Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What I Saw: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (84th Oscar Race)

What I Saw: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Oscar Chances:

First, I’ll say that the quality of this film really took me by surprise, and that my previous rankings were way too low.

Second, I know that you all want to hear what I think of Andy Serkis’ chances.  Well, let’s look at the other categories first and save him for the end, shall we?

Visual Effects (currently ranked 2). If the Oscars judged quality alone, then I think this film would win, particularly given the way the studio is lauding the significant innovation of having motion capture actors perform on location with the live action ones. But since the Oscars aren’t merely about quality but also sentimentality and campaigning, I think Harry Potter will take the prize.

Sound Editing (currently ranked 13, but will definitely rise in my next set of predictions). Think about it, all of those ape sounds had to come from somewhere.

Sound Mixing (currently ranked 17, but will definitely rise in my next predictions)
Makeup (currently ranked 13).  Even after seeing the film and watching the various For Your Consideration videos, I can’t tell where the makeup and hair end and the Visual Effects begin, so I’m uncertain how to rank this. IMDB lists 5 makeup artists and 2 people for “animal effects fabrication” within the Makeup department, as well as 2 “hair/fur artists” and 2 “fur groomers” within the Visual Effects department. So who qualifies for this category and for which aspects I am unsure.  Still, I think I will move the film up in my next set of predictions.

Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie (currently ranked 35). There was some beautiful cinematography in this film (Hello San Francisco!), so this will also move up in my next set of predictions.

Film Editing: Conrad Buff IV and Mark Goldblatt (currently ranked 43, will rise in my next set of predictions.

Original Score: Somehow I hadn’t listed Patrick Doyle in my previous predictions, which was a mistake. One of my readers tipped me off to listen carefully for the score, and they were right. He’ll be ranked high in the next round for music that really helped to carry the action.

Supporting Actor: John Lithgow might be ranked low in my next predictions for a role with range and emotion. But let’s be honest: There won’t be room for two acting nominations from this film, and unless the Academy really wants to insult the motion capture world, Lithgow wouldn’t be the one to sneak in here.

Depending on the quality of films released later this year, it is also possible that this movie could conceivably sneak into my top 50 list for several other categories, but won’t likely rank high enough to be considered a serious contender for nominations:  Adapted Screenplay (Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), Lead Actor (James Franco), Director (Rupert Wyatt), Art Direction (Claude Pare and Elizabeth Wilcox), Supporting Actress (Freida Pinto), Best Picture, Supporting Actor (David Oyelowo, Brian Cox, Tom Felton). But again, these are long shots just to make the top 50 list, and aren’t going to get near the nominations.

And now, a discussion of the primate you’ve all been waiting for:

As I mentioned above, this movie took me by surprise, and so I embarrassingly didn’t have Andy Serkis in any of my previous predictions. But now that I’ve seen his work, I’m left wondering where to put him.

Will he be nominated for Lead actor (which is where he belongs)? No. Hollywood likes its leading men to be dashing, handsome and human. Despite the fact that Caesar is the focus and the hero of the story, James Franco gets the top billing on the posters and credits.

Will he be nominated as best supporting actor for his LEAD role as Caesar? He has a better chance here, as co-leads often do. But this is also the category where the academy rewards all of their overdue veterans and comebacks (think Plummer, Holbrook, Arkin). Add to that some rather baity traditional “human” portrayals--some of which have already been seen and some that are coming at the end of the year--and it is an uphill battle. So I’m guessing that my next set of predictions will show Serkis as a contender in this race, definitely in the top 20, possibly in the top 10, but not likely to show up in the actual 5 nominees unless we see a real and consistent push by the studio,

Which leads to the next question: Will Serkis’ “snub”, like that of his character, lead to him organizing an uprising of motion capture actors against their live action counterparts?

As much as some might wish for it, I’m thinking that a motion capture uprising is unlikely. In addition to the fact that they all work together and have professional relationships, the whole motion capture industry is too busy perfecting their craft and begging for acceptance to lead a revolt at this time.  All of the special commercials explaining how the technology works, as well as the special visits to New Zealand to decide whether Tintin will be considered animation or not, show that there isn’t a consensus yet on how to think about the new technology.

Now it is possible that Tintin’s late release will help to keep Serkis’ name in the conversation, but I suspect that the motion capture strategies being pursued by the two films will actually work against each other.  In Apes, they want people to think of motion capture as a sort of digital makeup, where the real performance comes from the actor and the effects are secondary. But in Tintin, they want people to think of motion capture as an original animation technique, where the real work comes from the animators and the actor is secondary. I’m perfectly able to accept that it is a tool that might be able to be used in both of these ways in different films, or even simultaneously in the same film. But I think that the academy is going to want a bit more consistency in their categorizations, and having two films pushing in two different directions in the same year means that at least one, if not both, are going to lose their argument.

So in the end, I think that Andy Serkis will need someone to console him on nomination morning...

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  1. Nice analysis of ROTPOTA's chances. I'm glad you liked the film. I see this film as being very similar to District 9 when it comes to the Oscars. It was a surprise hit from the WETA crew that was released in August. There is one big difference between the two in that ROTPOTA won't get a Best Picture nomination with the new 5% rule. And you can probably rule out a screenplay nod as it wasn't as well reviewed as District 9. However, it is a lock for Visual Effects and I think it has a very good shot at a film editing nomination.

    While it will be a top 10 contender for the sound categories I see it falling short of a nomination there like District 9. The main sound guy for ROTPOTA (I forget his name) has no Oscar nominations and they only vote for past nominees in that category unless the sound really stands out from the film (the sound mix stood out for me but I don't think it will for the average Oscar voter).

    In terms of the Serkis situation, I think he has no chance at a Supporting Actor nomination, and even though I think the Special Achievement Award will come back out for him, I think it will be for one of his more Oscar friendly (The Adventures or Tintin or more likely The Hobbit: Part 1 next year).

  2. I wasn't actually expecting to be as moved as I did from this material but Serkis just really channeled the inner ape within him, and nails this perfect motion-capture performance as Caesar. I also sure as hell hope that he doesn't get snubbed as well. He already did for LOTR! Good Review!

  3. http://awardsbreach.com/other.html

  4. @Ryan, I agree that the new 5% rule is going to hurt ROTPOTA's chances for BP. Film editing is a possibility, although doesn't that category tend to mirror the top 5 pretty closely?

    And thanks for the tips on the sound categories. I'm pretty new to the predictions game, and admit that I don't know many of the sound editors/mixers by name yet, so it's good for me to start learning the dynamics of those branches.

    Haven't read the Hobbit in years, so I don't remember--How big is the gollum role in that?

    @ Dan O. Thank you and I enjoyed your review too. I'm pulling for Serkis, but am just not sure what the academy will do.

    @AwardsBreach, you've got one of my favorite predictions sites! I notice that you have ROTPOTA as a possibility for Art Direction. I thought about that, but couldn't decide whether it was more visual effects. Was there a particular element that you enjoyed, or just a general feeling?

    Thanks all!

  5. Gollum is only featured in 1 chapter about a quarter of the way into The Hobbit (so he will only be in the first film and they actually already shot all of Serkis' scenes). His screentime will probably only be 15 minutes in the actual movie though. Either way its a beloved character that Serkis will again get raves for. It is also a much more Oscar friendly film than ROTPOTA and the Academy has the tendency to play catch up a lot.

    And yes editing normally stays pretty close to the Best Picture lineup but they normally go out of their way to reward films there that are well reviewed and had major special effects achievements (Avatar, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Matrix, Terminator 2).

  6. Thanks for this Ryan. And so true about them playing catch up!