Though I was about to pronounce 2011 unusually sequel-infested, it might not be much different than any other year. Perhaps it's just the Animated Feature category that has made it feel that way with so many high profile continuations. The difference might just be in how much it seems to be confusing the Oscar Prediction Process. Generally speaking in The Academy's 83 year history, they haven't been much for remakes and sequels and long running series. But times they are a-changing and have been since oh... Star Wars? You can't really stay totally immune to the repetitive charms of franchises if 65% of the movies released are series of some sort, as if the cinema were just one giant television and we all eagerly awaited the next episode of Fill in the Blank: The Further Adventures of That Pt.3.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas shook Hollywood up in the 70s, not just by creating "summer movie season" as we know it but also by opening the floodgates to repetitive Oscar charms. Previous long running franchises like Tarzan or James Bond hadn't managed much in the way of Oscar attention, perhaps viewed more as popcorn entertainments than quality filmmaking. The six-film Star Wars saga amassed 22 nominations and 10 statues, the four-film Indiana Jones adventures amassed 13 nominations and 7 statues. The most obvious ancestor and ultimate champion of this new form of long-form Oscar pull was The Lord of the Rings; over just three films it managed 30 nominations and 17 statues which was even more than The Godfather trilogy (29 nominations and 9 statues)
Two of the world's most popular franchises return this year. What will Oscar do with the Boy Wizard and Captain Jack this time around?
Jack Sparrow (3 films | 11 nominations | 1 win)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
5 nominations (Actor, Makeup, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
4 nominations (Art Direction, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects*)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
2 nominations (Makeup, Visual Effects)
The Academy has been quite generous with this series though they snubbed its quite awesome first film costumes by the strangely never nominated Penny Rose. But will they tire of it now that it seems like the series will never leave us? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides can probably count on a Visual Effects nod since the series has never faltered there but maybe it'll pick up Sound Editing and Makeup too if they're not shouting "Enough already!!!" in unison.
Harry Potter (7 films | 9 nominations | 0 wins)
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone (2001)
3 nominations (Art Direction, Original Score, Costume Design)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
2 nominations (Original Score, Visual Effects)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
1 nomination (Art Direction)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(2007)
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)
1 nomination (Cinematography)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (2010)
2 nominations (Art Direction, Visual Effects)
As you can see from the list, there's not much statistical basis to support the wishful thinking (in some quarters) that AMPAS is itching to reward the entire series this year as it finally closes in its eleventh year of hogging the world's money with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. The series best bet for a first (!) statue is obviously an Art Direction career-win for Stuart Craig who has done marvelous work on the series. Here's how much they love his work on the series: they even nominated him last year the year in which he arguably did the least. The most perplexing nomination in the series history in terms of 'why then and what does it mean?' would have to be the cinematography nomination for Half Blood Prince. A cinematography get is a big deal and that one does make you wonder how many sixth place finishes, just outside of nomination range, Potter has managed over the years. If the answer is MANY then we might see them rewarding the franchise with a series best showing.
We can probably save the discussion of the third Transformers films and the tech situation with all those superhero films for a later time though let it suffice to say for now that the credits for Thor and particularly Captain America: The First Avenger are stacked with former Oscar players in categories like Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup and Film Editing. Who knew? Marvel ain't playin' around.