Oscar Contenders

'Hunger Games' for Best Picture? Lawrence for Best Actress? Nope.

And no, I don't think it's too early to decide

The Hunger Games for Best Picture
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Photo: Lionsgate

Building off an article at The Atlantic, Sasha Stone at Awards Daily has written a post headlined "Might The Hunger Games be the First Best Picture Contender of the Year?"

Without delay or second thought I'll just say "no." That said, I'm not even sure Sasha thinks there's much of a chance as she leaves plenty of outs within the article essentially saying it's too early to tell, none of us know what will be "best" by the end of the year and as a result, why not The Hunger Games?

Fair enough, it's fun to think of "what ifs" so I'll play along, only I'm not considering the film for a second just as I didn't last year when people started banging the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 drum last July. Just not going to happen.

Sasha's reasons for considering the film (outside of saying it's "one of the best pictures of the year so far" to which I'll say, "The year is only three months old") focuses primarily on it's level of cultural commentary and what we consider "entertainment" nowadays (a commentary that isn't exactly unique to this film) and the fact it's a major box-office hit, reaching the $250 million mark faster than Avatar and only fourth behind The Dark Knight, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the already mentioned Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Sasha, while recognizing the Academy didn't nominate Potter last year, notes they did nominate Avatar, but I don't think anyone is comparing Hunger Games to Avatar... are they?

While the reviews for Hunger Games have been good (85% on RottenTomatoes), I'm not getting a sense of overwhelming acceptance in terms of quality. I'm not getting an "Oh man, I have to see it again" vibe, which typically accompanies a film of this sort, especially if we want to vault it to Best Picture status. It seems to have been declared a populist must-see, but in terms of being an "event" to experience more than once -- a la a Potter film, Avatar or the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises -- I'm just not feeling it.

In the Atlantic piece by Kevin Fallon he does a lot of comparing to the Potter franchise, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 specifically, which seems an odd comparison to make considering that film wasn't nominated. He also builds off a post from Dave Karger at Entertainment Weekly who isn't so much wondering about the film's chances for a nomination, but more about Jennifer Lawrence's chances at scoring a second Oscar nom for her performance as Katniss Everdeen, a performance Fallon feels is worth comparing to Rooney Mara's Oscar-nominated performance in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I'm sorry... but again... no.

Personally, I don't think Katniss was even written well enough for Lawrence to be considered and she didn't do anything special to elevate the character to any level beyond the script or story. Compare that to the final moments of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mara as Lisbeth Salander looking on at Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and Erika Berger (Robin Wright) together. Talk about performance and it's only bolstered by everything she brought to that picture up to that point. Devastating.

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
Photo: Lionsgate

The only time I felt Lawrence came close to that kind of an emotional gut punch in Hunger Games was just as the glass door shut and she began her ascension to the Hunger Games arena. I felt fear, but it was unique to that moment and gone in a flash. Lawrence fit the role and played it well, but talking Oscar isn't really necessary.

The only real moments of perfection in Hunger Games, in my mind, came with the three-finger salute and only one of those times was it led by Katniss, and Lawrence's performance wasn't the reason it came across so strongly.

Speaking of which, and getting back to Stone's thoughts on the film's societal commentary, Fallon makes yet another comparison to a film that wasn't nominated for Best Picture, The Dark Knight, and says, "They are crowd-pleasers with something to say. And the Academy loves saying something." He isn't wrong when he says both films "offer resonant commentary about society, particularly government control and corruption" and Sasha isn't off when she says, "The Hunger Games isn't so far from the celebrity machine we are helping to generate -- daily doses of glory and tragedy."

Problem is, The Hunger Games is too busy stuffing its narrative with everything it can to focus too heavily on the government or societal aspect, or treat it with any level of nuance. Much of what Sasha is taking away from the film is as a keen and experienced viewer. She's looking deeper and finding more, something I credit her for but I don't see that being the norm and, considering the way the film ends, I don't imagine it's what the majority of audiences are leaving the theater thinking about.

Addressing the "too early in the year" excuse, Karger throws out early year Oscar-nominated examples such as Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich and Frances McDormand in Fargo. Again, are we comparing Hunger Games and Lawrence's performance to... (take your pick)? If so, you'll have to convince me... I don't see it.

