Courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Academy tends to ignore popcorn movies; if your film breaks $150 million, you’re usually unlikely to see any nominations other than the de rigueur nods in visual effects, art direction, and the like. The exception, though, is the occasional supporting-acting nomination they’ll bestow upon a scenery-chewing villain: John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire, for example, or Tim Roth in Rob Roy. That’s why we’re a little surprised that Warner Bros. hasn’t made a more concerted Oscar push for one previous Academy Award nominee, who turned in a delectable, widely praised performance as the memorable villain in a successful, well-liked movie.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Imelda Staunton follows up her Best Actress–nominated role in Vera Drake with a rich, darkly comic performance as Dolores Umbridge, the prissy bureaucratic functionary who attains control over Hogwarts through sheer force of odious personality. Staunton makes Umbridge both funny and scary, bringing to life J.K. Rowling’s vision of a priss with a cunning agenda with every simpering smile and beady-eyed glare. The Academy hasn’t been to kind to the Potter saga, even as the movies have gotten better and better, and it seems a shame that Staunton won’t break that streak. But she ought to, for one simple reason: Of all the vaunted thespians who have traipsed through the Harry Potter series, she’s the only one who’s made even more of her role than Rowling put on the page.