The Hollywood Reporter’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot remains one of my favorite features. This is technically the “third ballot” from THR, and I kind of wish they would spread them out over the course of the week before the Oscars rather than drop ballot after ballot in the few days before the Oscars. Ballot #3 is from a man in the Academy’s directors branch, and I found myself surprised by how much he f–king loved The Lost Daughter (which is a fantastic film, but one which feels like it’s more “for women”). He also hates The Power of the Dog for several reasons and he complains about how slow many movies were this year. Some highlights:
The Power of the Dog is a slog? “The Power of the Dog took me, without exaggeration, 10 viewings to get through. I think the Academy’s Screening Room [a members-only streaming service] is absolutely fantastic, but it does make me wonder if the results are skewed when so many people are not seeing movies on a big screen and with others… I understand The Power of the Dog’s artistic merits, but I did not find the topic of repressed homosexuality to be original or daring anymore, and I thought the movie was very slow. I’m not quite in the Sam Elliott camp — Sam Elliott, by the way, may be the only person in this town who could be unabashedly homophobic and completely get away with it, just because it’s sort of what we expect from our crazy old uncle — but I do agree with him that it didn’t have the aura of an authentic Western. What Benedict Cumberbatch is to an authentic cowboy, New Zealand is to Montana — it just doesn’t add up. The topography is off, the extras are off, and I’m just kind of surprised that it has been the frontrunner up until now.”
On Drive My Car: “Without the critics’ awards, I don’t think a single Academy member would have checked out Drive My Car. A three-hour Japanese movie about Uncle Vanya with long shots of driving cars? I knew, going in, that it was going to be tough for me, and if I’m being honest, I couldn’t get through it.
He hates Don’t Look Up: “To me, Don’t Look Up was a one-note flippancy; its only virtue was its stunning cast. I suppose it’s entertaining, but as much as a genius as I think Adam McKay is, and I really do view him that way, I believe he is in a self-plagiarizing mode of the highest order at this point, and there wasn’t anything that was particularly innovative about this film.”
On Licorice Pizza: “I have an affinity for Paul Thomas Anderson — I’ve loved most of his stuff — and this one [Licorice Pizza] has lots of great stuff in it, but there’s literally no story, and I found the central relationship to be extremely odd and not believable. How is a 15-year-old running a business? We never see him in school at all. And I didn’t see how Bradley Cooper, as Jon Peters, could be absolutely obliterated by these kids, yet we don’t see him seeking revenge for the rest of the movie. Every scene, I guess, is very good, but it didn’t add up for me at the end.”
On King Richard: “There’s no movie that I was rooting for more than King Richard because I think that the story of the Williams sisters is one of the greatest stories in all of sports history. And the more you think about it, the more interesting it is: You have a character who you root for, even though his flaws are considerable — I mean, he both loves and exploits his girls. The lack of cinematic flourish is what prevents me from putting it at the top of my list; I want my best picture winners to advance cinema.”
On CODA: “CODA is also a whimsy of a movie, without any cinematic brilliance, but it is the movie where I was most invested in the characters of the film, and it is the only film of the year that left me weeping at the end of the movie. Sian Heder truly managed to get me crying like a baby, and in a good way. I was so caught up in this love for family, and I just found it extremely satisfying.”
On West Side Story: “West Side Story is a rather flawed film — I had issues with both of the leads, Rachel [Zegler] and Ansel [Elgort] — but it is a movie that made my heart glad otherwise. There are so many moments when you’re in the theater — and I did see it in the theater — when you’re leaning forward and gobsmacked by the fluidity of the camera and the excellence of the set pieces. It’s Spielberg’s best movie since Munich, I think, and it gives a real sense of the love he has for the material. I think this town would be very happy if West Side Story won the Academy Award for best picture. Even though it has a very tragic ending, there’s a certain joie de vivre throughout most of the film that is very engaging and very cinematic. I know it’s sacrilegious to say, but it’s actually a better movie than the 1961 film.
His Best Picture choices: 1) West Side Story, (2) Nightmare Alley, (3) CODA, (4) King Richard, (5) Belfast, (6) Licorice Pizza, (7) Dune, (8) Don’t Look Up, (9) Drive My Car, (10) The Power of the Dog
He voted for Spielberg for Best Director: “As much as I don’t care for The Power of the Dog, this is an area where I do believe it’s appropriate to give awards in order to reward a lifetime of work, so I was thinking about voting for Jane Campion, but she completely lost me with the Critics Choice Awards speech. She self-aggrandized herself by making it about how she has to compete with men, but that is by no means a detriment anymore; she is not the Rosa Parks of female directors, and The Power of the Dog is not a feminist film. It just rubbed me the wrong way… I went with Steven Spielberg, who was able to take Robert Wise’s film and make it into his film. His movement of camera — in concert, of course, with his cinematographer [Janusz Kaminski] — was simply extraordinary….”
He ended up voting for Denzel Washington for Best Actor, Olivia Colman for Actress, Troy Kotsur for Supporting Actor and Jessie Buckley for Supporting Actress. I appreciate what he said about Campion and her Critics Choice mess – that was one of the rare moments when a awards-season frontrunner f–ks up their Oscar campaign at an awards show. It would not surprise me if The Power of the Dog was completely snubbed come Oscar night. As for all of the criticism for Benedict Cumberbatch… lol. I found him pretty unbelievable as a cowboy too, but he was really trying. Still, I’m glad he’s not a frontrunner. As for what he says about King Richard… that’s controversial, that Richard Williams “exploited” his daughters. He did not!
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, AppleTV, Netflix.