I liked Hunger Games well enough and am anxious to see the complete franchise on the big screen with high hopes for however many films the future holds (probably three more). Problem is, the monetary interest in this franchise is too high for the films to be made with a mind for much risk and as such they'll have to contend with being as on-edge as they can within certain constraints to assure the widest audience possible can still see them and accept them with a desire to see more.

For me to believe Hunger Games had a shot at Best Picture, I'd have to believe it brought something new and/or unique to the table. Considering not a single Harry Potter film was ever nominated and films such as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings features and Avatar were that is where I will have to make my comparisons. How does Hunger Games stack up to those films cinematically and within the industry? In my view it's milquetoast by comparison.

Of course, this is just my opinion and I'm happy to read yours in the comments below and would love to see how you vote in the two following polls.



Will The Hunger Games be nominated for Best Picture?

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Will Jennifer Lawrence be nominated for Best Actress for her performance in The Hunger Games?

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  • Albert J Pickles

    Nothing like turning an article about one thing into another negative review of a film!

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Thanks for your input and forwarding the conversation Mr. Pickles. Not a negative review of the film in the least. I'm already on record as liking it, but oh well.

  • Ian

    Yeah it has no chance and neither does Lawrence. It was a good performance given the material, but I agree that the character wasn't particularly well-written (that goes for the film as a whole). And in terms of populist moms to go along with the actual contenders, TDKR and The Hobbit will both have a much better shot (assuming they're both quality, of course).

  • http://desertofreel.wordpress.com/ Kob

    No. And I'm surprised that the online media is suggesting it could be a best picture film. I found it unremarkable, lacking emotion and an interest in the characters. Whether it's fans' love for the books carrying the film or people seeing The Hunger Games as the 'anti-Twilight' (why I'll never understand, there's barely any similarities), the suggestion of a Best Picture/Best Actress seems a non-starter. It's a pedestrian film in my view with a few good moments.

    If it's in the running then 2012 would have been an average year for film.

  • Kristen K.

    I completely agree. The film was a pretty adequate adaptation of the first book & hopefully has set the series up for success, but I don't think there is any way this series gets Best Pic or Best Actress nominations.

    I feel like the "audiences love this film so we will nominate it to get ratings" slot on this year's program will probably be filled by The Dark Knight Rises... That is not to say that they cannot get recognized in a few of the technical categories. I feel like the costumes were exceptionally well done and could be this series best chance for a nom, or for Sound possibly.

  • Hamza Zain

    I think what they are confusing, when comparing it to a film such as Deathly Hallows Part 2, is the rabid fanbase, as opposed to the quality of the film. Most people that saw the last Potter film agreed it was a must-see summer film. Where as, I haven't seen people champion the Hunger Games to that extent.

    Personally, while I did enjoy the film and how it tried very hard to remain faithful to the books, it is not a Best Picture contender by a long shot. And as for Lawrence as Katniss, I thought she nailed the character perfectly, but there isn't enough for her to really chew on for it to be considered Oscar worthy.

    I still think Mockingjay has the potential to do what Deathly Hallows did. Both films would similarly have the first part be set up and character building, and the second part be full scale action.

  • RG Serna

    I couldn't agree more. The Hunger Games could get a nod in technical categories like Costume Design and Make Up only no more than that.

  • Z.

    Actually, I think both THG and Jennifer Lawrence will get nominated and yes, both deserve it. Lawrence (in my honest opinion) nailed the character of Katniss; the emotional, vulnerable physical , etc., whereas Mara, simply immitated what Noomi Rapace had already done when she played the chracter only a few years before. Lawrence and her portrayl was original. I couldn't help but think as I watched TGWTDT that oh yeah, Noomi already played this character and played it better. The Hunger Games has proven itself in terms of box office and with Lawrence completely embodying the character of Katniss. Your mileage may vary of course, and yeah, it will be a very crowded field but but I believe THG does deserve to be nominated and just might be nominated.

    • Gabriel

      I don't know what the hell you are smoking but Mara did not simply imitate Noomi's version of Lisbeth. Mara's version was completely different and stands on its own when you compare it to Noomi's.

