As the summer movie season begins this week, it will end before we know it. And after summer concludes, autumn brings us Oscar season, which is now unofficially kicked off on Labor Day Weekend over in Telluride, Colorado at their International Film Festival. One movie that is gaining buzz, but could be lost in the autumn 30-meter Oscar dash of hype is “The Hunger Games.” Some bloggers have dismissed its chances while others have claimed it could even possibly receive a Best Picture and Best Actress nomination. Lets take a look.
Two Oscar nominations I would expect “The Hunger Games” to receive would be for the Costume Design and Art Direction. One of the strongest elements from the film is the exquisite and creative costume design, which overwhelm during the scenes of ‘The Capitol’. The lavish and stunning Art Direction deserves serious award consideration for convincingly creating another world directly from the pages of the Suzanne Collins novel. The detriment for nominations, that I would expect would stem from its uneven and jarring cinematography. In fact, the lack of clarity from the cinematography somewhat diminished and was a detriment from the grand spectacle of the exceptional set designs. It’s as if the viewer wasn’t allowed to “see” the hard work that the designers put into the costumes and sets.
Some have speculated that Hunger Games has a chance at Best Picture. The first ten minutes of “The Hunger Games” bears a strong resemblance to the multiple Oscar nominated “Winters Bone.” Both starred Jennifer Lawrence who lived in Appalachia taking care of her sick mother and teaching her younger sister how to fend for herself. Of course, the similarities end at “The Reaping.” A sci-fi action adventure isn’t a common choice of recent Academy history. If the Academy gets off their high horse and embrace a past where movies like “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “Towering Inferno” received Best Picture nominations, then maybe “The Hunger Games” has a fighting chance for a coveted nomination. However, the voting style where any movie must obtain a certain number of first place votes from Academy members proves to be a challenge for the film.
One Oscar buzz consideration I have a hard time comprehending, (besides Gary Ross’ so-so directorial effort,) is Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. I found her to be a serious strength of the film, but wasn’t emotionally moved or dazzled by her work. For me there is a difference playing a convincing strong female lead and giving an Oscar winning performance. If Jennifer Lawrence receives a Best Actress Oscar nominee, this will be an indicator for the lack of quality rolls for women in Hollywood. It would be nothing more then a polite gesture to celebrate her accomplishment and the success of Lionsgate’s big new franchise.
During my press screening of “The Hunger Games,” the colleague I invited as my guest made some interesting and unintended Oscar analogies with recent, previous Best Picture winners. As Cinna was telling Katniss not to worry and how he believed in her, my guest leaned over and whispered to me, “Encouraging the doubting underdog, this is just like The Kings Speech.” Toward the end, he also compared a contestant competing in a game who goes through a rags-to-riches transformation “just like Slumdog Millionare.” In its own way, “The Hunger Games” does follow a similar formula to both ‘Speech’ and ‘Slumdog.’ However, will the older crowd that composes the Academy members see similarities? We will see if the odds are ever in Lionsgate’s favor.