Nominated for Nothing: 'Hunger Games'

HUNGER-GAMES

Image Credit: Murray Close

Just about every year, brilliant movies are utterly ignored by the Oscars. The Searchers, Groundhog Day, Breathless, King Kong, Casino Royale, Touch of Evil, Caddyshack, Mean Streets, The Big Lebowski — the Academy has a long history of overlooking comedies, action movies, horror flicks, hard-boiled genre pics, artsy foreign films, and documentaries that aren’t about World War II. This year, we’ll be taking a closer look at films that were too small, too weird, or perhaps simply too awesome for the Academy Awards. These are the Non-Nominees.

The Film: The Hunger Games. This action-adventure teen bait — based on the book trilogy of the same name — takes place in a post-apocalyptic nation called Panem, a dystopia that forces 12 unlucky children to participate in an annual fight-to-the-death competition called The Hunger Games. However, this long-running competition is shaken up when fiery spirit Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) enters the arena and inspires a revolution. Oh, and there’s a love triangle in there, too.

Why it Wasn’t Nominated: Young adult novel adaptations have never fared well with Oscar. (This year, there are three* book adaptations in the Best Picture race: Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi.) The most often cited example of the Academy’s tendency to snub young-skewing fiction is the Harry Potter films, all of which failed to grab nominations in non-technical categories and never won an award in any category. Those staggering stats come despite breaking box office records and gaining heaps of critical praise over the course of an entire decade worth of films.

So even though Hunger Games has some very adult themes — government propaganda, death — its YA origins leave the movie unfortunately pegged merely as a film for teens, which, as we’ve pointed out previously in this NFN series, is an Oscar Kiss of Death. And considering the Potter snub precedent, it’s almost safe to assume that Games never had a chance.

But what about the acting categories? The Academy’s failure to recognize the movie’s talented cast is slightly more baffling considering Woody Harrelson, who played drunken mentor Haymitch, is a two-time Oscar nominee and star Lawrence has not only been nominated before (for her role in 2010’s Winter’s Bone) but is a nominee this year for Silver Linings Playbook. Perhaps that, too, comes back to the movie’s perceived younger-skewing material. If so, that’s sad.

Why History Will Remember It Better Than Amour: Simply put, because there are at least two (likely three) more highly-anticipated films to go in the series. And with the inaugural film’s monster box office start, this franchise is on track to be one of the highest grossing ever.

Propelling the series into success is a cult of Games-worshipers. Just like Potter, Twilight, Lord of the Rings and, of course, Star Wars, passionate fans — who both admire Katniss and envy her smörgåsbord of pining men — have turned a simple film into a phenomenon.

Moreover, it’s hard to ignore that the franchise is helmed by an actress whose professional esteem seems to swell with every passing year. By Hollywood standards, Lawrence is the Holy Grail — an actress who can both bring in critical acclaim and box office bucks (not to mention highly GIF-able). Oscar or not, Lawrence’s star power — like Hunger Games fever — shows no signs of dying down any time soon.

* Argo and Lincoln also had book-based inspirations, but are widely considered true story accounts rather than straight adaptations.

Related:
Nominated for Nothing: ‘Magic Mike’
Nominated for Nothing: ‘Chronicle’


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