    • hugizz145

      if only you could explain to me why Noomi Rapace´s performance as Lisbeth Saalnder is better than Mara´s you may have an actual point, because if you have read the Millennium novels as I suppose you have done with The Hunger Games novels you may realize that Mara also nailed Lisbeth; the emotional, vulnerable, physical (which is a rather damanding physical transformation), etc, and how was Jennifer lawrence´s Katniss original?, the fact that she played the character first doesnt make it original, it only makes it easier, because there is no one yet to comapre her performance to, waht makes a performnce original depends on how creative, unexpected and risky it is and how far the performer is able to take it....

  • G-Man

    I voted no to both, but I would be more surprised if Hunger Games gets a Best Picture nomination than if Jennifer Lawrence got one for best actress.

  • Susan

    I think it won't get a Picture nod, but Actress has a chance, depending on the depth of the lead roles in 2012 for actresses. If it's a slightly weak field, I can see her getting in, especially since Lawrence has been recognized in the past.

    • Bren

      I'm with you, Susan. Might have a chance at Actress in a weak year but definitely won't be in the running for Best Picture. I'm chalking it up to it being the first good film of the year to make a lot of money so therefore gets some Oscar buzz because it's never too early to start predicting haha.

  • Damage

    I don't think so. At first I thought this might be one of the few movies that the "Average Joe" enjoys that gets nominated, but I'm sure the Academy will pick a few much less known "artsy" movies to tell us to like. Not saying this movie should be nominated, but the Academy is a joke itself.

  • Connor

    She did great but she might not get one. She deserves it though. Ryan Gosling had some great performances last year but wasnt nominated. He did great in drive even though he didn't talk that much.

  • Evengan

    I'm getting a lot of "Oh man, I have to see it again", quite honestly.

  • sharon gonzalez

    i love the movie it was so graet want to see it againg love yew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris138

    I don't see it happening. I've never read the books but I liked the movie and thought Lawrence was pretty good. But I'd be really shocked if it got any major nods for Best Picture or Best Actress. Some people have been throwing around the whole 'too big to ignore' narrative because of it's box office success, but that was also used for The Dark Knight and we know how that turned out in the end.

    • Arturo

      I wouldn't consider two Oscars, including best supporting Actor, and six other nominations a failure by any means.

      • Chris138

        I figured this conversation is about The Hunger Games' chance at a Best Picture nod, not technical categories. I was comparing The Dark Knight being left out of that category as well as Best Director, not technical ones.

        • Arturo

          I see but acting is not a technical category and I wasn't talking about Diretor.

          • Chris138

            I never said it was. I only mentioned technical categories because 7 out of the 8 nominations The Dark Knight received were technical ones. Obviously TDK wasn't a so called "failure" at the Oscars, except for its failure to receive a Best Picture nod. That's all I'm saying.

  • jake

    YOu know its frustrating because there was a time when star wars, raiders of the lost ark, ET, working girl or julia roberts (pretty woman), sigourney weaver (aliens), Melanie Griffith (working Girl) -- all got nominated for best picture for the former and best actress in the latter and now it's like the academy will not even consider popular fare -- you are even shooting it down. I don't think it will get best picture but I thought Jennifer did elevate the role and is enough to be considered for best actress. what is different about her performance here and with winter's bone -- honestly -- all i could think of was how similar her performance in winter's bone was in hunger games. I wish the academy would truly consider comedy and more popular movies that are great movies. I am still reeling at the boring The artist.....

    • Damage

      100% Agree! The Oscars are rarely from anyone who isn't "artsy" or a "pseudo-intellectual" anymore.

  • Matt

    I agree, not quite... Though I really really liked Lawrence in it. She is wonderful... But not quite I think...butthen again... Which movie will be the 'popular' choice this year? Dark Knight Returns?

    • Chris138

      That and The Hobbit would be considered 'safe' choices. At least for now as speculation, unless one (or both) of them is a flop.

