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Salon on Gollum's Failed Oscar Nomination 301

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wouldn't-eat-be-nice dept.
Masem writes "Salon has an interesting commentary on the failure for Andy Serkis, the actor that used as the model and voice for Gollum in The Two Tower, to garnish an Oscar nomination despite the pressure that Peter Jackson and others placed on the Academy to get the nomination. They had previously pointed to John Hurt's Best Actor nomination in "The Elephant Man", in which the only visible feature of Hurt was his eyes after the elaborate makeup and costuming, but even then, Hurt did not win, he himself believing that it would be hard to connect the real actor to the role that he played. Salon suggests that the Academy needs to seriously consider how digital technology is affecting the way movies are being made and to be more open to non-traditional roles and films as potental Oscar material."
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Salon on Gollum's Failed Oscar Nomination

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:41PM (#5326973)
    "Sssssallllonnnnn yessssss... can't pay rent, no!!! Kicked out of officessss ssssoooon! Homelessssss... poor poor homelesssss... Sssssaallllon."
    • How many others tried submitting the story of Salon's status to /.? I heard about it on NPR. Normally NPR lags /. but not this time.

      Your post is a very funny way of bringing up this story.

  • A shame... (Score:5, Funny)

    by joeszilagyi (635484) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:42PM (#5326980)
    ...and now we'll never get to hear Serkis thank "his precious" for helping him win in the acceptance speech.
    • Re:A shame... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quintessent (197518)
      That would have been really cool, actually.

      Bottom line:

      LOTR didn't come from Hollywood's sweethearts. Even if the movies and performances tower above all others, it may not receive much at the Oscars.
  • technology and voice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NetMagi (547135)
    This is a real toss-up because it's the seamless integration of his voice acting WITH the rendering of the character. .. He didn't do all that himself. . One is useless without the other. Maybe they should nominate "teams" in the case of dig-characters. .or have a seperate award.
    • by sporty (27564)
      But how often are there these characters? Maybe if it got popular/big enough, they might.

      I guess a category isn't a category, a competition isn't a competition, unless you have the people to fill it.

      Maybe an honorary mentioning then?
    • by sweetooth (21075) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:48PM (#5327040) Homepage
      He did more than just voice act. He also made all the necessary movments etc and then the special effects were placed on top of him. More like digital makeup on an actor than a fully digital creation ala Jar Jar.
      • AFAIK, Jar Jar wasn't really fully digital in any sense distinguishable from Serkis' performance. ILM used Ahmed Best's movements to help them model the way Jar Jar's clothes would move, for instance.
    • by zephc (225327) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:06PM (#5327191)
      the digital makeup (as mentioned above) is not at all unlike any other kind of costume and makeup. I mean, if women in the 80s can cream their panties over the otherwise homey Ron Perlman as The Beast in 'Beauty and the Beast', and he was covered with a great deal of makeup, then why can't people recognize digital-on-actor is just another form of makeup?
    • or have a seperate award

      Best performance in digitized kinetics
    • the academy should take this kind of acting more seriously.
      In the near future there will be more and more actors with this kind of performance. We will start seeing movies with fiction actors and one could be playing as the main character, imagine a full motion picture named The Loveable Alien From Dunno-Whats-the-planet that the main actor is an (guess what) alien with better feelings and moral behavior that we-us humans, and get to the world's likeness at a "Schlinder List" or higher scale.

      These main (virtual) actor would have done a huge effort from himself to make the wonderfully performed "alien" and get no real credit on an academy award.

      Pedro Meza mafufo.com
      check yet another geeks webcomic at overcaffeinated.net
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The academy also has a built-in bias against the films that prove popular. After all, if "the mob" likes it, it can't *really* be quality. The oscars have become a way for Hollywood to spruce up films that you couldn't drag your dog to and pretend they are worthy of notice so they'll pick up a few of the bucks left over after the rest of us have gone to see the GOOD stuff.
    • The academy is a Hollywood self-imposed export product that feeds their super-star industrial machine.

      It is and old money debutante ball, showcasing the approved younger inhertees for the geezers who made their productless industry from cheap agricultural land.

      The reason stuff like this never wins (other than the fact that it sometimes does suck) is because digital effects are too cutting edge and threatening to this old order.

      I agree with the original poster. Oscars is about extra hype to sell more films.

      That, and looking down at the peasantry while they showcase their kings and queens of the new world order, who enjoy unreasonable fame and money at our expense, all the while being puppetered by the unseen assholes of hollywood, who vote with their money and financial interests.

      Computers means actors could be made and rendered outside of hollywood in other countries like China and their voices emailed as MP3 (yes, too simple to be functional, i know, just trying to be vivid) - but the fact is that it threatens to return these fake monarchists back to their hay, grain, bananas and pineapples farming ways.
    • Honestly, I don't think Gollum had the best acting in the movie, much less in all of the movies for last year.

