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DID YOU READ

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]

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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