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So, Could Andy Serkis Really Win an Oscar for Playing a CGI Ape?

This is Andy Serkis, doing work.

Over at Rotten Tomatoes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is riding high with a score of 81 percent, a surprisingly generous rating for a film that, before this week, seemed like it might be little more than a B-movie starring James Franco. (You can read David Edelstein's rave here.) But it's not Franco who's scoring the film all the positive press, it's the excellence of those apes and particularly motion-capture master Andy Serkis, who, as Caesar, the sentient ape with a revolutionary streak, is winning more praise than Jesus on a Sunday morning. You know what that means, right? Time to talk about Serkis's chance of winning an Oscar! (Come on, you had almost six months off from Oscar talk! Time to climb back onto that shiny gold eunuch!)

At the beginning of last month, The Hollywood Reporter first wondered if Serkis could break through the Academy's computer-generated glass ceiling; then Jeff Wells at HollywoodElsewhere declared the Oscar buzz "totally valid"; and then Grantland argued that Serkis's Oscar bona fides are the "sole focus of the movie's publicity push." And now, here come the reviews, many of which explicitly call for Serkis to be nominated. We've gathered the praise-ridden highlights below. If the academy is even half as smitten with the Serkis's mo-cap ape as these guys are, he should start preparing to at least be nominated for his precious.

"Serkis is playing a motion-capture monkey — the prime primate, Caesar — and gives a performance so nuanced and powerful it may challenge the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give an Oscar to an actor who is never seen in the film." —Time

"To watch what actor Andy Serkis does as Caesar, the lead ape in this movie, is to witness a kind of miracle. ... Serkis gives by far the best performance in the movie, deserving an Oscar nod from an Academy long suspicious of this "hybrid" performance art." —Rolling Stone

"That a movie starring a CGI chimp could attain this (or any) degree of emotional resonance is largely a gift of the performance of Andy Serkis, who's been called 'the Charlie Chaplin of motion capture.' ... There's a debate brewing about whether motion-capture performances like Serkis' should be eligible for the Oscar. It's easy to see why flesh-and-blood actors might be wary about technological invasion of their turf, but Serkis' incarnation of the bitter, conflicted Caesar is nothing if not fleshly." —Slate

"Serkis commands the screen, combining his malleable features with the motion-capture technology he excels at. His Caesar conveys more intelligence and emotion than any of the human characters. He’s the reason for seeing the movie, even if you’re not ape-obsessed. ... Advantage to the apes, but they have Andy Serkis on their team — and so should Oscar, when the season of gold arrives. —Toronto Star

" ... the hero's nuanced characterization couldn't have been achieved without a motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis, who manages wordlessly—well, almost—to render unto Caesar almost as wide a range of feelings as he revealed, with the help of words, when he played the madly malign little Gollum in 'The Lord of the Rings.'" —Wall Street Journal

"As Caesar, a chimp whose enhanced intelligence leads him to challenge the human power structure, Serkis makes the film his own. The ape grows from exuberant childhood to rueful, rebellious maturity in a performance of remarkable -- there is no other word for it — humanity." —Star Tribune

" ... Andy Serkis (best known as King Kong and Gollum) is like a CGI Streep, bringing humanity and a fun, primal flourish to Caesar, first played by Roddy McDowall in 1972 and now fleshed out by seamless special effects. What Serkis does with his bright eyes is a revelation." —New York Daily News

"One never knows exactly where the human ends and the effects begin, but Serkis and/or Caesar gives the best performance in the movie." —Roger Ebert

"That would be Andy Serkis of Gollum fame, midway through one of the strangest Hollywood acting careers since Peter Lorre's, who damn well steals the whole movie as the charismatic ape genius." —Salon

"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, Gollum in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. He plays Caesar, who goes from being a cuddly 'Project Nim' type chimpanzee to He-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed." —L.A. Times

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