  • dustcauldron16

    I did enjoyed the movie, but same as written above, I felt the same thing with HP7.2 last year. The buzz of an Oscar Best picture nom for the Harry Potter penultimate film and a Best Supporting nod for Alan Rickman was a little too pre-mature. But it's really not that hard to ignore the fact that epic movies and franchises are not Academy material (especially sequels). There might be some exception to these unwritten rules, but even they fall short.
    Let's start with the biggest franchise winner of all
    LOTR: The Return of the King (2003) Not this is a major exception for it just did the unthinkable, 11 nominations, 11 wins. The most wins a movie ever has (tied with Titanic and Ben-Hur) But we can't ignore the fact the they might've won all the categories they're in but not a single one of them are an acting nod. The entire run of LOTR, they got one Oscar acting nom,that's for Ian McKellen in LOTR: Two Towers. (In this way, Titanic is still considered superior, though may have three loses (11 wins of 14 noms) they still got nods for three acting performances)

    The first huge franchise, STAR WARS. one Best picture nod (didn't win), one acting nod (no wins)

    And the The Dark Knight, ignored by the Academy for Best Picture. But Ledger was nominated and did won (maybe the later got something to do with his untimely demise, maybe not, but the nom was too well-deserved as he just overdid Jack Nocholson's chilling performance - maybe they did voted for him entirely for the artistic view of it, we'll never know).

    Course Harry Potter (am not dissing HP, am a huge fan myself) 8 movies, numerous nods for visuals, editing, sounds, make-up and such. None for major awards (Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematog, and 4 acting performances)

    True, THG is a great movie, and it lived up to more than most have expected for a franchise that is to succeed the Boy wizard. And Jennifer Lawrence did shine, (probably too bright that we almost forgot that there are other actors on this movie), but it's jut not enough for an oscar nod. It's 85% Rottentomatoes rating is nothing compared to Lawrence's WINTER's BONE with 94% certified fresh. Maybe for the next one, when they've outdone this first stunt they did for THG. (CATCHING FIRE SPOILER) If they carry out the Katniss's catatonic and drunken reaction to the Quarter Quell new, much more, her, finally succumbing to fear and the reality that she is a child in need of protection and just burst out into tears in the hands of her mother and sister. Now that's what made me reread that book twice already. And since Lawrence is just naturally talented, I'm expecting not to see a Bella-Swann-screaming-like-she's-turning-to-some-creature-nightmarish-nightmares scenes (oh yeah, I did a Twilight comparison, big deal, i just can't over the fact that they actually did that scene? what? they don't know the word "re-take"?)

    But then again, who knows. Let's just see (as for me, am not on that watch) For one thing though, I know what award The Hunger Games or Jennifer Lawrence won't be considered or welcomed, The RAZZIES. (leave the Razzies to the Cullens)

  • Angela245

    The Hunger Games won't be nominated but Jennifer Lawrence has a great chance. she played the part perfectly, and it was a very strong female character. As an actress, JL doesn't knock you over the head with emotions, she is a very subtle actor. She balanced the character's strength and vulnerability perfectly. I will be disappointed if her name isn't a least mentioned as a contender for a nomination next year.

    • dustcauldron16

      I do find Lawrence's subtlety exemplary. Her best scenes aren't the one where she was crying or screaming or something else. It's always that look on her eyes that never fails to leave you in awe.
      Her best scenes on Winter's Bone: my personal favorite, her lingering at the school. The longing in her eyes was just, ohhh (no word for it)
      for Poker House: Bathtub scene with her hands outstretch for Selma Blair. (a'ght, so she was crying here) but damn if people didn't felt it. At that moment, she was a child. Totally crept on my spine.
      for THG: a lot of people keep mentioning it, (the three-finger salute after Rue's death), and i agree with them. That scene just kills. But i got one more scene though. The blowing-up the pyramid scene, (her second shot at the apples) That is the moment when we totally lost Jennifer Lawrence, that is definitely Katniss Everdeen. The connection between her and the bow is undeniably. (see how her lips touches the string? now that's definitely a whisper - we don't need Beetee's modern bow to recognize Katniss's voice, we only need Lawrence and her incredible talent.)

  • Stiggy

    The main reason Deathly Hallows part 2 wasn't nominated for BP was because some fat bastard kept flogging a black and white silent film down the voter's throats. #

    Another reason was voters getting stiffies over some over rated piece of garbage known as Alexander Payne.

