Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 2: 'Mad Max' "Extraordinary," 'Martian' "Just 'Cast Away' on Mars"

6:30 AM 2/25/2016

by Anonymous, as told to Scott Feinberg

"Is it better to give 'Straight Outta Compton' an award for its white writers or for nothing at all?" asks this member of the members-at-large branch. "Spike Lee will find something to bitch about either way — he's just pissed off that 'Chi-Raq' didn't get into theaters for more than 48 hours."

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

This is part of a series of conversations with Oscar voters about their ballots. You can read other installments here; additional installments will be added each day through the day of the Oscars, Sunday, Feb. 28.

Voter Profile: A member of the Academy's 216-person members-at-large branch, which is reserved for people who have held "a key creative position for which the Academy has no branch."


    I loved Birdman and I couldn’t wait for [Alejandro G. Inarritu’s next film] The Revenant, but I’m not a fan. I liked Leo [DiCaprio] and the cinematography better than I liked the movie, which I just felt was over the top — I don’t believe for one minute that someone in that condition could go over a waterfall in sub-zero conditions and survive. I’m also really bored with the publicity about how hard it was to make it — why the f--- didn’t you get a better location manager then? I watched The Big Short twice because I had a hard time figuring out what was happening, and I’m nobody’s fool; I’ve decided that I actually liked it, but I don’t really think it’s a best picture for me.

    I loved Bridge of Spies — it’s a wonderful kind of fifties movies, predictable but well done — but it’s not really a breakthrough in any sense. I was not a fan of Brooklyn — I hear the book was quite good, but I was bored to tears by the movie; this immigrant girl comes and everything wonderful happens to her and so what? The Martian was entertaining enough, and I loved Matt Damon, but it was basically Cast Away on Mars, and you knew where it was heading from the very start. I like Spotlight, I respect Spotlight, but I don’t think Spotlight benefits from its frequent comparisons to All the President’s Men; I wish they had spent less time on investigative reporting and more time on the issue of sex abuse, which needs a spotlight much more. I thought The Room [sic] was amazing — it’s just two people in a room for the first half, but you’re riveted, and then you get out of the room and you’re even more riveted, if you can believe it! The performances were that amazing. When I saw it I thought it might be my favorite of the year. But Mad Max: [Fury Road] is one of the most extraordinary films I’ve ever seen — it’s so imaginative that it just takes my breath away. This is not just an action movie, although it has great battle sequences; it makes comments on women and it’s so deep and has so many layers.

    My vote: (1) Mad Max: Fury Road; (2) Room; (3) The Big Short; (4) The Martian; (5) Spotlight 


    Nothing compares to what George Miller did on Mad Max in terms of sheer creativity and guts.

    My vote: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)


    I haven't seen Trumbo [so I won't be voting for Bryan Cranston]. [Michael] Fassbender wasn't that memorable to me [in Steve Jobs] — I read that book [Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs] and I didn't want it to ever end, but I couldn't say that about the movie. Eddie Redmayne wasn't nearly what he was in the last one [The Theory of Everything, for which he won last year's best actor Oscar]. Matt Damon [in The Martian] pulled off the person-all-alone thing very well. And, while I didn't love The Revenant, I will admit that Leo did a hell of a job on that. Those two were my favorite.

    My vote: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)


    I immediately rule out what's her name from Brooklyn [Saoirse Ronan] because it was quite predictable, and Cate Blanchett [for Carol] because this performance isn't in the same league as the one she gave in the Woody Allen movie [Blue Jasmine, for which she won the best actress Oscar two years ago]. I love Jennifer Lawrence — I mean, I could just watch Jennifer Lawrence all day — but I don't think this was a challenging role for her. I've seen better Charlotte Rampling [than her performance in 45 Years] — The Night Porter, to me, was extraordinary, but this one was just okay. I'm voting for [Room's] Brie Larson — I think that her range in that was amazing.

    My vote: Brie Larson (Room)


    This is a tough one for me. I would eliminate [Creed's Sylvester] Stallone first — all he can ever do is play Stallone, with the same accent, the same mannerisms, the same everything. I like Mark Ruffalo but I wasn't knocked out by him [in Spotlight]. I liked [The Revenant's] Tom Hardy better in Mad Max. Mark Rylance was the best thing in Bridge of Spies. But [The Big Short's] Christian Bale, to me, just never got out of character — from the one eye thing to all of his little quirks, it was a really, really good performance, to me.

    My vote: Christian Bale (The Big Short)


    I didn't see The Hateful Eight [so I can't vote for Jennifer Jason Leigh]. Kate Winslet was okay [in Steve Jobs], but nothing that really wowed me. I felt the same about Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. [Carol's] Rooney Mara was a little too stylized for me. So that leaves us with Alicia Vikander, who I liked a lot in The Danish Girl — that was not an easy role to play, opposite someone who is going through all of those changes — and in that science-fiction one she did that was so good [Ex Machina].

