THR’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot: ‘Licorice Pizza’ is racist, CODA is amazing

The Hollywood Reporter’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot series is one of my favorite trade-paper series ever. THR sits down with Academy members as they fill out their ballots and explain their choices. Names of the Academy members are not used, but THR will say what branch the voter is in. The Oscar Ballot #2 is getting a lot of attention, so let’s discuss. This comes from a man in the animation branch of the Academy. He hates Licorice Pizza and The Power of the Dog!

He loved The Worst Person in the World: “The movie that I would have loved to have put in the No. 1 spot sadly didn’t even get nominated, which was The Worst Person in the World. That’s one of the most amazing movies of the last five years.”

Hated Licorice Pizza: “But moving on, I hated Licorice Pizza. It was probably the best directed interpretation of a bad script that I’ve seen in years. I just can’t believe that in 2022 we’re still rewarding blatant, unnecessarily racist movies, and that people just brush over the stuff with the accent — it didn’t add anything to the movie and no one in the movie commented on it. The excuse that “that was of the time” is bullsh-t.

What?? “The Power of the Dog was just too slow and boring — I genuinely don’t understand why this movie is so amazing to people. It’s also not a storyline that we haven’t seen a million times before — the repressed angry gay cowboy who is hurtful to everyone else because he can’t deal with his own feelings — and the ending was a little confusing.

He loves CODA: “CODA, which I was rooting for long before it looked like it could realistically happen. It’s beautiful for so many reasons, and it actually made me cry, and that was something I couldn’t ignore. I thought it was particularly beautiful in its representation of deaf storytelling, and I think the only way to encourage the making of more movies about marginalized people is to recognize them when they are as good as this one.

His Best Picture vote: (1) CODA, (2) Drive My Car, (3) Belfast, (4) Don’t Look Up, (5) Dune, (6) King Richard, (7) West Side Story, (8) Nightmare Alley, (9) The Power of the Dog, (10) Licorice Pizza

He voted for Steven Spielberg for Best Director: “Licorice Pizza was very well directed — Paul Thomas Anderson is brilliant — but I cannot reward that film for anything. Jane [Campion] did a beautiful job directing The Power of the Dog — like with Licorice Pizza, I can separate my overall feelings about the movie and acknowledge that the direction was impressive. [Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s] Drive My Car was a beautiful slow-burn. For me, [Kenneth Branagh’s] Belfast was a close runner-up. But, while I think the story of West Side Story is silly, the presentation and direction were incredible. I very specifically remember being captivated by how Steven [Spielberg] moved the camera in it.

[From THR]

The rest of his votes seemed pretty reasonable – he voted for Will Smith for Best Actor, Penelope Cruz for Actress, Troy Kotsur for Supporting Actor and Aunjanue Ellis for Supporting Actress. While I think Jessica Chastain is the leading candidate for Actress, I do think that category might see a surprise. I think the same about Supporting Actress – while it feels like Ariana DeBose has it wrapped up, I would not be “surprised” if Aunjanue Ellis won.

As for what this guy says about Best Picture… I agree with him completely about Licorice Pizza and how it shouldn’t be rewarded for having a sh-tty script and those racist scenes. But I’m bewildered by his criticism of The Power of the Dog? Like, I think Dog’s Oscar chances were hurt by Jane Campion’s mess at the Critics Choice Awards two weeks ago, but I think the movie itself is good and something we rarely see. This is so weird: “It’s also not a storyline that we haven’t seen a million times before — the repressed angry gay cowboy who is hurtful to everyone else because he can’t deal with his own feelings…” How many films about angry repressed gay cowboys are there??

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid, IMDB, Netflix.

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62 Responses to “THR’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot: ‘Licorice Pizza’ is racist, CODA is amazing”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    omg, so we’re trying to watch as many Oscar nominees as we can before Sunday night – this is the first year we’ve really been able to do it bc everything is available streaming or to rent (heads up – King Richard is back on HBO Max as of yesterday).

