‘The Hobbit’ Finale to Battle for Technical Oscars

The past two “Hobbit” movies earned three Academy Awards nominations apiece. If there’s justice in the world, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” will get more that that. But there is no guarantee of justice in the Oscar world.

Peter Jackson’s third “Hobbit” film is easily the best of the three: fast, action-packed, beautiful and touching. And it’s an artisans showcase, with across-the-board great work that deserves attention.

But after the three “The Lord of the Rings” movies earned 30 Oscar nominations and “The Return of the King” swept the ceremony with 11 wins, voters have been cooler on the “Hobbit” movies. There is a vague sense in the industry that it’s more of the same, that it’s a kids film, or that Jackson and his team don’t need to win awards.

The first two are wrong. It’s a very different tone than the other two “Hobbit” movies, with new characters, new designs, new everything. And kids will like it, but it’s darker and more emotional than the earlier two.

As for the third perception, it’s true, very few people really NEED an Oscar.  But do the “Hobbit” makers DESERVE kudos nominations? Definitely. Will they get it? Maybe.

The two earlier “Hobbit” movies scored visual effects noms. The first one also was nominated for makeup/hairstyling and production design; the second for sound mixing and sound editing.

The new “Hobbit” could repeat in those categories, as well editing, cinematography, costume design, music (Howard Shore) and song (by Billy Boyd, who appeared in the “LOTR” trio).

What about best picture, director, and/or screenplay? Since the first two “Hobbits” weren’t there, the odds are strongly against it. In the past week, Variety colleagues Jenelle Riley and Ramin Setoodeh asked why movies that are “only” entertaining don’t get more noms. They cited “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.” One could ask the same question about “Hobbit.”

But the New Line-MGM-Warner Bros. film “doesn’t need it.” It’s nothing personal: Jackson is liked and respected. Human nature means people are always drawn to anything new, sometimes at the expense of the familiar — even if the familiar is better.

If Jackson doesn’t get Oscar noms, he would be in good company. Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola and James Cameron are among the filmmakers who won big, only to see subsequent films under-appreciated when the envelopes were opened.

Awards voters should see “The Hobbit,” preferably on the big screen, in Imax and in 3D.  No, they don’t “need” to see it. But after a year of heavy pieces, they deserve to see something that’s serious but fun.

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