  • Casper

    Oscars are a joke nowadays. Always the wrong roles/actors receive Oscar & it's all because of politics. Jennifer Lawrence deserves Oscar nomination & even a win for her haunting portrayal of Katniss. THG desreve best picture nomination.

  • Angela245

    I decided to go see the Hunger Games again this afternoon....I've changed my mind from my earlier post. THG does deserve a nomination for best picture. and Jennifer Lawrence better be nominated....she is just so brilliant as Katniss. Her performance has held up to my 4 (yes, I've seen it four times now...so sue me) viewings. All her scenes in the district 12 segment are wonderful....from comforting her little sister, to her conversation with Gale, and of course the reaping are performed flawlessly. I'm not sure if the author of this article was paying attention or not, but JL pulls off some serious "emotional gut punches" throughout the movie. They happen to be very subtle, and you can see them, if you pay attention. Once again, the movie and JL's performance has held up under multiple viewings. She deserves her second nomination!

  • dustcauldron16

    I've seen THG four times already, and I do want Lawrence to earn a nomination. Cause it really was her movie, and she was the only reason that made me watch it over and over. It's like there's nothing else in it but her. (and the music was really good too, it doesn't have enough for best picture but the score was amazing it has got better chance for best musical score). If the Academy sees it the way they saw Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, then she'll definitely earn a nod. (Am just still unconvinced that she'll earn one with this) But hey, The Academy is still months away, who knows. We can only hope for it. (The Academy isn't that credible nowadays though, I still think Clooney should've won, The Descendants was the first movie that I don't find him so Clooney-ish, and that I actually love him)

  • Rudie Obias

    I wrote a piece for ShockYa.com about this too. I also crunched the numbers. http://www.shockya.com/news/2012/03/30/why-the-hunger-games-will-be-nominated-for-a-best-picture-oscar/

  • Satine

    With all the great movies yet to be released, they have to be kidding to believe this has a shot. I liked The Hunger Games, but I did not love it. With Lincoln, The Great Gatsby, Les Misreables, Django Unchained, and The Place Beyond the Pines, yet to be released plus others with a dark horse chance of being nominated, I do not forsee The Hunger Games being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

  • SP1234

    Given that the film has been #1 for three weeks, which possibly includes repeat screenings that definately happened to Avatar as well, I wouldn't be surprised if there were talk about just a possible nomination. It's the biggest hit of the year, possibly along with Dark Knight, so I'm sure there will be a lot of talk later this year.
    As for Jennifer, there's definately a strong chance of getting a nomination. For one thing, she's been nominated before, and I don't know if a non-nominee would have the same chances, but that might not hurt. Also, at this point, leading actress isn't that big of a field compared to last year. Meryl Streep is doing a comedy that I don't know if it will be considered, and so far, the locks if I see any are Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina) and Carey Mulligan (Gatsby), so at this point, it should be pretty easy for Lawrence to sneak in.

  • devoto

    Jennifer Lawrence should get a nomination. It was a truly iconic performance. And the fact that it wasn't written to be an Oscar role in the traditional sense makes her performance even better. I'm not sure the author understands how hard a role it was to pull off. Put an actor with less presence than Rusell Crowe in Gladiator, for example (think Oliver Stone's Alexander), and that film would have collapsed. It requires an extraordinary screen presence and acceptance by the audience, and she pulled it off. This film will likely end up north of the $400 million mark in the US alone. Point to one instance when a female lead in a similar heroic role has ever done anything like that. Not sure if the performance in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was "devastating", but it was hardly a sensation with audiences despite a comparably popular literary franchise. I thought Lawrence emotionally related to the audience brilliantly. And she had to balance a number of conflicting traits (resilience, vulnerability, etc). Also sometimes a performance transcends how a part is written. Lawrence took the challenge of carrying a film and hit a grand slam to an unprecedented degree. Once upon a time (back when the Oscar's still had higher ratings than the Grammy awards), this type of role would be deservingly rewarded. Now it seems Oscar nominations need to come wrapped in a prefabricated bow. I hope they get the memo that it's OK to think outside the box of stereotypical Oscar roles. Twenty years from now her performance will still be remembered.