AVATAR’s Neytiri: Oscar-Worthy Acting or Just CGI?

Neytiri CGIThe debate rages over whether AVATAR's performance capture is true performance for the Oscars and other awards. Cameron's actors had to work hard to make AVATAR's action look real, but it wasn't enough to impress the Screen Actors Guild, which didn't even nominate AVATAR actors this year. Maybe SAG is just worried that the increasing use of CGI will put human actors out of work, but to be fair, the most-threatened jobs may in fact be makeup artists and costumers.

And still… though Avatar has been nominated for numerous awards, and won several already, its stars have been pretty much ignored by Hollywood. “I don’t think they understand that we don't embellish or make up portions” said James Cameron, referring to critics. He feels that Zoe Saldana, seen in the film only in computer-rendered Na'vi form, is especially worthy. "Every second of the performance is Zoe. If you think about it, she did many things for this role, from mastering an accent and learning a language to intense physical training, [these] are the kinds of things that earn people Oscars. And she did it all in a blank room."

Sasha Stone of Awards Daily isn't buying it: “I appreciate [the] sentiment but what we saw with Saldana was [an] unprecedented combination of technology and performance capture—but in the traditional sense, it is not acting… Zoe Saldana makes for a moving and beautiful Avatar—one of the most memorable characters of the year. But no can say for sure that it is 100% her and not this beautiful technology along with it.”

Regardless, AVATAR remains heavily favored for the best-picture Oscar, especially since many Academy Awards voters are from more technical disciplines than acting.

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What do you think – are Zoe and Sam acting or is technology doing the magic? Are they worthy of a Best Acting Oscar?


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totally oscar worthy...just because its in CGI doesn't mean its not their emotions or feelings being portrayed through the na'vi...the cgi only captures their features that is it. Every thing else is them and their acting. The oscars are crazy not to nominate them


wow, i figure with james saying countless times that it is not an animated film where computer graphics people did everything, some people just dont get the concept of "performance" capture. every second of the film is the actor, but the emotions shown on the actor's face is translated to a CG character. i definitely think Zoe deserves an oscar, her acting was amazing in Avatar. she allowed audiences to absolutely fall in love with her, and her acting wasn't there, that would not have happened. i really hope people come around and realize that she is one of the most worthy people of this award, hopefully that happens sooner than later.

Caleb Watson

The actors had to do the acting, the computers merely captured the acting and modified the appearance .

Most definitely oscar worthy!


They are so threatened by this new technology. Resistance to change is what killed the dinosaurs.

Steven58 (Chok'ete)

This is without a doubt the most idiotic thing I've ever seen. Just because technology was used to enhance her physically is the only reason it wasn't Oscar worthy? She had to TRAIN, LEARN, FIGHT, CRY, and every other emotion/ physical activity that any other actor/actress would have to do in a live action movie. It's absurd that just because you don't see Saldana herself in the film it shuns her and the rest of the cast for not having a 'true' performance. These performances were on par with any Hollywood film today and many actors need to take notice. Watching Saldana's performances is truly breath taking. It reminds me of the old days of theater. Take the perfect example of the play, "Our Town". The set had very little to no props whatsoever. Actors/actresses had to improv various actions and item usage to essentially create in the minds of the audience what was going on stage.

That in a sense is what it was like for Sam, Zoe and the gang. They acted in a open spacial volume with only a bare minimum of props and accessories and just did pure acting. They did what acting is really meant to do...ENGROSS a person into a character so they can walk, talk, think, eat, fight, love, and feel JUST like the character would if it was real. They are what actors should really strive to do. Not just put make up on, get in front of the camera, say their lines and look pretty. They had to run, jump, fight and do mostly everything we see in Avatar. I take the Academy and critics don't look at behind the scenes footage and photos of what these actors had to actually do. They had to go out in the jungle before shoot and essentially reenact what they would have to do on set and what it would feel like in the film.

As a Civil War reenactor myself I know what it's like to have to live out in the wilderness...to study the dialect and thoughts of the period and time. To know how they felt, act, and went about things is KEY to essentially putting on a good performance for the audience. That's what Sam, Zoe and the gang had to do...they went out and researched and experienced first hand what they would have to do in order to fully understand and realize their characters. It wasn't a simple, 'I'll put a CG suit on and just do a few motions' far from it.

I feel very strongly about this and feel that Sam, Zoe, CCH Pounder and the other Na'Vi characters aren't getting the recognition they deserve. Beautiful performances on screen from all the actors and just like any other film...THEY deserve to be recognized as ACTORS for ACTING. Because just like the other films...they had to LIVE their character, move like their character, talk, and feel JUST like a live action character on screen. They did the same as other films....and better.

I could say more...but I'll end my rant here. Sorry for going on...this just really bothered me.

