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This is the third of five “brutally honest” Oscar ballots shared with THR by Academy members, one of which will post each day leading up to the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, March 2. (Also available for you to review: the first and the second.) Needless to say, these voters’ views are not necessarily endorsed by Scott Feinberg or THR.
VOTER PROFILE: This Oscar voter is a longtime member of the Academy’s 450-member executives branch.
? BEST PICTURE
Only your top two or three really matter. My number one is Gravity. I just think it’s a special movie — and it’s about something, too. You know, people criticize the screenplay, but, having seen it again, I disagree. Like most good movies, it’s about the power of the human spirit. I mean, she basically didn’t make her comeback until she decided that it was time to die and turned off all the knobs, and then old George came bouncing back in — only it wasn’t really George, it was her, because something in the human spirit said, “You can’t quit.” So I thought it was pretty spiritual. The same sort of thing applies to 12 Years a Slave, which is my number two. American Hustle is number three. And then Philomena — it was kind of my favorite movie, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best movie. That character just had such a generous spirit, taking the good out of everything, very much like the 109-year-old woman in the documentary short. And then, after that, they’re all kind of on the same level. Her and Nebraska I liked. Dallas Buyers Club was just a good, solid movie. I like Wolf of Wall Street, and I’ve liked it more since everyone started attacking it, because I think the attacks were really unfair. DiCaprio and Hill were amazing, but the movie was a little superficial. And then Captain Phillips.
MY PICKS: (1) Gravity, (2) 12 Years a Slave, (3) American Hustle, (4) Philomena, (5) Her, (6) Nebraska, (7) Dallas Buyers Club, (8) The Wolf of Wall Street, (9) Captain Phillips
? BEST DIRECTOR
[Martin] Scorsese went a little over the top on certain things, but that’s kind of what he does; he doesn’t really “get down.” But, anyway, this wasn’t a question for me. It’s [Alfonso] Cuaron. [Gravity] was a massive movie, and a lot of people worked on it, but he was the boss. How do you shoot that movie? How do you direct actors without anything around them? How do you even pitch that movie? I thought it was a rare, singular achievement.
MY PICK: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
? BEST ACTOR
It’s almost impossible to choose — there’s nobody weak in this group. For me, it came down to [Matthew] McConaughey and “Chewy” [Chiwetel Ejiofor]. If you gave it to the actor who had the best year, there’s no question it’s McConaughey, who was so good in Mud, Wolf and now True Detective. But Chewy was so great in his movie.
MY PICK: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
? BEST ACTRESS
Meryl Streep‘s entrance was the best of any of them, but I thought the movie was kind of mediocre. Amy Adams was fantastic — she’s never been not fantastic; she was fantastic in Her! — but she and Streep were pieces of ensembles, whereas the others really stood out. Sandra Bullock carries her whole movie on her back, and her performance is particularly impressive when you see how her movie was made, but she won just a couple of years ago. [Judi] Dench is the hardest one not to vote for. But, in the end, it’s Cate [Blanchett] because you just have never seen anybody do what she does in that way — changing moods on a dime and everything — except Vivien Leigh [in A Streetcar Named Desire], I guess. Plus I “know” that girl [the sort of woman Blanchett portrays], and she nailed it. I don’t know anybody else who could have done it.
? BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
I’m gonna vote for the Captain Phillips guy. They’re all amazing — with Jared Leto, who’s great, my only problem is that I just really didn’t love the movie that much. But, with Captain Phillips, there’s no movie without that guy. He was completely, 100% credible, and he stood toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks.
MY PICK: Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
? BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I immediately eliminated Julia Roberts; it really wasn’t my favorite movie. Sally Hawkins and June Squibb were fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence was great, and I loved the movie, but it never occurred to me that her part was all that determinative in the movie. I was completely amazed by Lupita Nyong’o‘s performance — she really brought a kind of humanity to it, an intelligence to it and a sexuality to it; she was not afraid to have that character sexualized, and that’s dangerous territory for a slave to play sexuality.
MY PICK: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
? BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
It’s a very strong category. I was torn between 12 Years and Philomena. In the end, I think it was tougher to write the character of Philomena. They had to create a vehicle for her story — this trip to the United States, which didn’t really happen, but which works perfectly. And I don’t disagree with some who have complained that with 12 Years, you lose any sense of where you are in that 12-year period; it was a very good movie, but you don’t always know where you are on the journey — and that section with Brad Pitt almost felt like it was from another movie.
MY PICK: Philomena
? BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
I saw Blue Jasmine twice and I thought it was very good and stronger than it has been given credit for in the script department, but I don’t think it holds a candle to Her and American Hustle. I think American Hustle is more ambitious, in a certain way.
MY PICK: American Hustle
? BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
I don’t see much of a contest here. Frozen is intelligent, empowering and inspiring.
MY PICK: Frozen
? BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
I think they’re all worthy and they’re all important. Dirty Wars is important, even if it was about the journalist [Jeremy Scahill] — who I see on [HBO’s Real Time with] Bill Maher — as much as it was about the subject, which is not my favorite style. I liked The Square a lot. But, for me, it comes down to Act of Killing and Twenty Feet [from Stardom]. With Act of Killing, you can’t help but wonder, “How the f— did he make that movie?” To get that guy to open up emotionally? And I also thought the whole notion of the recreation was a very interesting idea. But I just wanted to vote for Twenty Feet. It’s a very excellent movie.