      Sakis should, be eligible considering the historical characters that won. I mean, he plays a crippled, mentally deficient, flawed character. That's like Oscar gold right there.

      Maybe when someone delivers a good performance with a digital character, they can get nominated. Granted, the movie was good. But I don't honestly think Legolas or Aragorn or anyone else's portrayal stands out in any respect. LOTR is more of a triumph of a complete movie, not 2 or 3 exceptional performances.
  • The Academy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:44PM (#5327007) Homepage Journal
    The Academy Awards long ago ceased to be about who was most deserving to win or be nominated. If indeed they ever were about that at all. They are not much more than a cliquish popularity contest and a way to make political statements.

    In a way this mirrors the failure of the recording industry to 'get it' in our rapidly changing times. The entrenched establishment of the music and movie industry is so hidebound that nothing short of dramatic reform (i.e. tear it all down and start over) will probably fix it.

    As CGI and other digital effects become more and more commonplace, there will have to be a change in perception by the Academy (aside: Do they teach something? I thought Academies were teaching institutions???) or they will become increasingly irrelelvant. Already, to many movie lovers, the Oscars are more of a joke than anything else.

    Just my not so humble opinion. Your milage may vary.
    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:58PM (#5327134) Journal

      I completely agree with what you said but I'd go a step further and state that I think the whole idea of awards for movies and other art seems bizarre and way too subjective. Supposedly, top talent have chosen to make movies because they love the artform. So why would an award be meaningful to them? Awards are useful in athletic competitions but are they truly appropriate for art? I would argue that they are not. The creative talent in Hollywood (please don't snicker) should find that the chance to make art they think is meaningful and appreciated by others is reward enough. A golden statue and lavous ceremony should not be necessary.

      We are then stuck with the question: why do we have award ceremonies (and so damn many of them as well)? I submit to you that the reason is purely popularity, politics and marketing as dreamchaser said. I don't give a damn about the Oscars and, quite frankly, I don't understand why anyone else does either.

      GMD

      • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:02PM (#5327165) Homepage Journal
        The reason we still have awards ceremonies is simple. It makes money for the industry. If people stop watching then two things happen. One, no more advertising revenue. Two, no more manipulative tool to get people to go see movies that they wouldn't have otherwise seen ('Gee, it was nominated for five awards, it must be good, I'll go see it!').

        Good points. You should be modded up!
        • by kalidasa (577403) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:13PM (#5327264) Journal

          Supposedly, top talent have chosen to make movies because they love the artform. So why would an award be meaningful to them? Awards are useful in athletic competitions but are they truly appropriate for art?

          Acting awards go back to the 6th century or at worst early 5th century BC. That's right, BC. The terms "protagonist" and "antagonist" go back to the technical Greek terms for the first and second actors of a tragedy or comedy; there were prizes for the best protagonist (as well as for the best 4-play tragic production or 1-play comic production).

        • But it's only sinister and manipulative if you choose to see it that way. If you see it for what it is - a promotional tool for selling movies, a contest based on a bunch of people's subjective opinions (which can and will disagree with yours) then it's harmless.
      • The creative talent in Hollywood (please don't snicker) should find that the chance to make art they think is meaningful and appreciated by others is reward enough.
        Yes, truly, this applies to television as well. Acting in such productions as NBC's Friends [nbc.com] is art for the sake of art. It is not about the money [eonline.com].

    • Also, please note, you'll find that Awards ceremonies are linked in a symbiotic relationship with sales. "WINNER OF..."/"NOMINATED FOR..." is used in almost every advertisement.

      I suppose the day when we see a complete CGI film make the list will be far off, however much effort and emotion goes into the production.

      I daresay there will be many more wooden actors in the audience than Gollum's character. Sad.
    • Re:The Academy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RatFink100 (189508) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:29PM (#5327387)
      The thing to remember about the Oscars is that they are promotional tool to sell movies. It's one of the ways to give the subjective process of assessing quality some semi-objective measure. Of course it's flawed, but all the others - box office, word of mouth, trailers, critic's reviews, track record - are equally flawed.

      And I don't think it's shabby or dishonest as long as you approach it that way. After all if you're buying a tin of baked beans or a car you can try out the product first. There's no way to do that with a movie except to go on someone else's judgement. The Oscars are one source of information for doing that.

      As with any contest where the result is determined by a vote there are many different reasons why people vote they way they do which don't necessarily relate to the matter at hand. This is human nature and we expect this to be the case and treat the result accordingly.

      But the only way to remove those non-relevant voting influences is to use some objective measure. But if there was an objective measure we wouldn't need to have a vote.

