"Harry Potter" is the most successful film franchise ever made, with its eight films earning a record-shattering $7.7 billion worldwide... but it's never won a single Oscar. Like Ron and Hermione's climactic kiss, the Academy should -- no, needs to -- finally take serious notice and give the magical movie saga some much-needed love.
The series has gone 0 for 9 in previous nominations, most of which were in technical categories. And even though the series' incredible final film, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" has gotten no love at all this awards season -- yet -- this could still be the Chosen One's year to triumph (with a Best Picture nomination, we hope). Here's why:
The Last Hurrah: Usually "sequels" don't fare very well with the Academy (okay, less than well -- only two have ever won, "The Godfather Part II" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"), but we're keeping our fingers crossed that voters will actually screen "Deathly Hallows - Part 2" instead of dismissing it as yet another installment in a seemingly never-ending series. This is their last opportunity, and they should see it in the same light as Peter Jackson's final epic (which swept the 2004 awards ceremony with 11 Oscars), recognizing that it's not just a visual and technical spectacle, but an amazing film, period. As Variety editor Tim Gray put it, "You know what, this shouldn't be taken for granted. We're not going to have 'Harry Potter' around anymore, so if voters want to salute it, this is their chance."
Critical Mass: The critical response to "Deathly Hallows - Part 2" was universally adoring. The Rotten Tomatoes critics' approval rating is currently at an astounding 96 percent, the highest of all eight films, even above Alfonso Cuarón's beloved "Prisoner of Azkaban."
Unlike most other summer blockbusters, this film wasn't just a mindless excuse to see lots of explosions and blood. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum heralded director David Yates' adaptation as "proof that authentic movie excitement is its own form of magic," and nearly every review (by critics who routinely offer up one-star assessments of "event-film" sequels) called it the best of the lot.
Popularity Counts (Sort of): The final chapter sold out thousands of midnight showings and made fans do everything from vote rabidly for their favorite character and debate which star was most likely to succeed to weep over footage of the emotional world premiere in London. That kind of fervent fandom following doesn't necessarily translate to awards season, but combined with the critical acclaim and the overall success of the saga, it could make voters more excited about a popular movie with serious cred. Grey pointed out, "I remember with 'Lord of the Rings,' people said, 'No, a fantasy movie will never win, look at 'Star Wars,' but it did win."
Distinguished Thespian Alert: Although no actor has received an Oscar nomination for the Potter films, "Deathly Hallows" features a standout, tear-jerking performance by Alan Rickman, who transforms perfectly from the perpetually sneering "greasy-haired git" to the Severus Snape who can make us cry with just three little words: "Look at me."
Dan Radcliffe did his own campaigning for the Slytherin professor, saying in a press conference, "The performance I found the most moving was Alan Rickman's. I do think it’s the performance of his career ... I think he should get nominations for Best Supporting Actor because it's so touching and beautiful what he does." We couldn't agree more.
In his glowing review, TIME critic Richard Corliss went a step further, celebrating the entire ensemble: "The sublime supporting cast, brought back if only for glimpses here, remind us that the series is a luscious, perhaps unparalleled showcase for this generation's most endearing British actors."
So where, in our estimation, should the film end up on Oscar ballots? Best Picture, for sure, especially given the Academy's recent extension (and tweaking) of the category to anywhere from 5-10 nominees. And then there's Best Supporting Actor (Alan Rickman), as mentioned, as well as Best Director (David Yates, who brought the series to an exquisite conclusion, helming the final four films) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Steve Kloves, who penned all the screenplays but one).
Also Check Out: Our 2012 Oscar Predictions
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" had it all: phenomenal acting, brilliant filmmaking, thrilling visuals and unforgettable storytelling. There may never be another franchise with as much longevity and universal appeal.
Hear that, Academy voters? That kind of movie magic should equal a chance for Oscar gold.
Originally published July 13, 2011.