Can This Photo Help Avatar Enter the Best Actress Oscar Race?
The Daily Beast's Kim Masters dropped by James Cameron's office a couple of weeks ago for a techy 30-minute show-and-tell, from which a few things were quickly apparent. First, "Cameron's genius is this: He makes movies for women disguised as movies for men." And if you don't believe that, here's the latest photograph to emerge from behind the scenes -- cannily timed to early chatter that Zoe Saldana's entirely performance-capture turn is not only real acting, but might also be Oscar-worthy.
Saldana is indeed pretty strong as Neytiri, the Na'vi warrior vixen whom Jake Sully's own alien avatar falls for in his Pandoran exploits. All things considered -- imagined green-screen sets, hard-driving director, horrible dialogue -- Saldana convincingly explores Neytiri's emotional range despite never actually appearing in the flesh onscreen. But this frame from footage soon to air on HBO (and passed along today by Masters) is one of the first glimpses at the more physical encumbrance faced by Saldana and her co-stars: the performance- capture helmet that caught and transformed every facial tic and movement inside Cameron's camera.
It's something for the fanboys, sure, but it's important that Masters is the outlet here and not, say, Harry Knowles. To wit, Masters writes of her conversation with Avatar producer Jon Landau:
[A]ctors make up the biggest voting bloc in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Naturally, they would be less inclined to support an animated movie for Best Picture as opposed to one that is performance driven. [...] This footage [...] is meant to show that the actor's performance drives the technology on a "frame by frame, almost pore-by-pore level," as Landau puts it. He wants actors to know that Saldana trained for the role, working with a movement coach, for example, and learning to ride a horse.
Avatar might be a lock for Best Picture and Director nods, and Saldana is still on the bubble of the bubble when it comes to awards season. They're small bubbles, though -- and getting smaller as audiences have their first looks at the film and such previously thought locks as Bright Star's Abbie Cornish and the women of Nine slide off (unfairly or not). The old-schoolers will never go for it, but if there's anything we all know about Cameron's women, it's that they always manage a way to get what they want.
· The Genius of Avatar [The Daily Beast]