Anonymous Oscar Ballot: Costume Designer Swoons for ‘Roma,’ ‘Black Panther’

This Oscar voter loves Alfonso Cuarón and Sandy Powell but wants to spread the love.
"Black Panther"
"Black Panther"

As Oscar balloting comes to an end, here’s another installment in our annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their candid thoughts on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued this year.

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

You have to think about the preferential ballot; otherwise you are not giving the number one the best possibility. I love “Roma.” But I am concerned it’s getting so much publicity and attention, it’s a bit cheeky if Alfonso Cuarón also gets nominated for Best Foreign Film, Director, Cinematography and Screenplay. I love the film and I want it to win Best Picture but I won’t vote for it for Best Foreign Film. The other foreign films should get a chance.

“BlacKkKlansman” is witty, funny, and a bit preachy but it was worth it. Good on Spike Lee. As important as the things he is saying, I enjoyed the madness of the premise and the fact it’s based on a true story.

“Black Panther” was terrific. That would be my next choice. And again, it was stunning looking, stunning performances. It was witty, it took something that could be endless action and invigorated it –which I appreciate in those action movies which are not really my cup of tea.

“Green Book” was sentimental. Fine. The idea of the green book and these two unlikely characters I liked, but it was not for my taste. Good performances.

“The Favourite” I really didn’t like. In the beginning I was engaged with it, but everybody became so unpleasant, it was people wandering around in a corridor with a fish-eye lens. I immediately started looking at the real story rather than the one I was given. It’s always a bit of a snag, when it’s based on something true and you start checking it on Wikipedia. If I’m engaged with the film I won’t do that.

Vice Amy Adams Christian Bale
Amy Adams and Christian Bale in “Vice”Annapurna

“Vice”: weird movie. At the end of the day I didn’t know any more about Dick Cheney than I did at the beginning. How did he become what he was? What were the steps between–was Lynne Cheney the engine behind everything? And that moment when he turns toward the camera didn’t work. I loved “The Big Short,” it was so brilliant and clever. This didn’t rise up to that, it was based on a real true person who has done tremendous evil to this country. It’s hard to enjoy, and find his peccadillos funny. The ramifications for the country have been so serious, sending us into wars we don’t need to be in. Christian Bale’s performance is incredible. His impersonation of DC was jaw dropping. In fact he’s British and to get it so perfectly was amazing. But it lost me. As a character study, it failed.

“A Star Is Born.” Sigh. There’s something about that story: I don’t care about it, it’s been remade two or three times, it’s so familiar. I just wasn’t interested, I didn’t particularly believe it. There were a lot of closeups of Bradley Cooper, it was the Bradley Cooper story. I mean Lady Gaga was great, but you know where it was going so quickly it didn’t have any surprises for me.

“Bohemian Rhapsody”— it’s fun. I felt that the teeth were distracting. It was so much about the prosthetic, it made him look so grotesque, it was distracting. When I saw the real guy in the end, it wasn’t as extreme, that bothered me. I thought his transformation and interpretation of the songs and movement was terrific. I never owned a Queen CD in my life, yet the music is familiar, it is the soundtrack of that era. So the Live Aid concert was one of the very entertaining aspects of it, again, when you start to investigate it afterwards it was whitewashed. I was fine with that, I don’t need to see every orgy of bad behavior. I loved the fact that the cats each had their own room.

Two films that were not included were “The Rider” which was an outstanding film. Astonishing. Unique. It should have gotten something. “Leave No Trace” was awfully good too; director Debra Granik has a way of discovering these young actresses. Too bad they didn’t garner anything.

Alfonso Cuarón on the set of “Roma”Photo by Carlos Somonte

Achievement in directing

“BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee
“Cold War” Paweł Pawlikowski
“The Favourite” Yorgos Lanthimos
“Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice” Adam McKay

I’ll vote for “Roma.” I was incredibly moved and impressed by that film. I saw it before all the brouhaha at a small screening and was knocked out by it. I was taken someplace very personal, even though it’s in Mexico, in a different world, I identified — I grew up with a nanny. I could see how important this woman and their relationship was. Details like the dog shit and the car getting scraped, and bringing in the demonstration, were really brilliant. And [Yalitza Aparicio]’s performance is extraordinary, the kids were great. It was the real flow of life, the soundtrack was extraordinary too. You were in this environment with particular sounds of the area he grew up in.

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?”

Glenn Close is going to win, that’s how it is. She’s been to the altar but never the bride a million times. She deserves for her body of work to win. I didn’t love “The Wife.” It’s hard for me to separate the movie from the actress.

Aparicio has such extraordinary presence. She was astonishing for someone who never acted before. She was able to be so convincing in that everything about her was so real. She isn’t that person, she was acting, she’s a teacher. I heard her talk.

I loved Colman’s performance, she’s fantastic. It’s the “Roma” actress. McCarthy is a close second, she did a really good job creating that unlikeable but fascinating character.


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”

I have to go for Christian Bale. It wasn’t just an impersonation, it was an interpretation. You can’t sustain a impersonation throughout a movie; his interpretation and the nuances of that evil person we have seen on TV so many times was so extraordinary–the prosthetics, the whole thing.

(l to r.) Teyonah Parris as Ernestine, KiKi Layne as Tish, and Regina King as Sharon star in Barry Jenkins' IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an Annapurna Pictures release.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Picture

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 really didn’t like “If Beale Street Could Talk,” but I thought Regina King’s performances was incredibly moving. That is who I would vote for. It’s weird there are two films I don’t really like: Rachel Weisz was good [in “The Favourite”], so was Emma Stone.

