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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 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 428-member sound branch who has been nominated for an Oscar.
? BEST PICTURE
Selma was a really well-made film and very emotional for me. It did not benefit from coming out in the bottom of the ninth inning [an apparent reference to the film’s late-year release of screeners]; if it had come out in the seventh inning, we might be looking at a very different situation, but it just got a bit lost because other movies’ motors were already revving. Based on the way that we [the Academy] have been able to embrace 12 Years a Slave and various black actors and actresses through the years, I don’t believe for one minute that race had anything to do with the director or actor from Selma not getting nominated. There were many people who deserved to be nominated in those categories and weren’t — I mean, it was the biggest lead actor field I’ve ever seen. [Nightcrawler‘s] Jake Gyllenhaal [not getting nominated]? Come on. Why not talk about another black actor who was worthy of a nomination? There wasn’t a better performance this year than Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up. But it [him not being nominated] had nothing to do with him being black. They could have put five other fucking guys in there! It’s just that certain movies resonate and certain movies don’t. Momentum has so much to do with things. Selma, in my opinion, just got to the party too late.
American Sniper? Bradley Cooper did just a ridiculously phenomenal job, the way that the movie was made brought me back to the way movies used to be made and I completely got who this guy was and his struggle. I don’t condone killing in any way, shape or form, but what resonated with me was his motivation for making a change in his life: 9-1-1 [a reference to Sept. 11, 2001]. He wasn’t arbitrarily killing people; he was protecting his men and that was his job. People can call him whatever they want; I took the movie just the way it was intended by Clint Eastwood. I mean, I love that movie.
Oh, boy, I didn’t care for Birdman. I thought it was inventive and I thought the performances were great, but the style of filmmaking I didn’t care for.
Boyhood was genuine and heartfelt. It was a very bold adventure and I was touched by it.
The Grand Budapest Hotel was really clever and I think it deserves more than it will get. Talk about an ensemble unlike any other.
The Imitation Game was powerful. I mean, Cumberbuck [Benedict Cumberbatch] — I don’t know how to say his name — like all of these guys, deserves an Oscar. I really liked the movie.
I thought The Theory of Everything was absolutely brilliant and one of my favorite films of the year. It was similar to My Left Foot in the best ways — it’s just a remarkable story portrayed impeccably.
Whiplash, to me, is about a performance. I believe this movie is riding on the coattails of [the supporting performance given by] J.K. Simmons. He was great and he made the movie great.
MY VOTE: (1) The Theory of Everything, (2) American Sniper, (3) Boyhood, (4) The Imitation Game, (5) The Grand Budapest Hotel
? BEST DIRECTOR
The Foxcatcher cat [Bennett Miller] was immediately out for me because I just didn’t connect with the movie. [The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s] Wes Anderson is a really interesting filmmaker and is true to himself always and I find him to be very clever. I give kudos to the Birdman guy [Alejandro G. Inarritu] because I’ve never seen anything like that; I didn’t like it [laughs], but I thought it was really bold. But I voted for [Boyhood‘s Richard] Linklater because when a passion project like that actually lands it’s remarkable and you’ve got to applaud it.
MY VOTE: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Read more Oscars: Who Will Win, Who Should Win
? BEST ACTOR
Steve Carell did a great job [in Foxcatcher] — it was like, “Oh, my God, that’s Steve Carell? That’s fucking crazy!” — but that just wasn’t my movie. Bradley Cooper couldn’t have played that part [in American Sniper] any better — it was absolutely perfect. When you watch an actor transform so believably like [Theory‘s Eddie] Redmayne, it’s hard to not vote for him. But I voted [for Birdman‘s Michael] Keaton because (1) I thought he gave an Oscar-worthy performance, (b) he has had a whole career that shows he’s a true actor and (c) I’ve never seen someone more humble and grateful for this opportunity. I find that to be so endearing and I want a guy like that to win. All these other people will have other shots.
