MovieBob - Intermission
Harry Potter and the Little Golden Man

Bob Chipman | 15 Jul 2011 12:00
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Here's a question that almost no one in the business of asking such questions is asking now, but I think they ought to be: Should Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture?

One recognizes that it sounds just a little bit strange on its face - none of the Potter movies have been previously seen as Oscar contenders for anything other than the technical categories, and even then they've often been outshined by the showier films that rivaled them each year. In addition, they're broadly characterized as family films first-and-foremost - a genre seldom taken seriously come awards time unless the name "Pixar" is attached. As it went on, the series became less and less about making solid stand-alone films and more about staging a bigger picture miniseries with the budget and audience to deserve a theatrical showing. To be blunt, I'd be hard pressed to count any of the individual Potter installments among the very best films of their respective years, and while I enjoyed the final installment well enough I doubt it will stack up any differently come January.

But is that really all that matters?

Objectively, industry award shows are supposed to reward and showcase the best of a given year or scenario, but everyone knows that's rarely how it works out. Taste is subjective, after all, and films have won and lost based on being popular, being innovative, "the national mood," and even in response to other films. It's widely believed, for example, that Titanic conquered The Oscars in 1997 in part owing to a pendulum swing backlash against the indie-dominated previous year when The English Patient took the prize, and that Shakespeare in Love infamously bested Saving Private Ryan the following year for a reversal of the same logic. More recently, it's an open secret that the recent moves to widen the pool of Best Picture nominees was a direct response to cultural outrage at the "snubbing" of The Dark Knight.

The Oscars themselves, after all, were originally conceived as a publicity machine with the "fig leaf" of broadcasting the Academy Awards gala as a televised event allowing Hollywood to turn around mounting public scrutiny of pre-WWII celebrity scandals by reminding everyone of the biggest movies and most glamorous stars all at once. First and foremost, it's a show about and industry honoring its own most important contributors. As such, I don't know that it can be reasonably argued that the Harry Potter series is not one of the most important - to say nothing of impressive - productions to have ever happened in modern Hollywood.

It's easy to forget, after all, just how much of an enormous undertaking Harry Potter has been. Particularly since its baby steps were so consistently eclipsed - at the movies by the more impressively realized Lord of The Rings trilogy and in the wider culture by J.K. Rowling's original books, to which the films are (often unfairly) seen as mere abbreviated counterparts.

It's also been a victim of its own business model's success. A decade later, spreading a single narrative with largely the same cast and production feel over eight films remains impressive, but hardly epic compared to wilder sounding experiments like Marvel Studios' attempt to weave their buckets of separate films, genres and sequels into a single unified continuity. And what's supposed to be so impressive about translating a book - which already has a whole story set up for you - to the screen when other productions are tasked with hammering out workable narratives from toy lines and arcade games?

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