Brutally Honest Oscar Ballot: ‘Irishman’ “Was Boring,” Tarantino “Amazing,” “I Want an American Director to Win”


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Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

As voting ends, a female member of the Academy’s actors branch, granted anonymity to speak freely, shares which films earn her precious vote (and — gulp — why).

Throughout awards season, The Hollywood Reporter checks in with select members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Their insights are valuable not so much because they are representative of the overall Academy — one would have to speak with hundreds to get a scientifically significant sample of the 8,469-member voting body — but because they offer a sense of the sorts of things Academy members are thinking about. Here, an actress weighs in.

Best Picture

Little Women was badly acted and confusing, and I have no idea why they cast four British actresses to play American girls. [Emma Watson and Florence Pugh are British, but Saoirse Ronan is Irish-American, and Eliza Scanlen is Australian.] And every time they said they were poor, I gagged — they’re living in a beautiful two-story house, and they have a cook. Jojo Rabbit was cute, but I found myself unable to laugh about Hitler — I don’t think that’s funny. Marriage Story was phony: You don’t have an off-Broadway director and an off-Broadway actress living in a nice house with no day job — if an off-Broadway actor makes $150 a week, that’s a lot. If someone besides Martin Scorsese had directed The Irishman, it wouldn’t have all the accolades; it does because of his years in the business. It was too long and too repetitive, and the reverse-aging did not work — they erased the lines in their faces, but they still walked like old men. [Francis Ford] Coppola got it right in The Godfather when he had different actors play the characters when they were young and when they were old. Besides, I didn’t care about any of the people in the movie. I really liked Ford v Ferrari — I loved the two actors and the moral of the story — and I wish they had promoted it more; it’s worthy of more attention than it has gotten. Parasite is beautifully done, but it didn’t hold up the second time, and I don’t think foreign films should be nominated with the regular films. I liked Joker more than I thought I would; I put off seeing it for a long time, but it was actually a beautifully done film about mental illness, and I thought about it for a long time afterward, which is always a good sign. I loved 1917, but Quentin Tarantino’s film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, was even better the second time than the first. I was in L.A. in the ’60s, and I thought he captured that era perfectly. 1917 was a very good but pretty straight-on story about the horrors of war; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was more complicated and stayed with me longer.

MY VOTE (1) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; (2) 1917; (3) Joker; (4) Parasite; (5) Ford v Ferrari; (6) The Irishman; (7) Marriage Story; (8) Jojo Rabbit; (9) Little Women

Best Director

I can’t vote for Marty [Scorsese, of The Irishman] — nobody wants to say it, but it’s just not that good. Todd Phillips did an incredible job on Joker, as did Bong Joon Ho on Parasite, but not the best. I liked 1917 and Sam Mendes’ direction, but I thought Quentin did a great job, and I want an American director to win. The Oscars is an American thing; English things win BAFTAs and the French vote for the French, and Quentin Tarantino should be honored for a great American movie.

MY VOTE Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Actor

I wasn’t particularly impressed by [Marriage Story’s] Adam Driver. [Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s] Leonardo DiCaprio has won already. I loved [The Two Popes’] Jonathan Pryce, but I don’t know if I want to give it to the pope. So for me, it was between [Pain and Glory’s] Antonio Banderas and [Joker’s] Joaquin Phoenix, and I had to go with Joaquin because that is a performance that sticks in your mind. Antonio’s was much more subtle and poignant; Joaquin hit it out of the park.

MY VOTE Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

Best Actress

Saoirse Ronan is wonderful, and I’ve liked her in so many things, but not [Little Women]. I can’t vote for [Marriage Story’s] Scarlett Johansson for a story I thought was not truthful. I won’t vote for [Harriet’s] Cynthia Erivo because I think that they should have gotten an American actress to play Harriet [Tubman], not an English actress. [Bombshell’s] Charlize Theron did a good imitation [of Megyn Kelly], but I find the real Megyn irritating, so I found her irritating, too. Renée [Zellweger, of Judy] was just wonderful in the movie — her singing and everything, she’s just great.