    First – why are so many of these movies so long?? Three nights ago we were going to watch either King Richard or Licorice Pizza but it was 830 and those movies are both well over 2 hours long! So we watched Belfast instead and I really liked it. It was beautifully shot, the black and white was gorgeous, well acted – it was a little slow in parts but overall I liked it.

    Two nights ago we watched Licorice Pizza. OMG. One of the WORST movies I have ever seen. WHY was it so long? Maybe if it was an hour shorter, it would have been better. But it was so bad. The acting was actually not bad, but it was just so stupid. I hated it and could not believe it was nominated for Best Picture.

    We’re watching King Richard tonight so I’ll report back on that one (and coda tomorrow night). We won’t get through the acting nominees but I did see Spencer and being the ricardos and liked both more than I thought.

    I also agree with him on West Side Story – I liked it overall, but even if I hadn’t really, the directing was superb. I think Ariana DeBose is a pretty close lock for Best Supporting, but I also think its one of those situations where because everyone assumes she’s a lock, they might vote for someone else and we’ll see an upset?

    • Celebitchy says:

      I agree with you and Kaiser about Licorice Pizza it was actively terrible!! You will love King Richard and CODA, both are excellent movies. King Richard is long, but I hate long movies and I didn’t even notice the runtime I was so absorbed in it.

    • LightPurple says:

      Have you seen Drive My Car yet? It’s 3 hours long. I’m going to see the 5 live action shorts tonight and expect to be out of there in less time than it took to sit through some of the feature films.

      • Celebitchy says:

        @LightPurple – Listen to the beginning of podcast #117 because I went to the live action shorts and have a spoiler free review. I would be interested in talking about them with you. You’re on Twitter right?

      • Becks1 says:

        No, I haven’t, and that’s one we probably won’t get to before Sunday (that one and The Eyes of Tammy Faye which i want to see for Chastain’s performance.) 3 hours!!! my goodness.

        We did see House of Gucci though bc I forgot that Gaga wasn’t nominated for an Oscar until we had already rented it 🤦‍♀️’

        ETA seriously though – I don’ t know if its still a result of the pandemic, or if its b/c the Oscars are later this year, but I love that I have the chance to see so many of the nominated movies WITHOUT going to a theater. This is the first year in a long time I’ve been able to do this.

      • Lightpurple says:

        I am on Twitter but am using a man’s name because I kept getting timed out or suspended using feminine sounding handles. The MAGATS and Russian bots don’t seem to report men. I will check in with you after I see them.

  2. Merricat says:

    Lol, because Brokeback Mountain won for best directing in 2006, we’ve all seen this story before?

    • Bettyrose says:

      Brokeback Mountain was brilliant and won in a very different era of LGBT rights. But there’s any number of pop culture references where the bully turns out to be struggling with his sexuality.

    • Dutch says:

      It’s enough of a trope that South Park made a joke about it … in 1998.

    • Isabella says:

      And instead of honoring the female director, he reached way down to Spielberg for a movie that was just okay. Big surprise.

  3. Wilma says:

    The comment about gay cowboys is dumb, but otherwise this was a pretty thoughtful and serious voter.

  4. Sonia says:

    I completely agree with him about power of the dog. Slow, boring, cliche. I “got” the ending but it wasn’t well telegraphed.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I gasped at the ending. I had given up in the movie having any point. But yeah the hours long lead in to that moment doesn’t need to be heralded as great filmmaking.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      I didn’t like The Power of the Dog. It was slow, but I can deal with that. The cinematography was good, but the interpersonal relationships were just…not well established. I literally paused it a little more than halfway through & said to Mr. Bathory, “This is such a weird film. I don’t believe these two guys as brothers.”

      It took me right out of the film because if I can’t believe the relationships, the narrative tension falls apart. And then of course Campion was a racist asshole. King Richard is a much better film.

  5. mia girl says:

    POTD is a good movie, strong performances, directed well and shot beautifully.

