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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Harry Potter and the Elusive Naked Golden Man

We’re near that time of year when the awards-screener fairy starts delivering DVDs to our doorsteps, but things have a long ways to go before they get anywhere close to nailed down. Nonetheless, I’ve been pondering lately whether the final movie of the Harry Potter series might possibly be a serious awards contender. Will Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 finally snag that elusive Best Picture Oscar nod? When it came out in July to rave reviews (it was at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes for a while, though it’s currently dipped a notch to 96%) there was a bit of speculation that seemed to indicate that maybe, just maybe, it could. By August, there was talk that Warner Brothers would be giving the film a serious Oscar push. Now here we are just a couple months later, and not a single one of MCNs Gurus even gave it a one-vote wonder shot.

I do think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2 absolutely deserves a nomination for Best Picture – if for no other reason than to to give recognition to the superb achievement of Warner Brothers in pulling off what, in my book, is one of the best adaptations of a book series ever. Consider: We’re talking a decade of massive work making eight films, in which both lead and supporting actors had to follow character arcs across a series written for adolescents, but beloved across age demographics. And if you think that’s easy enough to do, may I direct your attention to the Narnia adaptations, The Golden Compass and the feeble attempt to adapt Lemony Snicket as my evidence that more often than not, adaptations of children’s literature are not that easy to pull off. Yet with the Harry Potter series, Warner Brothers more or less made it look effortless; it probably helped that JK Rowling had the clout to be heavily involved with the creative process along the way.

The series was cast with three young, untested unknowns as Harry, Ron and Hermione; Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint all grew into their roles, and grew as actors over the years. An absolutely stellar cast made up of the cream of the British film industry, with most of that cast returning film after film and maintaining consistency of character throughout, supported the trio. And, of course, the series had Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, a great villain/hero archetype arcing slowly over seven books (eight movies) and drawn just superbly by Rickman, whose work in these films has been vastly under-appreciated during awards season. Rickman created in Snape one of the most memorable film characters of the last decade, and although JK Rowling sketched out a rather complex character to build on, it’s Rickman whose remarkable talent brought him to life on the big screen. He fleshed out the Severus Snape on the pages to become the Severus Snape who dominates our own understanding of the character. When I think Severus Snape, I see him now as Rickman originated the role, and probably always will. Don’t you? The Supporting Actor field is looking crowded, yes, but I hope Rickman finally gets his nod. It’s time.

And what of Ralph Fiennes, whose lengthy run as Voldemort — er, He Who Must Not Be Named — defined that character as well? Yes, yes, given Oscar’s taste, it’s probably more likely the Academy will recognize Fiennes for his directorial debut, Coriolanus, in which he also stars, than for playing the bad guy in a kit-lit adaptation. Whatever. It’s worth mentioning that Fiennes made of Voldemort a textured, complicated character that served as far more than a mere foil or plot device for the bespectacled boy wizard, even if it’s unlikely to garner a nod. As for our heroic trio much as Radcliffe and Watson particularly impressed me with their growth as actors over the last four films, I don’t think its their time for Oscar yet. All three could transition post-Potter, if they choose smartly which scripts to take. Watson has a starring role in the upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which looks, on the surface at least, to be cut from the same cloth as Homework, Restless, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Let’s hope that’s not a trend, or at least that the film turns out to be more darkly comedic ala Submarine and not so much overly serious teenage angstdrama.

You could make an argument that artistically, the Harry Potter series isn’t quite up there with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which finally managed not just a Best Picture win but a sweep of all eleven categories in which it was nominated in 2004 for Return of the King. And I might agree with you about that when it comes to some of the Harry Potter films, but I do think the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and the last four films, directed by David Yates, are right up there with the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it comes to adapting fantasy material for the big screen. Is the book series itself as well written as Tolkein’s masterpiece? I’d have to say no, it’s not (although neither is it as bad as its vocal detractors think), and that’s probably part of what’s hurt the film’s Oscar chances in the past; adaptations of kiddie lit are rarely seen by the lofty Academy as “serious” artistic endeavors.

The Oscars aren’t about recognizing works of literature, though, they are about recognizing excellence in film, and I think the team at Warner Brothers deserves some credit here for a damn fine job managing to film the series over a decade, doing so spectacularly, overall, and bringing the bang at the box office for their efforts, to boot. The decision to not cram the last book into one film, but to make it a two-parter, allowing for a fuller, richer storyline, was smart. Yes, it was also a manipulative way to squeeze twice the box office out of the last book in a highly profitable series, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t smart — or that it didn’t ultimately serve the interests of the story. It allowed the series to conclude its arc with a precision and pacing that would have been greatly lacking had they tried to finish it all in one film.

And in retrospect, though at the time I wished they’d bring back Alfonso Cuaron, who directed Prisoner of Azkaban (still my overall favorite of the series, if I had to pick just one) to direct the two-part finale, I think now that it was a great call on WB’s part to retain David Yates, who’d previously helmed Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. Order of the Phoenix is where the arc of the Harry Potter series takes a very dark through to the end, and Yates already had a good handle tonally on where it needed to go. I said when I saw The Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 that it was incomplete by itself, but that I hoped that with the second part we’d have a unified whole across the finale, and I found the final film to be supremely satisfying.

What chance does the final chapter of the tale of the Boy Who Lived have in the eyes of the Academy? We’ll have to see how the rest of the contenders play out as they get seen and reviewed to get a better handle on that. But as for me, I’ll be rooting for the film, and for Rickman, to get some recognition here for a truly stellar run.

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4 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Elusive Naked Golden Man”

  1. Sharon Anderson says:

    I agree that this series came out about as good as possible over the span of the years and combination of directors. It’s just fantastic, and at the very least, Alan Rickman should get an Oscar. DH Part 2 should too.

  2. Cruella says:

    Yes, I definitely agree that Mr. Rickman deserves (at least) an Oscar and so does the entire “Harry Potter” serie even for the simple reason that it has a uniqueness and such a magical contribution to the film`s history. I hope they will not discriminate it again and award some “cheap” (when it comes to acting) Hollywood production, starring Brad Pitt or another movie VIP, instead or real actors. :S

  3. DW says:

    Alan Rickman’s masterful performance as Professor Severus Snape does indeed deserve consideration. He rocked it.

  4. Lee says:

    If anyone heeeree… has.. any knowledge of my Oscar’s movement’s this evening… I invite them to step forward……. now!

    We’re working on it Alan!

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon