Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 4: A No Vote for Bryan Cranston Because Trumbo Was Not a Hero to Me

12:45 PM 2/28/2016

by Anonymous, as told to Scott Feinberg

This member of the writers branch asks, "What 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Inside Out' are even doing here I don't know — how can writers nominate a movie that has four or five different f—king writers?"

Trumbo Still  - H 2015
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

Trumbo Still  - H 2015

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 392-person writers branch.

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 1: Voter Skewers 'Revenant' ("Road Runner Movie"), 'Brooklyn' ("Sentimental Drivel")

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

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 3: "Bothered" by Leo's Bodyguards, "Disgusted" by Category Fraud

  • Best Picture

    One of the nominees should have been Ex Machina, which was really original and surprisingly good. The Big Short was well made and well written, but suffered from the fact that there are really no heroes in it. I liked Bridge of Spies — it wasn't pretentious, it didn't have as much simplification of larger questions as some of his [Steven Spielberg's] more recent films and Tom Hanks is the most likable guy on Earth — but there's no getting around the fact that it's somewhat boring because you know exactly how it's gonna turn out. 

    Brooklyn I really liked. I've never seen anybody quite like Saoirse [Ronan] before — she has a dignity and charm, at least as this character, and she was instrumental in making this my favorite movie of the year. I thought the original Mad Max had more quaintness and charm to it than this one [Mad Fax: Fury Road]; this one was like an action comic book. 

    The Martian I liked — I doubt it will stick with me very long, but it was fun, charming and has very likable characters that I came to care about. I regard The Revenant as a star-vehicle and a very artificial film — I realize that it was very hard to make, but I just didn't feel very invested in its outcome.

    I did not like Room — I've read the account of the real woman who was kidnapped and had children with her captor, and it leads me to believe there's a good deal more interesting material they could have incorporated into the movie, particularly about how oppressed people come to identify with their oppressors. I also was waiting the whole movie for them to reveal that the little boy was actually a little girl and that the mother had hidden the kid's actual gender out of fear that the captor would molest the kid if he knew it was a girl.

    I liked Spotlight, which reminded me a lot of a documentary, but its failure to tell us much of anything about the personal lives of the reporters kept me from feeling fully invested in their struggle.

    My vote: (1) Brooklyn, (2) The Martian, (3) Spotlight, (4) Bridge of Spies, (5) The Big Short

  • Best Director

    I can't vote for the director of a movie I didn't enjoy, so that causes me to eliminate Mad MaxThe Revenant and Room. That leaves The Big Short and Spotlight.

    The director of The Big Short [Adam McKay] managed to make something extremely complicated seem simple. I voted for the director of Spotlight [Tom McCarthy] — I think he perfectly captured the feeling of Boston and I like the discretion with which the movie was handled — they didn't have to show you a lot of gruesome stuff to make it horrifying.

    My vote: Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

  • Best Actor

    I probably would have voted for [Bridge of Spies'] Tom Hanks if I had the chance. Bryan Cranston is a fantastic actor, but I'm not gonna vote for somebody in a picture that puts me off, which this one [Trumbo] did. I don't take the same interpretation of [the late blacklisted screenwriter DaltonTrumbo as the movie did. I'm not somebody to romanticize the Hollywood 10, having known some of them — they were unreconstructed Stalinists — and having a partiality to Ring LardnerJr., whom the rest of them despised. So Trumbo is not a hero to me.

    [Mr. Trumbo's family has requested that the following be noted here: "Dalton Trumbo was not a Stalinist, unreconstructed or otherwise. He and others of the Hollywood 10 were civil libertarians, working for equal rights for workers, African Americans, women, Latinos and other oppressed groups."]

    [LeonardoDiCaprio is a fine actor and I've voted for him before, but I didn't really enjoy that movie [The Revenant]. [The Danish Girl's] Eddie Redmayne I voted for last year [when Redmayne won best actor for The Theory of Everything], but this picture made me squirm, somehow. I'm not totally comfortable with the theme, and it seems sort of peculiar to me that she dressed him up as a woman but then didn't like it when he wanted to remain one.

