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?



I think that if anyone should win an Oscar, it should be Zoe. She had to go through that ridiculous setup everytime she was on screen so it would be nice of the voters showed a little appreciation.
However, while Zoe (you guys will hate me for saying this) poured her soul into the part of Neytiri, Sam doesn't have a strong chance at making it. There are too many great actors putting films out right now. Robert Downey, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher (Valentine's Day to soon come out) and i think you get my point.


Well... I imagine that there are a few actresses that could have given it a good run. Halle Berry, for one. Jennifer Garner. Jessica Beil, perhaps. Maybe Charlize Theron. But that's immaterial. Fact is, Zoe completely and totally deserves, if not to win the Oscar, at least to be nominated. Her (and Sam's) hard work deserve at least that degree of recognition.

As it is, I suspect we'll have to wait for the Sequel, or even it's follow-on before Performance Capture is recognized as a viable form of artistic expression, and one that does not degrade or alter in any way, the actor's contribution.

Peter Roos

I fully concur with Steve58 and all the others. Joe should at least have been considered for a nomination. But Hollywood works in mysterious ways ... and the Awards don't always go to the people who most deserve them. That said, the success of the movie and her role in it won't hurt her career in any way.

Simon May

Im totaly disgusted that Zoe, Sam and even Stephen Lang have not been nominated for an Oscar
As it has already been said that is all Zoe's emotions we see in Neytiri and the same for Sam when he is in his Avatar. And for me Lang's performance in the film hit the nail on the head for being the tuff hard as nails bad guy.

SHAME ON YOU!!!!! the Screen Actors Guild......

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I actually wrote to the editor of Entertainment Weekly a few days ago about this exact topic. I was, at the least, enraged that someone could doubt Saldana's performance as Oscar-worthy. Like all of you have said before me, she but her blood, sweat, and tears into this film, and acting every second of it. It's not like she (or ANY of the actors) stood at a lectern and did a voice-over. Best Actress Oscar goes to Zoe Saldana for her work in "Avatar". At least, that's my vote. Too bad the general public can't vote on the Academy Awards.


You know... we also should not forget Stephen Lang. His depiction of Quaritch was truly chilling. He deserves to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor as much as Sam and Zoe deserve their nominations, imhyo.

Frank Lillywhite

It is strange, that the imagination can take us into a life that we cannot meet in reality. This film, especially in its 3D form, has created a strange sense within me, it has mesmerised, creating a feeling of membership in a new community. James Cameron, has bought us a film that truly allows us to endulge our fantasies, and even thought the story line alights to many past foe to friend, it still brings such a formidable desire to be in this world, and supported by excellent CGI and music, it could be said, that our emotions are taken from us and bought into the film itself.........never has a film done so much and unless there is one that trully puts us into this environment in a more personal manner, then this will always be the best film that I have seen in the cinema. Well done Mr Cameron and all who bought to life this exhibition of brilliance.


Well, I don't want to say that they where once experts and now that they have the money to say whatever they want and get away with it; that they truly are, but I don't know anything about the "experts" to be able to judge them. I definately think that all of the actors in Avatar deserve to be nominated because of everything they put into their performances, and the fact that they still managed to convey emotion and "be" the characters perfectly while, basically being in an empty room is quite amazing! At the very least many of the actors who portrayed the main characters should be on the nominations!

Jono Harvey

Do these people not know it takes the Human Spirit to drive this technology, I f I could fall in love with her so should the rest of the Guild. Cause I was the meanest Actor in this Picture next to the Colonel....


The annoying part about CGI or aniimation is that it is acting. Even if you do voices, then draw the characters later, those renderings are based on the actors doing the voices. Really, the only people out of work are costumers and make up people. I mean, yes, acting with all that crap on your head in a blank room? Please-- that is acting.

I think SAG et all are just feeling threatened. Change with the times people.


Is the leonopteryx, that multicolored man-eating Lamborghini of the Pandoran skies, a wry reference to Ms. Weaver's heritage?

The last piece of the preliminary puzzle may well have fallen into place with the Director's Guild giving Kathryn Bigelow the award for Best Director in Film. Aside from the inevitable technical awards, A nomination may still be possible in that category, but Avatar's last chance for a win in a major award, assuming it's nominated, is down to Best Film. That chance would be buoyed by votes from the technicians and maybe actors who may see things like Steven58 does.


