20th Century Fox
For the third time, one of 20th Century Fox’s Planet of the Apes movies was nominated for an Oscar in the Visual Effects category, and for the third time, it was snubbed in favor of another movie, in this case Blade Runner 2049. What gives?
I think anyone who saw War for the Planet of the Apes over the summer was blown away by the way that WETA FX and the performance capture actors were able to bring the apes to photo-realistic life, instilling them with emotions rarely seen in movie animals. Much of that has to do with Andy Serkis, and his persistence at pushing performance capture and training other actors to bring the most to their sensor suit performances. But it also is a credit to WETA that they can enhance those performances in their computers.
Last July, many critics and others who saw the film were clamoring for Andy Serkis to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance as Caesar, and it wasn’t the first time, as Serkis’ performance as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies received a similar reaction.
Serkis gives amazing performance in all of those movies, but the Academy clearly isn’t quite ready to honor an actor whose performance is translated by visual effects artists, so why aren’t those visual effects people getting the credit they deserve with an Oscar?
One might think that the Academy members have something against performance capture being used as the basis for CG visual effects, but last year, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book won in the same category, although it didn’t use performance capture quite to the same extent.
It’s odd to think that other CG animal movies like Jungle Book and Life of Pi offer CG animals that meet up to Oscar members’ standards, while the work by WETA FX has now been ignored three times. It’s kind of perplexing, and without talking to actual Oscar voters, it’s hard to imagine what they’re thinking while filling out their ballots other than the fact that they liked the way Blade Runner 2049 looked overall.
And if that’s the case, then surely Roger Deakins will finally win his well-deserved Oscar for the cinematography for that same film, right?
It’s kind of what I said in my article about Oscar spoilers yesterday where Cinematography and Visual Effects go hand-in-hand since they’re all about what a movie looks like, and Blade Runner 2049 is a very pretty movie.
But if nothing else, War for the Planet of the Apes is a movie that really blows the viewer away with what can be done with CG and visual effects, yet it’s not considered good enough for the Academy, so who knows if performance capture will ever really catch on?
Serkis isn’t the only booster of performance capture either as Oscar winners Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis have used it extensively in their movies, only to receive a similar laissez-faire attitude about the technological achievements of their films. And let’s face it: War for the Planet of the Apes is a lot better-looking movie than A Christmas Carol and that Tintin movie Spielberg made.
Maybe Andy Serkis’ own Jungle Book-inspired movie Mowgli, out Oct. 19, will get the respect from the Academy all three Apes movies have deserved. That’s also being released by Warner Bros. who brought Blade Runner 2049 and Mad Max: Fury Road to the Oscars and helped them win Visual Effects category.
But right now, Apes losing in the category is going to be a perplexing stumper that only Academy voters will understand.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor