There has been a lot of talk since the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes about the possibility of Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell receiving Oscar nominations. But what form should this take? A best actor or supporting actor nomination, or a new category? I’m not sure the ultra conservative Academy is going to nominate a motion capture performance. It is unlikely that a new category will be created now, but maybe in the future. What exactly would it be?
New categories or splitting existing categories isn’t a new thing. between 1939 and 1967 the cinematography category was split between Black & White and Colour. In 1940 the writing category was split between original and adapted screenplays. Most recently in 2001 the Animation category was introduced. Defunct categories include Academy Juvenile Award, Best Assistant Director and Best Dance Direction. If a Motion Capture category was added, who would be honoured? The actor or the animators and technicians? The simple answer would have to be both, otherwise there would be no point in the new category. If only the actor were nominated, this would be covered by the existing acting categories. The same goes for the animators, if they were nominated alone this could be covered by the existing visual effects awards.
So what does all this mean? A new category Best Motion Capture Performance would need to combine a great achievement by both the actor and the animators as seen in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In the event of a fantastic performance by an actor were combined with shoddy dead eye animation this would be pointless. Equally, if an actor was merely providing a framework for movement with no emotional involvement this would not work either. Then comes the question of what is eligible. There have been two distant versions of motion capture. Animated films like Polar Express and The Adventures of Tintin, and live action films with animated/motion capture elements like Avatar and the Planet of the Apes movies. There is also the question of dialogue. Silent performances aren’t excluded from the acting categories as seen recently by The Artist so they should not be in a new category, however it would clearly be harder for a silent performance to make an impression.
Then comes the real issue, how many performances within a year will be suitable and how many will be making up the numbers. At the moment there probably aren’t enough suitable performances, but there will come a time when they are more common and it will surely then be time to create a new category. But it isn’t that simple, every year the Board of Governors meets to discuss the possibility of adding new award categories. Best Stunt Coordination has been proposed and rejected just about every year since 1991. What will happen? Only time will tell!