      As for it being cliquey - there are other awards that are voted for by the general public. If you want to pay more attention to those results you are free to do so.
      • Re:The Academy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:56PM (#5327590)
        > The thing to remember about the Oscars is that they are promotional tool to sell movies.

        They're also a promotional tool to sell celebrity. Not celebrities, but celebrity - the notion that there's a group of people ("celebrities") who are prettier, wealthier, more knowledgeable on world affairs, and just plain better than you.

        It's not that a CGI Gollum threatens the ability of $MOVIESTAR to demand a multimillion-dollar contract. (It does, but that's beside the point.)

        It's that a CGI Gollum threatens the whole concept of "movie star" in the first place.

        Once we realize that $MOVIESTARs are little more meat puppets that can be rendered by having anybody go the same motions in front of a bluescreen and using software to overlay an appropriate skin and bump-map on our pasty little knobbly bodies, we might stop paying attention to them.

    • Was it deserved? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nanojath (265940) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:39PM (#5327466) Homepage Journal
      I certainly don't think the academy is anything but a manifestation of the peculiar and bizarre politics of Hollywood, but frankly I don't see any reason to assume the nomination was deserved, from the voice acting or the CGI character point of view. Of the supporting actor nominees I've only seen Chris Cooper (Adaptation) and John C. Reilly (Chicago), but there's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that these performances were far and above superior to the hammy charicature of Gollum. And I found the CGI character to be distractingly unreal as usual. As far as I'm concerned these CGI characters still aren't there. Yes, they are agonizingly detailed, writhingly articulated, mapped and textured and fractalled up one side and down the other, you can see every strand of "hair" and the reflections in the tiny beads of sweat on their noses... and they DON'T LOOK REAL. I look and what my brain says is, wow, that is an amazingly detailed cartoon. Every time Gollum came on screen it knocked me out of the illusion.
      • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @03:21PM (#5327728)
        Every time Gollum came on screen it knocked me out of the illusion.

        Not to pick nits... (hey, it's Slahdot! I guess I will pick nits! c'mere, nits!)

        ... but maybe you've never seen a severly malformed hobbit under the influence of an evil magic ring who's been living in a cave for hundreds of years before?

        I'm not trying to be flip.

        There is an inherent problem in portraying something like Gollum on the screen. He's not going to ever look really 'real', in a sense, because you've never seen a real one.

        I spoke last year with a friend who had worked on some of the CG in Spider-man. It too was criticized quite a bit for looking 'cartoony', not moving right, etc. This friend went to great lengths to explain to me that the problem was physics. You've never seen a guy move 3x faster than a normal human, while doing flips and handstands and generally flinging himself all over the place. Guess what? It looks really weird. He was quite disappointed that none of the hardcore fans had picked up on this, and actually felt slighted: here was the Spider-man CG team, actually sticking to the described physical limits of the character, and of course it looks a little strange.

        Now, as far as Gollum goes, I can't buy that he looked cartoony, or that the motion was 'off'. It all looked pretty damn perfect to me. (If anything, they needed to grain him up a bit as sometimes the CG looks a little too clear.) Of course I know its not real, but that's because I know.

  • a** kissers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:45PM (#5327015) Homepage Journal
    "despite the pressure that Peter Jackson and others placed on the Academy to get the nomination"

    I do think he should get a nomination, but aren't these things supposed to be related to actual performance by the actor compared to his contemporaries, and not crooked lobbying?
  • Tron (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chimpo13 (471212) <slashdot@nokilli.com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:46PM (#5327024) Homepage Journal
    Tron wasn't nominated for an Oscar in visual effects because it used computers and wasn't animated. Andy Serkis wasn't nominated this time, but people will be nominated one day.
    • actually, not being nominated raises it in my eyes. I've seen some of the crap they do nominate. granted not all of it sucks, but it is far from an indication of good or bad quality
  • by Gerp (20138) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:46PM (#5327025) Homepage
    For me, the very things which made gollum have such a big impact on the movie were provided by the actor. The emotion, the delivery, the facial expressions and the movement were all provided solely by the actor - I think this makes Andy valid for an oscar nomination. It's altogether different to the usual voice-over stuff that Eddie Murphy and Tom Hanks have pulled off so well in the past for truly computer generated characters.
  • Seiyuu (Score:3, Insightful)

    by intermodal (534361) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:47PM (#5327026) Homepage Journal
    They ought to have a best voice actor category. Acting involves actual expression with the body and face, while voice acting is giving life to a fake character, much like muppeteering. (not in a negative context. Jim Henson and Frank Oz rock)
    • While they probably should have a voice acting category, that isn't what this is. Because of all the motion capture stuff, he WAS doing actually expression with the body and face, and it was those expressions we saw on screen. Granted, they were run through a computer so that we never actually saw him, but fundamentally it was his acting that made gollum who he was. Put another way, if the actor had been shown in makeup, he would have done just as good a job, and if a less talented actor had been behind the cgi, we would have ended up with Jar-Jar.
  • Gollum/Serkis will have a second chance at an Oscar nod... Perhaps building momentum in the press and creating a cause is the best the WETA-gang could hope for in this round...?

