Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 2: Voter Finds 'Whiplash' "Offensive," Doesn't "Get" 'Birdman'

An anonymous male Academy member "loved" 'Interstellar' and 'Into the Woods,' wanted more "feelings" from 'American Sniper' and yearns for a "Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan caliber song."
J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller in 'Whiplash'  

This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation with an Academy member who is not associated with any of this year's nominees about his/her ballot. A conversation with a different member will post each day leading up to the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 22. Needless to say, their views are not necessarily endorsed by Scott Feinberg or THR.

VOTER PROFILE: A longtime member of the Academy's 387-member short films and feature animation branch who has been nominated for an Oscar.

➻ BEST PICTURE

Whiplash is offensive — it’s a film about abuse and I don’t find that entertaining at all. My kid would have told me if he had an abusive teacher. I would have sat in on the class, talked to other kids in the class and then said, “This asshole has to go.” [The Grand] Budapest [Hotel] is beautifully made, but its story just isn’t special. I didn’t think Selma was a particularly good film, apart from the main actor [David Oyelowo], and I think the outcry about the Academy being racists for not nominating it for more awards is offensive — we have a two-term president who is a black woman [Cheryl Boone Isaacs] and we give out awards to black people when they deserve them, just like any other group. Birdman, I didn’t get it at all — I look around and it’s doing so well and I just don’t get it. American Sniper glosses over feelings — how do you feel when you kill 170 people? You just see him hesitating in the one scene with the boy who briefly picks up the rocket and then you see him sitting at a bar looking depressed; that’s not enough. As far as The Imitation Game, Alan Turing was very much defined by his repressed homosexuality, and I just don’t think the film deals with that very well. I admired Boyhood and it didn’t bore me, but it doesn’t totally work. But Theory [of Everything] I loved. It was the only one of the nominees that fully worked as a whole film — it was beautifully performed, nicely directed and it was about something — although Boyhood is pretty special for its own reasons. Just because the Academy gives you a preferential ballot with a bunch of lines doesn’t mean you have to fill them all out. Those are only two that I find worthy of the award. MY VOTE: (1) The Theory of Everything, (2) Boyhood

➻ BEST DIRECTOR

What he [Boyhood’s Richard Linklater] did is amazing. Trust me, it’s not easy to make a film over a few months. Twelve years? That’s incredible and demanded a lot of vision and effort. It’s not even close for me because I didn’t especially like the other nominees' pictures. If [The Theory of Everything director] James Marsh had been nominated, it would have been a tougher call for me. MY VOTE: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

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➻ BEST ACTOR

I’ve met Stephen Hawking and this guy [The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne] got him just right — he was the most believable character in all of the movies this year and it’s an amazing performance. I can’t vote for [Birdman’s Michael] Keaton, [The Imitation Game’s Benedict] Cumberbatch or [American Sniper’s Bradley] Cooper because I didn’t really like their movies. [Foxcatcher’s] Steve Carell was interesting — I went to school with some of the du Ponts and I believe it [the film's story] — but the movie wasn’t great. MY VOTE: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

➻ BEST ACTRESS

I loved the movie [The Theory of Everything] and I thought [Felicity Jones] was great. [Still Alice’s] Julianne Moore and the others were all fine but in movies that leave a lot to be desired, and I just can’t separate a performance from the film it’s in. MY VOTE: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

[The Judge’s Robert] Duvall was fine but he generally needs to do a better job of picking movies; like Bobby De Niro and Barbra Streisand, he would probably have a few more Oscars if he wasn’t in so many bad movies. The one who stood out to me was [Boyhood’s] Ethan Hawke — to sustain a performance over a decade is no easy thing. MY VOTE: Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I loved Into the Woods a lot more than most people and her performance [Meryl Streep’s] is the main reason why. She’s unbelievable. And no, it doesn’t bother me that she’s won three times before; that’s not how you should be voting. The only other nominee who’s even close is [Boyhood’s] Patricia ArquetteMY VOTE: Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

➻ BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Making a good film about a well-known real person is really challenging, so I again would go back to The Theory of Everything. Who knows if they got it right about the guys in American Sniper and The Imitation Game? And, to me, turning a short into a feature [Whiplash] is a lesser challenge. MY VOTE: The Theory of Everything

