Awards, Brutally Honest Oscar Voter Ballot, Movie News, Movies, Oscars 2024

Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot No. 1: ‘Zone of Interest’ Is Best Picture, ‘Poor Things’ Deserves Makeup Oscar for “Willem Dafoe’s Face Alone — Holy Sh**”

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This Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot,” which is the first in a series that THR will run ahead of Oscar night, reflects the votes — and candid rationales for them — of a male member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 867-person short films and feature animation branch, as communicated to THR in return for anonymity. THR does not necessarily endorse these views or suggest that they are representative of anything other than this voter’s perspective.

Best picture

I would have preferred to see Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse as a nominee over Maestro — it’s an incredible feat of animation and storytelling. American Fiction and The Holdovers were enjoyable, but very old-fashioned — meaning, not edgy — in terms of their stories and their filmmaking. When I first heard about Barbie, I couldn’t even imagine that it would be here, and then after seeing it I couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t, and that’s because Greta [Gerwig] nailed it. Killers of the Flower Moon had a lot of great stuff in it, but no movie needs to be three hours and twenty-five minutes — like me, a lot of people had to watch it at home, and unlike me, a lot of people probably didn’t make it to the end. If it was made by anyone other than Martin Scorsese, a studio would have said, “You’ve got to cut that, we don’t need to see the landscape for two-and-a-half minutes.” But I guess he earned that. Past Lives was beautifully simplistic — I love movies like this, that tell you a human story, have so much going on beneath the surface and really don’t have an antagonist other than time and space. Poor Things is some of Yorgos’ [Lanthimos’] best work, the whole cast was phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see it again. Anatomy of a Fall grew on me over time — that monologue where Sandra Hüller tears her husband apart is just incredible. But for me, choosing between Oppenheimer and The Zone of Interest was so hard. Oppenheimer is a movie that advanced cinema — with the invention of a new film stock, the use of IMAX cameras in closeup and dialogue scenes and the marriage of image and sound. This is the sort of cinematic experience that you live for if you love movies; it makes me sad that one day I’m going to die, because I won’t get to see movies like this. But no movie made me feel like Zone of Interest. That is what filmmaking is supposed to do. It wasn’t trying to tell you that the Holocaust was bad; it was showing you how little it mattered to the people who were doing it, just like today, when people are going about their lives while horrible things are happening all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of reviews by people who didn’t get it, including the critic for The New York Times. Some think they are watching a boring movie that’s trivializing the Holocaust. But they need to elevate their understanding of what’s happening here.

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VOTE: (1) The Zone of Interest, (2) Oppenheimer, (3) Anatomy of a Fall, (4) Poor Things, (5) Past Lives, (6) Killers of the Flower Moon, (7) Barbie, (8) The Holdovers, (9) American Fiction, (10) Maestro

Best director                                                                                           

This was an easy one: [Oppenheimer’s] Christopher Nolan has deserved to win this award since The Dark Knight, and he really deserves to win it for this one, the most monumental achievement of his career. Kudos to the Oppenheimer team for doing such a good job of demystifying the process and showing people what he had to do to make this movie — I’ve seen so many little videos and things on YouTube and social media, which were probably repopulated by the Nolan fanboys, so you couldn’t miss them.

VOTE: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Best actor

[Maestro’s] Bradley Cooper was really good. [American Fiction’s] Jeffrey Wright was phenomenal. [The Holdovers’] Paul Giamatti and [Oppenheimer’s] Cillian Murphy were great and one of them is going to win. But I’ve always loved Colman Domingo as an actor and I loved his performance in Rustin — Bayard Rustin has always fascinated me — so I want to throw him some love.

VOTE: Colman Domingo, Rustin

Best actress

Emma [Stone, of Poor Things] was phenomenal — I mean, the bravery and balls that it takes to put yourself out there in the way that she did! And Lily [Gladstone, of Killers of the Flower Moon], there’s such quiet power to her performance. I was going to vote for Lily, but I ended up moving my mouse at the last minute. I decided to vote for Sandra [Hüller, for Anatomy of a Fall]. I had never seen this woman in anything before 2023, and then seeing her give great performances in two totally different roles [the other in The Zone of Interest] made me appreciate just how talented she is. I want to see her in more stuff.

VOTE: Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall

Best supporting actor

I was torn between [Poor Things’] Mark Ruffalo and [Oppenheimer’s] Robert Downey Jr., and even though it’s cheesy I’ll be real with you: I met Downey at an awards season party, we had an interaction that I did not initiate, and it tipped the scales for me. Campaigning matters! [laughs] What’s really great about him as an actor, in this film and so many others, is his ability to be believable all the time. I loved watching him turn as the story turned on Strauss.

VOTE: Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer

Best supporting actress

I would have liked Sandra Hüller to be in here for Zone of Interest, but I can’t really argue with the ones who got in. Jodie [Foster, in Nyad] and Emily [Blunt, in Oppenheimer] were very good, and [Barbie’s] America Ferrera, [The Color Purple’s] Danielle Brooks and [The Holdovers’] Da’Vine Joy Randolph were great. Danielle will be back here very soon. But Da’Vine was just so emotionally captivating, so subtle that you could miss it if you weren’t paying attention. Actresses like her — a plus-sized Black woman — don’t often get opportunities like the one that Alexander Payne gave her. It was really smart of them [Focus] to pair her for a lot of stuff with Paul [Giamatti], which kept a bigger spotlight on her.