MY VOTE: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
? BEST ACTRESS
The Gutillard girl [Two Days, One Night‘s Marion Cotillard] was out ’cause I never saw the movie. I’m kind of done with [Wild‘s] Reese Witherspoon — I feel like she always plays the same character and I’m just done with it. I really loved Theory and she [Felicity Jones] was such an amazing complement to him [Redmayne]. The Still Alice thing, man, was just so depressing, and as much as I think she [Julianne Moore] did a phenomenal job, I just didn’t like the movie — it depressed the shit out of me. I went with a real underdog: I liked Gone Girl — I didn’t love the movie — and I thought she [Rosamund Pike] did a great job, so I voted for her.
MY VOTE: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
? BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
[Foxcatcher‘s Mark] Ruffalo didn’t have a chance because, like I said, I didn’t like the movie. [Boyhood‘s] Ethan Hawke? Great job — I loved the commitment. [Whiplash‘s] Simmons will win because the entire movie is all about him, in my opinion, but I didn’t vote for him. I voted for a guy who not only did an unbelievable job, but who, as a movie lover, I want to celebrate. He is dedicated and he has given us so many gifts. I voted for [The Judge‘s] Robert Duvall because I don’t believe that this will happen for him again, and nothing would thrill me more than to hear his name called and get to see him get up on that stage. And I loved his movie — I don’t think that movie got anywhere near the respect that it deserved.
MY VOTE: Robert Duvall (The Judge)
? BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nothing there for me with [Wild‘s Laura] Dern — I was bored by the movie. [The Imitation Game‘s Keira] Knightley has been better in other things. [Into the Woods‘ Meryl] Streep‘s out ’cause I just can’t do it again. The role wasn’t worthy — she did it as well as you can do it, but it just wasn’t a great role — I mean, come on. [Birdman‘s] Emma Stone was great, quirky, cool — I know people who love it and think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it just wasn’t my thing. I’m rooting for [Boyhood‘s] Patricia [Arquette]. This woman has paid her dues and she earned it.
MY VOTE: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
? BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
I didn’t see Inherent Vice because I had several people I respect tell me it was terrible and I said, “Okay, I don’t need to go there.” I voted Sniper because I wanted to give it some love.
MY VOTE: American Sniper
? BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nightcrawler was a pretty bold-ass deal, but I I voted Boyhood because I’m really looking for Richard [Linklater] to have his night. He’s someone who has spent so many years making small movies without getting a lot of appreciation.
MY VOTE: Boyhood
? BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
I only watch the ones that my kid wants to see, so I didn’t see [The] Boxtrolls but I saw Big Hero 6 and I saw [How to Train Your] Dragon . We both connected to Big Hero 6 — I just found it to be more satisfying. The biggest snub for me was Chris Miller and Phil Lord not getting in for [The] Lego [Movie]. When a movie is that successful and culturally hits all the right chords and does that kind of box-office — for that movie not to be in over these two obscure freakin’ Chinese fuckin’ things that nobody ever freakin’ saw [an apparent reference to the Japanese film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, as well as the Irish film Song of the Sea]? That is my biggest bitch. Most people didn’t even know what they were! How does that happen? That, to me, is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.
MY VOTE: Big Hero 6
? BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
I didn’t get around to seeing any of them. You want the truth? I shouldn’t have voted, but I did. This is bad, but here’s the power of advertising: everywhere I looked, I saw pictures of this stupid carcass — whatever the fuck that was — and I thought, “That’s a cool-looking thing.” And I fucking voted for a movie based on the dead whatever it was in the ad thinking that it looked cool. [laughs]
MY VOTE: Leviathan
? BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
It gets worse, for the same fucking reason. I didn’t see any of the nominees, but goddamn Virunga is running commercials late-night every freaking hour, and those gorillas, man — I was like, “Wow, that looks heavy.” I said, “That looks good,” and I voted for it.
MY VOTE: Virunga
? BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
People are obsessed with the single-shot concept [employed on Birdman], but it wasn’t my cup of tea — it’s like, big fuckin’ deal. When a cinematographer has a body of work like Roger Deakins [who has never won an Oscar], and did a beautiful job this year [on Unbroken], I’m gonna vote for him. He deserves to finally get up outta the goddamn chair [at the Oscars].
