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Anonymous Oscar Ballot 2022: Director Isn’t Voting for ‘Overhyped’ ‘The Power of the Dog’

This director is voting for a range of contenders, from "Dune" and "Nightmare Alley" to "Licorice Pizza" and "The Worst Person in the World."

LICORICE PIZZA, back, from left: Alana Haim, Sean Penn, 2021. © MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Licorice Pizza”

©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

With final Oscar ballots in Academy voters’ hands as of March 17, we’re continuing with our fifth annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their honest takes on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued in the 2022 award season. Interview edited for brevity. 

Best Picture

I’m not sure what’s going to win. The consensus of critics and pundits is “The Power of the Dog,” but I’m not sure it’s backed up with favorable response from absolutely everyone. It’s very well made. Jane Campion is a great director. I wouldn’t be mad if it won, but I find it difficult to find people who really love it. I admire it, but it left me a little cold.

If there’s any pushback, it might be because it’s massively overhyped with print ads in the L.A. Times and Variety, advertisements on every site, and all the billboards. Everywhere you drive in L.A. you are faced with a billboard saying it’s “The Best Film of the Year.” If anyone is to blame for pushback it’s Netflix themselves for pushing really hard on the movie. In any other year it would be the dark horse contender, like Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” a classic that really holds up. I didn’t like this one as much as “The Piano” and I didn’t like it as much as “Brokeback Mountain” either. For me, it didn’t quite succeed on its own terms. I read the reviews. I wish I’d seen the movie described in the reviews. They say it’s a revisionist western. But all westerns in the last 60 years have been revisionist.

I don’t dislike “The Power of the Dog.” It will likely win the big one and deservedly win best cinematography, but on the whole I was left unmoved. It’s not my personal best picture of the year.

I liked “Drive My Car” better, “Licorice Pizza,” and “West Side Story,” too. “Dune” even, but that won’t win because it is very much a Part One. I don’t think it quite works as a film in its own right. I’ll probably vote for “Licorice Pizza.” But I don’t think it will win.

“CODA” and “Belfast” both have a chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if “CODA” won. It’s good little movie, maybe a bit too small. I also found “Licorice Pizza” and “King Richard” heartwarming. I was lucky to get to see “King Richard” at a festival screening with a crowd. It killed and everybody loved it. It’s sad that it never found that audience in theaters. It just works. It has a great ending.

“West Side Story” also won’t win. But it was terrific; I was floored by it. I was surprised it was not nominated for one category: Best Adapted Screenplay. Tony Kushner made interesting changes; it was well done; even the reordering of the songs was clever. It’s not about whether it’s better or worse than the original. They made improvements on the original film.

I didn’t care for “Don’t Look Up.” It had its moments but it was the same joke hammered in your face for 2 1/2 hours, and to rub salt in the wound, [writer-director Adam McKay] said that anybody who doesn’t like the movie doesn’t care about climate change! I could have done without that.

Actor in a Leading Role

Will Smith will be a popular winner. He’s good in “King Richard.” The other person I liked a lot was Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick, Boom.” This part was tailor made for him. In a film that’s a maybe too inside baseball, Garfield manages to makes it work. We are totally with him on the journey, even as he gets enveloped in his ego and hubris, then realization dawns that it’s not going to happen for him.

Parallel Mothers.Penélope Cruz as Janis, Milena Smit as Ana.Credit: Iglesias Más/Sony Pictures Classics

“Parallel Mothers” stars Penélope Cruz as Janis, Milena Smit as Ana.

Iglesias Más/Sony Pictures Classics

Actress in a Leading Role 

Penelope Cruz is undeniable in that performance. She’s an actress who gets better and better with age; she brings her entire life to every performance. I didn’t love “The Lost Daughter,” but you can’t deny that Olivia Colman is magnetic in every scene. The whole movie, you cannot take your eyes off her. You’re waiting to see how she reacts. If that movie works, it’s all due to Colman.

I didn’t love “Spencer.” Kristen Stewart was strong but I didn’t believe her as Diana Spencer, maybe because the girl from “The Crown” [Emma Corrin] had done such an amazing job recently. It’s weird that “Spencer” is set ten years into the marriage, but it’s written and played like it’s all new to her. There’s something a bit odd and phony about it in its entirety. Stewart played Spencer as too naive. She’s a great actress but I didn’t buy the movie.

