Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara says moviegoers have been under the spell of “Harry Potter” and its amazing cast for a decade and now it’s time for Oscar voters to feel the magic.
There is something touching about the fact that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1” opened in mid-November. It’s the unofficial beginning of Oscar season, after all. Whether Warner Bros. is thumbing its nose at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or is still holding out hope for getting voters’ attention, it’s hard to imagine that things will be any different for this installment than they were for the previous six because Oscar just does not like Harry.
Think about it. Six films and no Oscars. None. Moving staircases, talking pictures, heart-stopping Quidditch games, villains that scare even adults and no Oscars. There have been nominations — for art direction, score, visual effects and costume design — but no wins, which, frankly, is hard to fathom. How could none of these films have won for costume design? Screenwriter Steve Kloves, an Oscar nominee for “Wonder Boys,” has adapted all but one of the books, a feat unprecedented in the annals of the Writers Guild, and he’s never been nominated for them. Ditto any of the directors. Or actors.
That’s right, none of the actors in six of the most popular films of all time has been nominated for an Oscar for their “Potter” roles. It’s not surprising that the young leads — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint — have been passed over; the academy prefers to nominate children in supporting roles and even then only in such scrappy emo-heavy indies as “The Piano” or “Little Miss Sunshine.”
But the supporting adult characters have consistently been played by some of the best actors around from Britain and Ireland: Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, Brendan Gleeson, Kenneth Branagh, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent and now Bill Nighy — the list borders on the absurd. All of these performers are, or have been, brilliant in roles that so easily could be overplayed or phoned in or made ridiculous. Consider the trappings — Rickman has pitch-black hair and a cape; Fiennes looks like a snake; Coltrane is a hairy half-giant; Brendan Gleeson has a revolving fake eye. These are not easy things to work around. And yet, they do.
No doubt some academy members regret not nominating Harris for his final role before his death, but Gambon has been consistently passed over too. As Albus Dumbledore, the two actors wore a ZZ Top beard, sometimes with little charms hung in it, and funny hats, and yet in both cases created a fully believable headmaster who is not just the wisest and most humble of men, but also the kindest, projecting a sorrowful optimism up until the moment of his death. Granted, none of the adults have a lot of screen time, but if Judi Dench can win supporting actress for uttering five lines and wearing an enormous side-bustle as Queen Elizabeth in “Shakespeare in Love,” then Gambon’s death scene, Broadbent’s combination of hubris and shame, or Rickman’s pained fury deserve at least a nomination…
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– Mary McNamara
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