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Could “Harry Potter” Win Best Picture?

Could "Harry Potter" Win Best Picture?

The simple answer to the headline is no, neither parts of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will win the Oscar for Best Picture. And even with ten available slots, the recently released “Deathly Hallows Part 1” won’t likely be nominated in the category, either. But as much as it seems a given the series isn’t Oscar-caliber, I kind of feel it deserves at least the honor. Looking at the ten other most successful film franchises of all time — of which “Harry Potter” is now THE greatest, gross-wise — “Star Wars” was nominated for Best Picture, ditto for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” all of the “Lord of the Rings” installments got nods and the last won the award and Albert Broccoli was given the Irving G. Thalberg Award, which was basically like an award to the James Bond series for being one of if not the best franchises ever (had there been ten slots a few years back, by the way, “Casino Royale” would certainly have been the first 007 to go up for Best Picture). As for “Shrek,” that got Best Animated Feature, which is relatively equal, and “Toy Story 3” will get it this year, if not also a nomination for Best Pic. I predict “The Dark Knight Rising” also making up for the previous Batman movie’s lack of recognition, and for all we know, Marc Webb’s “Spider-Man” reboot will resonate with the Academy.

That leaves “Potter” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which at least garnered Oscar love in Johnny Depp’s initial performance. Former Best Picture-winner director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) won’t do any better for the franchise. Last week, Nicole Sperling at the Los Angeles Times looked into the boy wizard’s chances:

Some Oscar consultants say it’s unlikely the Academy will look seriously at this year’s film, ” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1″ after snubbing the series for so long – and knowing that they have another chance next year. But if director David Yates delivers a tour de force with the “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” in July, the Academy might take a closer look next season, essentially honoring the eight-picture series for its overall achievement.

Unlike the last of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, however, there’s no way the last “Harry Potter” movie could take the trophy. Because also unlike that other series, there isn’t enough recognition of isolated achievement for the “Harry Potter” adaptations. Most of us — whether or not we enjoy the films — think they’re more like supplements, illustrated extensions, of the books. They would barely stand on their own without J.K. Rowling having had written them first and readers eating them up beforehand. Maybe fifty years after publication “Harry Potter” could have had that sort of independence in film form. Perhaps there will be remakes and we can find out.

If there was a prize awarded for special recognition of a great completed franchise, producer David Heyman should get one. He’s not going to get a Thalberg anytime soon the way Broccoli did. Would it be terrible for the Academy to do as they used to and conceive of one-time (or occasional) honors for situations like this? It’s not even that they’re all great movies, but they are and will continue to be quite significant to film history and the industry. Maybe Heyman doesn’t even get it. Maybe Rowling does, for writing something that was so easily and popularly and perfectly and obviously successfully put on the big screen. Neither will happen, of course, but as an equivalent I agree with Sperling that the eight movie, “Deathly Hallows Pt. 2,” will earn a Best Picture nomination.

The 2012 Oscar telecast will have some of the best ratings ever.

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