In a year when the Oscars have been under the microscope, one prominent voters speaks up about the field, and tears apart a few frontrunners in the process.
The Oscars are right around the corner (this Sunday on ABC), and this year, the show is happening in the midst of controversy. The Academy has been roundly criticized for failing to nominate any black performers in the acting categories, and for shutting movies like Creed and Straight Outta Compton out of the running for Best Picture.
In the midst of this, The Hollywood Reporter sat down with a prominent, longtime member of the Academy’s 458-member executive branch. The member, who’s able to vote in the competition, wished to remain anonymous, but wasn’t shy about sharing opinions. Some of them were pretty bracing.
“I thought Idris Elba was brilliant in Beasts of No Nation,” the voter said before the question of diversity was even broached. “But whom would I have knocked off to make room for him, if I could even vote [to nominate] in the acting categories? I liked all of the performances that were nominated. Maybe we need to expand the size of the acting categories — who knows?”
Clearly, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy is sitting heavy on at least one Oscar voter’s mind. The voter also said that the Academy “mishandled the response.”
"They should not have responded defensively. They’ve got to accept the vote of the people they approved as members. I’m sorry, but you cannot change the rules after the game has already begun just because you’re unhappy with the results. That’s what children do."
As the voter implies, the solution to this problem seems to be diversifying the membership, something that was in the words before the controversy blew up, according to THR. We’ll see if that bears fruit at future ceremonies.
The feistiness continued as the voter discussed the Best Picture nominees, taking special care to lambast frontrunner The Revenant. “I dislike The Revenant intensely,” he said. “[I]t’s a beautifully shot Road Runner movie, in the sense that Leonardo DiCaprio keeps falling down and getting up, and who cares? I don’t.” He took quite a few shots at Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the movie, too, when he was discussing the Best Actor nominees:
"I rule out Leonardo immediately because it’s a ridiculous performance. They are running his campaign based on how hard it was to make the movie, right? I’m tired of hearing about it — that’s what he gets paid for!…He[‘s] got millions of dollars, and I would assume they had heaters. The fact that he’s never won before? He’s a young man, he still has time."
It’s fun to see someone going against the grain here, especially since DiCaprio is the odds-on favorite to win Best Actor, seemingly for the reasons the voter cites here, at least in part. I didn’t see The Revenant, so I can’t really talk, but I’m now feeling better about my decision to abstain. It looked liked it would be a meticulously crafted monument to human misery and this voter, at least, seems to think it was and that it’s not something we should be rewarding.
The voter had some harsh words for Brooklyn and Bridge of Spies, too (“overly sentimental and feel like movies made in the ’50s, in the worst sense”), but was kinder to The Martian, Room, Spotlight, and especially The Big Short, which is his pic to win. He didn’t see Mad Max: Fury Road (“I just didn’t get to it”) which is a shame, since for my money that’s the best movie in contention.
Why, you might ask, is someone allowed to even cast a vote if they haven’t seen all the nominees? Because that’s the way it’s always been done. Part of the reason people are so upset over the lack of minority nominees this year is because the Oscars have a reputation for being the final word on quality, so snubbing black performers is like saying they didn’t do any good work. However, it pays to remember that the awards are ultimately decided by a bunch of ordinary people who have wildly variant opinions, just like he rest of us—they just happen to be well-placed in the entertainment industry. Does that make it better? Worse? I don’t know, but this voter insulted Inside Out (“a very pretty soap opera.”) so I wouldn’t put too much stock in what he says.