Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 9: 'Selma' "Incredibly Misleading," 'Inherent Vice' "Trash"

An anonymous male Academy member says 'Nightcrawler' is drawn from "a tremendous script," 'The Salt of the Earth' is "transcendent" and he can't vote for 'American Sniper' because it's "a right-wing ideological picture."

This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation with an Academy member about his 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 386-member writers branch who has won an Oscar.

➻ BEST PICTURE

I lived through the '60s and my most heartfelt opinion is that Selma did not suffer from racism but is just inadequate to the events that it covered — to the civil rights movement and to [Dr. Martin Luther] King [Jr.] and to the various demonstrations that were held and to the people involved. The scenes with LBJ and [FBI director] J. Edgar Hoover conspiring together like two little white weasels bothered me; I thought that was incredibly misleading. And the portrayal of Malcolm X as having an alternative way is ridiculous — he had no alternative. The whole film is kind of a left-wing, modern, black rap version — there's no white people who have any speaking parts who are favorably depicted, when, in fact, there were white people on the scene, beyond a few ministers, who risked their lives and who died supporting the civil rights efforts.

American Sniper was very skillfully made — Clint Eastwood is a terrific director. I don't what the real story [of Chris Kyle] was, but I do know that the whole [Iraq] war was based on a lie and continues to damage people on both sides. When [Kyle] was shooting at people on the other side, I was thinking, "Why is he any better than that sniper who is defending his own territory?" It's terrible — [Kyle] was just doing his duty and he became a victim of George [W.] Bush and Dick Cheney. Anyway, I couldn't vote for it because it seems to be a right-wing ideological picture.

I liked Birdman a lot. I thought it was very playful. The whole business with the wings in his hallucinations was just a bit of inspired foolery. It was a delightful romp. Emma Stone was sensational and Edward Norton was fantastic. It was a worthy picture and I happily voted for it.

I thought Boyhood was a little bit overrated because of the patience that it required. I found myself wanting to rewrite many scenes. [Writer-director Richard Linklater] was very shrewd and very lucky to have a kid [Ellar Coltrane] who grew up into movie star looks and manner — I was really impressed with that kid and the man he became. I've loved [Patricia] Arquette in other movies but she seemed very awkward to me in this one.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was just precious silliness.

I liked The Imitation Game in most ways. I could imagine voting for it in most years. I had no particular objection to that one.

The Theory of Everything was a very good movie which underplayed a lot of things. It was short and sweet and kept things very charged up. The whole business about him falling in love with his sympathetic and sexy and devoted nurse was a strange thing because his wife was so terrific — he manages to shift women in one scene — but I thought it was done effectively because most people didn't ask too many questions about it.

Whiplash I liked less. I appreciated the music but I didn't believe the story — that the supporting actor [J.K. Simmons] could be such a jerk and have nobody ever give a whimper of protest. The acting was good but the villain was just over-the-top to me. I was happy to see a movie about jazz, but all the joy was gone from jazz in this particular movie.

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 2

MY VOTE: (1) Birdman, (2) The Theory of Everything, (3) The Imitation Game, (4) Boyhood, (5) [blank]

➻ BEST DIRECTOR

I agreed with four of the five nominations and I voted for the Birdman guy [Alejandro G. Inarritu].

MY VOTE: Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)

Read more Oscars: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

➻ BEST ACTOR

I thought they were all good. I voted for [The Theory of Everything's Eddie] Redmayne because he had the toughest part — a young healthy man degenerating into an unhealthy middle-aged man — and he brought it off.

MY VOTE: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

➻ BEST ACTRESS

The Gone Girl one [Rosamund Pike] was out right away — I thought that movie suffered from having no sympathetic characters. I loved the other four, but I was particularly impressed with Eddie Redmayne's wife in The Theory of Everything [Felicity Jones]. She went from being a very young girl to being a very believable mother — still very attractive — with an unsolvable problem on her hands. It was a fascinating portrait. [Two Days, One Night's] Marion Cotillard was my second choice.