    [Steve JobsMichaelFassbender was sensational at depicting Steve Jobs as a total creep — as a Donald Trump, really — which is why I wasn't able to believe the moment of redemption at the end when he manages to be nice to his daughter. So I basically chose [The Martian's] Matt Damon by default — his performance in this film has nothing on his performance in [1999's] The Talented Mr. Ripley, but it'll have to do.

    My vote: Matt Damon (The Martian)

  • Best Actress

    Jennifer Lawrence is always good — I've voted for her before and I'll vote for her again — but I'd like to know who thought it would be a good idea to make a movie about inventing a mop, because this one [Joy] didn't do much for me. Cate Blanchett is always sensational, but her movie [Carol] disappointed me. Room [with Brie Larson], to me, didn't work. 45 Years [with Charlotte Rampling] was not a very interesting movie to me. So this is a shoo-in for [Brooklyn's] Saoirse [Ronan], who's totally new and original and showed me something I couldn't have imagined. No contest.

    My vote: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

  • Best Supporting Actor

    I didn't see Creed [Sylvester Stallone] — I was moved by the original Rocky, but he lost me after the first few sequels — but I'm embarrassed to say I voted anyway because I thought [Bridge of Spies'] Mark Rylance was just excellent in a tough part.

    [The Big Short's] Christian Bale was good, but no better than three or four other guys in that movie — Steve Carell should have been nominated because he was extremely effective. [Spotlight's] Mark Ruffalo is a fantastic actor and I've voted for him before, but this wasn't his finest hour, waving his arms around a lot and stuff; in this film I actually preferred the guy who finds out his neighbors are the priests who are being rehabilitated [Brian d'Arcy James].

    I'm almost sorry I didn't vote for [The Revenant's] Tom Hardy because he was a scary son of a bitch.

    My vote: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

  • Best Supporting Actress

    [Spotlight's] Rachel McAdams was fine but I didn't think she had an important enough role to deserve a nomination. [Carol's] Rooney Mara was okay, but the movie's more about style than anything else, and I found myself not particularly caring about this couple. I don't disapprove of lesbian relationships, but what was it between the two of them?

    [The Danish Girl's] Alicia Vikander was better in Ex Machina. [The Hateful Eight's] Jennifer Jason Leigh was terrific — she's a real favorite of mine, and I wouldn't have had any problem voting for her — but the film was not one of the filmmaker's [Quentin Tarantino] best. But [Steve Jobs'] Kate Winslet was even better and I ended up voting for her.

    My vote: Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

  • Best Adapted Screenplay

    Carol and Room are way off and should not have been nominated. The Martian was kind of a treat and I could imagine voting for that in another year. 

    The Big Short was an excellent script and I could have voted for that. But Brooklyn was outstanding — I really admired Nick Hornby's script, which I actually read when they sent it to us. I haven't felt that way about everything he's done, but this one was a knockout.

    My vote: Brooklyn

  • Best Original Screenplay

    What Straight Outta Compton and Inside Out are even doing here I don't know — how can writers nominate a movie that has four or five different f—king writers? That'll tell you why they don't come across as whole, powerful experiences.

    I will say that there was one fantastic scene in Compton and whichever one of the four wrote it should get a special Oscar, and that was the scene where the white guy manager [Paul Giamatti] rants about why he was forced to cheat them in order to make them successful. Oh, man, that was powerful! But otherwise the movie doesn't deserve a nomination. 

    Inside Out was a piece of crap to me. It depends on a theory of personality development that I find ridiculous and it gives it to you in very didactic form at the beginning of the film and I just didn't buy it. 

    Bridge of Spies isn't really about great writing — the scene at the end on the bridge was prolonged in an obvious and irritating way. Spotlight is a fine script, but I wanted more drama from it and less documentary feel.

    But I voted for Ex Machina because it was a totally original and powerful and surprising script. I did not expect the ending — having the hero defeated is a pretty bold way to go.

