THR’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot: Jane Campion is not ‘the Rosa Parks of directors’

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….”

[From THR]

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.

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25 Responses to “THR’s Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot: Jane Campion is not ‘the Rosa Parks of directors’”

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  1. Carrie says:

    I am a woman and a feminist and I HATED The Lost Daughter. I thought it was a depressing slog. I think everyone in the cast was great and it was well-executed but MY GOD why is every story about being a woman so dank and sad?!?! Lord, give us some fun, powerful, exciting stories about women please.

    • TigerMcQueen says:

      Same here. Slog describes it correctly in my eyes.

    • gah says:

      yep. I still haven’t finished it (I’m maybe 30 minutes away). I did appreciate Jessie Buckley’s performance- she was SOOOOO good and I have to say I’ve felt much the same way in my years of childrearing. but yeah as a movie it wasn’t working for me.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Perfect description: slog, periodically interrupted by Ed Harris wandering through for no discernible reason whatsoever, then back to slog.

    • AMA1977 says:

      This makes me feel better because I bought the book and tried to get into it, but just couldn’t. I love to read all kinds of books and am a prolific reader, but I just did not connect in any way with the story or the characters. Giving myself a pass on this one rather than making myself try again.

    • minx says:

      TLD was pretentious twaddle, imo. The empress has no clothes.

    • dc says:

      I’m a woman, a feminist & a mother and I found The Lost Daughter deeply compelling & at times uncomfortable. It left me with so much to reflect on as it exposes how oppressively boxed in women are as mothers! I was shocked by some of the ways Olivia Colman’s character behaved and had to ask myself why. It’s not light entertainment, but I love films that push me to examine my assumptions. Why is guilt such a recognizable emotion in mothers? Gawd, it’s exhausting!

  2. Dutch says:

    But wasn’t the whole point of Cumberbatch’s character that he was cosplaying as a cowboy? They said he was Yale educated but lived his life emulating his lover/mentor Bronco Henry.

    • North of Boston says:

      Pretty much!

    • Leigh_S says:

      He was university educated, I don’t remember if it was Yale. But he wasn’t cosplaying, he was overcompensating for a perceived weakness. That internal perception of homosexuality as weak/soft drove him to be the toughest, hardest man on the ranch. It was his armor, prison and weapon.

      I’ve known horse people almost my whole life and even now there is still an impossible level of toughness expected of the people. Its even more so in the western/ranching world. I found the way Cumberbatch lived in the story eminently believable. When you spend all your time in dust/sweat/dirt/ice/mud and tired to the bone? A lot of routine self-care can feel like an utter waste of time and effort. Its a hard life now, its was unbelievably hard then.

      – signed a farm owner at the end of a very long, icy, frozen winter

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

        Leigh, thank you for offering that commentary. It was beautifully written, and you probably expressed it better than a lot of the people actually involved with the film. 🙂

      • FHMom says:

        Thanks for sharing your point of view. I know nothing about that lifestyle.

  3. blinkb says:

    I’m gutted that Passing and The Lost Daughter haven’t done better. Such gorgeous films. I don’t understand how Power of the Dog is cleaning up. Baffled.

    • Becks1 says:

      I couldn’t finish the Lost Daughter. I found it very slow, but I only got about 40 minutes in. Wonder if I should keep going or if i’m not hooked then I’m not going to be?

      • atorontogal says:

        @Becks1 – don’t do it. You’re not missing anything. I did enjoy POD because of the great cast and gripping story line. My mister fell asleep tho, he was not impressed with it.

    • Sunny says:

      I had to turn power of the dog off. It was so dark and depressing so early on. Not what I wanted or needed this year when things have felt so bleak- more negativity and cruel white men.

      • WiththeAmerican says:

        This for me as well. No thanks. I need to be uplifted or at least watch something compelling after the last 6 years.

  4. Becks1 says:

    I HATED LICORICE PIZZA (I know I just said that but it bears repeating lol.)

    I thought Ansel Elgort was actually better than I had anticipated (issues with him notwithstanding), and Rachel Zegler was better than Natalie Wood (I love NW but she was an odd choice for that movie, to put it mildly.) But those two were still the weak points of the movie for me. I don’t know if its the acting or if its how the play is written, but the supporting cast just steals the movie for me, both in the original and in this one. I tend to think of tony and maria as the supporting actors.

    Anyway I really love the original WSS and I almost agree with him, that this remake might be better? I think I need to watch it again to decide. But I thought Spielberg and his team did a very good job with taking iconic moments and songs and dance sequences and making them feel fresher and not like a shot-by-shot remake (like I feel like I can love America from 1961 and America from 2021.)

    My boys loved it except for the ending, LOL. I think I ended their childhoods, its the first movie they’ve seen with an unhappy ending, whoops. I kept telling them it was like Gnomeo and Juliet (a kids movie they’ve seen a lot) but that has a happy ending lol.

    I haven’t heard too much buzz about Nightmare Alley recently but in the other thread people were saying it was good so maybe I’ll try to watch it, but prob not before sunday night.

    • Twin Falls says:

      I may skip licorice pizza. I was originally excited for it but the trailer left me meh. I don’t know why, it’s the kind of movie I usually like.

      I skipped POTD and The Lost Daughter. I just can’t do dark and brooding right now no matter how much I love Olivia Colman.

      I loved Belfast. More people should watch it.

      CODA was a feel good movie when I desperately needed to feel good and I thought the actors did a great job so I’m happy it’s getting attention and accolades even if it isn’t a traditional Oscar type movie.

      • mia girl says:

        I loved so much about Belfast and was so happy when they won the best ensamble at the Critic’s Choice Awards.

  5. mia girl says:

    I still can’t believe the sh*t that came out of Jane Campion’s mouth in that acceptance speech.

  6. Eggbert says:

    Does King Richard touch on his life before Venus and Serena and the children he essentially abandoned?

    • Lightpurple says:

      There’s about one brief mention of that and it just moves on. Serena and Venus were producers; this is the film they wanted to make and how they wanted him portrayed.

  7. AnneL says:

    I am so happy to read about his love for “CODA” and “West Side Story.” I loved both. I didn’t know the actor who played the father in CODA was nominated. Dang, now I am torn between him and Kodi Smitt-McPhee. I would be fine with Power Of The Dog being snubbed but that kid was really phenomenal and his role was more challenging in a way. He almost had to carry the film because so much of its success was built around the suspense and ending. Had it not been for that, I would not have liked the movie at all.

    I really have no desire to see Licorice Pizza. I think it’s because it feel like more Boomer nostalgia and I’m tired of that? I remember the 70s but vaguely as I was a young child. I came of age more in the 80s and 90s. There was more freedom then, for sure. Freedom to ride your bike around town without contacting your parents and roll in at dark for dinner. But freedom to skip school all the time? Not that I remember.

    I also agree that Tony and Maria feel almost like the supporting roles in WWS. I thought Rachel was great as Maria, but it’s not the powerhouse, dynamic role that Anita is. Maria is an ingenue. One reason (among many) I preferred this movie to the original was Rachel’s performance. She was more feisty than Wood, less sugary, and the fact that she can SING didn’t hurt. She felt more like a real teenage girl. But she’s still the ingenue, and that role isn’t as interesting as Anita.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Anita in West Side Story is one of the greatest stage/film characters ever created. The weird part is that, unlike the other characters in West Side Story, Shakespeare didn’t create her in Romeo and Juliet. The closest thing to her is the Nurse and she is quite evolved from that character