Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can we PLEASE give the man an award?

There's a severe problem with Andy Serkis. The man is a phenomenal character actor. Unfortunately, you never see him so much as you do the digital makeup that's applied to him after his amazing performances.

I believe it started for him in the Lord of the Rings trilogy...the last two films, that is. Andy was hired because he interpreted Gollum's voice as that being similar to that of a cat coughing up a hairball. So his ability to talk like he needs to perpetually clear his throat is what landed him the job. Go go "Gollum Juice!")But then those around him saw how much he was putting into the voice recordings for the role, and Peter Jackson became determined to find a way to seize those performances to get them on film. It was the true birth of "motion capture," with emphasis placed on virtually grabbing the man's face and translating it into a digital representation on film.

His presence on location was essential for other actors. They no longer had to find ways of giving a performance against a tennis ball or a cardboard mockup of a digitally rendered character. As James Franco said, it gave him something that he didn't act with, but SOMEONE TO REACT TO! Especially the eyes. Andy and his thoroughly emotive eyes gave other actors something to which they could respond. It made the job of creating the "human performances" that much easier.

But The Two Towers and Return of the King were just the beginning for Andy. Peter Jackson then employed the athletic Mr. Serkis in the title role for King Kong. Say what you want about the remake, Andy gave TWO performances in that movie that I felt were enjoyable. There was, of course, the very pretty effects of the big beastie...and there was also the amusing role of the cook, Lumpy, who experienced what I felt was the worst of all deaths in the movie. (Who puts teeth on giant slugs, anyway?!?)

Now, to be perfectly honest, I haven't seen much of Andy anywhere else. I mean, I saw 13 Going on 30 at some point, but didn't really enjoy the movie all that much. Andy is the kind of actor who needs heavily emotional and physical roles to stand out...but once he has such a role, he does...and then some digital artist paints over him. That's a shame, because he really does kick some major butt in the acting department. (Look at some of the behind the scenes work for Lord of the Rings and you'll get to see Andy leap around like an animal, wail like a baby not being fed, and...ummm...drool. (Yes, he drools during some of his performances.))

Along comes Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Andy Serkis takes on the role of Caesar. I honestly doubt he had to leap around the house as the chimp does while living with the character of Dr. Will Rodman, (James Franco). But there were plenty of scenes in which Andy was, indeed, present. Like this one. (Linked for the video, not so much the article...although that's nice, too.) Watch it. The whole thing. You can see how Andy's performance was translated into what eventually appeared on screen.

He could have approached the entire job in another way. He could have gone in with the thought, It doesn't matter what I do with my face because someone artist at a computer is going to do whatever he or she wants with my expressions. So I'll just go through the motions, and let others do what they will do. No...Andy truly invests himself in the role, submersing himself in it. You can see the pain of abandonment in his eyes. And for his opposing talents, James Franco and Freida Pinto, it made a world of difference. Being left behind...his emotive eyes...made it easier for them to be caught in the moment and also experience the pain of leaving Caesar behind. (Really, if you haven't seen the movie, you should. It was MUCH better than the other "Apes" remake.)

Now, I'm not in control of anything pertaining to the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards, and I doubt Andy Serkis or James Franco will see this plea and thank me for joining their voices in this argument, (specifically the latter actor, as Andy made no such plea, but would certainly appreciate the acknowledgement). But if Andy isn't granted so much as a nomination in the field, he should be given a special award to which only he fits. "Best Performance Under a Heap of 'Digital Makeup'" or "Actor to Take His Role Most Seriously." Something! Anything! Give the man some recognition, other than a paycheck and a pat on the back. (And if they DO see this post, I hope they'll be willing to help me at least get some dental work done.)

We've entered a new age in cinema, in which outstanding computer effects make films from days of old look amateurish. Bring in the makers of the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans and they'd probably want to know what deals with the devil were made to gain such realistic looks on fantastic monsters. (I've always wondered how someone from the 1800s would react if they saw some of the films made today. "And where do these 'Transformers' live, for I would very much like to meet one of them?") Not only to we have some of the most astounding effects in our movies, but some of them throw these effects at us in 3D. Some films, most regrettably, rely on their effects to carry the film. ("Why have a plot when the audience is sure to be in awe of the pretty effects?") Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't like that. It not only has the amazing visuals, but also some great acting. (Ummm...To Mr. Tom Felton: stop taking villainous roles; you're going to end up typecast for the rest of your career! I was waiting for you the whole time to pull out a wand and shout, "Excrucio!") It told a genuine story, and covered its details nicely, even subtly in some cases. (Did anyone see how mankind was about to become an endangered species?)

And while there seems to be a campaign for Andy Serkis to land a "Best Supporting Actor" award, I would argue that he should be in the "Lead Actor" category, as the story was mostly HIS story.

Ah, but who am I kidding? Fantasy and science fiction rarely meet the standards of the Academy or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. That Lord of the Rings was nominated so many times, and eventually won, was a miracle unto itself. It's really a shame, because Andy is oh so deserving of some solidified acknowledgement of his outstanding work.

*raises can of diet root beer* Here's to you, Mr. Serkis. May your work be truly recognized...eventually.

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