Editor’s Note: Following yesterday’s user post shockingly stating that Deathly Hallows doesn’t deserve an Oscar, additional reports concerning the same subject came in. Here’s another great one.
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Awards season is often emotional and sometimes dumbfounding with the large number of critics’ prizes and voted awards being announced beginning at the end of the year, but I find it especially irritating this year with the eligibility of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. As a professional who votes for year-end awards and is also a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I am saddened and frustrated by the lack of recognition that the Harry Potter has received. However, I don’t think it will receive much recognition especially where the Academy Awards are concerned and it’s not because of the quality of the film or its makers. There are several very simple reasons that the movie will not be recognized and they have nothing to do with quality.
1 – Harry Potter is a British product. Though not as bad as the controversial process of the Golden Globe awards, Oscar voting is always done with extreme prejudice. By this I mean that voters keep in mind people they have worked with, people they know who worked on the films, etc. Since many, many Oscar voters live in Los Angeles it is possible that most don’t know one person of the thousands who made the Potter films. And just like voting for a local City Council member or a Congressperson, voters often choose to vote for the candidate who is most familiar to them.
2 – J.K. Rowling is a 46 year old billionaire. Potter is sometimes compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it comes to awards but it’s important to note key differences in how the authors of these series are perceived by the voting members of the Academy. J.K. Rowling is barely middle-aged and probably younger than most Academy voters. J.R.R. Tolkien is held in much more esteem than J.K. Rowling because he lived decades ago and was an Oxford professor. For example, Tolkien’s Wikipedia photo is in black and white and depicts him in 1916 wearing military garb circa World War I even though he died in the 1970’s. J.K. Rowling’s Wikipedia photo is from two years ago and from a children’s Easter egg hunt. How they are seen in the collective view impacts how much they are held in esteem by voters.
3 – New Line took a huge chance with Lord of the Rings. In popular industry view, New Line was taking a huge gamble with Lord of the Rings. They committed to making all 3 films simultaneously at tremendous expense after Disney chickened out. Many in the industry did not think it would pay off for a studio that was previously known mostly for the Nightmare on Elm Street movies to put all its resources in a Fantasy film with such a large scope. In contrast, Warner Bros. took a smaller chance doing the first Potter film which was a current bestselling book. If the first film had not done very well, Warner Bros. would have just moved on. If LOTR had tanked, New Line would have totally gone under. Oscar voters tend to reward the sort of vision and courage that New Line showed in making LOTR. I know David Heyman is a genius and all 8 Potter movies are amazing but it’s not the same as the chance New Line took.
4- Oscar voters are mostly older people with little contact with Harry Potter. I know this is a well-worn joke, but it is true that Oscar voters are OLD. They aren’t your parents’ age or your teachers’ age. These are people who were senior citizens a decade ago. I go to a lot of awards screenings in the fall and winter seasons and experience this first hand. I have spoken to 4 different older people before screenings who, when I mentioned Harry Potter, said a variation of “I’ve never seen any of those.” They have no knowledge of the series whatsoever. They haven’t been exposed by their children or by the internet or pop culture. It’s not something that is a part of their lives. They aren’t against it, they just haven’t come in contact with it. Think about that for a moment. How sheltered do you need to be to not come in contact with Harry Potter? That is how removed from pop culture that some of the voters are.
5 – Deathly Hallows is hard to understand for outsiders. I know it makes perfect sense to us, but to the uninitiated, Harry Potter can seem really strange. I recently went to an industry event where studios showed clips of all he films they were presenting for awards consideration. The clip shown for Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was Snape’s death scene. This is obviously a great scene and it’s easy for anyone to see that it’s well-acted and the filmmaking is exceptional. But step back for a moment and pretend you don’t know the story. This scene involves a man with no nose asking another man who is in charge of a wand. Then he kills him with a snake and three kids come in and put his tears in a vial. At the break, the man next to me asked if I understood the clip and I tried to explain. He wasn’t being judgmental and he was definitely interested but it was hard to explain even for me. Other clips shown that day depicted events to which viewers could more easily relate. For example, a couple flirting, a man crying over his comatose wife, a maid standing up for herself. These are easier for the average person to understand. It is too late for the uninitiated Oscar voters to enter the Harry Potter world in time for Oscar voting.
I don’t agree with any of these reasons, obviously, but it’s important to note that there are many reasons that Harry Potter won’t get award recognition other than “the film isn’t very good.”