Part of the mystique of the Oscars for best actor and actress is their singularity: Just one person gets each award every year. But, an interesting new development has the potential to turn that notion on its head, opening the door for a whole team, not just one person, to snag the nod.
After reading about Fox's campaign to get mo-cap acting virtuoso Andy Serkis to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work as super-intelligent ape Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a discussion began about just what a win might mean. While many commenters liked the idea of an excellent mocap performance being recognized, the suggested that the recognition needed to go further:
I'm not sure how I feel about this because a huge portion of the performance is the CGI on top of the mo-cap. Especially any facial expressions.
Does that make mo-cap a special category of costuming? He's "costumed" by post-production instead of pre-production. At what point does the costume contribute more than the person inside it?
How would an elaborate puppet be considered for such awards? I'm thinking something like a person inside with wires trailing back to a face operator - like so much of Labyrinth had, or The Dark Crystal. Is that an issue since it's technically much more than one actor? Is it different with a one-man puppet like Big Bird?
Commenter OnslaughtRM pointed to this GIF as a counterpoint — showing how much the actor performances could be seen in the finished result:
But more analysis of the GIF just deepened the question of how to parse out all the people responsible for a truly terrific mocap performance:
ok, let's look at that a moment. On the right, the ape's brow is moving up and down, expressively. On the left, there doesnt' seem to be any reference dots to capture that. So it's an animator's addition. My question is what that does to the performance. And not just in general, but are there any rules about the award? I would certainly give Serkis the bulk of the credit for this over any animation team, but how much has to be shared for the award? Can you award him and the animators as a whole?
It's a fair question. Looking at the comparison between those two, you can see the actors brow DOES move, even though there's no capture dot on the part of the face, and obviously it can't move nearly as much as the ape's. So the animator clearly had to decide just how much to move the brow to convey an emotion, and maybe even looked at the original recording to help with that decision. But I think that this sort of Mo-Cap is exactly what you said, post-costuming rather than pre-costuming. It's still the actors speech, motion, facial expressions, just enhanced or altered by another team. Would be very satisfied to have a new category for it.
What do you think? Should mo-cap acting be parsed out into the traditional best and best supporting actors and actresses categories? And, if it is, who gets the oscar — the actor in the suit or the whole team? Or is the best thing to do simply to invent a whole new category? Give us your take in the comments.