There are probably a few reasons why The Hurt Locker took the Best Picture Oscar over Avatar, but Notes on a Season columnist Pete Hammond believes it came down to one thing — i.e., “the actors branch, dummy.”
1,205 Academy members. Three times as many as any other peer group. Freaked by performance capture. Voted their pocketbooks. Said “hell no” to the Na’vi.
“With few exceptions, most of the actors I asked [about the Oscar race] thought that Avatar’s advanced performance capture technique was threatening their career future,” Hammond writes. “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.” What — like HUAC looking into industry-wide commie subversion?
“Avatar producer Jon Landau told Film Drunk shortly after the film was snubbed by the SAG acting nominations that ‘I blame ourselves for not educating people (actors). We made a commitment to our actors that what they would see up there on the screen is their performance, not somebody else’s interpretation of what their performance might be.’
“James Cameron said performers were confusing it with animation but that the ‘creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of the animator.’
“That message clearly wasn’t heard by most of the actors I talked to last Sunday. Aside from sensing a heavy Hurt Locker vibe in the room, many, while acknowledging the technical prowess of the film, didn’t believe Avatar was their sort of film, at least when it comes to Academy Awards.”