    My vote: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)


    I was surprised that the Steve Jobs film did not get a nomination in this category — it was an extraordinarily well-written screenplay and I wonder if it's that writers don't like him [Aaron Sorkin] or think of him as a television writer. Knock off Brooklyn and Carol for me — I lived through the fifties and neither of those movies looked anything like it to me. I'm going to have to eliminate The Martian and The Big Short and vote for Room, which couldn't have been more inventive or chilling or well-written.

    My vote: Room


    Is it better to give Straight Outta Compton an award for its white writers or for nothing at all? I wonder. Spike Lee will find something to bitch about either way — he's just pissed off that Chi-Raq didn't get into theaters for more than 48 hours; I mean, I wanted to go and see that movie, but when I turned around it was already gone. Straight Outta ComptonBridge of Spies and Spotlight weren't really original screenplays because those stories may not have come from books, but they didn't exactly come out of thin air. Ex Machina was interesting but kind of confusing. And Inside Out was very interesting and touched on a lot of important stuff. But I'm voting for Straight Outta Compton — it was the most unique and it deserves it.

    My vote: Straight Outta Compton


    I watched some of Shaun the Sheep and I saw Anomalisa, but it's not even a question; I'm voting for Inside Out. Getting inside the head of a child is no easy feat, and I think the film will motivate kids to have conversations with their parents and not be afraid of their feelings, which is really important.

    My vote: Inside Out


    I love Amy — they took such a unique approach to a documentary and really showed what fame and bad parenting can do to a person [the late Amy Winehouse]. [What Happened,Miss Simone is very good, but it's more what you would expect. Winter on Fire [Ukraine's Fight for Freedom] was great. The Look of Silence just made me uncomfortable. I didn't see Cartel Land.

    My vote: Amy


    I love foreign films — I've been on the committee [that chooses the shortlist] in the past — but there was one I didn't see this year: [Colombia's] Embrace of the Serpent. [Denmark's] A War and [Jordan's] Theeb were very good. I loved [France's] Mustang — it was so very, very original. But I'm sure that [Hungary] Son of Saul will win because there's a bunch of old Jewish people voting — I can say that because I'm an old Jew [laughs] — and because it's an extraordinarily well-made and haunting movie and it's important that people see it, which is why I'm voting for it.

    My vote: Son of Saul


    As I said, I didn't see The Hateful Eight, so we'll have to eliminate that. I can see why Sicario is here — it's gritty. But the cinematography in The Revenant is quite amazing, how they captured nature.

    My vote: The Revenant


    Carol just duplicated the fifties, The Danish Girl copied the twenties and The Revenant also dealt with an actual period in history — although I'm not sure how accurately it did so, since the characters seemed to be dressed a lot nicer than I would have imagined people dressed in those days. The difference is that Mad Max created a world. Yes, so did Cinderella, and I will say that the Cinderella [ball gown] dress is beautiful, but that movie is no Mad Max.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road


    Star Wars: [The Force Awakens] was really good but I don't know how much of the editing was actually CGI, so I find it hard to consider that against something like The Big Short or SpotlightMad Max was not all CGI, from everything I've read — there were real stunts going on in that one — so I feel comfortable voting for it here.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road


    I actually saw The 100-Year-Old Man [Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared] — I bet I'm the only one you'll talk to who did. I saw it on a plane. It's interesting, but it's just old man makeup. The Revenant is a lot of dirt and blood, and that's easy to do. So this was Mad Max, far and away — the makeup and hair of the women, in particular, was extraordinary.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road


    Eliminate CarolStar Wars is the obvious one — obvious, in that I've seen it. I did not see The Hateful EightSicario was good. I liked the score of Bridge of Spies a lot.

    My vote: Bridge of Spies


    I'm not as up to date on these as I should be. I didn't see Racing Extinction [which features "Manta Ray"], The Hunting Ground [which features "Til It Happens to You"], 50 Shades of Grey [which features "Earned It"] or Spectre [which features "Writing's on the Wall"]. The Bond movies always have good songs in them, and I liked the movie Youth [which features "Simple Song #3"] a lot, but it wouldn't be fair for me to vote here.

    My vote: I abstain.


    The Revenant was outside the whole time so who's the production designer? God? This is definitely Mad Max for me. From the trucks with the Cadillac or Merecedes or whatever on top to the poles they jumped from to the landscapes, they created a whole world that I had not seen before. The Martian did that also, but less spectacularly.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road


    Do I know the difference? I should, but I don't. [laughs] I think editing is about, Are the noises coming where I want them to be? And I think mixing is basically, How did it sound, the whole thing? You know, I see a lot of movies where I can't hear half the thing; that's part of sound mixing. Anyway, I'm voting for Mad Max for editing because the sound was what I wanted to be hearing when I wanted to be hearing it. And I'm voting Martian for mixing because it helped me to understand what sound would be like on Mars.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road for best sound editing and The Martian for best sound mixing


    Star Wars did a really good job of creating a world, as did The MartianMad Max didn't have as many effects. I'll give the edge to Star Wars because there was more otherworldly stuff happening in it than in The Martian.

    My vote: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


    I didn't see them. I just got behind.

    My vote: I abstain.