Zoe Saldana was definitely robbed of the nomination. She was freaking amazing.

Galina Petrova

Ofcourse it is worth an oscar nomination, at least real actors have done the job behind the computer generated avatars.


Don't recall any of the main actors in James Cameron movies being rewarded with Oscars, not for Terminator nor Titanic. I do feel this is because the awesome atmospheric effects of his movies overshadow the acting quite a lot. I'd rather that the ground-breaking hard-work behind the scenes of a Cameron cine-spectacular be recognised, and acting overlooked, than it all to be ignored.


And, as I think it is Jon Landau who said it, the technique is "emotion capture" - it is the performance of the technicians that is outstanding, in being able to capture human emotions so meritoriously. Not that Saldana, Worthington and Weaver's labours are not gripping.

Eric Eilersen

I was talking to my friends about this and I completely agree that Zoe deserves an Oscar nomination! Even if, by some ridiculous reason, you don't like the movie, her performance is outstanding. I believe her performance is actually enhanced by the CGI, because think about how much extra work it had to be acting with no environments/costumes etc. Her performance was SO believable and emotionally amazing, and she had nothing to work off of.
Bravo Zoe!

Ayden Gotzmer

AVATAR is certainly a brilliant movie with amazing graphics but where would audiences be without the acting? Think of things like Final Fantasy--they lacked the serious emotions and when they did do "serious acting" it came off as obvious C.G.I .

I understand the Academy's nervousness about nominating AVATAR for Best Acting but the electors need to understand and remember what theatre goers first saw in Greek and Roman times. The Italian comedia masks covered the entire face and embodied one facial expression. They considered that acting.

The Academy must come to terms with the fact that movies are evolving and although there are billions of tons of C.G.I embedded in this movie, one wouldn't be anywhere without the actors who made it happen.

Not nominating the actors is a real slap in the face to their beautiful work.


HELLO fellow bloggers,
O.K. I am not just saying this because I am a Avatar fan but these oscar people have to be nuts! No matter how great the tech was in this movie none of the characters could have come to life without excellent performances from the actors. The movie and her performance were touching and it wasn't just because of the special tech or anything, it was because of the moving performances from these actors, if anything she deserves one because if you can make a digital character come to life, you have done a better job than any actor out there.


Zoe has two 2009 hits: 'Star Trek" and 'Avatar'. The latter would be a travesty; but if she doesn't get mentioned for either one, I'll dis the awards this year!

Damn the Academy, I'll be content in watching 'Avatar' rack up records that may never be equaled for some time to come.

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They worth it ...


if you look closely at the pix above, you'll see that only about 50% of the facial movements actually translate to the cgi character. while this is great, it does dampen the performance. The other body movements translate more accurately, i think, but there are so many subtleties to the face as it expresses emotions, that I thing the technology isn't quite there...I wondered, for example why the forehead wrinkling didn't translate well, nor the spaces between the eyes, that part was just too dead. i did love Neytiri's veracity and intensity, but compared to the subtleties that makes up an award winning performance, I don't think the acting as displayed on the cgi characters was that great. i also wondered why Cameron did not use more prominent actors in the film...So while the acting is the best I've seen in non human form, it's not quite up to par with the "real thing".

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As AVATAR is so very new (cutting edge )...there is nothing to compare it to. It's not apples versus oranges but, rather, apples versus hybrid apples. Very, very different....but, both apples, nonetheless.

The actors ACTED and their movements / expressions were 'translated' into their Na'vi characters. I liken it to COSTUMES.....but, without being encumbered by layers of makeup and prosthetics. I'm over-simplifying the comparison but, I say YES to our AVATAR actors being considered for any award a movie can get. It's too late, I know....but, I say YES YES YES

Sam Fisher

NO, lets not get Meghan Fox to play Neytiri. That would just ruin the whole AVATAR thing that James Cameron has going.

Eric Kyle

Jealousy is the word. Its not animation and CGI???Wow. Come on
@ Steve your right. I agree with you. Its complete bs but like you said its either prejudice or ignorance.

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