    That said, I also did find the film to be slow and agree it is not the Best Picture in 2022 . Because while I’m not sure what this voter meant by, “we’ve seen the repressed cowboy thing so many times before” to me the film and storytelling style did feel a bit dated and predictable in a sense. It felt like a great movie from 2000. It was so beautiful to look at and the cinematography did a lot for the film, but the story was told in a way that didn’t feel fresh or revelatory. To me anyway.

    I’ve seen almost all of the nominated films (except Don’t look Up – I refuse) and truth is I think we have a year with all really good films, but no great films.

    • Becks1 says:

      Don’t Look Up was…..wait for it….way too long. It was actually really well acted, obviously hit too close to home in many ways, but it was way too long.

      My husband gets so annoyed at me bc that’s my main complaint about almost every movie, that its too long, lol. I’m sorry, very few stories need 3 hours to be told! Its why i refuse to see The Batman in theaters.

      • mia girl says:

        Totally hear you on film length! I am a big fan and proponent of film editing. It is an art that truly can make a good film into a great film or totally ruin a film. Lately it seems like some films could do with some tightening up (I’d say at least 4 or 5 of those nominated this year).

        As far as The Batman, that run time didn’t hang over the audience. I never thought the time was too much or overdone. I’m actually glad I saw it in the theater because it’s shot beautifully and a nod to detective style film noir.

      • Becks1 says:

        That’s good to hear about The Batman – we were going to take our 7 and 9 year olds to see it, but I don’t think they would last 3 hours, and they wouldn’t appreciate a beautifully shot film or anything at this stage lol. we definitely plan to watch it when it comes out on streaming though.

      • Bettyrose says:

        Don’t Look Up was too campy for Best Picture realness. I enjoyed it but the message won’t resonate with climate deniers/anti-vaxxers.

  6. Evening Star says:

    Everyone sleeping on “Nightmare Alley” 🥲

    • mia girl says:

      You know, while watching, I was a little standoffish (maybe because I’m not a big fan of Bradley Cooper), but it is the one nominated film that the more I think about, the more I realize how good it is. It also had one of the best story archs I’ve seen in a long time. I mean, the ending…💀

    • Trillion says:

      Yes! My husband and I watched the original first and then the current one about a week later. Loved the sets, costumes, atmosphere. Left me wanting to go and make sure I’ve seen every movie Toni Collette has ever been in…

    • Lightpurple says:

      Gorgeous cinematography. Great performance by Cate Blanchette, good one by Toni Collette. Kept me intrigued. Like West Side Story, it’s a remake but Guillermo Del Toro put his stamp all over it. I would rank it above Licorice Pizza, King Richard, Don’t Look Up and West Side Story.

    • AmB says:

      We watched the original “Nightmare Alley” with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell, then watched the remake. Both are of their time. Overall I preferred the original; Cate Blanchett’s performance was a weak cosplay of Helen Walker’s, and Power was more believable in the role than Cooper, to me. BUT the original had a stupid happy ending and the remake ending was much more satisfying and true to the source novel. The new movie really embraces the dark side of the story.

    • Anna says:

      Maybe the critic really disliked Dead Man and Brokeback Mountain….

  7. LightPurple says:

    I agree with much of what he said here. I absolutely hated Power of the Dog. It was way too long and tedious and Cumberbatch’s attempt at an accent grated. I adored CODA and loved Belfast. I found the racism and interchangeable Japanese wives in Licorice Pizza appalling and also was bothered by what seemed like grooming to me. But yes, edit out the racism and cut it by 30-45 minutes and it would be greatly improved.
    Drive My Car is an amazing film exploring grief. You do have to block out a sizable portion of time, 3 hours, and be in the right mood to watch it.

    West Side Story did not need a remake but Ariana DeBose was fantastic.

    I think Will Smith will win but Andrew Garfield gave the best performance in that category.

    Agree with him that Penelope Cruz deserves the win; she was phenomenal but the film itself was standard soap opera fare – I kept waiting for the long lost identical twin to show up. Either Jessica or Kristen will take that one. And Emilia Jones should have been nominated instead of Nicole.

