Will the Oscars go goo-goo for Gaga or bend the knee for Glenn? Will they favor two important films with “Black” in the title, a lesbian costume dramedy, an interracial buddy film, or a black and white Mexican flick about a wonderful housekeeper? And should the Oscars win a Golden Razzie for originally choosing Kevin Hart as host? How about the other scandals a-brewin’, some of them involving the private parts—and alleged abuses—of various directors?
All these queries and more were answered by an anonymous Oscar voter, who told me everything—and then some—en route to the actual awards, which will be held on Feb. 24. This voter is adamant that “smear campaigns” are trying to ruin valuable films’ chances.
Hello, Oscar voter. Firstly, your thoughts on the Kevin Hart I’m-hosting-no-I’m-not-hosting fiasco?
I think he didn’t want to do the full apology. Without knowing all the facts, I’m happy with the way it turned out. It was going to be messy, and if he said, “I don’t want to be a distraction,” that’s the right move.
But then he tried again, then removed himself again. And now there’s no host at all.
It’s OK to have no host. If that works, fine, or if not, they’ll adjust it next year. With the hosts they’ve been picking, they tend to bring their own personal show baggage with them. With Jimmy Kimmel, it was a whole busload of people. With Ellen, it was people getting pizza. It becomes less about the awards show and more about what they do on their own show. Letterman did a top 10. But Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg were all about the show. I think the Oscars should take a page from the Tony Awards. With the Tonys, it’s literally all about the product—the plays, the musicals. When they do a shtick, it caters to what the awards show is to begin with.
Well, thank god they at least didn’t put in the Best Popular Film category this year.
But during the nomination announcement, they so forced it in there. When Black Panther got nominated, the on-camera commentators carefully crafted it, basically saying, “Now we have something people in the Midwest have seen.” My fellow Academy members are rolling their eyes, aghast, at the idea of the popular film vote, but I was really excited about the possibility. When I talked to people from Black Panther [which just won SAG’s award for Outstanding Performance By A Cast], they were not for the popular vote because they were afraid they’d get it and then they wouldn’t be the frontrunner for Best Picture. The same goes for Roma—it’s up for foreign, which hurts it for Best Picture. I wished Crazy Rich Asians was nominated. It doesn’t deserve a Best Picture nomination, but it deserves a popular nomination.
They can always institute the category next year, along with a host and five songs performed. Meanwhile, what are you voting for for Best Picture?
Green Card. I’m sorry, Green Book. Freudian slip. [Laughs]
What about the scandals, like how director Peter Farrelly flashed his privates on movie sets and Tony Lip’s son tweeted in agreement with Trump’s lie about Muslims celebrating on 9/11?
I know. I put this in the Al Franken category, where there was no reason why he needed to step down. At least here in the New York area, there seems to be an absolute awareness that this was an obvious smear campaign and they were purposely doing it before the vote came out to knock it out of the water, and it was distasteful. It ended up working against those wanting Green Book to fail. And it brought more attention to the film than it otherwise would have.
Are you voting for Green Book’s Viggo Mortensen for Best Actor?
If I wanted to go with Green Book all the way, it would be Viggo. I thought Christian Bale (as Dick Cheney in Vice) did that type of thing where you transform with makeup into the character. I applaud that, the same as Gary Oldman last year. [Oldman won for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.] They both transcended the makeup. And so did John C. Reilly in Stan & Ollie [about classic comedy team Laurel and Hardy]. He was a better Ollie than Ollie. I hated the movie, but he deserved recognition.
How about Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody? Come on, he had to wear false teeth!
He gave a perfect performance, and he did it under very different circumstances because of what happened on that film. If I had my ballot today, I’d say Viggo, but I loved Bohemian Rhapsody. And the way I applaud Green Book for transcending the smear campaign against it, I applaud Bohemian Rhapsody for subduing theirs. People have kept it quiet. They’ve been very good about not making waves and making it all about the film and not the controversy.