MY VOTE: Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I eliminated Whiplash [J.K. Simmons]. I hated The Judge [which starred Robert Duvall] because I didn't care about Duvall or his son [played by Robert Downey Jr.] — just bad writing and bad directing. And then I was left with three good performances. I gave it to [Foxcatcher's Mark] Ruffalo because I thought he was really excellent and also because I thought he was great in another movie for which he didn't get a nomination, in which he was a gay activist urging people to speak out about AIDS [a reference to the television film The Normal Heart, which was ineligible for Oscar consideration but did land Ruffalo an Emmy nomination]. He was excellent in that and, as in this, he played a guy who had tremendous heart.

MY VOTE: Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

➻ BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I love [Birdman's] Emma Stone and I know she's gonna have her day, but I thought this time around [Wild's] Laura Dern could not be overlooked. Her interactions with her co-star [Reese Witherspoon] were believable and touching. Good casting.

MY VOTE: Laura Dern (Wild)

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 4

➻ BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

I thought Inherent Vice was trash — anything that pretentious is automatically out for me. I also couldn't vote for Sniper and Whiplash. It was between The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything for me. Theory was the better movie.

MY VOTE: The Theory of Everything

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I was torn between two: Birdman and Nightcrawler. Both were very good. Nightcrawler is a tremendous script — great lines, great characters, great ending — and the picture didn't get enough attention elsewhere. [Jake] Gyllenhaal deserved a [best actor] nomination. Plus I prefer scripts written by one person, not by committee.

MY VOTE: Nightcrawler

➻ BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

I haven't had a chance to watch them.

MY VOTE: I abstain.

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

All of them were good, but The Salt of the Earth was transcendent to me. I'm glad I had the chance to vote for it — [the film's subject, Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado] is one man in a billion. It was extraordinary.

MY VOTE: The Salt of the Earth

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 3

➻ BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

This was a great category. I've seen all of the nominees except for [Russia's] Leviathan. [Poland's] Ida is a film that has a lot of integrity and subtlety. [Mauritania's] Timbuktu is a film that is haunting me. But I was really impressed by [Estonia's] Tangerines. It's a very morally complex film and it features a central character who is transcendent.

MY VOTE: Tangerines (Estonia)

➻ BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

I voted for Mr. Turner, which I thought was better than any other feature film this year. You have to be patient and hang in there for the first half-hour, and then you suddenly realize you're not watching a film about a difficult, eccentric man; you're watching a film by a unique artist [writer-director Mike Leigh] with subtle humor. He's a master who produces really original films.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner

➻ BEST COSTUME DESIGN

For all of the reasons I've already stated, I voted for Mr. Turner — plus the costumes helped to make you believe that you were experiencing another period in time.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner

➻ BEST FILM EDITING

[The Imitation Game] was very skillfully, compactly edited. Some of the others are, too, but this was the only one of the nominees that I really liked except for Boyhood, but I felt that the editing [for Boyhood] wasn't especially impressive; at times it felt like I was watching home movies.

MY VOTE: The Imitation Game

➻ BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

I liked Foxcatcher and this was a chance to vote for it.

MY VOTE: Foxcatcher

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

I didn't vote on the music. I just didn't have time to focus on listening to all of the nominees.

MY VOTE: I abstain.

➻ BEST ORIGINAL SONG

[See above.]

MY VOTE: I abstain.

➻ BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

I voted for Mr. Turner again.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner

➻ BEST SOUND EDITING

Birdman had a tremendous variety of sounds — the beating of the wings and a lot of other things.

MY VOTE: Birdman

➻ BEST SOUND MIXING

Same thing.

MY VOTE: Birdman

➻ BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

These are not my kinds of movies — I haven't seen any of them, although I intend to see Interstellar because I've heard some good things — so I let this category go.

MY VOTE: I abstain.

➻ BEST ANIMATED SHORT

➻ BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

➻ BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

I did not watch them this year.

MY VOTE FOR ALL THREE: I abstain.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

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