    I’m seeing the live action shorts tonight. The animated documentary Flee is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen and I fear it will be shut out as it is up against Drive My Car in foreign language and Encanto in Animated Feature and Summer of Soul in Documentary.

    With the exception of Hand of God, which is a beautiful looking film but I hated, the international film category is amazing with Worst Person in the World, Drive My Car, Flee, and Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, a sweet, gentle, often hilarious film.

    • mia girl says:

      Completely agree on Andrew Garfield. He was amazing and deserves the win. Will Smith was great, but Garfield’s performance was truly special.

      I wouldn’t have minded at all if Tick, Tick…Boom! was among the BP nominees. It might be the film I actually enjoyed the most this year.

    • Trillion says:

      If Chastain wins I will been thrown back to Julia Roberts’ massively undeserved win for Erin Brockovich. I honestly could not make it through the entire film, she was that bad. I’ve liked her in other things. Script was bad – felt like Lifetime Channel bad.

  8. Miranda says:

    Remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is afraid to tell people that she hated The English Patient? That’s pretty much how I feel about The Power of the Dog. It was a beautiful-looking film, expertly directed, impressive acting, but just SO excruciatingly slow. At the end of the day, watching the paint dry on the Mona Lisa is still just watching paint dry!

    We’re going to watch King Richard tonight, so I could still have a last minute change of heart, but as it stands, my Best Picture is CODA. What an incredible job by the whole cast of that one!

    • Lightpurple says:

      I watched CODA again the other night. Marlee Matlin seemed to be having a great time playing the frisky mom.

    • Marietta2381 says:

      I will tell you both were amazing, but I think it should be CODA too. King Richard was one of my favs, but CODA made me ball! It was a very moving film.

    • Evening Standard says:

      I enjoyed CODA and found it moving towards the end, but beyond the lovely performances and overdue Deaf representation I struggle to find what makes it deserving of Best Picture? In terms of actual filmmaking craft, it never wowed me and in some areas (lighting, writing, cinematography) was pretty bland/mediocre. The plot felt like a mix of two feel-good narratives: Save The Community Center and Small Town Girl With Big City Dreams.

      I know I sound like Debbie Downer, but I’m interested in what makes it a Best Picture winner for other people?

      • Becks1 says:

        For me, its a movie that makes me say “wow” at some point – whether bc of the storyline, because of the acting, because of the filming, etc. It has to have a “wow” moment (to be fair Licorice Pizza did have some wow moment – as in “wow this is so bad.”) And it has to be a movie that stays with me and that I tell people about and recommend to people.

        So sometimes that might be a movie like Titanic (I was 15 when that came out lol, who knows how I would feel about it today), or a movie like Belfast that’s certainly lower key but I still thought was excellent.

      • minx says:

        I agree. CODA’s cast was perfection but I don’t think it’s particularly Best Picture material. Kind of a Lifetime movie.

    • Songs (Or It Didn't Happen) says:

      @Miranda, yes! When Elaine is yelling “Just shut up and DIE already!”

      I think you can appreciate that a film is beautifully crafted, well made, etc, but just not enjoy it due to your particular taste. Like a handmade meal that took hours to cook and happens to include mushrooms (because mushrooms are the anus of foods). Wonderful, and you can appreciate it’s delicious to some, but you just *can’t* with those mushrooms.

    • AnneL says:

      I am old enough to say that when The English Patient came out I actively hated it and wasn’t even afraid to say so, lol. Actually, I didn’t hate all of it. I loved Juliette Binoche’s nurse character and her storyline up until she was nursing the patient. But the rest? Yeah, “JUST DIE ALREADY.” That was me.

      I did like The Power Of The Dog but the criticism is fair. Yes, it’s slow, and Cumby’s accent is grating. It’s not ground-breaking. But the suspense and the ending, as carried by young Kodie Smitt-McPhee, made it for me. I also read the book (after watching the movie) and it helped me appreciate the film more. It was pretty faithful.

