As Harry Potter weathers his final Academy snub, Hobnobbing wonders if Katniss Everdeen can carry the genre’s mantle.
By Amy Wilkinson
“The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence set aside her flaming bow and arrow in favor of a gilded envelope Tuesday morning to announce the 2012 Oscar nominations alongside Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak. And sadly — though not entirely surprisingly for young-adult-literature aficionados — the “Harry Potter” franchise was once again (and for the final time) overlooked for a Best Picture nomination.
Which raises the question: Does the Academy have something against YA adaptations?*
Curiously, adaptations have historically been strong performers at the Academy Awards. Past statuettes have gone to the literary likes of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Silence of the Lambs.” And this year’s contenders are no different. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees, including “The Descendants,” “Hugo,” “The Help,” “Moneyball,” “War Horse” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” can be found lining the shelves of your local Barnes & Noble, while five of last year’s 10 nominees were also based on bound works, according to USA Today.
The side of the equation, then, troubling Academy voters seems to be the “young adult” variable. Though to be fair, there’s not much of a precedent for awards recognition seeing as mining teen lit for film fodder is a relatively new phenomenon. Sure, there are exceptions like S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” (made into a film all the way back in 1983, starring Matt Dillon and Patrick Swayze), but for every “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” or “The Princess Diaries” there are tens (if not hundreds) of seminal works, like “The Catcher in the Rye” or “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” languishing in pre-production hell or undeserved obscurity as far as film financiers are concerned.
Which leaves us with “The Hunger Games,” the latest YA sensation, which blazes into theaters in less than two months. And while it’s hard to predict the awards-season viability of a movie we haven’t even seen yet, there are at least a few indicators to suggest it could be the first YA novel adaptation to win (or at the very least be nominated for) Best Picture. For one, Oscar’s already made acquaintance with many members of the cast and crew. Our friends at NextMovie crunched the numbers, discovering that the actors and technical experts behind “The Hunger Games” boast 30 Oscar nominations — even Effie Trinket couldn’t turn her nose up at that. And while a film like “Twilight” (which, let’s be honest, won’t be sharing a feather-strewn canopy bed with the Academy anytime soon) focuses on a fantastical, star-crossed-lovers plotline, “The Hunger Games” deals more seriously with issues of life, death and government control, likely giving it more credence with voters.
Though most of the above could surely have been said of “Harry Potter,” it apparently wasn’t meant to be. Hopefully with “The Hunger Games” (and the slew of approximately 4 million teen novels in various stages of adaptation) the Academy will begin recognizing artful YA adaptations as the deserving films that they are. Because we already do.
Do you think “The Hunger Games” is blazing a path for YA novel adaptations? Sound off in the comments below and tweet me @amymwilk with your thoughts and suggestions for future columns!
*Whether, in fact, “Harry Potter” constitutes YA is a topic of much debate in and of itself, though for the sake of this piece, I assert that the final novel’s dark tone and subject matter secure its spot at the teen table.
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