Read more Oscar Voter Reveals Brutally Honest Ballot: "There's No Art to 'Selma,'" 'Boyhood' "Uneven"

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Boyhood was a very good film but I feel like they came up with the story as they went along. I thought Nightcrawler was masterful. MY VOTE: Nightcrawler

➻ BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Where’s our Finding Nemo this year? It’s not a very great group. I liked Song [of the Sea] and The Tale [of the Princess Kaguya], but I’m voting for [How to Train Your] Dragon [2] because it was superbly entertaining and works on most levels, although its story could be a little better. MY VOTE: How to Train Your Dragon 2

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

I wasn’t blown away by [Finding] Vivian Maier or The Salt of the Earth. Last Days in Vietnam is a well-made film but it’s not entirely engaging. The [Edward] Snowden film [Citizenfour] isn’t that well-made but it has great power because of its content. But with Virunga you have both content and a director who knows how to make a movie. Mountain gorillas are not the sexiest subject matter, but it’s just terrific. MY VOTE: Virunga

➻ BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

I liked Ida a lot, but Leviathan, to me, is hands-down the best film. I was so impressed with the control and the story. He [Andrey Zvyagintsev] is truly one of the masters of film in the world. MY VOTE: Leviathan

➻ BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Ida worked on a lot of levels and it looks so good. MY VOTE: Ida

Read more Oscars 2015: Snubbed Stars to Take the Stage to Buoy Oscar Broadcast

➻ BEST COSTUME DESIGN

To me, it’s between Maleficent and Into the Woods. How do you break the tie? Maleficent was a lightweight and Into the Woods was genius. MY VOTE: Into the Woods

➻ BEST FILM EDITING

No question it’s Boyhood. With Boyhood you couldn’t take footage from one period and shove it into the other to cover a mistake. I mean, what a hard movie. Each year worked. MY VOTE: Boyhood

➻ BEST MAKEUP and HAIRSTYLING

Here’s a chance to give Guardians of the Galaxy an award. It was a tremendously entertaining and fun movie. MY VOTE: Guardians of the Galaxy

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

My children make fun of me for my lack of knowledge about music, but I do actually sit and listen to the scores when they’re sent to us. I turned off Budapest after a few cuts. I was torn between Interstellar and The Theory of Everything, but concluded that [Interstellar composer] Hans Zimmer overdid it a little. MY VOTE: The Theory of Everything

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SONG

I wasn’t terribly impressed with any of them. There’s no Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan caliber song among them. I’m not a fan of Glen Campbell’s [co-nominated for “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”] at all. The Selma song [“Glory”] doesn’t do anything for me. I hated “Everything Is Awesome.” So, by process of elimination, that leaves “Lost Stars” and “Grateful” for me. MY VOTE: I abstain.

Read more Feinberg Forecast: Scott's Final Picks for the 87th Oscars

➻ BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

They did a difficult, brilliant, original job on Into the Woods — I mean, a lot of that was shot on sets built on a soundstage! To me, the movie worked on every possible level. MY VOTE: Into the Woods

➻ BEST SOUND EDITING

I loved Interstellar — I like science fiction and that’s a movie with balls. It doesn’t fully work, but what a nice piece of work. And how do you create a sound where there is no sound in a vacuum? I thought it was very creative. MY VOTE: Interstellar

➻ BEST SOUND MIXING

I don’t automatically vote for the same film for sound editing and sound mixing — I know the difference between the two, and as a filmmaker I have so much respect for sound people — but in this case I think the same film deserves both awards. MY VOTE: Interstellar

➻ BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

I give it to the apes! If you can make people believe and care about apes as credible performers, you deserve a lot of points. MY VOTE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

➻ BEST ANIMATED SHORT

I watched them twice. They were all beautifully made — each one was terrific and I have no complaints. Funnily enough, the weakest was the Disney one [Feast]. But I was so charmed by [The] Dam KeeperMY VOTE: The Dam Keeper

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Joanna is a very strong film. But I think the film about the suicidal veterans [Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1] is just spectacular, effective and moving. What that film has is what American Sniper is missing: heart. You actually get to the angst of the vets. I’m going for the vets. MY VOTE: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

➻ BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

None of them are American, right? The weakest was the Israeli one about the woman who takes a guy in her car. I was torn between the other four. MY VOTE: Parvaneh

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

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