Looking forward to the 85th Oscars this early in the season is a bit of a challenge. Knowing what won’t be a nominee is easier than knowing what will. While nothing really released in limited engagements this weekend had much potential for Oscar consideration, the massive debut of The Hunger Games might bode both well and ill for the Lionsgate film.
But, before we get into this week’s winners and losers, let’s take a look at what’s coming up this week:
The Hunger Games
There’s little doubt that the Romanesque, authoritarian design work of the Capitol along with the melancholy scenes of district 12 should give the film a strong chance at an Art Direction nomination, but it’s the costumes that have the best chance. Looking at the frocks worn by the garish citizenry in the Capitol, contrasted against the disheveled, hand-me-downs of District 12 created a nice balance and evocation of the book and its themes. Another likely nomination comes in the Makeup category. Although the most obvious element to cite here would be the exuberant makeup and hairstyles donned by nearly everyone of status, but there are a couple of places where some very interesting and evocative work is done with Peeta’s cake-decorating skills enabling him to create designs that make his skin look like tree bark.
Of course, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are possibilities, and nominations for either Taylor Swift or Arcade Fire or both could also come in the Best Original Song category. But these seem to be the categories in which the film has the best chance at receiving recognition.
The question big if here is whether The Hunger Games can young adult-skewing feature film industry unprecedented recognition. Critics seem universally supportive of the film and its $155 million (approximate at the time of this writing) opening weekend will certainly make it a compelling contender. But what makes this film any different than the oft-ignored Harry Potter films, the Twilight franchise or the various comic book adaptations that have peppered the marketplace and made a boatload of money? The Hunger Games isn’t intended to be a populist film, at least thematically. It has gravitas. It has a 4-time Oscar-nominated director at the helm (he’s only been nominated three times for writing and once as producer) in Gary Ross and an Oscar-nominated ingenue in Jennifer Lawrence. Add the presence of noted thespians Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones and Donald Sutherland and you have enough reasons to take the film more seriously than not.
While it’s possible the film could be nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay or even for a longshot nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, I’m currently hedging my bets against. The constant comparisons to Twilight (the two films couldn’t be more distant in theme), will push the film into populist territory that Harry Potter never could elude. Of course, before The Lord of the Rings made Peter Jackson a household name and broke Oscar records left and right, no one would have expected an adaptation of a famous fantasy novel to be Oscar bait either. So, let’s see how it fares throughout the year and if talk shifts from pure fandom to credible threat.