    Next it'll be "Meet The Feebles 2: Feebles Invade America" rallying for Academy recognition... 8^)

    ch(j)eers,
    Levendis47
  • by ShieldWolf (20476) <jeffrankineNO@SPAMnetscape.net> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:51PM (#5327073)
    To be fair to the academy this is new territory, and it would be difficult to distinguish between what Serkis accomplished, and what voice actors do for animated movies. Having said that, James Baskett won a special oscar for his performance in "Song of the South" wherein he interacted with animated characters. Why can't Serkis get the same treatment?

  • by jpnews (647965) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:52PM (#5327080)
    This has been coming on for a couple of years, and I suspect that it's only going to get murkier in the near future.

    It's time to ask the question: What IS an actor? Strictly speaking, I'd say that the voice and visual inspiration for a digital character is, in fact, an actor. However, the final onscreen character is the result of many people toiling away in many different jobs. The animator, the designer, the painter, the guy who runs the mocap studio... they all have a hand in it. Perhaps the academy simply needs a new category. Best digital actor, or something similar. Certainly all the work put into something like Gollum deserves more than an fx nomination!
    • by Aquitaine (102097) <.gro.masmai. .ta. .mas.> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:21PM (#5327332) Homepage
      Short answer: Me! I'm an actor! Hire me and pay me a lot of money!

      Long answer:

      All of those different bits of acting you mention require acting talent, and, usually, training. Voice acting is no exception. Voice acting can be very challenging, since a lot of actors I know (and myself) benefit greatly from having a real set and real costumes to put us where we want to be. Voice actors usually sit in a studio with headphones and a mic, so it's a lot more imginative. There's also a lot of books devoted to dialect study and even 'standard American,' or how American English is supposed to sound even though nobody actually speaks that way; for example, the word 'our' is often pronounced 'are' while it's supposed to sound more like 'hour' and 'what you' (like what you did that time) is supposed to be 'whaT you' and not 'whatchyou,' which is how nearly everybody says it.

      There are many other things like those that will contribute to a seamless performance, even though not knowing about them doesn't necessary detract very much -- whatchyou and are/our sound natural to many people. Similarly, learning a Cockney accent or an Irish accent is technically challenging, but even if you master the accent, there are cultural things related to the vernacular in each and how words are used together (especially slang) that no engineer or computer will ever replace.

      Personally, I believe that Serkis should've been nominated, but I also can't argue with the author's point (Hi Ivan!) that it gives future quasi-digital characters an unfair advantage. Most digital characters have actors behind them that contribute something, even if its just reacting to other characters in the scene during rehearsal and initial filming -- if the guy they have doing Jar Jar really sucks, for example, then Ewan MacGregor has a harder time doing scenes he has with Jar Jar, because a single character's bad acting can bring a whole scene down even if the actual character is digitally removed and replaced with something else for the film. Every single thing in the composition of a scene will affect an actor somehow.

      But then, if you argue that you don't want to consider actors who get computerized help, shouldn't that disqualify anybody who has FX in their scenes? Doesn't the whole movie affect your attitude towards any actor in it just as anything in the movie affects the actor's performance?
    • Kind of. For me, an actor is a person that can represent emotions, thoughts, manners, etc.. not necessarily convince you of that.

      There's a difference between watching a CGI and a human acting. There will always be, if you know who is who before. Sure it will br possible to make a CGI exactly like a human, and make it cry, but it will not be the same.

      Looking at someone, an actor, and this person touches you, makes you flow with him, his emotions, is a different experience.

      Kinda lame, and cliche, but hey, I am human too.

      Second, many "actors" of today are more digital than Golum. For example, think about Britney Spears or any other model/singer/famous person in a movie.

      Plastic boobs, hours of exercise, voice and manners controlled by PR specialists, controlled public appearance, what to wear, what to say, what to be.

