Avatar: Performance Capture Film-making

avatar_posterAvatar took six awards at the annual VES (Visual Effects Society) awards, but according to the NY Post, this Sunday may be a “Blue Sunday for Avatar Fans.” Despite the fact that Avatar has been snubbed by many other pre-Oscar awards, I still have hope that it will get the recognition it deserves at the Oscars. You will remember my last post regarding Zoe Saldana not being nominated for her role as Neytiri (yep, still upset about that one), well I find it funny that despite them calling her role in Avatar not true acting, that Avatar was not nominated in the “animation” category in the Oscars. So which is it then? Animation or not? The truth is – there’s a gray area. It’s a hybrid that breaks new ground…especially in the area of recognition.

This new type of film-making is called “performance-capture” film-making. As with traditional film-making, it’s the human actors that give life to the characters in Avatar. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Steven Spielberg sayNeytiris, “I like to think of it as digital makeup, not augmented animation. It’s basically the actual performance of the actual actor, and what you’re simply experiencing is makeup.” That said, it certainly deserves some kind of recognition especially when we, as an audience, can connect with these actors/animated characters in a much similar way to how we connect with actors in traditional film-making.

Best actor nominee in The Hurt Locker, Jermey Renner, says, “Some movies are actors’ kind of movies and some movies are more directors’ movies. ‘Avatar‘ is a spectacle. It’s a beautiful experience, but it’s not really an actors’ kind of movie. It doesn’t really allow for an actor to truly tell a story. TNeytiri2he director’s telling the story in that one.” I 100% disagree with that statement. Neytiri’s grace, grittiness, and raw emotion tell a story. Her entire tribe tells a story. Jake as human and avatar tells two distinct stories! In James Cameron’s words, it is completely an “actor-driven process.” I sincerely believe that Zoe Saldana should be recognized in her role as Neytiri, because I simply cannot imagine myself having the same connection with her if it were pure animation. Sigourney Weaver said it best, “Zoe played Neytiri with such strength, grace and force. If the audience realized just how much, they would have appreciated the performance more.” I certainly did. It’s time for the people who give out these awards to do so too.

Check out the awesome article by Rachel Abramowitz in the LA Times, “Avatar’s Animated Acting.”

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