    My vote: Ex Machina

  • Best Animated Feature

    I saw Anomalisa, which didn't work for me, and Inside Out, which I disliked, and I haven't seen the others yet, so I didn't vote.

    My vote: I abstain.

  • Best Documentary Feature

    I haven't seen any of them — they came in a big thing about four days before voting ended.

    My vote: I abstain.

  • Best Foreign Language Film

    I saw a couple of them, but not all of them — again, they got these to me with about four days left to vote — so I didn't vote. I saw [Hungary's] Son of Saul, and was really impressed with the choreography of way the camera was used — long shots where hundreds of people were moving in and out — but I didn't really understand the privilege that allowed this one guy to keep going off on his own, and I felt my feelings were being manipulated. And I saw [France's] Mustang, which I thought was pretty good.

    My vote: I abstain.

  • Best Cinematography

    Carol was just a fashion show. The Hateful Eight had some beautiful shots. The Revenant did too, but I felt that movie was kind of a phony and I just didn't believe in it. If I had to go for cold weather outdoors, I would take The Hateful Eight over The Revenant because it was more beautiful to me, I guess.

    I haven't seen Sicario, but I still voted because I thought shooting Mad Max must have been a hell of a challenge — I don't know how in the world they got a lot of those shots and I couldn't stop thinking about that.

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Best Costume Design

    There were three that were interesting to me, but I gave it to The Danish Girl because I was interested in the period costumes — although I wondered if people really wore such crazy things in those days.

    My vote: The Danish Girl

  • Best Film Editing

    I'm not gonna give anything to Star Wars — it's gotten enough. I was really happy to give this one to The Big Short because they had a really complex job — I mean, that could have been put together in all kinds of orders, but they handled it just right.

    My vote: The Big Short

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling

    I gave it to Mad Max because clearly there was a lot of work to do — plus I wasn't favorably disposed towards The Revenant and I haven't seen the other one [The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared].

    My vote: Mad Max: Fury Road

  • Best Original Score

    I couldn't vote for Star Wars: [The Force Awakens] again. Carol didn't do anything for me. The mood music in The Hateful Eight was a little heavy. Spotlight had the best score of the ones I heard. But I haven't seen Sicario so I didn't vote.

    My vote: I abstain.

  • Best Original Song

    There's no way I'm voting for anything to do with Fifty Shades of Grey, and I haven't seen any of the other pictures, so, while I like Lady Gaga [a nominee for the song "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground], I didn't vote for this category.

    My vote: I abstain.

  • Best Production Design

    I was impressed with all of them, but most of all by The Martian — although there are two production errors in it that I'd love to ask them about. One is that the atmosphere of Mars is only about 38% of the Earth's atmosphere, so if you try to walk on the face of Mars you're gonna bounce up into the air because you'll be lighter than gravity, like on the moon. The second is you couldn't get a wind storm like that in an atmosphere like that. But that's not the production designers' fault.

    My vote: The Martian

  • Best Sound Editing & Best Sound Mixing

    I think I can explain the difference between the two, but this is stretching my limitations. To me, sound mixing is when you put together the different tracks — the effects, the music — to create a whole movie; and sound editing is when you work on that track and take things out and put things in and loop things.

    I like to hear the f—king dialogue — in too many movies there's a lot of blurring and mumbling and getting lost in the music. How do I decide? I guess I just go for a movie I like because presumably the sound contributed to that. I gave Bridge of Spies sound mixing and The Martian sound editing because I had pleasant impressions of both.

    My vote for sound editing: The Martian / My vote for sound mixing: Bridge of Spies

  • Best Visual Effects

    This was another chance for me to award something to Ex Machina so I took it. Every frame was so interesting. You could see through this girl's legs, and I couldn't figure out how they did that, or the scene when she peels skin off of previous models so she can pass as a normal human.

    My vote: Ex Machina

  • Best Animated Short, Best Documentary Short and Best Live Action Short

    Again, they didn't get them to me in time.

    My vote: I abstain.