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The computer was just a tool to transform all those emotions to a Na`vi form thats all this peopla cannot understand, when someone is completely make up and i mean his whole body they just see the person behind it, for me its the same scenario here!

Steven58 (Chok'ete)

But they are using CGI and computers as a scapegoat to criticize the overall acting performance. Our system of judging and seeing things is completely obscured. The Academy and many critics are so biased and unable to see acting and great film at it's finest.


Performance capture is simply a technology that neither detracts from nor enhances the actor's performance. It rather merely *transcribes* it onto an otherwise inert graphics media. To assert otherwise would be to demonstrate a complete ignorance of the technology. To believe that neither Sam nor Zoe gave Oscar-worthy performances is to reveal either prejudice and ignorance.

Steven58 (Chok'ete)

@ Steve

You sir are exactly right.


Totally agree with steve.

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Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

Jose Tomas

@ Steve

I totaly agreed wth you.


Cameron has been saying this countless times. The Screen Actors Guild is dumb.
There, I just said it.


Well it's true that CGI can replace all people in one movie,but it's also obvious that Cameron's idea was not creating some "sparkling" animated movie without any human actors.The way he merge CGI detailed characters with a human characters,the way they interact with each other is absolutely asthounishing.I mean you don't see that every day .In fact The Screen Actors Guild should be ashamed for saying such a things.Avatar definitely deserves Oscar .

Steven58 (Chok'ete)

The CGI is just a tool to project their emotions, movements and acting onto a body...the technology is useless WITHOUT actual actors.

I don't understand why the Academy and critics feel threatened that this kind of usage of CGI is not true acting and threatens acting in general. Uhh, last time I checked you had to have actual actors to perform in these suits to get a performance in a film such as this.

Such biased stupidity...


Everyone already said how I feel.


It is a shame that both Sam's and Zoe's performances have been ignored so far when it comes to nominations. I think they have done an outstanding job, and with CGI even more difficult because they had to make up mostly everything out of their imagination without any help from costumes, make-up or scenery to guide them along. Just pure acting, like in the old theater days, when a chair could be anything.


I just realized something this morning. If Brad Pitt can be nominated for Best Actor for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' -- a movie whose special effects were simplistic compared to those in Avatar, and if Mr. Pitt's actual, on-screen time comprised only half the movie, then not even nominating Zoe for her utterly amazing performance in Avatar exhibits a complete and total misunderstanding of Performance Capture and a gross disregard for the difficulty of creating the amazing character that is Neytiri.


Great point, Steve. In order for the viewer to be totally engrossed in any movie and thoroughly enjoy it, the leads, Zoe and Sam, had to have given a phenomenal performance. Millions of people would attest to that, and I am one of them. You can't have such human "aliens" without the human actors behind the Performance Capturing. There's only so much that technology can do, regardless of how far CGI-rendered images have come. And, like Mr. Cameron says, Performance Capturing is done by the actors in a "blank room" - that obviously makes it easier on them, eh?
Oscars, please.


I gess the cridics just dont understand what preformance capture is, they probably also didnt look at how the movie was made. In a sence each of the on screen characters are avatars of the acters and do and express whatever the acter does. Plus if it wasnt the acters expressions then I gess that they just thought that puting green dots all over there faces looked cool or some thing, maby a new trend or facion statement.


Absolutely Oscar worthy. The characters had me in tears several times, that isn't just CGI, damn it. Zoe & Sam's expressions are what made this movie incredible. You could see their passion & emotions in their eyes as well as their expressions in their faces. Not to mention the superb physical acting that they both did.
Check out the total CGI movie, Beowulf, they did not do the same thing & their expressions looked wooden & fake even though they looked weirdly like the actors' faces.
Avatar is phenomenal & deserves the Oscar for best picture, best director, best score, best song, (all of the technical best Oscars), & I wish they would nominate both Zoe & Sam for best actress & actor. I also agree with what Steve said above too about CCoBB. That is very true.


Perhaps to make the point, Cameron needs to performance capture others doing the same part reading for Neytiri's part and see if the same emotion comes through. Voice and all.

I think that would put the nail in this coffin (so to speak).


Yea. Let's get Meghan Fox and see if she can do Neytiri as well as Zoe Saldana.

Derrek Newby

Megan Fox? lol, In my honest opinion there isn't a single actress that could of played neytiri but Zoe Saldana, and because of this fact she has now risen to my favorite actress of all time. Bar none.

Derrek Newby

It really baffles me, you'd think people that get paid to determine winners at award shows would do research on the respected areas. If they actually did so it wouldn't be hard to see Zoe is oscar worthy, just look at the picture listed above: not only are they remarkably similar but look at the emotion on Zoe's face, with all that headgear on, in a blank room. Not to mention they spent 2 1/2 years developing their characters, really makes me wonder how these 'so-called' experts get, and keep their jobs.

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