      I honestly don’t see it so much as a movie about “repressed gay cowboys” but more as a coming of age story that happens to involve a gay cowboy… is also kind of a sociopath. The son is the most important character in the movie. I would be happy to see Kotsur take the award as I loved CODA and loved him in it, but I would prefer Smitt-McPhee to win. I think he really deserves it.

    • Isabella says:

      I feel that way about The Lost Daughter. Some people just love it, but I found it dull and needless. And I’m a Ferrante fan.

  9. Elsa says:

    I loved Power of the Dog and am really looking forward to King Richard and Coda. West Side Story has always been a favorite for me because of the music and dancing. I’m not even going to watch Licorice Pizza unless nothing else is on.

  10. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I never thought Dune would make any list, but I’m glad to see it in someone’s list lmao. I’ll never watch West Side Story because I don’t do breaking out in song… that’s my husband’s gig. And I decided to hate watch Tammy Faye, because I loathed that woman growing up, but I finished it and thought Chastain did a fantastic job. I didn’t make it very long in Don’t Look Up. Something’s happened in the last few years that I truly have a hard time watching certain actors if they’ve been flapping their lips about something. King Richard yaaas. But POTD, no thank you.

  11. An says:

    Just here to say I looooved Power of the dog. It kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole time and when it finished I had the sad impression that I will not see a movie that good in forseable future. And I have mostly feeling that people didn’t like it so I’m positively surprised that it gets so many awards.

    • Driver8 says:

      I loved it too. I’m surprised to see that so many people don’t care for it. Kodie Smitt-McPhee was amazing. Can’t wait to see more of him.

    • FHMom says:

      I loved Power of the Dog, also, but feel bad recommending it because I guess not everyone likes it. I really thought it was the front runner, but not anymore.

  12. Tuille says:

    I disliked POTD. Boring, too long, & Cumby used an odd, southern accent, which is evidently the easiest one for Brits to do when playing Americans.
    Coda was OK but not Oscar-worthy for best pic imo. It takes more than a heartwarming story to make a great film. The only difference between this & many other coming-of-age-leave-home-follow-my-passion-over-parental-objections was having a deaf family. What’s next? Can’t leave home because everyone else is blind?
    Tammy Faye was cheesy & the facial closeups were terrifying.
    I loved Belfast. Very human amidst well-documented history & events.
    Licorice Pizza was awful. Unappealing main characters, screwy plot if one can call it a plot. If the genders of the 15 yr old & a 25 yr old were reversed, the 25 yr old would be arrested.
    It wasn’t nominated for anything after the initial buzz but The Last Duel got boring. Showing the main incident as told from 3 different viewpoints was tedious. The photography was beautiful.

  13. Lululu says:

    CODA is amazing. As a hearing impaired person and a mom of teenagers I was just so moved by that movie. It’s my favorite of the last several years.

    I could not finish Power of the Dog. After Leaving Las Vegas in the 90s, I just don’t do movies that are 2 hours of pointless suffering anymore unless it’s really engaging. Not that I’m against movies that are hard to watch…The Piano was excellent…but I really had a hard time catching the emotional thread in POTD.

    I haven’t seen the others…guess I better sit down and watch if I’m going to get them all in before the Oscars.

  14. Emma says:

    Man that is the power of Brokeback Mountain all these years later. I can’t think offhand of a “million gay repressed cowboy” movies, but I’m not as much of a cinephile as I assume an Academy member would be.

    On the other hand, “gay villain” and “gay / lesbian person dies at the end” are tropes that have indeed been seen ad nauseum. Maybe that’s what he meant.

  15. Twin Falls says:

    More people need to watch Belfast, really.

  16. MaplePlains says:

    I couldn’t make it through Power of the Dog, though I might give it another try. I found it super boring, even though I love all of the actors. I just kept thinking, “Do I really need to watch someone being a mega *sshole for the next couple of hours?” There’s enough real-life *ssholery right now.

