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Anonymous Oscar Ballot 2021: The Executive Who Missed Socializing and Binged TV

A member of the Academy executive branch rates "Soul" at No. 1, while "Mank" was "less than the sum of its parts."

Soul Pixar movie

“Soul”

Courtesy of Pixar

With Oscar ballots heading into Academy voters’ hands on April 15, we’re forging ahead with our fourth annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their candid thoughts on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued in this strange pandemic year.

[The Oscars] did a good thing moving back. I’m catching up.

Because my business has been extremely busy in this COVID year, ironically, I didn’t want to watch the movies. It was the weirdest thing. I was buried in production 24/7, cutting and notes-making. There was no relaxation time, because we had to do everything remotely, it took longer. I found myself watching light TV, like the series “Emily in Paris,” “The Crown,” “Queen’s Gambit,” “Call My Agent,” and I binged “The Wire” and “Nurse Jackie.”

I kept going through these things; my brain was so tired of judging things every day, the notion of watching a hundred movies? My TV isn’t that big, I’m not going to watch “Tenet” on a 55-inch TV screen. It wasn’t that interesting to me. I still haven’t seen it, though it’s now on the portal. The Academy screening portal was great, it’s on Roku.

I realized, “I’m out this year.” I didn’t watch the foreign, the docs, or shorts. I only had to vote for Best Picture Oscar nominations. I’ve seen pretty much everything except for “Tenet” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

I used to go to the screenings. I loved meeting all the people. This year I didn’t watch the Q&As, I [was] checked out 100 percent. Every day I got a hundred of them from all my friends and ignored all of them. I missed the whole circuit. You don’t realize how much fun it is. I’ve always liked it. They treat you right, feed you: “Come sit with Adam McKay and talk for an hour!” He’s a fabulous guy to hang out with, Amy Adams is another great person. They want your vote. I never take any of it personally. I recognize the process.

This year, I haven’t read a word in the trades. You get osmosis, I know what’s going on. I’ve chosen what to imbibe. I always listen to Aaron Sorkin, he’s so entertaining. I love the story, even if it’s not true, of him going to Spielberg’s house. When I heard Sacha talk about the process [of making “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”], I realized how difficult it really was.

The Father

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins in “The Father.”

Sony Pictures Classics

Best Picture

The best movie of the year wasn’t nominated, “Soul.” It was my No. 1. I thought it was in a class by itself, a masterwork. “Borat” is my No. 2. I loved “The Mauritanian;” [Tahir Rahim] and Jodie Foster were very good. I wasn’t paying enough attention at the beginning; I didn’t know the difference between “The Mauritanian” and “The Mandalorian!”

The final nominees look like a bunch of Spirit Award movies.

“Promising Young Woman” So many surprises. It’s simple, it’s little. You don’t think it’s a big movie, then you get hit by it. Holy shit. What’s satisfying is you don’t see it coming, you don’t see the big picture, so many digressions and important points along the way. It never occurs to you that she has a plan. And when you see what the plan is, she’s really, “Whoa, the ending!” You realize she was that girl the whole time, which  justified the anger and overreaction she was having.

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”  It’s very hard, what [Sorkin] did. One problem with it, which I would tell him straight up: When Abbie Hoffman said he had a low draft number, there was no lottery; it was a year later. I had to join the Army, I got drafted. “Wait a minute! I know that timeline, that’s my life!” It spoiled the whole movie. It stuck in my craw. If that’s not true, what else is he messing with that isn’t true? I don’t mind the speech he made up at the end; that’s moviemaking.

“The Father” I had some personal experience living with that issue, like most of us. What this one had, I’m giving a lot of credit to the production designer. I felt I was the diseased. I was seeing the world through him. I was terrified; I didn’t know what was true or not true. I thought it was really great.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” I like the movie, didn’t love it. Very solid.

“Minari” is a good screenplay. Anything Steven Yeun is in I want to see, he’s a movie star. He’s been doing excellent work for an extended period of time, like “Walking Dead” and “Burning.”

“Mank” The look was good, Gary Oldman was good. Amanda Seyfried was good. The movie just wasn’t very good.

“Sound of Metal” I didn’t get that movie. I bounced off it. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t go for it, it didn’t do anything for me. Just because he was banging drums and he was deaf seems too on the nose.

“Nomadland.” I’d give it the ensemble acting award, the people are so unbelievable. I’d like to see it on the big screen. My old rule was I’d never watch a movie at home to vote for an Oscar. It’s not that I wanted to go out so much; there were too many movies I watched at home that I didn’t give a fair chance. Well, “Moonlight” won, so all bets are off. I don’t think “Nomadland” should sweep the awards. It’s going to be hard for me to pull the trigger for it for Best Picture. Best Picture connotation is beyond being my favorite movie. I was a “La La Land” guy, not “Moonlight,” which I had no problem with, Barry [Jenkins] is a terrific guy. I was happy they won. But I thought “La La Land” was a much bigger more Oscar-worthy-type movie. If “Nomadland” wins, great. I’m not there yet. It’s a weird year.

