Thompson on Hollywood

Over the past decade, movie technology has become so sophisticated that it's tough for critics and even industry insiders to discern where an actor's performance stops and the work of hundreds of artists and digital technicians begins. The groundbreaking Avatar and Lord of the Ringssaga are two examples.

NPR critic Bob Mondello and Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep are two smart folks who aren't sure what's animation and what's performance capture. That's one reason why James Cameron used Streep as an example backstage at the Golden Globes, saying that actors should recognize an entire living, breathing performance (rather than just a voice) when they see it.

Last year Paramount waged an effective consciousness-raising campaign for Brad Pitt's performance in The Curious Life of Benjamin Button. This year, Fox, Cameron and producer Jon Landau aren't sitting back either. They mounted an Avatar show-and-tell for 500 actors at the Fox lot and assembled this behind-the-scenes feature. Nominations are at stake.