But when the film and Malek won Golden Globes and when Malek won the SAG, they didn’t even mention Bryan Singer, who was thrown off the set in the midst of disputes (not involving the sexual-misconduct allegations), after directing most of the film! No director was mentioned!
That’s what I’m saying. The controversy is not because they fired the director and all that stuff, it’s because they kept the director’s name on the credits. But I think contractually there’s nothing they could do about that. Under those circumstances, they’ve done the right thing. You make a mention of what happened and you open a can of worms. And for some reason, virtually everyone else has stayed quiet too. No one’s bothering to muck it up. It doesn’t bother me at all.
Well, how about the sexual-misconduct accusations [which Singer denies]? Are you not bothered by them?
That’s a slightly misleading question, kind of like the old non-answerable joke, “Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or no?” My quick response is: Of course I’m bothered by them. Am I surprised? No one, I think, is surprised—just surprised he hadn’t been shut down earlier, especially if the rumors of his improprieties are all true. Am I good with Singer keeping his credit? I’m on the fence thinking that if what I’ve heard about him is true, then he never should have gotten so far in directing the film, but he did and I’m sure the film is what it is because of that, so again I’m on the fence.
What I AM good with is how Bohemian Rhapsody has handled these allegations by just skirting the issue. I’m not completely up on the exact details, but it’s my understanding that Singer completed enough of the film to contractually get his credit, which means that the poor guy who finished the film is out in the cold, and most likely knew that going in. If they even open up that Pandora’s box and talk about Bryan Singer, I think the floodgates would open. As it stands now, I’m amazed that the smear campaigners have not made more of this. Rami has been great as far as not going there, and rumor has it it was him that got Bryan fired. [Author’s note: When asked by Vulture, Malek said he didn’t know about the sexual-assault allegations when he went into the film, and added that he was considered for the part before Singer was even attached. Singer has said he and Malek had creative differences, but his dismissal was not a direct result of that.] We talked about Kevin Hart not wanting to deflect from the ceremony, and I say the same thing about Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s great that they made that choice.
Moving on to a relatively scandal-free category: Are you and your peers finally voting for Glenn Close for Best Actress?
Oh, yes. As soon as I saw The Wife, I said it had Best Actress written all over it, and I liked the film. This has got to be her year. She’s got everything going for her, including pedigree, a long-standing career, a perfect role for her, empowerment of women, and so on.
So Lady Gaga’s performance in A Star is Born is no competition?
Ugh. I am not a fan of A Star is Born. The one thing I loved is Bradley Cooper’s hair. I don’t know how he got his hair to do that! But I didn’t like the songs, and the story suffered from being the fourth remake. Gaga could act and you finally got to see her for who she was, as opposed to the persona she portrays onstage. For that, I thought she was magnificent, but Best Actress? No way. She made Bradley look great because where he had the ability to hold the screen and keep focus on him, she did not. By comparison, Bradley shone even more. He deserves his Best Actor nomination.
Alas for him, he was snubbed for Best Director. In that category, will the winner be Alfonso Cuaron for Roma?
I do not like Roma. I don’t hate it. It’s fine. I just don’t understand the fuss. Some of his films are my favorites of all time, but not this one. I’m going with Peter Farrelly for Green Book.
But it’ll have to be a write-in. He wasn’t nominated.
Maybe they didn’t transcend the controversy?
Then Adam McKay for Vice.
Did you like the eccentric costume dramedy The Favourite, which tied with Roma for 10 nominations?
I liked the first half and then they seemed to have taken all the fun and concept and thrown it out of the window and made it a period piece, and then the end was so confusing. I have no idea what happened.
Who are you voting for as Best Supporting Actor?
Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me? I’ve been a fan of him for years. His performance was such a departure from what I’ve seen him do.
I thought he always played messy gays.
Yes he did, but this had a more somber tone.
Did you like Melissa McCarthy changing gears as forging lesbian Lee Israel in the same film? She’s up for Best Actress.
I do like her a lot, and in her next film, it’s supposedly in the same vein of her having this seriousness. She’s embracing it like Robin Williams and Tom Hanks did when they got their stride. But for Best Actress, it’s Glenn.
