Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 7: "No Better Filmmaker" Than Eastwood, "Loved" 'Mr. Turner'

'Mr. Turner,' Mike Leigh (Competition)

Four-time Cannes competition veteran (and 1996 Palme d’Or winner for Secrets & Lies), Leigh returns to the Croisette (after being snubbed by the French festival for Vera Drake) with arguably the most compelling of the many biopics on offer at this year's fest. Regular Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall stars as the British Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner. Lesley Manville co-stars in the feature, which Sony Pictures Classics picked up for the U.S. ahead of its Cannes premiere. (Sales: Sunray Films)

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 1,150-member actors branch whose first credit came in the 1950s and who has acted in numerous films opposite people who received Oscar noms for their performances.


I saw most things two or three times, for one reason or another.

There is no better filmmaker than Clint [Eastwood] — he is a master. But my issue with American Sniper is the way they end the picture: he [Chris Kyle] says goodbye to his family, he leaves and then we see the postscript that he was killed. I was shocked that they did that because I think that they should have completed the arc of his story by showing him being killed — this man who lived by the gun also died by the gun. The story felt incomplete and dishonest without that scene.

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I saw Whiplash twice. I think that a film that celebrates excellence rather than mediocrity is something to be admired. To go crazy over how he [J.K. Simmons] treated the kid [Miles Teller] is to miss the point.

I have always been very troubled by the race relations in this country, so when I see something like Selma it moves me a great deal. As far as the LBJ [President Lyndon B. Johnson] thing, I think it's like if you and I had dinner at my restaurant, that I picked, and you said, "Geez, the meal was wonderful, but I didn't like the bread." Come on, that's not the point!

Birdman is an amazing, unusual, original film from an incredible director [Alejandro G. Inarritu]. I got the theme — how do you survive as an artist in an environment where so many people are trying to kill you? He [Inarritu] himself is an artist who doesn't want to get pushed around by studios to do what they want. I liked everything about it.

I saw Boyhood three times. It's very personal, just like Birdman, but in a different way. He's talking about his life and growing up.

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 2

The Grand Budapest Hotel is also amazing. It takes you to a world that you never imagined and it's magical.

The Imitation Game I had a little more difficulty with. It was an interesting piece of history but not emotionally compelling in the way that several of the other films were for me. I got it intellectually but not emotionally.

More effective for me was The Theory of Everything. I greatly admired the courage of the character and the courage of the actor playing him.

And Whiplash, while a very successful first film — or almost first film — for this director [Damien Chazelle], was a bit more one-note. I found the music really interesting but, eh, it was OK.

MY VOTE: (1) Boyhood, (2) Birdman, (3) The Theory of Everything, (4) Selma, (5) The Grand Budapest Hotel


[The Imitation Game's Morten] Tyldum was my fifth choice because I explained how I reacted to that film. I went with the Birdman director [Inarritu] over the Boyhood director [Richard Linklater] because I think he took a bigger leap and I think he largely succeeded in getting it done in his way. He had to solve a lot of things. Linklater had a more controlled situation.

MY VOTE: Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)

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Did you see Locke? It was an amazing piece of work, but it got released at kind of an odd time and it got completely lost, which was an injustice to Tom Hardy. Anyway, I admire [The Imitation Game's Benedict] Cumberbatch's clarity, but he has the English approach: he shows you everything the character went through, but he doesn't go through it like American actors do, like [Birdman's Michael] Keaton did. I didn't buy it the same way; he didn't take me on the journey. [The Theory of Everything's Eddie] Redmayne, I think, made an American effort to embody his journey. He had a very challenging job and he was very successful at it. He reminds me of Albert Finney and Daniel Day-Lewis.

MY VOTE: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)


Gone Girl was OK, but it was a popcorn movie, so I didn't vote for Rosamund Pike. I was tempted to vote for the woman in The Theory of Everything [Felicity Jones], but [Two Days, One Night's] Marion Cotillard was my choice because, as you can tell, I like acting that's private, not public, that's internalized, not showy. It was simple and private, like a Kim Stanley.

MY VOTE: Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)


I went to school with [The Judge's] Bobby Duvall at the Neighborhood Playhouse and I voted for him. He's a major talent, you know? Even in a bad picture he held his own, he did what he could do and he delivered. [Birdman's Edward] Norton was also very good. [Whiplash's J.K.] Simmons was one-color, mainly.

MY VOTE: Robert Duvall (The Judge)


I voted for [Boyhood's] Patricia Arquette. She was there — I could tell how she raises her kids from that performance. [Birdman's] Emma Stone was next.

MY VOTE: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 4


A lot of people had a real problem with Inherent Vice, which is by a writer [Thomas Pynchon] who is pretty original and unusual. I admit I had to see it twice to be totally clear about the picture, but I think it's pretty amazing. He [Paul Thomas Anderson] very successfully captured the drug period in L.A. that some of us lived through — life upside-down in Hollywood. A very quick story: I was once at a party with Jack Nicholson in Laurel Canyon with a lot of pretty girls. We were blasting loud music and two young cops came to the door to say they were getting complaints. They saw all the pretty girls in there and inside of five minutes each of them had a girl and each of the two girls were wearing the cops' hats. I never forgot that. I think Inherent Vice captured that. Eric Roberts, in one scene, did some of the best work he's ever done.

MY VOTE: Inherent Vice


They all have good writing in them. It was between Birdman and Boyhood for me.

MY VOTE: Birdman


Frankly, I didn't see any of them.

MY VOTE: I abstain.


I loved the humor of the one-acts [Wild Tales]. The one in the desert [Timbuktu] was simple but profound. But I liked Ida. I go to the movies to experience stories of humanity.



Virunga hit me like no other of the nominees. I just think it's amazing. Very moving, very profound, very sad, very hopeful. Nothing else was close. Citizenfour will win, but I like very much that [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings made a fight for Virunga. He went dollar-for-dollar with Harvey [Weinstein of The Weinstein Co., the Radius division of which distributed Citizenfour].

MY VOTE: Virunga

Read more Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 3


I don't think Mr. Turner is gonna win anything, but I loved it. I think he [Mike Leigh] is a f—ing genius and it's visually stunning. It's like I was suddenly in that period, whatever it was — in the painting! How about that crazy art gallery, and the places they lived and the ocean? It's amazing.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner


Absolutely Mr. Turner again. The only other option was Grand Budapest.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner


Boyhood was made over 12 years but flows so seamlessly. It propels your focus. Less is more. You never think about it and you never notice it.

MY VOTE: Boyhood


I chose The Grand Budapest Hotel not because I was especially impressed with its makeup and hairstyling, but because it was the best of the options. Foxcatcher was very good filmmaking, but I was not a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy.

MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel


Alexandre Desplat better win. [The still-winless composer scored his eighth and ninth noms this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game]. I liked Grand BudapestImitation Game not so much — so that's what I voted for.

MY VOTE: The Grand Budapest Hotel


I hadn't seen a few of the movies that had nominated songs.

MY VOTE: I abstain.


I voted for Mr. Turner here again, even though it doesn't have a shot, because it just transported me to another time and place.

MY VOTE: Mr. Turner


Birdman has a canvas of sounds that just rang true to me. It was full of imagination.

MY VOTE: Birdman


Birdman again.

MY VOTE: Birdman


I didn't vote here. I'm not so much into special effects pictures, you know? That's the world that we're in now, but I'm not in that world. I'm interested in character-driven stories.

MY VOTE: I abstain.




The clock ran out on me for these.


Twitter: @ScottFeinberg