Similarly, Jessica Chastain gives a strong performance — she disappears into that role — but the movie doesn’t make up its mind about how it felt about Tammy Faye Bakker. Obviously, she is a polarizing figure, but I was confused at the end of the film: did it let her off the hook too much? It seems to go out of its way to make her not complicit in the fraud, so you feel warmer toward her by the end. I wasn’t sure about that.

CODA, Troy Kotsur, 2021. © Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Troy Kotsur in “CODA”

©Apple TV/Courtesy Everett Collection

Actor in a Supporting Role

Troy Kotsur will win this category over Kodi Smit-McPhee, even if you think “CODA” is too cutesy for its own good. He feels so real in that part, I buy him as a New England fisherman. He has the best scene in the movie, after his daughter’s recital when he hasn’t been able to hear her singing, she sings to him as he’s touching her throat. He’s charming in every scene and makes it affecting at the end. It will be an historical win. He deserves it.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Ariana DeBose will win; she’s been winning everything. I must admit she’s great. But the true standout in “West Side Story,” who made me shed a tear, was Rita Moreno when she sings “Somewhere.” But she already won Best Supporting Actress for this 60 years ago.

The other person who really registered for me is Jessie Buckley in “The Lost Daughter.” She doesn’t look anything like Olivia Colman, but it doesn’t matter at all, they have the same energy. Like Colman I can’t take my eyes off Buckley, she’s such a fascinating a performer. She’s been doing great work for many years now.

In “King Richard,” Aunjanue Ellis has a great Oscar scene, in the kitchen. It should be her Oscar clip. But they’ve got to show the clips! They didn’t show any clips last year.

Steven Spielberg, James Cameron - Story of Science Fiction _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Michael Moriatis/AMC

Steven Spielberg

Michael Moriatis/AMC

Director

Jane Campion will win and I don’t think anybody is going to be mad about that. She’s done amazing work over the years. Is it my fave Campion film? No, but I won’t be annoyed. My vote is for Spielberg, as he was firing on all cylinders with “West Side Story.” In a visual sense, he did his best work in this century. It felt like the young Spielberg making that movie, it was exciting to watch.

On “Licorice Pizza” it was nice to see Paul Thomas Anderson working in a slightly different register. He usually makes films about misanthropic terrible people. It was great to see a different side of him. It felt like he had lot of affection for his lead characters. You could tell he loved working with his actors, Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim. Creating a movie around non-actors gave it a bit of sparkle missing from his other films. It has a fuzzy, loose, 70s, jazzy feeling. That’s what he was aspiring to do. It’s one of his best pictures in a long time.

Adapted Screenplay

I don’t know where this is going to fall. It’s difficult to judge when I haven’t read all the source material. I never read “The Lost Daughter” and I wasn’t aware “CODA” was a remake of another film. I suspect Maggie Gyllenhaal or “The Power of the Dog” might win, but “Drive My Car” is a good bet for this one. They’ve made an enigmatic and absorbing film out of a [Murakami] short story. I never read [Frank Herbert’s] “Dune,” though this adaptation felt like it ended just as it was building up a head of steam. I don’t think it will win film or screenplay, because it’s a part one. Like “The Return of the King,” people will wait to see how it pans out.

“The Worst Person in the World”

Neon

Original Screenplay

Paul Thomas Anderson could win for “Licorice Pizza.” It’s a bit episodic and meandering, but that’s intentional. It is full of life and character and it’s truly distinctive. But the best screenplay overall, for me, is “The Worst Person in the World.” Of all the films this year, I found this the most emotional. I could have seen it in Best Picture alongside “Drive My Car.” It’s a brilliant, nuanced screenplay. Some of the scenes in the last 20 minutes are just heartbreaking.

Animated Feature

It’s between “Flee” and “Mitchells vs. The Machines” for me. I think the latter might win, but “Flee” would be a great historic win as an adult animated documentary feature. It probably won’t happen, but it would be incredible if it did. You can’t deny the power of that movie and it’s actually the film which shows what is happening right now in Ukraine.

Animated Short Subject

These are all strong as well. I liked “Boxballet,” it’s beautiful. I liked the style of the artwork. It was funny and precise with great editing; it’s tonally sharp and funny and emotional and well put-together.

