Did Academy Actors' Branch Rage Against the Avatar Machine?
Yes, another Oscar story, but you'll like this one! I promise. Guru-ish awards reporter Pete Hammond viewed Sunday's Oscarcast at the "Night of 100 Stars" Party -- which usually turns out more like the "Night of 12 Stars, 58 Character Actors, 17 Has-Beens, 12 People You Secretly Expected to See in the 'In Memoriam' Montage, and Pete Hammond" Party, except this year there was news. And it may be the Rosetta Stone to help decode where Avatar went wrong on its march to Best Picture.
To wit, all that headgear and other motion-capture hardware that went into making SAG members into believable N'avi just wasn't doing the trick for the old timers. Despite those early images of Zoe Saldana getting her wail on and all of Jim Cameron and producer Jon Landau's calming pledges to the contrary, the veteran actors are convinced it's a threat. And to paraphrase a rally cry popular with their fellow extremists in the gun lobby, they're Academy members, and they vote:
The consensus I had drawn in recent weeks from talking to academy members of other branches strongly pointed to Avatar winning, but with few exceptions, most of the actors I asked thought the movie's advanced "performance capture" technique was threatening their career future. I remember sitting next to JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist) at a Lovely Bones lunch event in December, and she said she worried it had the potential to eventually put actors out of work. Heavily involved with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, she said then that SAG was forming a committee to investigate the process.
Aside from sensing a heavy Hurt Locker vibe in the room, many, while acknowledging the technical prowess of the film, didn't believe Avatar was their sort of film, at least when it comes to Academy Awards.
"I confess I didn't see Avatar. It's not really an actor's kind of movie is it?" said 1987 best actress nominee Sally Kirkland. "I voted for Hurt Locker and Sandy [Bullock]. She took my acting workshop when she was starting out in New York."
Welllll, there you have it. To recap, JoBeth Williams is going to investigate the motion-capture scourge sweeping Hollywood, Sally Kirkland didn't even watch the movie tied for the lead in nominations (that also happens to have grossed $2.7 billion globally; after all, actors hate money), and in the end they voted for the ensemble film that was only nominated for one acting prize anyway. Next thing you know, Tippi Hedren will be bitching about how all those abused six-legged horses turned her off. Why do we do this for seven months a year, again?