Director

I’ll probably vote for Chloé Zhao for “Nomadland,” because of the way it’s put together. She should have got it for “The Rider.”

Actor

There’s no contest for Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which is a shame, because Anthony Hopkins [“The Father”] was so unbelievably brilliant. Boseman is going to win, no?

“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Netflix

Supporting Actor

I go for Sacha Baron Cohen. That guy’s crazy in a good way. I love anything he does, even though he was half a foot taller than Abbie Hoffman. I thought Jeremy Strong was miscast. I met Jerry Rubin, he had an entirely different quality, softer, more humorous. Jeremy Strong is intense, Jerry Rubin was more of a clown. And Tom Hayden was an ugly guy, not Eddie Redmayne. Other than that, and the fact that Frank Langella played it much straighter than what really happened — the judge was out of his mind — I was thrilled they got to make it.

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” I don’t get how both are supporting actors. They are both lead actors. Two men can’t be lead actors? There’s no more Redford and Newman? Kaluuya is always good, so is the other guy [LaKeith Stanfield].

I’m glad Paul Raci was nominated for “Sound of Metal.” Drumming movies like “Whiplash” are good for character actors.

Frances McDormand and Director/Writer Chloé Zhao on the set of NOMADLAND. Photo by Joshua James Richards. © 2020 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao on the set of “Nomadland”

Joshua Richards

Actress

Really tough. I got to pick one. Frances McDormand was totally amazing. I’m trying not to be affected by the fact that she has won already twice.

The other one I am considering is Carey Mulligan for “Promising Young Woman,” I’m probably going to vote for it, but I could change my mind. She gets extra points for acting in my other favorite movie of the year “The Dig.” Why did [Netflix] let that go? It’s such a brilliant, great, fabulous movie. It’s amazing that she could do both. That was so good and caught me off guard.

I will probably have to see Andra Day, I’ll see [“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”] in the next week or so.

Mank Netflix

“Mank”

Netflix

Supporting Actress

“Minari” is a good film, I could vote for the grandma. If [Youn Yuh-jung] wins, no problem. My heart is with “Borat” and my affection is with Amanda Seyfried who deserves to be a bigger star than she is. This is a body-of-work win. “Mank”‘s reach exceeds its grasp. Anything she does I am a fan of. She’s always great. She was great as Linda Lovelace. l would vote for her, or the girl [Maria Bakalova] from “Borat.”

I didn’t watch all of “Hillbilly Elegy.” Olivia Colman [“The Father”] is always great. She’s the loveliest person to meet.

Adapted Screenplay

I’m voting for “Borat;” it needs to win something. It’s an event of spectacular brilliance.

Original Screenplay

I will probably vote for “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” But Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” is the screenplay you don’t see coming, you get to the end and say, “That’s where they’re going, I want to see it again.” Love seeing the trap doors.

Animated Feature 

“Soul” is the best movie of the year.

Cinematography

I wish I’d seen “Nomadland” on the big screen, it’s unfair to see it on a small screen even if you think that’s obvious because it’s a little, tiny story. Maybe I will go see it on a big screen for my theatrical resurgence, before I decide. I owe it to that movie to see it on the big screen.

“News of the World” is a really great movie, it got disrespected. What happened, it needed to be in theaters. Tom Hanks was great, the girl [Helena Zengel] was great, the story was great. Paul Greengrass is a procedural, linear director; that’s out of fashion. The movie was underrepresented; it seemed traditional all of a sudden.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Netflix

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Netflix

Costume Design

I’m giving “Ma Rainey” the costume award for his suits and her dresses. “Emma” is on my list to see. I have it at home.

Makeup and Hairstyling

“Ma Rainey” could win both of those. It’s not really a movie.

“My Octopus Teacher”

Netflix

Documentary Feature

“My Octopus Teacher,” I say it tentacle in cheek, there’s no way I’m voting for the other movies. I was amazed it got in. I went out and bought the book, “The Soul of an Octopus.” The film cut through everything. Just the notion we are not alone. Like “E.T.,” this alien creature was just like us, it was emotionally piercing, it goes into your heart.

I hear “Collective” is great. I was disappointed that “The Truffle Hunters” didn’t get it. I got to start catching up.

Editing

“Nomadland” is pretty great in the editing.

Production Design

I was looking forward to “Mank,” I had it on my calendar! It was overproduced, it was too much for what it was, there wasn’t enough in there. Nothing going on behind its eyes, all projection onto the surface. It’s an amazing-looking movie. But it didn’t work. “Mank” could win for Production Design or Cinematography for its empty calories. That movie is less than the sum of its parts. The parts are great. All this old style trying to be 20th century, it reminded me of Peter Bogdanovich’s “Nickelodeon,” a big overblown movie.

Score

“Soul,” Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor [and Jon Batiste]. Throw away the key!

Sound

“Soul” was exquisite.

Visual Effects

They’ll throw one at “Tenet.” [Warner Bros.] didn’t campaign, took one for the team by putting it out there when they did. [Chris Nolan] wanted to do it that way, which hurt the movie.

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