This weekend brings The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to the big screen, and it stars a number of Oscar winners and nominees. And yet its Oscar prospects are virtually nil. Is this a reflection of the considered old Academy voting block? More than likely.
Last year, we were curious if The Avengers would be nominated. This was partly because the Academy often nominates big money winners. The problem is they generally aren’t as fond of sequels. Avatar, Star Wars and Titanic – some of the biggest movies ever — were all nominated, but The Dark Knight and Phantom Menace were not. Quality aside, they tend to nominate big movies if they’re stand alone stories, and anything too popcorn tends to lose in the end.
The big exception to that rule is The Lord of the Rings, which won for the third film. There was a sense of triumph to the accomplishment of making those films, that they could even happen, and in a relatively weak Oscar year, The Return of the King won big. But perhaps the biggest hurdle for these movies is that often blockbusters (when nominated) rarely get many performance nominations. When Titanic won, none of its actors did, and Avatar and The Lord of the Rings failed to get any of their cast up for awards. Often if there is a acting nomination, it’s one big push, like when Heath Ledger won posthumously.
But where the Academy often paid lip service to big movies in the past, the fact that everything is so franchise-centric these days, it means they’re going to be less likely to pay attention (other than in the technical categories) to these box office behemoths. And this is partly because the reward for those involved is usually the gigantic paydays. The Oscars don’t necessarily work as an advocacy group, but they often want to put focus on films that are out in theaters, or that they mark as being of great quality or worth, or — failing that — a great career.
There was a thought that the Harry Potter franchise would get a nomination for the final film, but when that turned out to be a second half of a movie with pacing problems, that thought went out the window. And even with Oscar winner Bill Condon behind the final two Twilight movies, the thought of that franchise getting Oscar nominations is/was and remains a punchline. No matter how big the Fast and Furious franchise gets, at this point there’s no way it could ever be a best picture nominee.
So, could there be any nominations for Catching Fire? Probably not. There could be a case for Jennifer Lawrence getting nominated, but her people are more than likely going to try and push her for American Hustle over it. Why? Because the Academy is going to take that film seriously. Ultimately, more than anything else, blockbusters are genre pictures, and generally disreputable ones at that. And considering the largest voting block are actors, and blockbusters tend to highlight spectacle over character, it’s an uphill struggle. But don’t worry, Catching Fire, there’s always the MTV Movie Awards.
What big franchise film do you think should have been nominated?