie to be named Best Picture. If out of eight films, the Harry Potter franchise never managed to snag one Best Picture nod, The Hunger Games doing so on its first try is practically impossible.
Recently, the only mainstream fantastical franchise to at least get a nod is The Lord of the Rings, and as stellar as The Hunger Games is looking thus far, it’s still hard to deny the fact that Peter Jackson takes the LOTR trilogy onto an entirely different tier. As a production company, Lionsgate is certainly taking steps towards becoming a regular Oscar contender, but of its accolades, just one was for Best Picture and The Hunger Games bears absolutely no resemblance to Precious.
The Hunger Games for Best Picture? No
Please note that all of these predictions are assuming that The Hunger Games is as good as we’re all hoping it’ll be. As for whether or not it’ll even achieve that, based on the promotional material that’s been released thus far, I’m betting fans and non-fans alike will be very pleased. Of all the young adult inspired franchises out there, my money is on the Hunger Games to fill Harry Potter’s void. Then again, as far as the Academy Awards go, Harry Potter has yet to win a single one.
The Hunger Games Countdown runs here on Movies.com every other Wednesday. There are 43 days until the release.