      Looks artificial enough to me! :)
    • I think the visual inspiration isn't sufficient to make someone an actor (rather than a voice actor). However, it seems like the actor's contribution to a piece (aside from voice) is in gestures and expressions, which in this case were actually recorded digitally off of the person and used to control the model. With conventional CGI, this sort of information is up to the animator; here the CGI was used to make the model (like makeup), and (presumably) to do the stunts. It therefore falls into the traditional role of an actor: to portray a character by moving in such a way as to let the audience know the character's emotions. In this case, instead of recording the actor with a camera, they've recording the actor with a set of sensors and generated the image of the character with a computer.
    • Well, not the Oscars, but the MTV movie awards awarded Best Fight one year to the Craft, and the people who accepted it were the actors - not the stunt doubles or the special effects people. I thought that was kinda screwed up, personally, since the actual actors had probably the least involvment in the scene.
  • Teamwork (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:53PM (#5327091) Homepage Journal
    It's remarkable that Serkis did both the (incredible) voice work and (astounding) physical performance. There will be more characters like Gollum over the years, but they're unlikely to match Serkis' incredible range. You'll have a dancer for the body, a rubber-face for the face, a voice actor for the voice, and so on. It's rare to encounter so much talent in one person.

    This is a golden moment for the Academy to honor an astounding performance the likes of which we may never see again.

    I can't hold it against them too much: for the most part the Academy wouldn't recognize good acting if it walked up and bit them. They too often honor "showy" acting, largely one-dimensional with huge emotional swings and featured parts, that are actually built on a combination of music, camera work, editing, and a host of other factors outside the performance itself.

    I'm an actor myself, and IMHO on film you can see only a performance, not an actor. That's good: you're not supposed to be watching the acting. The hard work of acting is accomplished where you can't see it, in rehearsal rooms and in the actor's bathroom, in front of the mirror, and in long talks with fellow actors at the bar worrying about each syllable, on set finding the right tone not just for you but for everybody in a scene. All of which can be lost by different editing, direction, a music choice going the other way, or another actor taking a different choice.

    I applaud Serkis' work, and I want to see if he has range as well as talent. I'm sorry the Academy chose not to honor him, and that's always going to hurt no matter how meaningless the award and no matter how thunderous the accolades from the people whose opinions really do matter.
  • Wouldn't be fair. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kid zeus (563146) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:54PM (#5327093)
    Putting aside for a moment that the Oscars are absolute garbage awards that have no bearing on the artistic worth of the films they award, this topic isn't so tough a question to answer to me. Personally, I think that maybe they need a Best Voice Actor award, and that perhaps that would be the best category for Serkis in this case. Acting is more than speaking, it includes movement and posture as well. The fact that an entire team of people intepreted Serkis' performance and then modified it completely to suit their needs leads me to believe that it would be quite unfair to his competition to nominate him individually as an actor. They, the competition, had to rely on themselves to come up with convincing (or unconvincing as the case may be) physical performances. Maybe they need to have a Best Team Effort at Creating a Digital Actor award.
  • by SpaceRook (630389) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:54PM (#5327100)
    The genereral consensus in movie-land is that the "Return Of the King" film will be the one that really wins all the awards. Awarding Part 3 will be seen as rewarding the whole series. So, I think Gollum has a good chance of getting nominated next year.
  • Bad omen (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tim Macinta (1052) <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:55PM (#5327102) Homepage
    This does not bode well for the new character being introduced in The Return of the King [bbspot.com] who is also digitally generated.
  • While in general, I agree that characters such as Gollum are deserved of praise, giving the underlying actor credit is a little hard to do. A huge part of what can make a scene so dramatic is gestures (including facial expressions).

    How much of Gollum's facial expressions were Serkis and how much was CGI? Could we ever know? I suppose those that are nominating could watch the film without the CGI enhancements to see the actor's portion of the performance but that creates a whole new set of problems.

    In the end, I suspect that a new category is going to be developed for just such a role. Best CGI Enhanced Character or some such thing could work. Who should receive the award though? The actor or the animator (assuming it isn't just software controlled).
  • Ask yourself how relevant they really are anymore. One thing I have come to realize is what a sham this force-fed pop culture is. The Oscars are like top 40 radio, or psuedo-reality shows on TV. Big money and strange corporate consortiums pour this shit in a trough for the sheep to eat. I think we are going to see a split between the people that realize this (most of this readership, I would think) and the people who don't.


    I can't wait for the day movies accumulate whuffie instead of canned praises from the people that produced them. =)


    (And yes, I just finished reading k5)

  • by HorrorIsland (620928) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @01:59PM (#5327140)
    I expect most members of the Academy see digital characters as a threat to their jobs. Digital characters don't need make-up, hair styling, or costumes. They don't need stunt men, or props. They don't need camera men or lighting designers - or, if they do, they need them to have very different skills.

    Maybe some actors like the idea of "modeling" for a digital character; probably a lot of directors are intrigued by the possibilities. But I bet the majority of the Academy members hate the whole idea.

  • by Lethyos (408045) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:00PM (#5327150) Journal
    Shigeru Miyamoto's masterwork Super Mario Brothers is truly a classic work of modern literature; borrowing heavily from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and an obvious inspiration for Trainspotting, SMB shows the initial joy but the eventual mental and moral decline due to drugs.

