Brutally Honest Ballot #5: "Loved Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling Together," "Gimme a Break" About 'Arrival'

1:23 PM 2/25/2017

by Anonymous, as told to Scott Feinberg

An anonymous member of the actors branch shares Oscar picks.

Illustration by Kyle Metcalf

Each year around this time, I sit down with several Oscar voters who, under the warm cloak of anonymity, spill their true feelings about the current season's crop of contenders. Not just what or whom they voted for, but exactly why and how they came to those decisions.

It's not a scientific survey; it's just the candid, unsugarcoated opinions of a handful of members (out of 6,687) of the most important and powerful movie club in the world.

For Brutally Honest Ballot #5, below, here are the views of a member of the 1,158-member actors branch who — this season, anyway — is not associated with any of the nominees.

Earlier: Brutally Honest Ballot #1 I Brutally Honest Ballot #2 I Brutally Honest Ballot #3 I Brutally Honest Ballot #4

  • Best Picture

    'Moonlight'
    'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of Photofest

    The movies that are nominated these days are B movies that they've elevated to A movies, and I grew up on A movies, so I'm a tough critic. I didn't get around to seeing Fences or Hidden Figures. I did see Arrival — and haaated it. I mean, oh, my God, an outer space large jellybean landing on Earth? Gimme a break. I did not like Manchester by the Sea — it was just too long and gloomy, and I want something that lifts me up, especially in these times. I liked La La Land, Hell or High Water and Lion very much — although I thought Lion resolved itself too quickly at the end, where suddenly he's home and then he's at his exact house and then he's with his mother, bang bang bang? Hacksaw Ridge was fabulous — I was so happy to see an entertaining movie that speaks to the importance of faith. But I loved Moonlight — it was so simply and beautifully done, without any BS. It totally won me over.

    My vote
    (1) Moonlight
    (2) Hacksaw Ridge
    (3) Lion
    (4) Hell or High Water
    (5) La La Land

  • Best Director

    Barry Jenkins on set of 'Moonlight'
    Barry Jenkins on set of 'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of A24

    [Denis Villeneuve's] Arrival just did not work for me at all. I wasn't a big fan of [Kenneth Lonergan's] Manchester by the Sea, so obviously the direction didn't knock me out. Damien Chazelle's work [on La La Land] was okay. I thought Mel Gibson [with Hacksaw Ridge] did an excellent job — excellent. But I just loved the way that [Barry Jenkins'] Moonlight was directed — I thought it was so sensitive and understanding and really quite extraordinary.

    My vote
    Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

  • Best Actor

    Ryan Gosling in 'La La Land'
    Ryan Gosling in 'La La Land'
    Lionsgate/Photofest

    I did not see Captain Fantastic or Fences [featuring Viggo Mortensen and Denzel Washington, respectively]. [Manchester by the Sea's] Casey Affleck was very Marlon Brando — mumble, mumble, mumble. For me, that was a bad thing. [Hacksaw Ridge's] Andrew Garfield gave a wonderful, sensitive, loving performance — very Tony Perkins from [the 1956 film] Friendly Persuasion. But [La La Land's] Ryan Gosling was even more excellent — he can't sing at all, but he moves well and he's a really good actor. There was an honesty to his performance that I just really liked.

    My vote
    Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

  • Best Actress

    Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 'La La Land'
    Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 'La La Land'
    Courtesy of Dale Robinette/Lionsgate

    I didn't see Loving [featuring Ruth Negga]. Isabelle Huppert is a fabulous actress, but I hated the film [Elle] — uch, I just think it's a piece of shit. I mean, why do they waste money on that kind of thing? Why not elevate our thinking? It just turned me off. Meryl Streep is a chameleon who can do anything, and she was just doing a caricature [in Florence Foster Jenkins]. I thought [Jackie's] Natalie Portman was very good — Jackie [Kennedy] was not quite like that, but she [Portman] built a good character and it was interesting. Personally, I loved Emma Stone [in La La Land] and Ryan Gosling together — they just had an honesty and a simplicity that I liked. Her singing was good, her dancing was good, but the whole package was great.

    My vote
    Emma Stone (La La Land)

  • Best Supporting Actor

    Michael Shannon in 'Nocturnal Animals'
    Michael Shannon in 'Nocturnal Animals'
    Courtesy of Focus Features

    I eliminated the black actor [Moonlight's Mahershala Ali] first — I don't mean that in a politically incorrect way, I just can't say his name. It was a powerful performance, but it didn't stand out in my mind. I didn't care much for the kid from Manchester by the Sea [Lucas Hedges] or the picture — I thought he was okay, not outstanding. I love [Hell or High Water's] Jeff Bridges and almost voted for him, but I didn't. [Lion's] Dev Patel was wonderful, but I didn't vote for him either, because the performance that made the biggest impact on me was Michael Shannon [in Nocturnal Animals]. His choices as an actor were spot-on.

