AWARDS SEASON

Confessions of an Oscar Voter: ‘La La Land’ Is Overrated and No More Meryl Streep!

An anonymous Oscar voter reveals their picks and Academy chatter, including why Viola Davis is in the wrong category and how Academy members are on the defensive over diversity.

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

It’s a historic year for the Oscars, with three African-American-led films up for Best Picture, plus a 20th nod for acting queen Meryl Streep and a record-tying 14 nominations for the musician-meets-actor musical La La Land.

I spoke to an anonymous Oscar voter, who deserves an award for the surprising things they had to say about all of that and more.

Hello, Oscar voter. Are you as gaga about La La Land as everyone else?

No, I’m not, and I can’t understand how it got 14 nominations. I just don’t get it. I thought it was a fine, good movie, but I won’t vote for it at all. My favorite was Hell or High Water. I thought it really captured America in a different way. I loved the acting, script, direction, and photography.

Why is everyone so crazy for La La Land?

I’m trying to figure it out. I think because it’s set in L.A. and it’s about the industry and they’re all narcissists. It got more nominations than The Godfather. How can they compare it? They’re mediocre singers and dancers, and there’s not one good song in the movie, as opposed to Singin’ in the Rain or other classic musicals. It’s a poor imitation. I’ll be embarrassed when it wins.

For Best Actor, are you voting for Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea?

No. I’m probably gonna go for Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic. Casey has a way of doing this internal thing which he loves to do, and he found the perfect part to do it. I was thinking about voting for him, but I think Viggo, although I wasn’t as crazy about the film, which I thought was overexaggerated. But I think he did a different kind of role and took a lot of chances. Between Casey’s and Viggo’s work, Viggo had so much more variety and he was braver.

I’m glad Viggo’s getting one vote.

I know. I don’t think he has a chance to win.

For Best Actress, will you go with Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, or Ruth Negga?

I did not nominate any of them. I’m gonna have a hard time on this. I nominated Kate Beckinsale for Love & Friendship, Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte for Julieta, and Kate Winslet for The Dressmaker. I thought she was really great. I thought Emma Stone was fine, but I didn’t see anything that was a stretch. I didn’t like Jackie at all—I detested it, and I thought Natalie was fine, but I didn’t see anything great about it. I thought Ruth Negga played it one-note, and when I saw the documentary on that couple, the real woman was so much more animated and fun and you could see why he fell in love with her. But Ruth chose to play this downtrodden woman. As for Isabelle Huppert, I like that director [Paul Verhoeven]—he’s kind of brave, and I liked her in it, but I thought she played it on the same note. You get beat up, you get raped, and you’re still playing it the same way. There has to be some reaction to the brutality that’s happened to you. I didn’t see any change. I thought Florence Foster Jenkins was OK. Hugh Grant should have gotten the nomination, but I don’t want to see Meryl get anything for it. I want to open this up to other people. I’m tired of Meryl. I wish Annette Bening had gotten nominated [for 20th Century Women] instead of Meryl.

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So you’ll vote for…?

Definitely not Meryl or Natalie or Ruth, and I don’t want to vote for Emma, though she was adorable. But I’ll probably wind up voting for Isabelle at this point. I have to think this over.

For Best Director?

I’ll probably vote for Kenneth Lonergan [Manchester by the Sea] because I think he brought a fine script and did a really good job in directing the movie.

Let’s talk about the wonderful diversity in the nominees. It was a good year for black films, no?

That’s exactly it. They blame the Academy for lack of diversity, but last year the films weren’t there. This year, the films were there. The nominations came because the films were so good. It has nothing to do with us. If they presented the product…

…Will you vote for Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress for Fences?

No! I absolutely adore her work—I think she’s terrific—but I’m not gonna vote for her because of a personal thing about studios putting lead actors in a supporting category. It pissed me off when that lovely girl won last year [Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl]. She was clearly a lead. I would have voted for Viola for Best Actress. She would have been my number one choice. They put her in this category because they think it’s easier to win, and I’m not gonna vote for her in protest. It’s gonna be between Michelle Williams [Manchester By The Sea] and Naomie Harris [Moonlight] for me.

Did you like Moonlight?

I did. That was the runner-up for me for director. But I loved Hell or High Water so much. Moonlight was number two. And I loved the cast of Manchester. They were great.

What will you vote for in the Best Foreign Film Category?

I hated Toni Erdmann. It was so shticky and false and phony, with his teeth and his wig, and it’s not funny. Why are they nominating this? This is like three hours of torture. I saw The Salesman and I really liked it.

Is Zootopia a lock for Best Animated Film?

It is to most people, but I really loved The Red Turtle. It was wonderful and simple and profound and a lovely animated movie. A sweet movie, it really catches you—really unusual.

Back to humankind: How do you think Jimmy Kimmel will fare as host?

I think he’s going to be absolutely not acceptable. He’s going to do the shmucky stuff. I hope he surprises me. I miss all those classy guys who did it. The Bob Hopes and Johnny Carsons and David Nivens, who had humor. I hope he doesn’t resort to a lot of crass humor. I prefer classy humor.

At the Golden Globes, Jimmy Fallon was thrown off by the prompter not working at first.

That shows you he could have done other things. If it had been Ricky Gervais, it wouldn’t have mattered. He would have figured out something else. You’ve got to expect those things. Fallon doesn’t know how to do improvisation. It’s shocking.

Well, at least he kept talking. He didn’t just mosey around the stage like Mariah Carey.

That’s true. He should have brought up some of the guests from offstage and talked to them. The guys that were drinking.

He was just hoping it would come on again. At last year’s Oscars, I felt Chris Rock didn’t have a strong point of view. He went after the Academy for lack of inclusion, but then he went after those complaining about it, too.

He tried to play it safe. It would have been better off if he’d have played it dangerously. If he was going to go with the Academy being racist, he should have done that, but I don’t think it was true. People are going to tend to vote for a black person this year to prove they’re not racist. But I don’t want to be pressured into that—to think somehow I’m a bad person. I’m not. You work with everybody in this business and you don’t have those judgments. I don’t know any actor that is anti-anything. People are so good with other people and really not judgmental. But in a case where we’re accused of being racists, people are now on the defense, and that’s the tragedy of it. Are they voting for someone they really want to vote for or because they’re on the defense?

Well, if La La Land wins everything…

I know! And I thought, “Can’t she have one bad audition?” I’ve had them where it really sucked. Nobody’s that adorable at every audition.

Thank you, Oscar voter.