4117_D017_09462_R Topher Grace stars as David Duke and Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.Credit: David Lee / Focus Features
“BlacKkKlansman”David Lee

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”

Richard E. Grant was terrific, he was compelling and witty —there was a lovely back and forth between him and Melissa McCarthy that was very enjoyable to watch, it was “Withnail and I” again. It’s slightly the case with the actors that it’s a specific performance and also the body of their work. But I have to go with Adam Driver, be still my heart. I will watch him read a phone book, I don’t care. He was so good in “Patterson,” also for other work he has done.

Adapted screenplay

“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

“Buster Scruggs” was very clever and took you on this entertaining ride, and the language was so beautiful, it seems historically appropriate but not fake and arch. It felt real, like the scene where the guy is asking to become Zoe Kazan’s husband.

That and “BlacKkKlansman” are high on the list.

Original screenplay

“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

The woman who wrote “The Favourite” [Deborah Davis] heavily relied on a book but the writer didn’t get credit or payment –it’s cheeky calling it original. “First Reformed” was terrific, I would vote for that, a stunning disturbing  movie, but very moving, very much Paul Schrader’s themes of disappointment and despair, beautifully done. Ethan Hawke was great, I was riveted by that movie, it was surprising, though it was endlessly grim, but there was a ray of hope at the end. It took me places I didn’t expect to go. Terrific dialogue—he’s a good writer.

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

“Roma,” but it’s irritating that Cuarón is also the director-writer, he shouldn’t be taking jobs away from cinematographers. But at the same time he did an extraordinary job. The look of that film was so complete with what the film was saying, and the exquisite black and white.

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

“Border” Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
“Mary Queen of Scots” Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
“Vice” Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

“Vice” was amazing. With “Mary Queen of Scots” I found myself getting so distracted by the pock marks, even if it was authentic, I kept getting caught up with that and not what was happening on-screen. “How did they achieve that effect?” I felt it was distracting.

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

All the musical sequences in “Bohemian Rhapsody” were well done, but I wonder about that film. Bryan Singer did direct it up to the last two weeks; he is a good director despite his bad behavior, it’s weird. It’s a close second to “BlacKkKlansman,” which was very well done.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Marvel/Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9360960di)Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Connie Chiume, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan"Black Panther" Film - 2018
“Black Panther”Marvel/Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Achievement in costume design

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther” Ruth Carter
“The Favourite” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots” Alexandra Byrne

I loved “The Favourite” costumes, which are not historically accurate –that’s okay, Sandy Powell is fantastically inventive. She already has too many Oscars. I want it to go to somebody who doesn’t, spread the love around.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is also a tremendous achievement, particularly as Mary Zophres did not have a lot of money. She had to do a lot of different looks.

I’m a big fan of the “Black Panther” costume design; Ruth Carter deserves to win, it’s incredible what she did: the depth that went into in the research and creating all the different tribes, and using old and new things. The combination is just stunning, particularly when working with a comic book, where a certain amount of things are as they are. Within that structure she added whole new layers to the “Black Panther” costumes.

Achievement in production design

“Black Panther” Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
“The Favourite” Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
“First Man” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
“Mary Poppins Returns” Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Roma” Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

I have to give it to “Black Panther” again. It’s fun. You’re on a ride into Wakanda, out of Wakanda, into the casino–many realities they created. It was beautifully done, everything went together, the production design, cinematography, the costumes: it was a total vision.

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

“The Isle of Dogs” really fit the whimsicality of the animation and story. “Black Panther” was awfully good too. The score enhanced the narrative, and was compelling.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick LamarDuckworth 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

“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “Buster Scruggs” is Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, they always do great music that was very appropriate to the period and the story but is also modern. It all worked well together.

"Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”Sundance

Best documentary feature

“Free Solo” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
“Minding the Gap” Bing Liu and Diane Quon
“Of Fathers and Sons” Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
“RBG” Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Given what we’ve got, it’s going to be a tough choice for me. I was sad that the Mr. Rogers film [“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”] didn’t get nominated, that was a terrible oversight. It was so moving and he was so ahead of his time. What an incredible hopeful person, especially in these times, inclusive and caring in such a gentle way. And “Three Identical Strangers” blew my mind– I could not grasp this was a Jewish adoption home doing experiments on the kids, whose parents were not able to find out what happened, and how tragically it effected their lives. I don’t understand why those didn’t get in.

“RBG” is so great. A delight, and another fantastic story. “Hale County” is slow and not sure where it’s going, but it delivers this incredible punch and you’re taken into this world with these kids and their families. It says a lot about black culture and people struggling to get ahead, I was touched by it. It’s such a unique experience, poetic. This guy [RaMell Ross] was a photographer, the images were so divine.

But with “Free Solo” I was gasping and shutting my eyes and unable to look and totally gripped.


Best foreign language film of the year

“Capernaum” Lebanon
“Cold War” Poland
“Never Look Away” Germany
“Roma” Mexico
“Shoplifters” Japan

“Shoplifters” took me into a side of Japan that I never knew. I had a Sofia Coppola “Lost in Translation” concept of Japan as a wealthy, together, organized society. To see this underbelly, to see this creation of this strange family where you’re never quite sure who is related to whom and you discover at the end that nobody is related to anybody and they’re living in the most incredible circumstances and just getting by. It’s a surprising world, based on a true story. The cruelty of humans to each other we see all around us; this is a microcosm of how people treat each other. The created family was touching.

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