“Dune”

Legendary/Warner Bros.

Cinematography

They’re all great, all very worthy. “Nightmare Alley” looks totally exquisite. Ari Wegner will probably win for “The Power of the Dog.” She did an amazing job for a relatively young DoP. It’s between her and Greig Fraser for “Dune.” He’s a great DoP. That’s where my vote is split. “West Side Story” looks amazing as well. It’s one of the rare categories where you can’t go wrong.

Costumes

They are all good nominees. It’s between “Cruella” or “Dune.” They were both extremely imaginative.

flee summer of soul

“Flee” and “Summer of Soul”

Documentary Feature

It’s between the popular “Summer of Soul,” which will probably win, and “Flee.”  I’d love to see ‘Flee’ get something, it’s a very powerful film, beautifully made, but “Summer of Soul” has been the popular winner all year, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an amazing find and criminal that the footage lay dormant so long. Questlove is great and much beloved too. But all five are great films. I was also taken with “Ascension,” which was truly dazzling and mesmeric. My vote is currently split among the three, but I don’t think “Ascension” can win.

Documentary Short Subject

All the documentary short subjects were good. “Lead me Home,” about the homeless problem in California, was really affecting, it hit me particularly hard, seeing how close to home it all is and how close many people are to the edge.

Editing

Film editing is hard to judge. People mistake it for Most Editing. People mistake showy and brash for skill, which is why we get dubious winners. I will probably go for “Dune.” The editing in “Tick, Tick, Boom” is interesting and creative in many ways. Nothing about “The Power of the Dog” sticks out; I didn’t care for “Don’t Look Up.” “King Richard” is solid too, a story well told, that never called attention to itself. A lot of other ones are missing, though: “West Side Story” should be in this section, for sure.

"Dune"

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen in “Dune”

Chiabella James

Hair and Makeup

I have problems with the prosthetics usage in “House of Gucci.” Too often Oscars are given out to actors buried in prosthetics for no apparent reason. I’ll vote for “Dune,” which is imaginative, new, and interesting rather than making Jared Leto look like a 60-year-old actor. They could have cast somebody else. That said, get ready for a “The Batman” win next year for Colin Farrell.

International Feature Film

This is a tough one. Four of these I like. “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is a fine, nice film, but it’s not in the same league as some others that didn’t make the five. I wonder if there shouldn’t be ten films in this category as well: there are too many good ones. “Worst Person” gets my vote, but “Drive My Car” and “Flee” are excellent too. I liked [Paolo Sorrentino’s] “The Hand of God,” though it is not quite as powerful as the other films.

Live Action Short Subject

Some are stronger than others, like “Please Hold,” a futuristic film about a guy wrongly put in prison who gets caught up in a battery of automated systems. It’s funny and nightmarish, it gave me a bit of an Orwellian vibe. “Please Hold” is well-made: the perfect length, with good special effects and a great message.

Original Score

I would say “Dune.” I’ve seen all these films but couldn’t tell you which score is “Parallel Mothers” or “Encanto.” “Dune” is the one I could hum. It would be great to see Jonny Greenwood win for “The Power of the Dog” on Oscar night. It’s great to see him on stage.

Original Song

This category is always full of snoozes. They did not submit the “Encanto” hit, which is a fuck up. Lin-Manuel Miranda is beloved, and will probably win, but this is not the buzzy song from that film. I like Billie Eilish but “No Time to Die” doesn’t do it for me. I loved Adele’s “Skyfall,” but this one is only marginally better than the Sam Smith one, which was so unmemorable for me. Eilish will still win, I think. There’s some weird ones in here, like Diane Warren’s 40th nomination, but voters haven’t seen that movie. She won’t win until she’s paired up with a film people have seen.

Bradley Cooper in the film NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Photo by Kerry Hayes. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“Nightmare Alley”

Kerry Hayes

Production Design

You can’t go wrong, they’re all great, but “Nightmare Alley” is incredible, as is “West Side Story.” But this is one where “Dune” will triumph.

Sound

“Dune” is the winner. While the work on the other films is good, the level of imagination and world building on “Dune” is enormous: it’s arresting to watch and listen to.

Visual Effects

“Dune” is the clear winner here over both Marvels (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home”). “Dune” imaginatively creates a whole new world.

 

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