And there is the start of success; A horrible pun. But here, let me try to explain the story behind it.
There is a name that movie nuts remember and those who don’t know it should. The name is Andy Serkis and he is one of a kind.
This man needs no introduction to most, but for those who don’t know, here’s the story. Remember Lord of the Rings? This man right here was gollum. I don’t mean he voiced gollum. No, he acted as gollum. Serkis is an actor that works mostly with motion-capture suits. Basically, the suit makes you look like a gimp teletubbie, but nothing looks perfect until the film is finished, right?
Anyways, the bottom line is Andy Serkis is a terrific actor. He puts as much effort as any other top notch actor, but has to do even more to be able to have everything he wants to portray look just right when computer generated. Oh yeah, there’s the catch behind this article. His suit, which consists of blue tights, round bulbs and green stickers (and the occasional microphone strapped to ones head) is a state-of-the-art tool used in many movies nowadays. The actor/stuntman wears the suit, and every move the actor makes, a computer will pick up through the suit. Back when Serkis performed as Gollum, everyone was raving about his work. Rightfully so. His performance broke boundaries and capabilities much like John Hurt when he acted as the Elephant Man back in 1980. Hurt acted under a gigantic mask as he portrayed the famous Joseph Merrick and still managed to be as captivating as ever. In a similar fashion, Serkis was magnetic as Gollum, but unlike Hurt, Serkis was not recognized for it. Critically, yes. But not by the Academy. How could this be?
Apparently, the whole issue is the fact that Serkis is “never on screen”. He acted live with the other actors, spoke all of his lines, moved wherever he pleased and did almost everything himself, but he still cannot win for not being “fully there”. Scratch that. He can’t even be nominated. Well, okay, maybe the year he was in was tricky. Best supporting actor nominees of 2002 (the year The Two Towers came out) included Ed Harris, Paul Newman, John C. Reilly, Christopher Walken and Chris Cooper for the win (for Adaptation.). Well, okay, I’d still take one of those out and toss Serkis in, but sure it was a rather tough year. Everyone was good. So, let’s move on from this unfortunate-but-possibly-reasonable snub, shall we (watch your step, slippery sarcasm is afoot)?
Fast forward to last year (wow, that sounds strange already) with the phenomenal film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Here’s Andy Serkis, back at what he does best, but this time he’s ten times better.
Serkis plays Caesar, the chimpanzee that leads a group of apes to rule the world (or San Francisco anyways). His work is similar to what he did as Gollum, only ten times harder (considering the minimal speaking and such). Here, there are no Frodos or Gandalfs or Aragorns or attractive Cate Blanchetts. Here, Caesar is the star of the show and everything depends on what he does. Serkis, as a chimpanzee, is a large portion of what made the movie so fantastic. Again, he has received critical praise and again he’s being ahead of his time. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s because he is ahead of his time, but why should this be punished? He’s still acting as much as everyone else. He’s just doing so in a different way. Shouldn’t we reward those who take art to a new level and not scrutinize them?
But again, the whole problem is that he is not on screen. He does everything but is computer generated, and thus, he cannot be nominated. Makes sense, Academy. I mean, if you stick to this rule, then I don’t see the problem with it.
But here’s the thing. They do not. Remember Avatar?
So Avatar was considered to be a film that was just, well, okay. The visuals, however, were fantastic, let’s face it. The whole new world surrounding us in the theaters and our homes (even not in 3-D, for us lazy people) was astounding, even if the story was not. We were in a world we were not familiar with, and the film was incredibly innovative with how fictitious stories could be told through filmmaking. The problem is that whole Academy thing where they don’t believe in promoting computer genera-bullshit. Seven years after Two Towers, Avatar won the award for cinematography for something that didn’t even exist. You can say “oh but the visuals are still pretty, and those jellyfish things were cute, and how about them plants?”
Well, those may be nice and all, but the fact remains that all of this was created from scratch through cgi. Sure, actors may have acted on planks or other green screen sets, but the “visuals” themselves (you know, the “photography” the movie won for) was all made up on the spot. No hard work to set lights, no waiting for weather to clear, no building of houses or structures. Just hard work on computers. Not to put down the film for one of the few things it’s good at, but it’s pretty much true. While I am very accepting of Pandora being a completely generated world, many are not and they find it an outrage that it won for a cinematography award. After all, cinematography, as a word, means the recording of light and movement (so, almost still photography but moving). The win is now a bit skeptical now that you think of it. So, this is perfectly normal but Serkis, with the best male performance of the year is not (when, in reality, he’s more there than all of Pandora). With the golden globes, he was not nominated, but okay, maybe it’s a tough year again right? So, what do we have? Christopher Plummer for Beginners, Kenneth Branagh for My Week With Marilyn, Albert Brooks for Drive, Viggo Mortensen for A Dangerous Method, and Jonah Hill for Moneyball. Let’s be honest; All of these performances were great, especially Brooks and Mortensen. But can you honestly say any of them were better than Serkis as Caesar? Did any of them make the most of scenes with complete silence, and with a lack of talking for most of the movie? Did any of them have to successfully play an ape with hints of mankind running through his veins? Well, Albert Brooks for the latter, maybe (badumchee), but that’s beside the point. The point is that Serkis deserves something, at least something, for this spectacular role, and it’s unjust that the Academy will snub one thing but give the go-ahead with another. Let’s hope this year, the Academy makes the right choice and accepts the evolution of technology in performance art. What do you think? Am I onto something, or am I way off?