We know for Potter-heads across the nation the Academy Awards are a sore subject. Twi-hards have been left in the cold by the Academy on an even larger scale, not even scoring a single nomination over a four-film span. The Hunger Games has garnered comparisons to both Twilight and Harry Potter, but there are many factors that will separate it from the pack on Oscar night.

Keep in mind, we’re not predicting a Hunger Games sweep at next years Oscars. What follows are simply things to consider when forming your (super) early prediction list.

5)It’s Oscar-friendly

True, a March release date isn’t exactly Oscar-friendly (don’t forget, The Hurt Locker had an original March release date and Silence of the Lambs had a late February release), but the cast, director and subject matter are.

Jennifer Lawrence has already gained recognition with the Academy for her work in Winter’s Bone, and the Academy even approached her to read the nominees for this year’s awards. Whether or not the voting Academy thinks you’re a mensch goes a mile and a half towards Oscar gold, so having Lawrence leading the way in what has already been described as an Oscar-worthy role has put The Hunger Games on the Academy’s radar. Sure, past Oscar glory is no guarantee of future Oscar glory—the Harry Potter films are proof enough of that—but combined with the right source material, it can make all the difference on a nomination board.

This is a film that has chosen a tone (one that is heavily alluded to in the novels) and stuck with it. The Harry Potter films chose to be produced as popcorn films, which isn’t a bad thing since it helps to maintain a wider sense of appeal, but it impacts the level of artistry that the Academy usually looks for.

The Hunger Games film on the other hand is dark, serious, political and everything else that can be defined as Oscar bait. It has also been described as “intellectually challenging” by reviewers, and if there’s something the Academy likes to award, it’s those thinkin’ movies.

4)It has earned critical/audience acclaim

The film is barely out of the gate (at the time of the publication of this article, midnight is still a few hours away), and critics are already getting into the habit of calling The Hunger Games “the next big thing.” Fans of course have had the leg up on the world with this news, but they seem just as adamant to express their rabid enthusiasm for the film adaptation. Lucky fans that have already logged the film into their memory banks have claimed full satisfaction.

Again, Harry Potter is an excellent example of fan enthusiasm simply not being enough to sway the Academy’s opinion, but this is a different matter entirely. We, as fans, have to separate ourselves from our fandom kingdom and think about the general public. For non-readers, the Harry Potter series of films had the potential to be wildly confusing.

It takes a lot to please fans, general audiences and critics alike, but The Hunger Games seems to have located that sweet spot between pleasing the fans and creating a legitimately awesome experience. It has found a way to seem relevant to critics that only seem to enjoy “serious” fare and remain enjoyable to the casual watcher. It’s this tightrope walk between individual artistry and faithfulness to the source material that keeps it in the game.

3)It isn’t Harry Potter and it isn’t half a film
Yeah, those are some strong words up there, but I stand by them. Let me tell you why.

Before you mash your angry hands to the keyboard in a hateful fashion, consider this. Have you ever talked about Harry Potter to someone who has never read it? Have you ever been on the opposite end of that conversation?

The story of Harry Potter is expansive, complex, emotional and epic, but it hides under ridiculous words like “Hogwarts” and “Muggles.” Serious fans have probably forgotten how ridiculous those words sound, but to an outside audience that hasn’t taken the time to acclimate themselves to Harry’s world, words like those can be pretty polarizing.

In a few words, Harry Potter SOUNDS ridiculous, and having exposure to Harry’s world purely through the films is a poor substitute for the full experience. When it comes down to it, Harry Potter must seem like a strange phenomenon to the uninitiated. It’s hard to explain in a sentence without saying a word like “Voldemort” or “Horcruxes.”

The Hunger Games has a tight synopsis, has mass brutal appeal and has found a way to market itself in an attractive way without being overly obscene. Generally, it’s contained films like these that the Academy likes to bestow praise upon, and it will fare even better if the film ends up making more money than Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn combined.

It all just comes down to the idea that Harry Potter isn’t the basis on which all book-to-film movie franchises should be based. It was its own phenomenon with its own quirks, but it was ultimately its tone that moved Academy voters against it. This is a drastically different movie, and not only that, but it also doesn’t have a tacky “Part 2″ glued onto the end of the title.

2)It’s culturally relevant

There are lots of potential meanings for the phrase “cultural relevance”, but from the moment that The Hunger Games was introduced, its themes have been deemed as alarmingly reminiscent of former science fiction that has since turned into science fact. We’ve even been sent several articles about how The Hunger Games is where the world is heading.

It’s pretty hard to ignore this cautionary tale about the dangers of totalitarian government, corruption, and societal voyeurism and critics have already taken notice. It’s a fresh and well-timed tale that will hit people directly in their brain box. When films do this, the Academy normally takes notice and at least gives further consideration simply for having the guts to take audiences there.

The Academy likes to reward studios for taking a chance, and there’s no doubt that Lionsgate took a chance on this brutal fight to the death. It is showing audiences something that’s hard to see, but everyone still wants to watch it.

It has that level of morbid intrigue that is usually reserved for horror films, but it has chosen to tell it in an intriguing post-modern political wasteland. Although Harry Potter had a lot to say on the subject of politics and corruption, The Hunger Games has taken it a step further by showing the aftermath of the end instead of how the end was narrowly avoided.

1)It works as a stand-alone film

We’ve discussed how Harry Potter suffered a confused adaptation process that began before the source material even ended, and it proved to have an unfortunate impact on the general movie watching public that hadn’t even held the books in their hands.

The difference here is that Harry Potter works best as a book series while The Hunger Games (as some critics have already suggested) was ripe for film adaptation. It’s visual, visceral, and even structured the exact same way that films are. Those that have read the book can agree that it reads like a very in-depth treatment for a film. One could actually even argue that the material is better suited for film, but then we would miss reading all of Katniss’s thoughts.

Director Gary Ross also ultimately made the decision to take a step away from the book series while developing the film. He took out things that didn’t work, added scenes that would help the overall clarity of the film, and made sure that The Hunger Games worked as a film rather than as a companion to the book. It’s ultimately this distinct and graceful medium shift that separates The Hunger Games from the pack and gives it a better chance of getting some golden love at the Oscars next year.

What do you think? Does The Hunger Games stand a chance at next year’s Oscars? Will it rack up that coveted Best Picture nomination? What other nominations could it score?