MY VOTE: Unbroken
? BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Mr. Turner I didn’t see. I’ve just been there and done that with the [Into the Woods‘ Colleen] Atwood thing. [This is Atwood’s eleventh nomination; she has three wins.] She’s a brilliant lady, but I’m just done with it, and I was so unimpressed with the movie. I voted Maleficent because I watched it with my kid and I liked it and I thought, “Well, what the hell, man, it’s got no love anywhere else in the whole deal. Let’s give it something.” But it really isn’t something I should be voting on because I really don’t know anything about costume designing. You know, we nominate our own [meaning the nominees in each category are chosen solely by the members of the corresponding branch of people who work/worked in that area], but then it goes out to the freakin’ collective membership who have not a clue what anyone else does except their own shit. It shouldn’t work like this. And yet I have a ballot, so I vote, you know?
MY VOTE: Maleficent
? BEST FILM EDITING
Billy Goldenberg did an amazing job [on The Imitation Game] — that was a complicated cut and Billy’s a really brilliant guy — but I voted Sniper because, again, I really want it to get something and I liked what they [Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach] did with it.
MY VOTE: American Sniper
? BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
I hated Foxcatcher. I went Guardians [of the Galaxy], man. I loved the movie and the movie got no love anywhere else [except for the visual effects category] — it should have been nominated for sound but it didn’t get in. I just saw the title and I went, “Well, goddamn it.”
MY VOTE: Guardians of the Galaxy
? BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
I thought the Theory score was beautiful, but I voted for my friend Alexandre Desplat [who is nominated in the category for both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game] because I want him to win and, to be honest with you, I don’t give a shit which movie he wins for. I texted a week-and-a-half ago and I said, “Okay, what do you feel is your strongest suit? Because I want to put some energy behind it.” And he said, “I don’t know.” So I waited, and then when he won the BAFTA and a Grammy for Budapest, I wrote him back and said, “Well, dude, it’s Budapest, baby!”
MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel
? BEST ORIGINAL SONG
I voted for my friend Diane Warren. It happens to be a good song — I liked the song and I really liked the movie — but it doesn’t matter who she’s up against, she deserves one. [Warren has lost this Oscar all six times she was previously nominated for it.] Unfortunately Relativity didn’t do a fucking thing for this movie.
MY VOTE: “Grateful” (Beyond the Lights)
? BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
I did not see Interstellar or Mr. Turner. I saw Into the Woods and I hated it — even my kid said, “Dad, that movie sucked.” Imitation Game was fine. But I voted Budapest because I thought it had a great look to it. All of his [Wes Anderson‘s] movies have a great look to them — they’re vibrant, they have depth and their use of color is so extraordinary.
MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel
? BEST SOUND EDITING
Without question, hands down, the best sound editing work this year was on Sniper. It was very tasteful, it was all very authentic and, well, fuck me, if Zero Dark goddamn Thirty tied Skyfall, then this one better win.
MY VOTE: American Sniper
? BEST SOUND MIXING
Same thing. In my opinion, it [Sniper] was great — well-mixed, well-balanced, very interesting choices. It was a top-notch job. I have to say that I’m surprised that the sound branch, as a whole, supported Interstellar — that was a complete shock to me after worldwide complaints about the sound of the film.
MY VOTE: American Sniper
? BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
I’ve never seen more freakin’ frontrunner ads for VFX — covers, inside, back covers — than I have for Planet of the Apes. I mean, it was relentless. It brought me back to Apollo fuckin’ 13, which took every cover of everything for like three weeks straight. But they did something that was really great, which was to show you the actors performing in stop-motion-capture or whatever side-by-side with what the shot in the film looked like.
MY VOTE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
? BEST ANIMATED SHORT
? BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
? BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
I didn’t do any of that.
MY VOTE FOR ALL THREE: I abstain.
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