    Like in classic Greek drama, much of the story is implied. Because the setting is not a part of our common mythos, however, it comes with a small supplemental text which fills in the history for the reader: the evil dragon Bowser Koopa (a metaphor for a kingpin) has invaded a once-propserous kingdom, and those residents who did not join him and become goombas (the local slang for dealers) were turned into blocks - that is, they were embedded in concrete, to sleep with the fishes, as it were.

    Enter Mario, the fallen hero. At the very outset of his adventure, he is doomed, as almost right away he steals a dealer's mushroom (obviously mixed with peyote) and begins to hallucinate, that he is big, that he is powerful. As though on PCP, he finds it easy to break solid bricks by punching it and does not perceive the pain; however, when dealers, pushers (personified by turtles much like Thompson's literal lounge lizards), and other minions of the kingpin cause him pain (in retaliation for his original drug theft), he immediately loses the empowering effects of the peyote, and in fact, seems very small and vulnerable, and must desparately seek out another hit. When he is not seeking out a hit of peyote, he is seeking out much more powerful stuff indeed - a flower (the opium-giving poppy) or a star (a hit of LSD), both of which further his delusions of being strong and powerful.

    Right after he has apparently slid down a flagpole (a strong reference to receiving anal sex), he finds himself in the proverbial sewers, already feeling a deep low from his initial hits wearing off. But after more anal sex, he is high in the mountains, which psychadelically appear as gigantic mushrooms, an obvious result of his hallucinatory state. And then, after even more anal sex, he finds himself in a castle, but it is of his own imagination, built up of his drug-induced isolation, for at the end he thinks he has confronted the kingpin Koopa, but he quickly finds that it is but another hallucination, merely a pusher goomba, though he only discovers this after, in a drug-crazed rage, he kills this apparition of his nemesis.

    His trials and travails continue along his slide into dementia, with such powerful imagery as being underwater (drowning in desparation) and along a long suspension bridge with flying fish (skirting death at every corner). After chapter 3, which describes a night of terrors, and chapter 4, another full day, he finds himself in another castle delusion, but this time he is so hopelessly lost in his mind that it appears to him as a maze, where if he does not climb the correct stairs in the right order, he is trapped and seems to endlessly repeat the pathway.

    Much more of the same continues, showing the repetition and mental deadness of a drug-induced haze, with some intermediate powerful imagery as a landscape so bleak and gray that it appears to be frozen, causing our fallen hero to psychosomatically slip on what seems to be ice. At many points, he is also unwittingly caught up in drug-related urban warfare, bullets careening across the landscape, although in Mario's stupor, the inanimate metal slugs appear to be living, almost sentient things.

    Finally, he enters a final castle which appears to be real, but it is quickly apparent that it is not, for it is filled with all of his prior hallucinations, but twisted into much more nightmarish images, again arranged in a maze as some of the castle-hallucination-nightmares before (although this time with the strong symbolism of the magic number 3), and at the end, when he finally destroys what he believes to be the kingpin Koopa and rescues who he believes to be the princess, it becomes obvious to the reader (though not to Mario, still in a state of dementia) that he was only a hapless pimp and the "princses" his whore, who (at our hero's expense) direct him to start his hapless Quixotic quest from the beginning, only this time, all the drug dealers are wearing bullet-proof jackets (who have appeared as gigantic beetles to our hallucinogenic hero all along).

    And so, the cycle of depravity begins anew, but much more difficultly for our pathetically-pathos-pumped plumber.

    Of course, this plot summary only begins to scratch the surface of this epic novel. One really must complete it on their own in order to truly appreciate its depth and challenge, trying to sort out what is real and what isn't.

    There is, of course, a like-minded series following this book (although the immediate sequel is a blatant last-minute search and replace job on the cancelled Doki Doki Panic); there are also several TV adaptations, a movie (which completely missed the point and took major liberties with the plot), several spin-off series, and, at one time, there was even a breakfast cereal, in a monstrous twist of consumer-driven poetic irony. Regardless of this sensational consumerism, however, the original story has withstood the test of time, and will forever be a literary classic.
  • ...because the entertainment industry is already overly self-congratulatory. How many different ways can the entertainment industry think of to pubically award themselves?
    • The Oscars
    • The Emmys
    • The Tonys
    • The Grammys
      ...
    • Best Male Lead
    • Best Male Supporting
    • Best Female Lead
    • Best Female Supporting
      ...
    • Best Donuts in trailer of supporting actor in an animated feature
  • I think awards are already given to "digital actors" - A) Special Effects for character animation are based (usually) on the person doing the voice over or a "real life object" B) Some of the "boring awards" we don't see, nominate or hand out awards for casting. All Pixar movies have been nominated for casting. I HONESTLY think the casting in Pixar movies has been genius. I doubt any other voices could have brought life to the chracters. C) The award is also sales. Billy Crystal's voice, John Goodman's Voice, Tom Hank's Voice sell - they are rewarded with big box office takes.