MY PICK: Twenty Feet from Stardom
? BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Missing Picture was very interesting and very good, but a little too weird. I was knocked out by The Great Beauty visually, and I thought the character was very interesting; I didn’t quite get the culture, but I did like it. Broken Circle Breakdown was a fantastic, strange combination of genres — ultimately too strange. Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt may be the performance of the year — it’s like, “Holy shit!” — and that’s a really fantastic movie. And, as for Omar, that guy is a fantastic filmmaker; Paradise Now is one of my favorite movies, and Omar is riveting all the way through — you don’t see where it’s going.
MY PICK: Omar
? BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
They’re all very well shot. I liked Llewyn Davis, but I don’t know that the photography on that was determinative. Nebraska in black-and-white was fantastic. Prisoners is Roger Deakins, who has never shot a bad film in his career. But, for me, this is between Gravity and The Grandmaster, which are so different but both amazing. I heard that they shot The Grandmaster for three years — the scene in the train station in the rain alone took 40 days — and the director sometimes didn’t even tell the cinematographer what he wanted shot, but just where to shoot it, so he was almost a co-director, in a way. And then there’s Gravity, which is really a revolutionary film. There was such a stink about cinematography versus visual effects last year with Life of Pi that I decided to ask a couple of DPs about that this year, and they uniformly said that they did not have the same reservations this year about Gravity. So, in the end, I came down for Gravity.
MY PICK: Gravity
? BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The costumes in Gatsby are pretty amazing. Hustle‘s costumes really brilliant. But — and I realize this may be throwing away a vote — I really think the costumes in The Grandmaster were amazing.
MY PICK: The Grandmaster
? BEST FILM EDITING
There’s not really a lot of set pieces in Captain Phillips to use for building tension, so it really falls upon the editing to do that, and it does that well. It’s old school: You take two boats and 10 guys and you turn it into an intense movie. But I’m still gonna go with Gravity because that movie is a miracle.
MY PICK: Gravity
? BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Look at those two in Dallas Buyers Club. Between the androgyny of Leto and the gauntness and the disease of both of them , they really look like they’re dying! I read about how they did it and it’s mind-blowing. I saw that as an extraordinary part of the movie.
MY PICK: Dallas Buyers Club
? BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
They’re all fine scores — I listened to all of them — but Gravity stands apart. That’s a big chunk of the movie! That whole kind of mystery, eeriness and spaciousness was really determinative.
MY PICK: Gravity
? BEST ORIGINAL SONG
I liked them all. “Happy” is a very cool song. “Let It Go” is a certain kind of song. It really befits the movie and, as these kinds of songs go, it was very good; it’s not my favorite genre of song. I thought all the music in Her was great. I saw the Mandela movie and I was just okay with it — I kinda liked the Morgan Freeman version better — but then [that] song came on and I got all choked up. Then I went back and I played the three finalists, for me — “Happy,” “Let It Go,” “Ordinary Love” — and the one that I kept wanting to replay was “Ordinary Love.”
MY PICK: “Ordinary Love” (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
? BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
You could give it to any of these movies, but I’m gonna vote for Her because it created a world.
MY PICK: Her
? BEST SOUND EDITING
? BEST SOUND MIXING
I always say, “Should I really vote on these?” I know the difference between the two categories, but I don’t know the nominees’ impacts on their movies sometimes — I mean, what was mixed and what was edited? It’s usually very difficult to know. To me, Lone Survivor is pretty damn good in the sound department. But, you know, I’m on the Gravity train. All that silence, all that breathing — I assume that’s in the mixing, and then the editing is all the machinery.
MY PICK (for both): Gravity
? BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
I’m on the Gravity train.
MY PICK: Gravity
? BEST ANIMATED SHORT
It was kind of an off-year. I wasn’t bowled over. The Disney one I saw originally in 3D and then again in 2D. For people who didn’t see it on a big screen before Frozen and are only seeing it on a screener, it’s like watching Gravity in 2D. I’m a little unclear about what they did on that one — what was old footage, what was new footage — and I’m a little apprehensive about rooting for the giant. But I felt like I’d seen most of the others before — the [Room with a] Broom one I liked best of those.
MY PICK: Get a Horse!
? BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
If there’s one safe bet in this entire race, it’s this one. The Lady in Number 6 is one of the most amazing movies I’ve ever seen in my career, partly because of the woman, but also you just get verklempt. You want to go out and live and save the world. So that was it for me, in a walk. CaveDigger was good but too long. Prison Terminal, to me, didn’t really rank in there. Karama was very cool. And Facing Fear is an important movie and I’m glad it was nominated, but it’s just no contest. I was excited to vote for The Lady in Number 6.
MY PICK: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
? BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
You had really different styles — comedies, action movies and dramas. But, for me, there was a clear winner: the French movie. It was far and away the best. It’s beautifully revealed — where it comes in in the story, how it tells the story, how you find out, how the subsidiary characters play into it and how it resolves itself. I thought it was really elegant on a subject that has been done many times before.
MY PICK: Just Before Losing Everything
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