Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 8: 'Grand Budapest' "Most Underrated," "Gender Discrimination" Hurt Ava DuVernay

An anonymous female Academy member says she has a crush on the writer of 'Whiplash,' backed 'Ida' because she's "obsessed with stories about the Nazis and WWII" and felt Patricia Arquette was "the glue that kept ['Boyhood'] together."
'Boyhood'  

This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation with an Academy member about 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 member of the Academy's 378-member public relations branch.

➻ BEST PICTURE

American Sniper was highly entertaining, very well directed by Clint [Eastwood] and features a fantastic performance by Bradley [Cooper]. I didn't think that it glorified killing, as some people have suggested. Even when they show him killing an animal as a child, he didn't really jump up and down with glee. He took on his role to be a protector, not a killer. But he was tormented by what he did after he came home, and they didn't show that enough.

I felt Birdman was a masterful work of filmmaking. The problem with it is that its central character, played by Michael Keaton, is tormented and unlikable, which is the same problem that sunk The Social Network.

Boyhood was basically a concept film, and as amazing as that concept was — 12 years with the same people — it was about people who were relatively mundane. They were common, middle-class people struggling with everyday problems; they didn't invent or create or accomplish anything extraordinary. The filmmaker [Richard Linklater] is the extraordinary aspect of the film. He enabled you to witness their maturation in three hours instead of a six-part miniseries or something like that, which I admired.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was the most underrated film. It is a very, very, very creative film — astoundingly original. This should have been an even more serious contender for best picture.

The Imitation Game had it all — Nazis, gays, World War II. Nobody does this sort of a movie better than Harvey [Weinstein, the co-chief of the film's distributor, The Weinstein Co.]. It was not The King's Speech, which was a home run, but everybody still loved it.

I think Selma was great but just came out too late. And if the director [Ava DuVernay] suffered from anything, it was gender discrimination, not race discrimination. This whole race thing was spun out of control by the press.

[The] Theory of Everything, I think, is an underrated film. It's an extraordinary exploration of a man's descent into being a cripple and how it wreaks havoc on those who loved him and his family. I mean, I have no idea, to this day, how he managed to have children, but I guess it worked, what can I tell you? Anyway, two beautiful performances by very likable people [Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones].

And Whiplash? There isn't a false note, and everyone loves it.

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 2

MY VOTE: (1) Boyhood, (2) Birdman, (3) The Grand Budapest Hotel, (4) American Sniper, (5) Whiplash

➻ BEST DIRECTOR

This was an excruciatingly tough call for me and I'm still not sure if I made the right decision.

MY VOTE: Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)

Read more Oscars: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

➻ BEST ACTOR

I felt badly that there were seven or eight fabulous performances and only five could be nominated. I was particularly upset [and saddened] that [Selma's] David Oyelowo, who was amazing, thought that his snub was race-related, which was not the case at all. The Academy being racist is so far from the truth it's unbelievable — yes, it's 6,000 65-year-old white guys, but they couldn't be any more patriotic or democratic. I also thought that [Nightcrawler's] Jake Gyllenhaal gave an amazing performance — his heart and soul was in that movie — and it's a shame that he was left out yet again.

I was torn between [The Theory of Everything's] Eddie Redmayne and [Birdman's] Michael Keaton, but I voted for Eddie because I feel so passionately about him and because I feel like Birdman is going to win picture, which will take care of Keaton — he'll be able to say, for the rest of his life, "I starred in the Oscar-winning movie."

MY VOTE: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

➻ BEST ACTRESS

I think that [Cake's not nominated star] Jennifer Aniston is an adorable human being, but she is primarily a television comedienne and I was not a fan of the film or her performance in it — she has a very all-American, preppy kind of look, and it is really hard to believe her as anything but a peppy kind of California Valley girl — but I suspect that she will now be able to go on to do more varied roles.

Anyway, [Still Alice's] Julianne Moore, no contest, especially in a weak year for women.

MY VOTE: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

[Whiplash's] J.K. Simmons, no question. He's a journeyman actor who has always been good, he was amazing in the movie and this is a chance to give it something.

MY VOTE: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

[Patricia] Arquette was the mother in Boyhood and the mother of Boyhood — she's its heart and soul and the glue that kept it all together.

MY VOTE: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 4

➻ BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

I hated Inherent Vice. The others were all good. But I gave it to Whiplash because I loved it, and I have a crush on [its 30-year-old writer-director] Damien [Chazelle].

MY VOTE: Whiplash

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman was complex, but Budapest was the most quirky and original and I want Wes Anderson to get something.

MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel

➻ BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

I gave it to [How to Train Your Dragon 2] because I liked the movie and I like the people who worked on the movie.

MY VOTE: How to Train Your Dragon 2

➻ BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

Wild Tales and Leviathan were both brilliant, but I gave it to Ida because I'm Jewish and I feel like you can never tell these sorts of [Holocaust-related] stories enough — I'm literally obsessed with stories about the Nazis and World War II. Show me a movie about a Jew and a Nazi, and I'm there.

MY VOTE: Ida

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

I voted for Virunga because I thought that Citizenfour was primarily about the "get" [an apparent reference to getting exclusive access to Edward Snowden], but wasn't a great film, while Virunga was a really interesting film.

MY VOTE: Virunga

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 3

➻ BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Hands-down Birdman because it was an original, masterful accomplishment. I liked the idea of trying to make it look like it was all done in one take.

MY VOTE: Birdman

➻ BEST COSTUME DESIGN

I loved Into the Woods, like most musicals, and the costumes were great, like a lot of other things. I see this as an opportunity to recognize it.

MY VOTE: Into the Woods

➻ BEST FILM EDITING

Has anyone ever faced an editing challenge like the one that they did on Boyhood? 12 years!

MY VOTE: Boyhood

➻ BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

No contest, Grand Budapest.

MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

I loved The Theory of Everything and I think this is a fitting place to recognize it. If Eddie [Redmayne] doesn't win, this might be it for it.

MY VOTE: The Theory of Everything

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SONG

I voted for "Glory" because I loved the song and that was my Selma vote. I feel badly for Diane Warren [who is nominated this year for the song "Grateful" from Beyond the Lights and could lose for the seventh time], who might have to be nominated four or five more times before she wins.

MY VOTE: "Glory" (Selma)

➻ BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

I was tempted to vote for Into the Woods, which I loved, but Grand Budapest was a better movie and its production design was gorgeous and original and clever. A million different sets that were just as much the star of the film as any castmember.

MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel

➻ BEST SOUND EDITING

[In response to my question] Do I feel qualified to vote for these categories? Yes, I can hear. The sound in American Sniper specifically and significantly enhanced the quality of the film.

MY VOTE: American Sniper

➻ BEST SOUND MIXING

The same goes for Whiplash.

MY VOTE: Whiplash

➻ BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Interstellar transported you to so many different places — from the Corn Belt to outer space to other dimensions — in a very original and fantastic way.

MY VOTE: Interstellar

➻ BEST ANIMATED SHORT

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

➻ BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

I didn't get around to them this year.

MY VOTE FOR ALL THREE: I abstain.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

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