With Oscar balloting coming to a close, we’re continuing our second annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their candid thoughts on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued this year.
I really enjoy being able to vote in the Oscars, even though it rarely represents my favorite films of the year and can’t even begin to truly recognize world cinema. Too often, the criteria of what constitutes an “Oscar-worthy” movie is so muddled by the own weight of what that means, that you frequently get films nominated for Best Picture that do not seem like objectively “great” movies. That said, a couple of the films nominated for Best Picture this year are among those that I genuinely believe to be the best of the year. That doesn’t always happen. A lot of the time, Best Pictures are the ones that most could generally agree on.
The Academy’s strains to make the ceremony three hours long are really dumb. I don’t want it to be more like the Globes, and I want it to be craft-centric and not just about the stars. Also, when the ceremony actually ends isn’t going to get a single extra millennial viewer watching. ABC and the Academy just need to recognize that ratings are going down for everything and just concentrate on making the best show. I was glad they reversed the idea of bumping categories to a montage at the end. They do that on the BAFTAs too, and it’s difficult not to feel that those awards are therefore considered less important (and less starry). Just make a good overall show, running time doesn’t matter.
How do you feel about the preferential Best Picture ballot?
I am a newer voter and have never voted another way, but I would go back a method of one vote, one picture. The preferential method has the same effect as Rotten Tomatoes, where a film that is generally good, but not actively great, could feasibly still get over 90 percent on that site.
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Performance by an actor in a leading role
Christian Bale in “Vice”
Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book”
Well straight away, this is an odd one. I voted for the actor who starred in a movie that I don’t think is good enough to be Best Picture. I thought “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a pretty thin biopic, not as deep or as smart as it could have been. However, Rami Malek (along with the soundtrack) almost single handedly kept the ship afloat. The film undeniably connected with its audience and I think a huge amount of that is down to him. Especially if reports are to be believed, that he was essentially directing himself a lot of the time.
The others were all good too, especially Bale who continues to be an amazing chameleon in the vein of Day Lewis.
Photo by Mary Cybulski
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Mahershala Ali in “Green Book”
Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott in “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell in “Vice”
Another strong category. I went for Richard E. Grant, as Mahershala just won two years ago, and Grant has never been nominated. His performance in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is a career best, a brilliant weary counterpart to his mischievous breakout in “Withnail and I” over 30 years ago. And no actor is having more fun on the grueling awards circuit, so give it to him for godsakes.
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Performance by an actress in a leading role
Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”
Glenn Close in “The Wife”
Olivia Colman in “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
This was also very tough. McCarthy has never been better, Colman is deservedly anointed for her uniquely comedic and dramatic chops. That said, I voted for Close in the end. I would have never got around to watching “The Wife” if it hadn’t been nominated, and I found it to be a very striking little film and a beautifully slow-burning performance by her. I think she is at her best in this when saying nothing — there’s so much emotion in those pauses and nonverbal reactions, more so even than the big dramatic clip they will no doubt play in the show. I think it’s more than just a career award too, it’s a genuinely timely part.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in “Vice”
Marina de Tavira in “Roma”
Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone in “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”
I love Amy Adams, but while I feel like she’s overdue, I didn’t think this was the particular role she should win for. King was also great, but I ended up voted for Weisz, because I thought it was a great performance, both funny, devious, and dramatic. Comedy doesn’t often get plaudits, so Weisz it was.
Best animated feature film of the year
“Incredibles 2” Brad Bird, John Walker, and Nicole Paradis Grindle
“Isle of Dogs” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, and Jeremy Dawson
“Mirai” Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, and Clark Spencer
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller
“Isle of Dogs” was beautiful, but I went for “Spider-Verse,” something genuinely fresh and groundbreaking. Deserves to win over “Incredibles 2,” which though good, is just the equal of a movie we saw 15 years ago. “Spider-Verse” should win for a new spin on the genre.
Achievement in cinematography
“Cold War” Łukasz Żal
“The Favourite” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born” Matthew Libatique
This is why the Oscars are inherently silly: Why make me choose between TWO of the best-looking b&w foreign language films of recent memory? I was knocked out by “Roma” and “Cold War” both, and even though I think Alfonso will win, I wanted to give a nod to the extraordinary work of Lukasz Zal.
Achievement in directing
“BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee
“Cold War” Paweł Pawlikowski
“The Favourite” Yorgos Lanthimos
“Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice” Adam McKay
Cuarón for me. Pawlikowski’s work was also just incredible, but “Roma,” I think, is the movie of the year and it’s Alfonso’s imagination from the ground up. I love Spike, but “BlacKkKlansman” was not in my top three favorite movies of his and I feel like rewarding him for this feels a little like how I felt about Scorsese winning for “The Departed.” Good, but not his best.
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Achievement in film editing
“BlacKkKlansman” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody” John Ottman
“The Favourite” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Green Book” Patrick J. Don Vito
“Vice” Hank Corwin
I voted for “Vice” here. I liked the film generally, although I felt like it was preaching to the choir and wasn’t out to change any minds. That said, it’s frequently ingenious in its construction and there are some bold, daring choices in the editing.
Best foreign language film of the year
“Cold War” Poland
“Never Look Away” Germany
Another tough category — “Roma,” “Shoplifters” and “Cold War” — were among the very best of the year and could knock most of the actual Best Pictures into a cocked hat. Hated having to choose, but went for “Roma.”
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)?
“Black Panther” Ludwig Goransson
“BlacKkKlansman” Terence Blanchard
“If Beale Street Could Talk” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns” Marc Shaiman
I really liked the “BlackKKlansman” score. I wasn’t completely convinced by that film tonally, but I liked Blanchard’s emotional sweep of a score.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Gaga has this in the bag.
Best motion picture of the year
“Black Panther” Kevin Feige, Producer
“BlacKkKlansman” Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
“Bohemian Rhapsody” Graham King, Producer
“The Favourite” Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
“Green Book” Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
“Roma” Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
“A Star Is Born” Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
“Vice” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers
For me, it’s “Roma,” hands down. I’m not really a fan of the Netflix model and am still a big believer in the theatrical window, but I was lucky enough to see “Roma” in a theatre three times and it’s extraordinary.
Some of the others I liked less, some I think are not really that great, and many better films didn’t make it at all: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Cold War,” “Eighth Grade,” among others.
Best live-action short film
“Detainment” Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
“Fauve” Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
“Marguerite” Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
“Mother” Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
“Skin” Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman
I don’t honestly know what happened this year that 80 percent of the shorts involved child murder or murder by children, but it was an especially grim slog and a few felt truly exploitative. I voted for the one movie directed by a woman, which was also the only one not to feature dying kids or killer kids: “Marguerite.”
Photo by Mary Cybulski
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman” Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk” Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born” Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters
I voted for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?.” The awards season will often introduce you to a film that you had missed and this was a fantastic, darkly funny character study that needs more eyes on it. A great little movie.
“The Favourite” Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
“First Reformed” Written by Paul Schrader
“Green Book” Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma” Written by Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice” Written by Adam McKay
I agonized between “The Favourite” and “First Reformed.” I eventually plumped for the former, but I am glad Schrader is in the mix and I wish that film had got more attention. Ethan Hawke should have been nominated, certainly.