As for Supporting Actress: Amy Adams? Regina King?
The snub I was going to vote for was Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place [who just won the SAG award]. I loved it. I thought it was gonna be the Get Out of this year. I wish she was up for Mary Poppins Returns, too.
But she got a spoonful of zilch. So who will get Supporting Actress?
I do think both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone were amazing in The Favourite. I think right now it’s gonna be Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk, but I think I might sway to Emma Stone.
Is it bizarre that Emma’s in supporting, though?
Yes. I loved the performance of the queen (Olivia Colman, who’s up for Best Actress), but then it deteriorated.
The queen had all her pet rabbits, but I bet Glenn Close could boil them in no time. Is it weird that for BlacKkKlansman, Adam Driver is nominated (for supporting), but not John David Washington (for lead)?
I didn’t think Denzel Washington’s son deserved to be nominated. He was fine, but not over-the-top spectacular. The thing that made that film work on a bipartisan level was Adam Driver, so I’m not disappointed that he got nominated. Is it problematic that there’s only two supporting nominees, Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Regina King, as black actors nominated? It could be. We’re always tending to be portrayed as a bunch of racist white people by our own Academy, so the fact that BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther were nominated for Best Picture will subdue that.
So you liked BlacKkKlansman?
Yes. In the course of the year, there have been a lot of socially relevant and politically charged films and they were obvious, in your face, and heavy handed. The Hate U Give takes a hammer and slaps you over the head with its message. That’s when I realized that Get Out didn’t do that. It used comedy as a back door to giving a socially relevant message. And when Jordan Peele became a player on the stage about this, he was amazing. With BlacKkKlansman, there’s no demeaning anything that Spike Lee did because he did a magnificent job, but I think it was a better film because Jordan Peele was attached to it. And then I realized I do get Get Out. I’m so happy that Black Panther got nominated as well. It really works for me on all the levels it works for everybody else. It did not smack you over the head with the message. It carried underneath this gravitas, like the best of those things do.
And it’s popular! How do you feel about complaints that Green Book is about a white hero of racism?
I don’t even understand that one. I’m not sure where those comments are coming from. I thought Mahershala Ali did such an amazing portrayal of Dr. Shirley that he made him seem an absolute superhero in the wrong time period. And Shirley had the guts to go and do something probably no one else of his standing would, and he was lucky to have someone like Viggo to have his back. I don’t know what other character you could have to navigate through enemy territory than the enemy itself—a white, racist bouncer. But, as with Emma Stone, I don’t understand why Mahershala is in supporting. Had he been in lead, I would have voted for him. But I won’t vote for him for supporting. Richard E. Grant definitely was supporting. It works against Mahershala and Emma that they both were put in the wrong category.
But it didn’t hurt Viola Davis. They put her in supporting for Fences and she won.
So you’re gonna hold it against Mahershala that he’s in the wrong category?
With Richard E. Grant, I felt he’s the one who made Melissa shine. With Mahershala, he’s the one who was shining. I feel bad that he has to be shoved into that category.
I thought Ethan Hawke would be nominated for Best Actor for First Reformed, but Willem Dafoe, who got the nod, was also great as Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate.
I loved Loving Vincent last year. When a screening of Mary Poppins Returns was canceled and they offered to put in At Eternity’s Gate instead, we all decided not to bother. We walked away.
How about the astronaut drama First Man? It was heavily touted when it arrived, but after it failed to be airborne at the box office, it only got four nominations, mostly for technical things. What did you think?
I love Damien Chazelle as a director, and his first two outings were amazing. But I thought First Man was slow, though it captured what it was like to be inside the capsule. They did all that stuff amazingly well. And Ryan Gosling did a great portrayal of a man who didn’t have a personality.
That’s sort of the case with Vice too. Cheney comes off as inscrutable and sans personality.
That’s why I loved it, because they did it that way and they made the film the personality.
OK, thank you for sharing your thought processes, anonymous voter. See you on the 24th.