    An actor that is upset because he/she isn't recognized has a self esteem problem not a recognition/nomination problem.

  • Regardless of how practical it is in the past few years I've seen a few pieces on completely virtual actors. I'm not sure how much say the actors have in the awards but I can see a lot of big actors being VERY displeased if he got a nomination fearing (whether or not it's realistic) that they may lose their jobs in the future to a completely virtual character. Plus I think it's a little too out there still. I think we need a couple more strong virtual performances for hollywood to take a chance on acknowledging one of them.
  • by localman (111171) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:13PM (#5327259) Homepage
    I can't find the article right now, but if I remember correctly the academy refused to give TRON a special effects nomination because they "cheated" by using computers :)

    Sounds like they're often a bit behind the times to me.

    Cheers.
  • The problem I see with nomininating a person for best (supporting) actor for an animated character would be the fact that the actor was not completely responsible for that character. Not that the actor alone ever really has total control of how the character is portrayed anyway.

    Maybe the solution would be to change the "best actor" category to a "best character portrayal" category to solve this kind of issue. That way the award could be given to whatever group of people were involved in the creation of the character much the same way an award is given to a band or cast.

  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:16PM (#5327288) Homepage
    I didn't find his performace as Gollum all that compelling either way. Certainly not enough to merit a nomination.

    When an Oscar-deserving performance comes along, computer-augmented or not, it should be recognized. I just didn't think this was one of them.

    That being said, the performance wasn't just the actor's alone. There were other artists in front of the keyboard who tweaked and augmented the facial expressions among other things -- the performance was really a collaborative effort to get the final peice on all levels. So would the animators get to share in the Oscar too?
  • by realmolo (574068)
    He didn't get nominated because The Two Towers was shitty, and his performance wasn't anything special. I mean, really. Gollum is an EASY character. He's a cliche. Serkis did well, but he didn't do anything special. For that matter, most actors don't do anything special as far as characterization. In summary, screw Academy Awards. They're worthless.
    • Gollum is a cliche much in the same way that Casablanca is a cliche...that is they are the original which all the cliches are drawn from.

      That aside, I agree that TTT, even w/ the Ents, is going to be the low point in the movie trilogy.
    • You know, I agree with the first half of your comment - "The Two Towers was shitty" - but the second half, well, let's just say that Gollum was the redeeming point in that film for me.

      I've read the books a bunch of times (20+) since I first had them read to me at the age of 7 by my mother. Each time, I wondered how somebody could find a creature like Gollum as pitiable, and not just a loathsome vile beast.

      Jackson and Serkis showed me a gollum who wasn't corrupt to the core, but a flawed, twisted creature who was deserving of pity...
  • by mao che minh (611166) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:18PM (#5327303) Journal
    ...to see Serkis rush the stage and yank the Oscar out of whoever's hands wins it this year while screaming "my precious!". Would be a great way to generate hype for the next movie, as well as make a mockery of the snide-old-men's club that rejected him.
  • i think the uproar in the industry if he had been nomiated and in fact won "best supporting actor" would be huge. and, in fact, i tend to think would be unfair.

    surely a new oscar category - "best digital actor" or something along those lines would be a good move forward and should appease all.
  • Peter Lorre effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IvyMike (178408) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:26PM (#5327362)

    Gollum won't get nominated for the same reasons that Peter Lorre [imdb.com] never got any significant award. No matter how good the actor is at playing the part, and no matter how important the role is to the movie, it's just not the type of role that gets nominations. It's not anti-CGI bigotry, it's anti-creepy-guy bigotry.

  • Wow, watching the movie I could have sworn the face of Gollum was modelled on William DeVane. Those guys must look a lot alike. See if you can see it.

  • Anyone remember Looker (1981) [imdb.com]? I do, it was one of my favorites that year.
  • by ellem (147712) <ellem52NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:27PM (#5327367) Homepage Journal
    Before it was an ass kissing event it was a way to show the rest of the country/world what was going oon in the Movie Industry.

    We all know everything before it even happens (Ashley Judd _is_ Catwoman -- wouldn't Kristen Davis be a better Catwoman?). We (USA) go to movies despite horrendous reviews (DareDevil). Do we really give a crap what Susan Saradon has to say? Or any actor for that matter?

    So in short, what difference does it make if the Oscars _don't_ recognize your favortite? I would assume that validates your choice.
  • Who really cares about these awards besides Hollywood? Awards are a dime a dozen... if you don't like how they award these things just make another award.

