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Oscars: “Harry Potter” harbors legitimate Best Picture dreams – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Did “Return of the King” blaze a trail that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” – the eighth and final installment in the beloved film franchise – can walk on down?

The theory is being tested by Warner Bros. as the Oscar season continues to develop. For Your Consideration ads have been running on the trade Web sites for weeks. Screener copies of “Deathly Hallows, Part 2” have arrived in key guild mailboxes ahead of end-of-year voting. Screenings are being held in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London, giving voters a chance to see David Yates’ accomplishment on the big screen (as was intended).

Consider this, as well. The studio might have little choice but to pour its collective weight behind the final “Harry Potter” as its most likely Best Picture candidate. (“J. Edgar” likely will not get there, and Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” remains a mystery.)

Which brings us back to the Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings,” which earned its Oscars at the culmination of a lengthy journey. Eleven victories, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and several below-the-line categories … where the “Harry Potter” series has left its mark.

Until now.

“Historically, the movies have all been received as much more of a commercial venture as opposed to an artistic one,” Sue Kroll, Warners’ president of worldwide marketing, tells THR. “But I do think this newest film is different. It’s been one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. It really was an artistic breakthrough.”

The film also has the box office necessary to compete, earning $381 million domestically, the highest total in franchise history. And “Part 2” earned a staggering 96% Fresh, with only 10 of the 266 filed reviews counting toward the negative.

Are there places “Potter” can compete if it doesn’t make the Bets Picture cut? Absolutely. Alan Rickman earned the most raves for his franchise-spanning performance as Severus Snape. Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Radcliffe each flirted with awards consideration for their reprisals of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, respectively.

But Warner would be wise to roll its dice on the evening’s biggest prize: Best Picture. A current frontrunner has yet to emerge from the pack this year, suggesting we might see an Oscar ceremony that spreads its love around to multiple pictures. If ever there would be a year where the winners in the Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress didn’t appear in the Best Picture-winning film, it would be this schizophrenic year.

One Academy member who chose to remain nameless told the trade, “It may not exactly be my kind of film — I’m hardly a ‘Potter’ aficionado — but I think it should win. In a marketplace where the movies’ connection to audiences is more tenuous than ever, the adulation and enduring love that a generation has for this series stands apart. It’s powerful. For us as an industry not to give it that level of honor is injurious. It’s not embracing what there is about the art form that truly endures.”

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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One Comment

  • November 28, 2011 | Permalink |

    While it is easily the best film of the series, I can’t see HP7 getting nominated. There is just way too much competition at this time of year and the Academy isn’t one to give out an Oscar just because a series is coming to an end.

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