"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was named best feature film of 2011 at the 26th Genesis Awards "for examining the ethics of using chimpanzees in medical research."
The best feature documentary award also had a simian angle, as "Born to be Wild 3D" was honored "for its celebration of the people rehabilitating baby elephants and orangutans orphaned by poaching and habitat encroachment."
The Genesis Awards were presented Saturday night in Beverly Hills by the Humane Society of the United States in recognition of media presentations that raise awareness of animal issues.
For the second year in a row, Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" won the comedy award for what the Humane Society described as "a satirical twist on the whaling issue and a Utah legislator's proposal to kill feral dogs and cats."
Among the 19 other winners were CBS' "Hawaii Five-0," PBS' "Sid the Science Kid," Nickelodeon's "Nick News With Linda Ellerbee," ABC's "20/20," NBC's "Today" and the syndicated "The Ellen Degeneres Show."
The real winners "are the animals themselves," said Beverly Kaskey, senior director of the Humane Society's Hollywood Outreach program, "who rely on these invaluable voices to speak for them."
If Wednesday's SAG Award nominations are any indication, Hollywood's acting community isn't yet ready to honor work in the performance capture format. Despite a heavy awards push for his role as a hyper-intelligent chimp named Caesar in Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Andy Serkis was omitted from SAG's supporting actor category.
Serkis has been an ad hoc spokesman for the format of performance capture, or motion capture, a technique in which the actions of human actors are recorded and used to animate digital character models. He appears in performance capture roles in two films this year -- as Caesar and as Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," which will be released in the U.S. Dec. 21. In a sign of how performance capture poses some existential questions for Hollywood come awards season, "Tintin" is being campaigned as an animated film.
Fox, which also released the performance capture blockbuster "Avatar" in 2009, has been running "for your consideration" trade ads in which an image of Serkis in his motion capture suit is juxtaposed with the finished shot in the film, in which he has been rendered an ape by artists at Weta Digital. "The Time is Now," the ad says in bold type, with a quote from Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss that reads, "Serkis gives a performance so nuanced and powerful it may challenge the Academy to give an Oscar to an actor who is never seen in the film."
Serkis was part of the cast that won a SAG award in 2004 for "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," for his work as another digital character, Gollum.
In an interview in late October from set of his next film, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit," Serkis seemed optimistic that performance capture work would get more acknowledgement in time.
"For many years talking about Gollum, it was about the technology, the how of it all," Serkis said. "Performance capture was an exotic, strange activity, separated from the craft of acting. People thought when I was doing Gollum, 'What is he? Is he a contortionist or a dancer or a circus performer? How does he fit into the process?' Ten years down the line it's become an industry standard and it's more about talking about character."
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," almost lost in the stampede of huge summer blockbusters, probably would not have appeared on anyone's list of most-anticipated films two weeks ago. But all of a sudden, the little-monkey-movie-that-could is emerging from out of nowhere as one of the heat season's biggest surprises.
The Times' Kenneth Turan doesn't go overboard in his praise. He says, it's "smart, fun and thoroughly enjoyable, it's a model summer diversion that entertains without insulting your intelligence." Though he has praise for the writing, direction and the film's human stars, Turan singles out performer Andy Serkis and his fellow performance-capture thespians: "All this technology wouldn't be as dazzling as it is without the work of the actors (some from Cirque du Soleil) who wear the motion capture suits, especially the redoubtable Andy Serkis."
James Franco is many things: scholar, actor, writer, poet, emcee, artist, director. But diplomat? Not so much.
Ever since his critically panned stint hosting the Academy Awards back in February, Franco has continued to offer up a variety of reasons for his performance. He needed to be the straight man to a "Tasmanian Devil"-esque Anne Hathaway. Longtime Oscars writer Bruce Vilanch didn't write him enough funny jokes. His latest gripe? He hated being made to dress in drag as Marilyn Monroe, as he told Playboy last month.
Meanwhile, in that same interview with the adult magazine, the 33-year-old also gave a dig to his upcoming film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." He didn't "feel the same way" about the film as he did about "127 Hours" or "Milk," he said.
"It was a different kind of acting," he explained. "I never thought of this movie as an example of my creativity. I was an actor for hire. But people still have it out for me, so they’re going to go after the movie."
At the premiere of the "Apes" in Hollywood on Thursday, Franco attempted to clarify his negative comments.
"I just mean, there are people that -- I don't know -- have it out for me for other things," he said. "And, like, they see me do this movie and so maybe they will criticize me for this -- but really, it's about something else."
Rupert Wyatt, who directed the film, said Franco had not seen "Apes" when he sat down with Playboy and that the interviewer likely "caught James on a bad day."
"He hadn't seen the movie at this point so I think he might have been a little nervous because of what he'd experienced recently," Wyatt said, referring to the Oscars criticism. "I ended up doing some additional shooting with him after that [interview] and we had a chat. Like I said, it was probably a bad day. But he has seen the movie now and I heard he called various people and said how much he enjoyed it."
If Wyatt was irked about the magazine interview, he did a good job of hiding it on the red carpet, calling Franco a "terrific, terrific actor."
"And I think everybody acknowledges that," he said. "He's been Oscar-nominated and he's done some extraordinary performances and that's what he should be judged on."