2016 Awards Profile: ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ by David Yates

Welcome to the 2016 Awards Profiles series, where we talk about high and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year.  We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not either by quality or being pushed back to the following year.  For the next eight weeks, we will bring you a film every weekday to talk about their potential.  If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below.  If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling (based on her fictional textbook of the same name)

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Samantha Morton

Synopsis (via IMDb): The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Why It Might Succeed: It’s been a long 4 years without the wizarding world of Harry Potter, eh? Must have felt long to Warner Brothers who were quick to green light a new trilogy moving away from our beloved trio and their beloved school Hogwarts and taking us to 1920s New York. It may have a long-winded title but it’s still a license to print money. However, there are three reasons to take this seriously. First is that David Yates, ostensibly the most trusted Potter interpreter, is helming the direction after directing the last four Harry Potter films. Next is that J.K. Rowling, you know, author of a generation, is penning the screenplay based on her 2001 textbook of the same name designed to be one of Harry’s required reading for Hogwarts. Then you have Oscar-magnet Eddie Redmayne as lead character Newt Scamander.

It’s unlikely he’s going three-for-three for Best Leading Actor nominations – though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try – but it at least puts the film on the map for anyone who isn’t drawn by the HPCU (Harry Potter Cinematic Universe). It has a hell of a cast anyway with rising star Katherine Waterston along with Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller. Almost all the Harry Potter films were nominated for tech Oscars and it’s unlikely for Fantastic Beasts to be any different. Oscar winners are among those behind the design with cinematographer Phillippe Rousselot, costume designer Colleen Atwood and production designers Anna Pinnock and Stuart Craig. I wish I could include composer James Newton Howard in that list but I’m namedropping him here. It’s also edited by Mark Day who joined Yates on his Harry Potters. An awards-friendly release date of November 18th will keep it fresh in voters minds, and not too late like Rogue One.

Why It Might Fail: The Harry Potter series was nominated for 12 Oscars in total between its 8 films, with 3 each between the first and last films. It won none of them. When Potter had its best chance when it first became a phenomenon, but it was up against The Lord of the Rings. There’s little reason why Fantastic Beasts will be any different. However, it will still have a leg up over comic book movies, which only seem to be considered for their visual effects and even still don’t get in, but the first priority are the Best Picture nominees then whatever Star Wars thing is out.

Yeah, also, the film is called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That’s probably too big for the marquee. They’re going to have to market hard the connection with the Potterverse for those who don’t know, though the trailer is doing a good job at getting a Dumbledore mention in. However, will it disappoint audiences who found the world more interesting for the story of ‘just Harry’? Also – Rowling is untested as a screenwriter. This seems like a more broad adaptation than the faithful first two films, but how bare is this ‘chasing monsters around America’ story? It’s unlikely to be the episodic journey of Potter. How much sequel promises will there be compromises for?

Awards Speculation: There’s one thing we can really rely on, the techs. We can scrub for the film for most above the line nominations – even The Force Awakens couldn’t manage any of those. Four of Harry Potter’s nominations across the series were for Best Art Direction. We can ink that in now. Three of the nominations were for Best Visual Effects and depending on whether Marvel really goes to bat this year we can pencil it in. Two of the nominations were for Best Original Score, but those were John Williams obligatory nominations and not even golden boy Alexandre Desplat could score one for the last couple of Potter films.

But Fantastic Beasts is a period film. With Eddie Redmayne. This gives Best Costume Design and Best Makeup & Hairstyling (if it makes the shortlist) a good bump up with the sound categories being worth considering since it seems action-orientated. However, let’s say that the film is particularly good because of Rowling’s script. There’s been an interesting question of prejudice against women adapting their own work to be Oscar nominated. Gillian Flynn was snubbed for Globe favorite Gone Girl while last year unknown Emma Donoghue nearly won for adapting Room. Is there a more well-known and respected contemporary female author than Rowling? This could be the chance to honor her if the category is as weak as it was in 2014.

Oscar Potential:

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Original Score

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advanced Oscar Predictions
and see where Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them ranks!