    My vote
    Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

  • Best Supporting Actress

    Naomie Harris in 'Moonlight'
    Naomie Harris in 'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of Photofest

    I didn't see Fences or Hidden Figures [featuring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, respectively]. I thought Michelle Williams was good [in Manchester by the Sea] but wasn't in it enough to really register. I love Nicole Kidman and I loved her performance [in Lion] — it was a stretch, a role that I didn't expect her to do, and I liked that. Up until the last minute, I was going to go with Nicole, but then I saw Moonlight and Naomie Harris was fabulous — she just showed so much heart and soul.

    My vote
    Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

  • Adapted Screenplay

    'Moonlight'
    'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of Photofest

    I didn't see Fences or Hidden Figures. I hated Arrival. I really liked Lion. But this was a no-brainer for me: Moonlight was outstanding, so I had to vote for that.

    My vote 
    Moonlight

  • Original Screenplay

    'Hell or High Water'
    'Hell or High Water'
    CBS Films/Photofest

    I've heard some very good reports about The Lobster and I have it here, but I didn't get to see it in time. I didn't like Manchester by the Sea. I didn't like 20th Century Women, but I liked Annette Bening very much, like always. I thought La La Land's screenplay was well done, but not outstanding. I thought the script for Hell or High Water was very well done.

    My vote
    Hell or High Water

  • Best Animated Feature

    Sometimes I watch these, but I didn't this season. But I hear — is this the one with [The] Jungle Book? [The voter is informed that The Jungle Book was eligible and is nominated in the best visual effects category.] Well that, I understand, is really, really good.

    My vote
    [Abstain]

  • Best Documentary Feature

    I didn't get to any of them this year.

    My vote
    [Abstain]

  • Best Foreign-Language Film

    I didn't get to those, so I didn't vote.

    My vote
    [Abstain]

  • Best Cinematography

    'Moonlight'
    'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of David Bornfriend/A24

    I saw Silence and I liked it — I think he had a wonderful film in there if he could have just gotten together with his editor — but it [its color palette] was too blue for me. I just saw nothing special about Arrival. La La Land's cinematography was good. Lion's was very good. And Moonlight's was like looking at an independent film that wasn't trying to dazzle you with BS — it was a little grainy, but it just was so honest. Low-budget filmmaking at its finest.

    My vote
    Moonlight

  • Best Costume Design

    'Florence Foster Jenkins'
    'Florence Foster Jenkins'
    Paramount Pictures/Photofest

    Allied and Fantastic Beasts [and Where to Find Them] I did not see. I thought Jackie was good. I thought La La Land was good. [Florence] Foster Jenkins because it had style.

    My vote
    Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Best Film Editing

    'Moonlight'
    'Moonlight'
    Courtesy of David Bornfriend/A24

    Nothing happened in Arrival, so I'm not sure what editing we're talking about. Hell or High Water and La La Land were edited very well. I loved Hacksaw Ridge and it must have been incredibly hard to edit, with that much going on during the battle scenes. But Moonlight had heart, and we all know that the editing makes the film.

    My vote
    Moonlight
     

  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling

    I didn't get to see any of the nominees — I just felt it was a pretty poor selection.

    My vote
    [Abstain]

  • Best Original Score

    'Lion'
    'Lion'
    Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

    I didn't see Passengers. I thought the music in Lion was very interesting and I thought the music in La La Land was very good. I just preferred Lion's a little more.

    My vote
    Lion

  • Best Original Song

    'La La Land'
    'La La Land'
    Courtesy of Dale Robinette/Lionsgate

    I didn't see Jim: The James Foley Story, Moana or Trolls, so it was between the two from La La Land ["Audition" and "City of Stars"]. I liked both of them very, very much. The one that they play together at the piano ["City of Stars"] is nice, but I really loved the one that Emma Stone does when she's auditioning ["Audition"]. It's kind of touching.

    My vote
    "Audition" (La La Land)

  • Best Production Design

    'La La Land'
    'La La Land'
    Lionsgate/Photofest

    I did not see Hail, Caesar!Fantastic Beasts [and Where to Find Them] or Passengers. (Laughs.) I don't know how Arrival got in for production design — that's a laugh for me. What? The inside of a giant black jellybean, the inside of a canvas tent and a little bit of the countryside? That's about it! La La Land — I loved the opening number, and the rest of it was okay.

    My vote
    La La Land

  • Best Sound Editing & Best Sound Mixing

    'Hacksaw Ridge'
    'Hacksaw Ridge'
    Mark Rogers/Summit Entertainment

    These are kind of confusing to me — they always have been, a little bit. I just look for a film that had sound effects that went along with what I was watching on the screen impressively — were they overpowering, were they not enough, did they help the visual in any way? I hated Arrival and the sound effects in it were nothing. Deepwater Horizon was okay. I loved Sully. But I went for Hacksaw Ridge in both categories — I sort of put them together. It was just so powerful, and the sound, with the visuals, made a major impact on me.

    My vote for both
    Hacksaw Ridge

  • Best Visual Effects

    I didn't see any of the nominees, so I didn't vote.

    My vote
    [Abstain]

  • Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Short & Best Live-Action Short

    I just don't have the time to see them. I'd rather see as many of the feature films as I can.

    My vote for all three
    [Abstain]

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