Nominated for Nothing: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
Just about every year, brilliant movies are utterly ignored by the Oscars. The Searchers, Groundhog Day, Breathless, King Kong, Casino Royale, Touch of Evil, Caddyshack, Mean Streets, The Big Lebowski, Shame — the Academy has a long history of overlooking comedies, action movies, horror flicks, hard-boiled genre pics, artsy foreign films, and documentaries that aren’t about World War II. This year, we’ll be taking a closer look at films that were too small, too weird, or perhaps simply too awesome for the Academy Awards. These are the Non-Nominees.
The Film: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second of four installments in the Hunger Games franchise, based on the YA bestselling trilogy by Suzanne Collins. This time around, viewers are treated to another high-stakes battle in the Arena, but it’s what goes on outside the Games — Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) Victory Tour, Katniss’ PTSD, the growing rebellion in the various districts — that creates a richer, more memorable installment. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) also appears.
Why it Wasn’t Nominated: Much like the original, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire never stood a chance. While book adaptations have a shot at Oscar glory, YA books are considered too juvenile, no matter how well-reviewed or beloved. Exhibit A: Harry Potter (which did receive technical nominations, but never won). For all the hand-wringing about how to attract young viewers to the telecast, the Academy is rather resolute about not considering films where the main demo skews young. Hunger Games is also easily dismissed by Academy voters as an action/adventure franchise movie, which they are loathe to congratulate — Lord of the Rings is the exception that proves the rule.
But while the Best Picture race is tight, it’s ridiculous Catching Fire wasn’t nominated in some category. Quick facts: The Lone Ranger got a nomination (for Best Visual Effects). The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug got three! If we can congratulate Depp on a train, we can throw a nomination to Hunger Games for that Arena.
More specifically, the supporting characters were much better this time around. Both Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks portrayed the same characters in the first installment, but in the second film they were responsible for some of the best moments of the story. Tucci upped the “performing” aspect of his host that doubled as giving us biting social commentary on reality television; Banks toned her performance down to allow viewers to really feel for Effie.
Why History Will Remember It Better Than Philomena: Umm… because it was the highest-grossing film of 2013?
Besides that, Hunger Games: Catching Fire will be remembered for being the rare second installment that was better than the first, as well as not just feeling like setup for future movies. A director swap (Francis Lawrence) brought fresh eyes to the project and kept the tightly paced film from not feeling as long as its 146-minute run time.
We’ll remember this film as part of a phenomenon that went on to launch a ton of dystopian books and movies (Divergent, The Fifth Wave, etc.). The cherished books became well-liked big-screen adventures (no easy feat), and the franchise as a whole will be remembered as one of Jennifer Lawrence’s earliest iconic roles.
Speaking of the Girl on Fire, she is nominated this year for her work in American Hustle but was ignored as Katniss Everdeen, even though she got to show off a much wider range in this film. She was tough in the Games, heartbroken on the Tour, and her final 30 seconds onscreen — when her face goes from distraught to resolute — was one of the most chilling film moments of the year. Sure, the Academy probably (rightly) thinks they’ve got their Lawrence bases covered, but it would be nice at some point to see recognition for her work in this film as well. Perhaps the one year she isn’t nominated for a David O. Russell project she’ll pick up a nod for Katniss.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire