There are approximately 6,000 Academy Awards voters, but there’s only one who really counts—the one who was willing to talk to me about the various scandals and smear campaigns in the air and how they might effect the awards outcome on March 2. This person did so without wanting to be named, of course, because divulging the results of your own ballot simply isn’t allowed (though scandals and smear campaigns apparently are). To maintain the person’s complete anonymity, I’ll call them “Pat” and simply say that Pat knows exactly what’s going down—and who’s going down with it.
Hello, Pat. Will all this Woody Allen stuff damage Cate Blanchett’s Oscar chances?
No, it would not have. The actors have nothing to do with that.
How about Woody’s chances? He’s up for Original Screenplay.
I didn’t vote for his screenplay, just because I liked another one better. [The alleged scandal] wasn’t a factor. I thought Her was really original. Woody Allen’s screenplay was so much Streetcar-Named-Desire driven. He borrowed and used things. But Her was an original work of art.
Back when Roman Polanski won for The Pianist, did you feel the same way about not factoring in sexual matters?
Yes, I think it would be irrelevant. A movie stands on its own. I’m not crazy about what he did, but on the other hand, you do a movie, and if it’s a good movie, it’s a good movie, and if it isn’t, it isn’t.
Is that the prevailing point of view among voters?
I think some voters are not going to vote for Woody because of that. I know a couple of people who think he’s disgusting. He’s the most unpleasant person to work for. The assistant director tells you, “You are not to talk to Woody Allen.” Except for the major stars. One woman actor I know tried to approach Woody on the set and she was fired.
But they won’t hold any of this against Cate, right?
I don’t think so. She wasn’t there at the time. There are people that genuinely don’t like Woody, but it has nothing to do with not liking Cate.
He’s the most unpleasant person to work for. The assistant director tells you, ‘You are not to talk to Woody Allen.’
So for Best Actress, you’re going for…?
Judi Dench. I think Cate is wonderful, but to me, it was watching an actor’s technique at work. She’s a brilliant technician and she’ll probably win, but I felt I was watching her the whole time rather than living with her and the character, whereas with Judi I felt I was living with her and this woman. But I did vote for Sally Hawkins [for Supporting Actress for Blue Jasmine]. I thought her performance was wonderful. With Sally, I was believing her, living with her, and understanding her conflicts. But I think Lupita [Nyong’o from 12 Years A Slave] will win.
If Her wins for original screenplay, is it possible that American Hustle will do a sort of Color Purple and go zero for 10?
I don’t know. I enjoyed it, but looking back, I kind of don’t remember it except for the hairdos. To me, it was a hairdo movie. The opening scene was hysterically funny, with Christian Bale’s hair.
No love for Jennifer Lawrence?
I remember her. To me, she was fine. But my son said he read the real story and the Bale character’s real wife was 15 years older than him, not this hot young girl. God, it would have made so much more sense if she’s older and he meets this woman, who in real life is really British. It would have made more sense that he left an older woman for Amy Adams. By the way, Amy had no boobs in that dress. A beautiful dress, but she’s flat chested.
Then I guess she can’t win. There’s also been some brouhaha saying that Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street promotes bad boy behavior. Would that campaign carry any weight?
I just thought it was a soulless movie. There was nobody to root for. My son’s take on it was that it was informational for that guy! At the end, they promote that he does these seminars for people. It’s a promotional for this sleazebag, a person without a conscience who stole from poor people and never paid them back. At least with Bernie Madoff, some of the rich got some money back.
One more hot topic has been the fact that 12 Years a Slave might be too brutal for some of those wussy voters to even watch, sort of the way they couldn’t take Brokeback Mountain.
To some degree, it will [be a factor] because a lot of people call it “torture porn.” Too much torture in that film. Enough already, we got it, we got it. In other cases, it won’t matter because people realize we need to suffer again the consequences of what was done. I voted for Gravity because I thought it was unique and well done. I didn’t think the acting was that good. I thought Sandra Bullock was adequate. I wish they had gotten an actor who could have gone deeper and you could have really felt for. But of all the films, it was the most memorable.
For Best Actor, you voted for Matthew, Chiwetel, Leo…?
Bruce Dern. I thought he did something different. It was based on a body of work and he was really different in this. I look at Matthew McConaughey and see him basically doing the same character a lot, with the same accent, same speech pattern. He’ll probably win, but a lot of my friends didn’t like him in the movie.
But he’s shaken up the types of roles he’s doing.
He is trying to do that and he did a good job. He was good, but not great. What Bruce Dern did seemed so simple, but it’s hard. He embodies the life of this person. Sometimes the Academy gives an award to people who lose or gain weight, but I thought Tom Hanks was better in the movie he did about AIDS years ago.
Best Supporting Actor?
I’m going with Barkhad Abdi [Captain Phillips]. I totally believed him. I usually don’t vote for first time people because they haven’t proven themselves, but I thought his performance was absolutely riveting. I thought Jared Leto was good, but a lot of his stuff was external. The makeup people did a great job on him. I would have loved to see a real transgender or gay actor play that part. They would have brought a whole other dimension to it.
Do all the promotional luncheons and mailings affect your voting at all?
No. Zero. Unless somebody’s really nasty. You know who was really nasty? Hugh Jackman. He was at an Academy screening of Prisoners and people stayed afterwards for the meet and greet. He whizzed right by us. “Hello, Mr. Jackman.” He just kept on going. I wouldn’t have voted for him anyway because I didn’t like the movie, but I thought, “He’s here with his peers, people in the Academy, and he can’t even bother to say hello?” He presents this wonderful image as this beloved star. If he’d been seriously a nominee, that’s where my vote would have tilted—because somebody relayed an attitude that you’re beneath them. Why come to the Academy for a Q&A if you’re not willing to receive people afterwards? Redford was very accessible.
When something happens like the real Philomena going to DC to discuss adoption reforms, does that affect your voting?
No, because I didn’t even know she did.
Here’s the important category: Best Song. Is it “Let It Go” from Frozen or the U2 song from Mandela?
I voted for the one from Despicable Me 2. I didn’t think any of them are really great.
I was going to vote for 20 Feet From Stardom—I loved those women—but I wound up voting for The Square [about the revolution in Cairo]. It took two years to make. I was so impressed by the story it told. I thought, ”I’m gonna hate this movie,” but I got a different understanding of the struggle and the bravery of the people.
Gravity. When I met Alfonso Cuaron at the Academy Q&A, he was so down to earth and wonderful and so was Barkhad [at the Captain Phillips event]. Maybe in that case with Cuaron, if there were a thing between two directors, that would have tipped me over. He was so wonderful, gave each person a lot of time, and was so authentic. I love going to the lunches because I go to places I could never afford, but the important thing is the opportunity to talk to them. It’s the meet and greet, not the food. If they’re nasty, it does affect me.
Which film do you think will cop Best Picture?
I think it’s between Gravity and Slave.
Miss Congeniality in Space versus Torture Porn? Two great films, actually. May the scandalously better one win.