VOTE: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Best adapted screenplay

Oppenheimer was probably the hardest of these to adapt. But because I’m sure that Nolan is going to win best director, and probably best picture too, and because I’d like American Fiction to get some recognition, I voted for it here. In the wrong hands, American Fiction could’ve easily been fumbled. It’s been special to see how it has connected with so many people of different backgrounds.

VOTE: American Fiction

Best original screenplay

I would’ve swapped out Maestro or May December for Saltburn, which was so fun, weird and unique — a big swing film. Holdovers was solid. But for me, this was between Past Lives and Anatomy of a Fall, and it was very close. With Anatomy, I loved the structure and teasing out of things, and especially that it doesn’t give you the answer; you, as the audience member, have to decide. For the record, I think she did it. [laughs]

VOTE: Anatomy of a Fall

Best animated feature

The Boy and the Heron was fine. Robot Dreams blew me away. But it’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse by a mile. And I’m extremely disappointed by what they did to Joaquim Dos Santos [one of the film’s three credited directors, who was denied a nomination because of the Academy’s rule that a nominated film in this category can be represented by no more than two of its directors and two of its producers, or, as was the case with Spider-Verse, two directors, a producer and a producing team].

VOTE: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Best documentary feature

Man, there are a lot of sad movies nominated this year — The Eternal Memory, Four Daughters, To Kill a Tiger. 20 Days [in Mariupol] was just too hard to get through. Bobi Wine [The People’s President] was also upsetting, but it was a little easier to watch. Watching it I was like, “They can’t do that to him,” and then it happens, and it’s a reminder that corruption knows no bounds. It’s similar in that way to another documentary that I voted for that is unfortunately very timely right now, Navalny.

VOTE: Bobi Wine: The People’s President

Best international feature

I watched them all and really enjoyed [Germany’s] The Teacher’s Lounge, but it was no contest.

VOTE: The Zone of Interest

Best cinematography

No question, [Oppenheimer’s] Hoyte van Hoytema.

VOTE: Oppenheimer

Best costume design

Oppenheimer was just everyone wearing suits. Barbie was kind of what you’d expect. Poor Things edged out Napoleon, for me.

It’s just more memorable.

VOTE: Poor Things

Best film editing

Most Academy members don’t know how to judge film editing, so they reward the most obvious film editing, even though the best editing is often seamless. I think every one of these nominees is worthy, even Killers of the Flower Moon — she [Thelma Schoonmaker] probably kept it from being four hours. [laughs] But I went with Oppenheimer because of how well it integrated a bunch of different elements — like, literal atomic spirals that are in-camera! He [Nolan] didn’t make it easy.

VOTE: Oppenheimer

Best makeup and hairstyling

I’m surprised that Oppenheimer got in here. I’m not sure what was so great about the makeup of Society of the Snow either. Golda and Maestro did a good job of making actors look like the people they were playing. But Poor Things? I mean, they should win this award on Willem Dafoe’s face alone — holy shit.

VOTE: Poor Things

Best original score

Oppenheimer is Ludwig [Göransson] at his finest.

VOTE: Oppenheimer

Best original song

I liked the Killers of the Flower Moon song, even though I don’t know how to pronounce it [“Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)”]. I’d like to see Diane Warren finally get her due, but it’s not going to be for “The Fire Inside” [from Flamin’ Hot]. “I’m Just Ken” is fun. But it’s Binneas [Billie Eilish and Finneas, songwriters of “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie] for me, by far. When you think about the marriage of a song to a story, I can think of few recent winners that did it as well — and separate from the movie, it’s still a good song on its own!

VOTE: “What Was I Made For?” from Barbie

Best production design

I thought that the design of Napoleon was fantastic. But the design of Barbie was unlike anything we’ve seen before — I mean, Barbieland, with all the houses, was pretty incredible.

VOTE: Barbie

Best sound

Oppenheimer is going to win, but the sound design of Zone of Interest was engineered in a very unusual way and impacted the way you experienced the story.

VOTE: The Zone of Interest

Best visual effects

I thought for a lot of the season that I’d vote for The Creator — I really liked the movie and its VFX. But once I caught up to Godzilla Minus One and realized how much they did with how little money they had, I had to vote for it.

VOTE: Godzilla Minus One

Best animated short

I wasn’t crazy about most of the ones that got nominated. Our Uniform was good. But I really liked the story and the music of War Is Over! [Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko].

VOTE: War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko

Best documentary short

The ABCs of Book Banning — the point is great, but come on, it’s a glorified slideshow. Nai Nai & Wài Pó was cute. I really enjoyed The Barber of Little Rock. But I voted for The Last Repair Shop — I love what it’s about, helping kids in a way that they couldn’t help themselves, to allow them to pursue the arts, and Kris Bowers deserves it.

VOTE: The Last Repair Shop

Best live-action short

I don’t think that Wes Anderson [director of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar] belongs in this category, and I’d have said the same thing about Pedro Almodóvar [director of Strange Way of Life] if he had been nominated — and he keeps trying. It’s a category that’s intended for new filmmakers, and a nomination can provide them with opportunities that they’d never get without this spotlight, so it’s selfish for these big filmmakers to be taking spots from them. Now, if a new filmmaker can convince a famous actor to produce or be in their short, like David Oyelowo with The After, more power to them. That was beautifully done.

VOTE: The After

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