  17. Hannah says:

    Can somebody point out the racist scenes on licorice pizza… pls..

    • Becks1 says:

      The Japanese restaurant owner and his wives?

      • Lena says:

        I haven’t seen L Pizza and didn’t want to when that came out about it and the excuse of Paul Anderson that it wasn’t a big deal in the same way in the 70s. Sorry that was a poor excuse

    • Anne says:

      I grew in LA in 60’s and 70’s and I don’t know do people want to pretend that creepy guys like this didn’t exist? Put on any comedy variety show from that era and comics made fun of Asian accents. Do people want to pretend that never happened? I’d rather audiences be reminded that no so long ago this was the norm and how disgusting it all was. Calling PTA a racist is lazy and not fair.

      • Yasmine says:

        @Anne: We don’t get to decide that it’s not racist. Asian Americans get do decide because their lives and safety are impacted by anti-Asian stereotypes and depictions like these.
        A recent Jezebel article quoted Professor Carol Park, who has written extensively on experiences of Korean Americans. Park said about the movie: “These renderings contribute to how people feel emboldened to enact violence upon others, if they think that that person isn’t going to fight back, and have this preconception that Asian women are quiet, not going to do anything. We need real depictions of our communities, our strength, how we fight back.” I hope you take the time to read the full article on the Jezebel site.

      • teecee says:

        Of course they existed, but straight depiction of these moments without any kind of meaningful comment on them from the film or filmmaker is traumatizing by the people who are the targets of this kind of abuse. And if that comment is not insightful and well-executed, it shouldn’t be made at all. The only correct way to depict that scene is one in which the white audience feels like shit watching it, and white filmmakers never do that. Instead, they show these moments in a way that allows the white audience to feel superior to past white people and use POC as supporting players in the story of their own oppression.

        White realism is not more important than POC pain. I suggest you take a look at many of the Asian and Asian-American film critics and writers who have written about this very issue with this very film before you rush to the defense of your straight white boy fave (who by the way, is fine, and if he’s grown enough to receive praise for his films, he can face the criticism.) PTA made a racist movie and his fans shouldn’t shield him from the ramifications of that.

  18. Oria says:

    Just finished The Power of the Dog, and I could not get over how terrible Benedict Cumberbatch’s accent was so it ruined it for me!

    I love him (and Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst) a lot, but nothing ‘sat right’ with these relationships. Everything feels very detached and emotionally distant, so the intensity, I think they were trying to portray, got lost.

  19. Veronica+S. says:

    I have to admit I’m really surprised Don’t Look Up was received as badly as it was. I thought it was a very clever satire and pointed criticism of a lot that’s going wrong in Western democracy right now, particularly in American culture. I have a suspicion that films going to better remembered in retrospect a couple years down the line when we really start seeing the impact of climate change on a global level.

    • Thirtynine says:

      Same here. I loved Don’t Look Up, and am surprised at the negativity toward it. It was horrifyingly compelling, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it’s awfulness. It was heartbreaking, and tawdry and selfish and heroic all at the same time, just like us. It seemed to me that it really exposed the flimsiness of the lies and falsity so much of our lives and cultures are built on and how in a collision with reality those things just have no substance. We can choose the stories we sell ourselves or we can choose the truth. I don’t like Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence or Timothee Chalamet in anything else, but I thought they all did a great job in this. I also loved both of the two endings. Was glad to hear that someone else liked it too!

  20. Mrs. Smith says:

    I loved Power of the Dog. It wasn’t so much a gay cowboy movie (?) to me as much as a commentary on being brave enough to be yourself. And the ending—wow! I also loved Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye. But I haven’t been so behind in my Oscar viewing as I have this year, so I have no idea.

  21. teecee says:

    Sam Elliot’s comments were homophobic and sexist, but he was right that Campion didn’t have anything meaningful or new to say about the American West. This film should have been made by a gay director. As it is, it’s a dated snoozefest.