    As a paying customer I don't care who is the best actor, really it is the best performance or, more so, the best character that would be more relevant to me. What do I care if the person was really acting well or not or if it was even really a person? I just want to be entertained with a good performance, like when Anthony Hopkins portrays Nixon and I forget that it is Anthony Hopkins...that is great acting, but what do I care if it is really Anthony Hopkins or some computer generation?

    Leave Hollywood alone to decide who gets their awards.
  • Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company said this better, in their famous "Sextone for President" piece in 1988: "Synthetic parts should be reserved for synthetic actors".

    Animation has traditionally been overacted. Originally, that was a consequence of the medium - it's possible to convey subtle emotion with hand animation, but it's a lot of work per frame. CG hasn't helped all that much - expressing subtle emotion by moving sliders around sort of works, but it's not great art. There's a well-known CG hack by which you draw 16 standard facial expressions (happy, sad, angry, etc.) and select linear combinations of their morphs. Much commercial animation is done that way. That's not acting.

    Then there's facial motion capture, which is closer to acting. Now the dynamics get better. But getting this to work when people are interacting is tough. Gollum had to be motion-captured separately from the performance, so the poor guy playing him had to replicate the same expressions in a capture session. Dialog is separately re-recorded all the time, even for TV, so this is a standard acting skill. This is acting, even if the characters are CG.

    Both methods may be used in the same production, confusing the issue. But that's no worse than stunt players wearing the same outfits as the principals; the industry sorts that out when evaluating performances. (Incidentally, just because you see the face of the principal actor doing a stunt doesn't mean it's really them; that's routinely faked today.)

    In time, we may see fully automatic facial animation that doesn't suck, along with automatic voice generation that doesn't suck. But not yet.

  • Boiled Down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slugfro (533652) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @02:36PM (#5327438) Homepage
    The end of the Salon article wraps things up perfectly. Should he have recieved a nomination for Best Supporting Actor?
    In the end, the answer is no, not because his talents are less significant than those of the supporting actor nominees, but because the work that he has done here is not equivalent. It would be a disservice to the other nominees to compete against the computer-enhanced Serkis, just as it would be a disservice to Gollum to be written off as an accomplishment of acting. The fact is that Gollum represents a new breed of synthespian performers...
    Without Serkis' acting and voice work, Golum would not have been as good. Likewise, without the great CG work the character of Gollum would again have not been as good. It looks like the Academy really needs to wake up and create a new category for these "synthespian" performances which combine real acting/voice with digital effects teams.
  • For any of you who still doubt just how much of Andy Serkis is in the Golum performance, particularly in his face, download this little MPEG file I just whipped up. It's a 15 second clip showing the some refernce work Serkis did compaired to the actual Golumn CGI character. They're practically identical. (Note: there's no sound)

    http://members.evansville.net/ckohler/video/serk is _reference.mpg

    I got the video snippits for this clip from the official Lord of the Rings website.

    http://www.lordoftherings.net/
  • by Ferrule (82308)
    First off, I am not an actor or drama student, nor have I ever been.

    When Gollum stared, and spoke into the camera, while experiencing the inner conflict, he interrupted my experience of watching the movie. He was looking at me sitting in a theatre watching a movie, this realization ruined the movie for me.

    Art-house plays use this all the time, because to drama students it's daring and dangerous. They forget that there's a good reason it isn't done more. It's annoying to someone who really likes to suspend disbelief and get into their entertainment.

    This is why he didn't deserve an oscar nomination.
  • no big loss (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pizza_milkshake (580452) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @03:11PM (#5327672)
    yes, the traditional folks in the Academy couldn't adapt to this new sitauation, no big surprise.

    but anyone who saw the movie knows that Gollum was probably the most likeable film character of 2002, and proof that all-digital characters can be taken seriously (unlike the infamous Jar-Jar)

  • Animators are actors (Score:3, Informative)

    by Comrade Pikachu (467844) on Tuesday February 18, 2003 @07:22PM (#5330348) Homepage
    This sort of thing has been going on for years. Actually it's as old as film itself. Gollum is an animated character, with Serkis serving as the "animator" in realtime. Well, animated feature films have been around since Snow White, so why haven't we seen:
    • Norm Ferguson nominated for his performance as the Queen (as a hag) in "Snow White"?
    • Marc Davis as Maleficent in "Sleeping Beauty" or Tinkerbell in "Peter Pan"?
    • Ollie Johnson's magnificent performance as Baloo in "The Jungle Book"?
    • Glen Keane as The Beast in "Beauty and the Beast"?
    How many great performances have you seen in classic animated films, perhaps without really realizing that there was actually a talented actor behind that pencil? Strange that only now, when the gloss of a digital render gives a "realism" to the performance, does this become an issue.

    Welcome to the club, Andy Serkis. The Best Actor nomination should be about performance, but Hollywood still runs on celebrity face power.

Nothing succeeds like success. -- Alexandre Dumas

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