In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes nabbed nearly a half a billion in worldwide box office revenue, birthed a new star in Caesar (the CGI chimpanzee), and taught us all the importance of cookie-ing rocket. In short, it was unexpectedly great and, seeing how its ending left us with the rich seeds of monkey uprising, a sequel was inevitable. And here it comes now! It's called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and it's currently director-less: Rupert Wyatt, who was in charge on the first go, recently dropped off the project due to time constraints.
The Oscars, as I hope we’ve established by now, are not simply a beauty contest. But when it comes to the half-dozen categories that reward visuals, that can be hard to remember. Here’s this year’s rundown:
Best Art Direction
The Artist Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Hugo Midnight in Paris War Horse
This morning, 20th Century Fox announced that Andy "The Motion-Captured Olivier" Serkis just signed a "healthy seven-figure deal" to star in the sequel to this summer's $453 million-grossing Rise of the Planet of the Apes as main ape Caesar. Also returning will be director Rupert Wyatt and writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who haven't yet decided whether they'll require the services of human-portrayers James Franco and Freida Pinto or if Apes 2 will be set in a monkey-ravaged, people-free post-apocalypse. Way more exciting than any of this, though, is word that Fox will indeed mount an Oscar campaign for Serkis, whose nomination would be the first for a motion-capture actor (see our previous coverage here, here, here, and here). A few things we have to look forward to: "For Your Consideration" ads touting "2011's Most Acclaimed Performance as an Ape," acceptance speeches thanking agents, managers, and zookeepers, and the sight of Serkis arriving on red carpets wearing tuxedoes covered in tennis balls. Let's make this happen, Academy.
You know, awards seasons are difficult. Sometimes a movie comes down the pike that seems, for one reason or another, like Razzie bait. Maybe its premise is so stupid that one can only assume the movie was made as part of an elaborate Producers-type scheme. Maybe it’s a remake of a fondly remembered film from our youths. Maybe it was so beset with post-production problems that it seemed snakebit — and Razzie-bit — long before it ever saw a theater.
The point is, it’s the kind of movie that clearly exists for one reason: to win Razzies. Maybe it’ll be a hit; maybe it’ll lose some money. But everyone involved is mostly onboard for purposes of prestige. Directors know that winning a Razzie ups their rate instantly on the straight-to-video market. Actors and actresses have been dreaming of the day their names would join the roster of stars honored by the Golden Raspberries.
But you know what? It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes that movie you barely phoned it in for — the movie your agent promised you was a Razzie contender — turns out to be (gasp!) pretty good. Audiences aren’t repulsed as you hoped they would be. The reviews range from mediocre to mildly enthusiastic. What have you got on your hands? A Razzie disappointment.
Here’s a look at five 2011 movies whose Razzie hopes have been knocked out faster than a robot boxer facing Hugh Jackman (or whatever).
One of the most pleasurable things about covering any Oscar season is that, as rigged as the contest can sometimes feel in favor of whoever has the most advertising dollars or the slickest road-to-a-win narrative, the movies themselves always reshape the race in surprising ways. For instance: A few months ago, I would have guessed that Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be a likelier candidate for Dan Kois’ RazzieWatch than for any discussion of the Academy Awards. On paper, it looked like an unpromising semi-prequel to a clunky ten-year-old reboot of a played-out franchise. In reality, it turned out to be a near-exemplary summer studio movie — exciting, affecting, smart, and a case study in how to use visual-effects technology in the service of a good script rather than as a substitute for one. Which has led to the most vexing question that the members of the Academy’s acting branch are likely to face this year: What should they do about Andy Serkis, who has won some of the strongest reviews of 2011 for playing a chimpanzee?
Once upon a time, it was easy for a working actress to pad her résumé with a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. Just pick a terrible script, play your wafer-thin girlfriend/wife/mom/coworker role as woodenly as possible, and then walk away with the gold(-painted raspberry). Hell, Faye Dunaway won a Razzie in 1993 for The Temp, and Estelle Getty in 1992 for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
Then came Madonna and the reign of the superhotties. The Worst Supporting Actress Razzie stopped rewarding bad performances in terrible movies and started rewarding the latest flash-in-the-pan babe who looks good on a press release. So awards started going to, yes, Madonna, Estella Warren, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Carmen Electra — nonactors all, for whom a Razzie is worth little more than a shrug. They don’t understand, or care, that a Golden Raspberry is a feather in an actor’s cap.
