Tag Archives: Tintin

Where in the world is Andy Serkis’ Best Actor nomination?

Andy Serkis as Caesar and James Franco in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes".

Hollywood is so precious, don’t you think?  It would love to be lauded as a creative centre – a place where artists can congregate, collaborate and create important and entertaining work in an environment which thrives on the financial and artistic success of the work which results.  But the reality, of course, is quite different.

Yes, just so long as you agree to fit into your pre-ordained box and don’t do anything which threatens the carefully constructed (and constricted) status quo, you’ll be just fine.

Witness the case of actor/director Andy Serkis.  Unfamiliar with the name?  Perhaps you might recognize his most famous character:

Andy Serkis as Smeagol/Gollum in "Lord of the Rings"

Or perhaps this fine figure of a man primate?

Andy Serkis reacts to an acting snub with grace and civility.

Perhaps you’re beginning to see the problem.   Serkis’ most prominent work to mainstream audiences has been in collaboration with the likes of Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg, and often realised via performance capture technology.  In essence, his very best work is oddly invisible – or a combination of his physical acting performance being subsequently animated by CG artists.  It’s in a kind of nebulous, foggy half-place where art meets the bleeding edge of computer-assisted creativity.

It’s a hard concept to grasp for many – without Serkis’ original work, there would be no building blocks for the artists to design their character around and the result on-screen is contingent on the work of artists to take the raw material of Serkis’ work and give it visual life.  Where, to cut a long story short, does Serkis end and Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” begin?

In the best sense of the word, Andy Serkis’ best screen work to date has been inherently collaborative and the result of a seamless marriage between the best of what technology can bring to a film and what we have come to think of as the traditional theatre arts.

Is there any real difference between Serkis’ work as Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and, say, a performance like John Hurt’s in “The Elephant Man” or Eric Stoltz’s in “Mask”?

I would argue not.   Does anybody look at Hurt’s performance in David Lynch’s film and really say – “Well, he was okay, but the make-up appliances were doing much of the heavy lifting”?  Not unless they’re fundamentally ignorant.   Hurt’s work blends an external make-up job with the soul of the actor beneath it and delivers something which is unforgettable to anybody who’s ever seen it.  Likewise, Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly”:  There’s an extraordinary, singular, eccentric and compelling actor under some astonishing make-up but one without the other wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

I suspect that some of the blame for Serkis’ lack of acknowledgement from his acting peers is down to arrogance and snobbery – his work has largely been in science fiction and fantasy cinema, two genres which are consistently overlooked by the cinema’s great and good when it comes to awards season.  An establishment, it should always be noted, which is delighted to reap the financial benefits of those films when they succeed at the box office but glacially slow to reward them with the highest industry awards when the gongs are handed out.

It’s almost as though the people who decide on who gets nominated for acting awards are old farts who don’t have a clue. I know, I know – can you imagine?

If you want a somewhat biased view from one of Serkis’ recent co-stars, James Franco has written a heartfelt appreciation of his work and what it means for Hollywood over at Deadline.com.

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“The Adventures of Tintin – the Secret of the Unicorn” – a highly enthusiastic quick review

It's an awesome film. And a harbinger of the future?

Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish.  And that’s the talent behind the camera.

To say that this latest adaptation of Herge’s “Tintin” adventures arrives with a burden of expectation is to understate things.  There’s every chance, if you’re a nerd, that this is your most eagerly awaited film of the year, mixing as it does the talents of the film-makers above, the likes of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in performance capture form and James Cameron’s revolutionary ‘Volume’ tech to knit things together.

First things first – watching this film makes you think that you’re watching a game changer.  The fluidity of the performances, animation, cinematography and editing combine and make “Tintin” something of a revolution. It’s hard to see why you wouldn’t want to work with this technology if you’re making a large-scale action adventure film, if the action sequences in this film are any indicator.

Go and see “Tintin” and then imagine what merry hell James Cameron’s going to come up with if he gets to make “Battle Angel Alita”.  During the extended action sequence set in Morocco, my jaw hit the floor not once but twice – I couldn’t believe the visceral and exhilarating nature of the adventure Spielberg was delivering.  It’s hard to put into words as you’re aware that stunt people didn’t have to get into vehicles, camera cars didn’t have to follow a route and nobody was in any danger of being injured by the nature of the activity that eventually ended up on screen but nonetheless you’re watching Spielberg stage, realise and deliver some of the most astonishing on-screen mayhem that he’s ever come up with.

And that’s one sequence – there are around five huge set-pieces which boggle the mind equally, whether it’s the staging, the astonishing attention-to-detail in the animation, the quality of the performance capture, John Williams’ best scoring work in an age or the cumulative effect of Spielberg, Peter Jackson and co. dreaming up this adaptation and keeping everything cohesive up until its final realisation on-screen.

It’s a mind-boggling piece of work – and it feels like the future of this kind of blockbuster cinema.  It flows so well, with match-cuts becoming utterly poetic given the ability of the computer to blend seamlessly between the present, the past, the imagined and almost inventing a whole new vocabulary for directors to play with.

Blimey, imagine if Spielberg made the next “Indiana Jones” movie with this kind of tech…

That’s not to say that the hardware and software are the only thing to be interested in with this movie.  It’s a great adventure, full of daring escapes, mystery, puzzles, traps, pirates, pitched sea battles, desert wandering, a singularly plucky terrier, opera singers and a million and one other cool things.

The performances are wonderful, alchemic marriages between the raw theatrical performances of actors on set and what the animators deliver with that data and with the crucial idea that these characters have had a long life in comics which are beloved by an entire continent – you’re watching Tintin, played by Jamie Bell, animated by stupendously talented people and the end result is just dizzying.  It’s real, but comic book and utterly contemporary but somehow warm and old-fashioned.

Watching the end film, you can’t help but be won over by the sheer talent at play here, by the craft and wit and skill which went into this utterly distinctive and exciting film – it’s a popcorn blockbuster to treasure, an adaptation to appreciate and a film to utterly enchant you if you give yourself over to it.


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