Anonymous Canadian Oscar voter shares his picks
Three Billboards is ‘overrated’; ‘nearly fell asleep’ during Phantom Thread, says one Canadian member of the Oscar-bestowing Academy.
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Everybody has an opinion about the Academy Awards, but only 7,258 people get to choose who gets one.
That’s the current number of Oscar voters, currently filling out their ballots for the films and talent to be honoured at the March 4 ceremony.
Which makes guessing — and second-guessing — the results a popular pastime for the rest of us. The game has been made all the more interesting in recent years by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, whose Brutally Honest Oscar Voter Ballot feature, which gets the lowdown from anonymous Academy voters, has become an annual must-read.
This year, I’m borrowing (OK, stealing) Feinberg’s idea and doing a small-scale Canadian version of the feature. Let’s call it the Quietly Canadian Oscar Ballot. My first of two anonymous Canuck voters is a male member of the Academy’s producers’ branch. (The other one, a woman, runs Sunday.)
Here are the whos, whats and whys of his Oscar ballot selections. He really likes Guillermo del Toro’s monster love fantasy The Shape of Water, for both artistic and personal reasons, but some of his other picks may surprise.
Best Picture: The Shape of Water
“Number one, I really like the movie. Number two, Guillermo is a friend and most of the people who worked on it are my crew! So I feel that I have to support it, aside from the fact I really like the movie as well. As for some of the other candidates: Best Picture, really? Even though I enjoyed them.”
Here’s what he says about the other eight Best Picture nominees:
Call Me by Your Name: “Without the gay angle, it’s a TV movie.”
Darkest Hour: “I think (Gary Oldman’s) performance of Churchill was inferior to John Lithgow’s (in TV’s The Crown).”
Dunkirk: “I wasn’t crazy about (Christopher Nolan’s) storytelling, the mixing of timelines. And I’m a huge fan of that director. This probably was my No. 2 choice, though.”
Get Out: “Not a Best Picture, but a really cool movie.”
Lady Bird: “Again, that’s not really a Best Picture. That’s a Best Sundance Picture.”
Phantom Thread: “I nearly felt asleep in it.”
The Post: “It’s been done — and done better.”
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: “It’s overrated — and I’m a big fan of (director) Martin McDonagh. It was so strident. There was nobody I was rooting for.”
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
“I think he’s a terrific director. He’s taken basically a monster movie and made it into an art film. I just think he’s really a very, very talented man.
“I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), who would be my second choice. Jordan Peele (Get Out) is not ready yet. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) made a movie that, again, would be good for Sundance but not the Academy Awards. I’m a reasonable fan of Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), but if a director almost puts me to sleep, I’m not going to support him.”
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
“I thought she was terrific. Very emotionally fulfilling. It’s a tough role, and I just thought that she really rose to the top.
“Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) would have been my No. 2. She was terrific. That’s also a tough one to play — you’re trying to make a very unsympathetic character sympathetic.
“I love Frances McDormand (Three Billboards). I think she’s a terrific actress. But I felt she was a little too angry, angry, angry! Where is the underlying character? I also love Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), who is going to become the next Meryl Streep.
“And as for the real Meryl Streep (The Post), this wasn’t the most satisfying role I’ve seen her do. She was OK. She’s never bad.”
Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
“This may be a bit of a surprise, but I picked Daniel Kaluuya because it’s a tricky role. He was incredibly believable in what is basically an ersatz horror movie. It’s a really clever movie and I just really liked his performance. I’d never seen this guy before, and I just thought, wow.
“Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) is probably my second choice — but how many times has he won? Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) is a very talented actor. His time will come. Gary Oldman (Dunkirk), again, I thought Lithgow did a better job as Churchill. And as for Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), there were so many better movies.”
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
“Far and away, Allison Janney! She was terrific. I loved watching her. I couldn’t wait for her to be on screen. It’s really tough playing that role where she’s such a bitch, so evil! But she still brings out the sympathy.
“Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) would probably be my No. 2, and for very similar reasons as for Allison Janney. I just thought I, Tonya was a better movie. Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) was good, very interesting, but everything was so underplayed in that movie, it just didn’t spark me.
“Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) is also terrific, but how many times can you nominate her? And Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) was OK.”
Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
“Richard Jenkins! He’s the face you’ve seen a million times. He’s always good. I’ve always really liked him and I just thought he had a terrific role. He was surprising in The Shape of Water.
“I love Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). He’s a good friend, and I thought he was great. But I just thought the movie was inconsequential and I didn’t really understand why it was in there and getting all the heat.
“I think Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards) was one of the best performances in Three Billboards, one of the more textured performances. I found Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) a bit one-note.
“And Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) was terrific — for six days’ work!”
Best Original Screenplay: The Shape of Water
“Again, I really liked The Shape of Water. And I liked Get Out a lot; it was probably my No. 2. The Big Sick is like a Netflix movie. Lady Bird, like a good Sundance movie, as I said, and Three Billboards was overrated.”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Molly’s Game
“I really like Molly’s Game. There were a lot of things that weren’t great with it, but (filmmaker) Aaron Sorkin is a hell of a writer. I have no idea what the underlying material was like, a memoir about high-stakes gambling, but I can imagine. I was intrigued and constantly on the edge of my seat and I attribute a lot of that to the writing.
“I liked The Disaster Artist. I remember seeing The Room many, many years ago when it was a bit of a cult thing. I just didn’t think it held up to Molly’s Game for the writing.
“I liked Logan, one of the better Marvel movies for the writing, that’s for sure. Call Me by Your Name was OK, but I’m not a huge fan of Mudbound. It didn’t have a lot new to say, in my mind.”
Best Animated Feature: Coco
“Coco is just phantasmagorical: colour, emotion, music, it ticked it off on a number of levels. I didn’t see all the nominees — I saw three or four of them — and I really liked Boss Baby for being smartass.”
Documentary Feature: Icarus
“The only one that I really saw all the way through was Icarus. I just found it hard-hitting and informative and not afraid to say anything. It called a spade a spade.”
Best Foreign-Language Film: The Square
“The Square just held me. I found it interesting and well-told.
“I found them all a bit of a derivative bunch this year, though. I wasn’t knocked out by any of them. So The Square was kind of the least boring, maybe the least offensive.”
Best Original Score: Phantom Thread
“I actually broke ranks with The Shape of Water and I went with Phantom Thread. I liked the music a lot.”
Best Original Song: This Is Me, The Greatest Showman
“I’m a sucker for big numbers.”
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
“It’s hard to keep the editing interesting, when so much is going on all the time. A war movie certainly ranks up there, with so much noise and so much mayhem going on. I just thought they did a very good job of it with Dunkirk. It seemed like you could hear almost every bullet.”
Best Sound Mixing: Blade Runner 2049
“I just thought Blade Runner 2049 was really well mixed. I know the team and they’re all geniuses.”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
“I had to give Darkest Hour something! And I think it’s going to win because everybody goes for making somebody old all the time. But I wasn’t knocked out by any of the three choices.”
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
“The costume design in Phantom Thread is pretty amazing. It’s what intrigued me the most — it kept me awake!”
Best Cinematography: The Shape of Water
“I know (cinematographer) Dan Laustsen very well. I think he’s a genius. I just really liked the look of the movie. It’s hard to believe that it was shot in Toronto.”
Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic.
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