Let’s give the Razzies back to the real actresses! The awards the past two years for Sienna Miller and Jessica Alba give us hope. We’ll see if this coming January 23 the Razzies continue the trend.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes rose right to the top of the box office over the weekend, shocking Hollywood and proving once and for all that America prefers animals acting like people to people acting like animals. How did a monkey movie with a laughable trailer and an oddball, animalistic Oscar campaign make $54 million in its opening weekend (a lusty $20m more than its own studio had predicted) and win over a nation of humanity-hating critics? Just as we do when things go shockingly wrong, we asked an agent, a producer, and a publicist just why and how things went surprisingly right.
This weekend human beings by the tens of thousands will crowd into air-conditioned multiplexes, popcorn and Jujyfruits in hand, to see the surprisingly well-reviewed, Oscar-baitingRise of the Planet of the Apes. There, in the artificially chilled, overpriced darkness, the enraptured masses will fall for the friendly, CGI face of Caesar, a revolutionary monkey, and thrill to his stirring, helicopter-destroying quest for freedom — or at least San Francisco. When the lights come up, some in the audience may be moved to applaud Caesar’s eventual triumph: the complete overthrow and subjugation of our own species. As Peter Debruge put it in his review for Variety, the film provides a “curious chance for humans to revel in their own destruction,” which strikes me as wildly perverse — a ludicrous example of voting-against-our-own-interests that makes Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? seem as benign as The Wizard of Oz. Last I checked, the majority of moviegoers are human. Why are we suddenly so chuffed to cheer our own extinction?
Worst Actress is traditionally the most difficult Razzie category to predict, because the performances are the most widely varied. Will nominations go to Oscar nominees slumming it (as when Diane Keaton was nominated for 2007’s Because I Said So)? Or will it go to the forgettable female “lead” in an action movie (as in Megan Fox’s nominations the past two years, for Jonah Hex and Transformers 2)? Or will a single nomination go to a whole group of ladies (the casts of Sex and the City 2, The Women, and Bratz: The Movie) in a manner that doesn’t at all suggest that the Razzies find all women and movies about women interchangeable and icky?
In 2010, after 82 consecutive years of unrecognition, a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, finally won the Oscar for Best Director. Now attention must be paid to another, similarly maligned segment of the entertainment industry. Grinders all, men and women who have toiled in the shadows of their better paid, more famous peers for literally fours of years, doing yeoman’s work for the love of the craft, despite being underappreciated, disrespected and, occasionally, covered in ping-pong balls. We’re talking about the stuntmen, dancers, extras and people with bad teeth who everyday don form-fitting lycra without complaint to bring quasi-life to the motion-captured, CGI creatures that populate modern blockbusters. The flesh and blood behind the fake flesh and blood of uncanny, otherworldly entities like Paul, the entire cast of Green Lantern, and the artist formerly known as Nicole Kidman’s forehead.
Finally, we’re pleased to report, these undersung heroes have a champion: Andy Serkis. The 47-year-old Londoner has made a spectacular career out of crawling around in front of a green screen: He's the man responsible for Gollum’s annoying squeak and King Kong’s mighty, if box-office underperforming, roar. And now, thanks to a lead “performance” in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Serkis — and his studio — have decided it’s time to give the man his due and get him what he wants most. No not a banana, or a proper role. An Oscar.
A few days ago The Hollywood Reporterasked a question, we assumed, in jest: Will Andy Serkis receive an Oscar nomination for his motion-captured performance as an angry monkey in Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Sure, we thought. As if the equally worthy performance by the smoking monkey in Hangover Part II weren’t obviously going to split the vote! But the article did raise an interesting point or two, about how definitions of “performance” have changed, especially in the post-Avatar world. It also claimed that a nomination had “eluded” Serkis when he played Gollum in Lord of the Rings, a technologically fascinating, nearly unwatchable performance hailed by absolutely no one for its subtlety and grace. Anyway, since we already felt pretty confident about who’s going home with gold next year, we dismissed it and went about our monkey-free lives.