Don’t fear the mocap.

Don’t fear the mocap. (photo)

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LA Times Oscar-blogger Pete Hammond (presumably on his way to a well-earned vacation) has a plausible theory about why “Avatar”‘s best picture bid was doomed.

If actors are three times the size of any other peer group in the Academy, and if actors fear and loathe motion-capture — as they assuredly do — then no way in hell was “Avatar” going to win. Allegedly this is because motion-capture means it’s not an “actor’s movie,” but under that you can sense fear that spectacle movies will devalue the currency of actors as a whole. Per Hammond:

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.

I can think of at least one man whose career was actually substantially boosted by motion-capture: Andy Serkis, who went from well-kept secret (BBC stints, an ensemble role in Mike Leigh’s “Topsy Turvy”) to much bigger parts, both animated (King Kong!) and live-action (the lead in British Ian Dury biopic “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”). Will Sam Worthington receive a similar career boost? Who’s to say? He was stuck with one of the most wooden, monotonous roles of any actor in any Cameron film ever. (Even Arnold had greater Terminator range.) Tell me that’d be different even if he wasn’t running around in Lon Chaney blue-face most of the time.

The complaint seems to be that having one’s performance mediated by a team of animators which makes it hard to tell where the actor ends and the technicians begin. Fine. Now let’s talk about “Aladdin.” In 1992, Robin Williams’ verbal diarrhea finally reached its apex, with visual representation finally able to keep up with his flow (not that this is necessarily a good thing). Was there any trouble knowing where he ends and the big blue genie begins?

03102010_aladdin.jpgIt’s hard to imagine a future in which — even if the technology’s there — all films are completely devoid of actual flesh and blood people, voiced by sophisticated voice-boxes. And, with regard to spectacle making actors incidental, it depends on the spectacle. ’50s spectacles like “The Ten Commandments” still could make Charlton Heston a big deal; it just depends on how front and center the actors are to the special effects showcases.

If nothing else, motion capture may finally eliminate the tedium of watching actors whose characters age fumble through gray-haired wigs and latex glue-ons. It’s hard to see that big a problem with a system where actors don’t have to worry about staying in the camera’s frame and can simply get on with it (not to mention the waiting to make sure that the lights hit the eyes exactly, a common Hollywood device that takes time and blocking).

To me, this seems more about ego and maximizing screen time — but what else is new when it comes to actors? Motion capture is an aesthetic choice like anything else.

[Photos: “Avatar,” 20th Century Fox, 2009; “Aladdin,” Disney, 1992]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.