Letters

Readers critique Ivan Askwith's "Gollum: Disrespected by the Oscars?" and lash back against those who dared to dislike Andrew Grant's "Chicken Show."


Salon Staff
February 21, 2003 1:30AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

Thank you, Ivan Askwith, for your article. I agree that Andy Serkis should not have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I do think that his work was amazing though, and would like to see him recognized in some way. Perhaps the Academy can create a category for Alternative performances. That way, the long-overlooked genius of Kermit the Frog can also be rewarded.

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-- Jaime Mastromonica

I don't think it's fair to say that we aren't "ready" to accept computer-generated performances as award-worthy. Viewers who don't think Andy Serkis should be nominated for an Oscar just don't think great acting should depend on a significant degree of technological enhancement.

In "The Elephant Man," John Hurt had to communicate a singular, tortured humanity through layers of static, un-emotive prosthetics. On the other hand, the expressions and actions conveying Gollum's tortured personality were conveyed in large part through computerized imagery. There's a major distinction.

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Admittedly, I'm no fan of CGI. But I am a fan of the "Lord of the Rings" films so far. I'd love to see the Academy acknowledge the work that went into creating Middle Earth on-screen -- but through awards for design and technological achievement. Save the acting plaudits for those who were able to portray their characters without additional animation.

-- Bill Chace

You are correct in your conclusion that Serkis should not have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but for the wrong reasons. Serkis did not give the whole performance. The artists at WETA claim only part of Serkis' performance is on-screen. All of Gollum's facial animation, the wrenching emotions that crossed his face, were done by artists at WETA. As you imply, it is time to stop nominating the performer, and start nominating the performance. The person who should have been nominated was "Gollum"... and if "Gollum" wins, then both Serkis and the animation director should share in the award, since together they delivered the performance.

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-- Dan Whiting

Many who are spending the time in gee-whiz land contemplating the coolness of a possible Oscar for Andy Serkis as part of Team Gollum are failing to consider one important point: Mr. Serkis' performance, considered apart from the CGI achievements, would have been egregiously over-the-top from a flesh-and-blood actor. He mugs shamelessly, he gets cutesy, he chews some very nice scenery with those CGI teeth.

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Should the human model for a CGI character be considered for an Oscar? Certainly -- when the performance is good enough to rate the award by itself, without the digital help.

-- Darren Raleigh

Not to split hairs, but phrases like this: "Well, here's one reason: We don't know how audiences will react to a performance that owes more to computer code than to human talent" drive me nuts. The assumption here is that "the" computer somehow makes all the magic happen without human intervention. It's like some unseen person presses the "emote" button in the GUI of "Gollum 1.4" and the synthespian goes to work.

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The computer is just a tool. The code is written by all too human programmers. The characters are animated by shifts of pixel-pushers who, consciously or not, add bits of themselves to their work.

The only reason synthespians should not, at the moment, get awards is that there are probably 150 people who made their existence possible, and the awards shows are already too long.

-- Jeremy Speer

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[Read the letters about the story.]

I'm much less appalled by Andrew Grant's supposed self-indulgent rant than I am by the self-righteous Salon readers who want him to get off the dole and start working at Wal-Mart or Chili's. These people should lighten up and either find the article amusing, as I did, or not. Why are they so upset by the fact that he is not interested in taking a menial job?

I think Andrew Grant knows exactly who he is and how the "hard-working class" will view him. He is a fallen slacker, and this is a slacker's tale. The interviewers and the experiences were great. Anyone who has ever spent time with management consultants should be able to imagine exactly how it would feel to have these people glaring across a table, trying to extract the right jargon from you.

-- Wick Smith

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I don't know what I enjoyed more -- Andrew's hilarious account of his interview or the backlash it generated. Lighten up, guys. Let's just be thankful that there are still some things to laugh about and enjoy in these tough times.

-- Brinda Darasha

I read Andrew Grant's piece after I read the letters to the editor. The letters were so opposed, I had to see what the fuss was about. All the bemoaned six pages were worth the read. The guy is funny, self-aware and just got his teeth kicked in. Seems the cons didn't feel his teeth were kicked in hard enough or he didn't wince loud enough. Or perhaps he shouldn't have dared to wince at all. Too bad. They missed out on some real writing.

-- G. Chinn

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Unfortunately for Andrew, his attempt at the old "names changed to protect the innocent" trick failed miserably. I happen to work in S.W. Florida with "Mike the Salesman" from Andrew's article, who was forwarded the Salon.com link just days after its publication. Unfortunately for us, "Mike" is leaving tomorrow for his new job in Atlanta. Our loss.

Perhaps it was the expression of his love for theater organs that pushed "Mike" over the top in the interview process. Or maybe the fact that he is a scratch golfer (not an 18 handicap, thank you very much) and an accomplished musician made him shine. Or how about this -- he prepared for the interview, has years of industry experience, and is a top-notch salesperson who really knows his stuff. In your face, Andrew. "Mike" simply rocks.

But enough about that. The real reason for my letter is not really to clear up discrepancies in Andrew's story or make him feel any lower about the interview than he already does. Really. I have been in his shoes before. Well, maybe not that deep in it, but I do know firsthand the suckiness of unemployment, although much shorter term, than our friend Andrew.

I'm actually writing beg Andrew to please consider a run at becoming a professional writer. There is not enough of your type of wit out there for our reading pleasure, my friend! Try to squeeze more time and $$$ out of your friends and family, and make a serious attempt at getting your work out there so we can have more of this! We in our office --including "Mike" -- were absolutely captivated with your hilarious account of the interview process gone bad. Throw us some more!

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-- Jana Barclay

If nothing else, the writing was creative ... and most people that I've shared this with agree that maybe Grant should pursue a career as a columnist (Dave Barry is bound to run out of ideas at some point). And while some of the details of the story were mixed up, I was only mildly perturbed by his depiction of the dinner scenario. Overall, I'm afraid Andrew probably didn't protect the one person's identity that he should have ... his own! Well, I would write more, but I have to go pack for my new career in Atlanta with a well-respected consulting firm.

-- "Mike Smith"


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