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Will the Academy finally acknowledge motion capture performances?

Andy Serkis

When you ask movie fanatics who stands as the undisputed motion capture king, there is only one answer: Andy Serkis.

The man has built a career in motion capture roles beginning with Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and spilling into the likes of King Kong and Caesar in the new breed of Planet of the Apes movies.

He has set up his own motion capture studio, The Imaginarium Studios, and has consulted numerous production companies in the art of motion capture. Legendary Pictures enlisted Serkis’ help with Godzilla’s behemoth movements, whilst Marvel asked him to aid Mark Ruffalo’s performance capture of the Hulk. Serkis even managed to snag a live action role in Avengers: Age of Ultron along the way.

But perhaps the biggest effect Serkis’ performance have had on the cinematic landscape lays with ‘Dawn of the Plant of the Apes’ – with many fans and critics calling for The Academy to recognise his motion capture performance come awards season.

The problem here is asking the studio to recognise the performance. Serkis should not only be recognised, he should be nominated. Whilst I admit to not viewing all possible award contenders, I can attest to Serkis’ performance being Oscar worthy.

He uses his voice and grunts to tell stories and emotions in ways live action actors struggle to do. If Timothy Spall gets nominated for his grunting, grumpy and fantastic role as Mr. Turner, then I will ask why Serkis was overlooked? He gives the same performance with one difference – one is live action, the other is motion captured.

Andy Serkis transforms into Caesar

This notion that Andy Serkis doesn’t deserve an Oscar nomination because VFX artists aid his performance is nonsense. Every actor that has ever been nominated did not do so alone. He had an army of cast and crew to work off of. Where live action actors have costume designers, make up artists and lighting assistants, Serkis has VFX costume designers, VFX make up artists and lighting applied through special effects. In reality, VFX takes Serkis’ performance and adds on production techniques very similar to that of live action.

Of course the issue then rises: should the VFX artists get a nomination too? Of course they should. The VFX in ‘Dawn’ was particularly immersive and never felt lax or out of place and they should be rewarded with a ‘Special Effects’ nomination unless The Academy decided to go on another snub run.

Toy Story Poster

Whilst, I have an inkling that the Oscars will be absent of Serkis’ name on the list of hopefuls, I do contend that he should be there and I further contend that motion capture performances will break into the Oscars much like animation did with Toy Story’s release.

My one hope is that they don’t generate a whole new category for motion capture thus compartmentalising the awards even more. The Academy needs to lump motion capture artists with live action artists because at end of the day, they all trained as actors and should be treated as such.

Now if only the Oscars could dial back time and rid the animation category as well. A film is a film no matter what – if Toy Story is the best film of the year, it should win best film of the year rather than best animation film of the year. To separate live action from motion capture performances and animation sends the message that live action will always insight higher recognition.

The Academy is always being attacked for its old fashioned view of the feature film industry. Whilst, I respect the Oscars’ values and ethos, some level of change is needed to remain as the foremost annual feature film awards.



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