MY VOTE Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Supporting Actor

I love Al Pacino [of The Irishman], but he wasn’t Jimmy Hoffa; he was himself. The real Jimmy Hoffa was a guy you were scared of because he kept it all inside of him; he never exploded like Al did. Marty should have curtailed him. [The Irishman’s] Joe Pesci was good, but I don’t think that he did anything he hasn’t done before, just less of it. [A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’s] Tom Hanks is very good at imitating Mr. Rogers, but if you look in his eyes when he talks to the lead guy [Matthew Rhys], his eyes are not soft and loving; his eyes are calculating and judging. Mr. Rogers’ eyes were warm. I really noticed that. That leaves me with [The Two Popes’] Anthony Hopkins, who was absolutely brilliant, and [Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s] Brad Pitt. I’m going for Brad because he hasn’t won before, because I totally believed that he was this stunt guy and because of his scene at that ranch, where he has such presence that creates fear.

MY VOTE Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress

I was irritated by Florence Pugh [Little Women]; she is so much older than her character is supposed to be that it was laughable. “You’re, like, 30 years old [Pugh is actually 24], why aren’t you a grown-up?” [Marriage Story’s] Laura Dern was annoyingly over-the-top. If I was her client in a divorce case, I would have walked out five minutes into her rant and hired Ray Liotta. I usually love Margot Robbie, but I didn’t really like her in [Bombshell]; it was just a caricature. She was better in Quentin’s movie [Once Upon a Time in Hollywood]. Kathy [Bates, of Richard Jewell] is always good, but she didn’t really do anything that memorable. So I voted for Scarlett Johansson, even though I didn’t like Jojo Rabbit very much, because she did something kind of different than I’ve ever seen her do before.

MY VOTE Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Adapted Screenplay

Little Women was back and forth [chronologically], and you didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t like the theme of Jojo Rabbit. And The Irishman was boring. I actually went for The Two Popes over Joker because I didn’t think a movie about two popes could be interesting, but it was — and funny.

MY VOTE The Two Popes

Best Original Screenplay

Marriage Story was fake, which is too bad because there probably is a story there — I think [Noah Baumbach]’s writing about himself — but it just doesn’t ring true. I really loved Knives Out, but it was too light. 1917 was really good but not that complex. Parasite was very interesting, in terms of the twists and turns it took. But Quentin did an amazing job with his fairy tale, and that’s really what it is — it begins “Once Upon a Time,” after all.

MY VOTE Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Animated Feature

I watched them all. I put off watching Klaus until the end because I said, “I don’t want to watch another movie about Santa Claus,” but I found myself really drawn into that story and its animation. It was a reminder that you can affect someone else’s life by just one or two things that you do.


Best Documentary Feature

I didn’t like American Factory — when the Chinese boss says “We’re better than them” and they show the American workers as big fat slobs, I thought to myself, “Why is Obama attaching himself to this?” [Higher Ground, the production company run by Barack and Michelle Obama, is behind the film.] The Cave and For Sama were basically the same movie with different characters, and neither explained the Syrian political climate well, unlike The Edge of Democracy, which was really long but captured what was going on in Brazil. Honeyland got my vote, though, because it’s a beautiful story about saving the environment that is told so simply, without hammering us over the head like Greta whatever [Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish activist].

MY VOTE Honeyland

Best International Feature

My favorite foreign film was the Hungarian one [Those Who Remained], but it didn’t make the cut. It’s way better than [France’s] Les Misérables and [Poland’s] Corpus Christi, even though I liked those. I know [South Korea’s] Parasite is going to win, but the two I liked more were [North Macedonia’s] Honeyland and [Spain’s] Pain and Glory. Here I voted for the [Pedro] Almodóvar film because I loved the way it showed the life of an artist who kind of gets resurrected, in a strange way, after he assumes his life is over. I was very moved by it.

MY VOTE Pain and Glory, Spain

Best Cinematography

There was nothing special about the visuals of The Irishman or Joker. The Lighthouse looked really great in black and white. But I was torn between Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917. This is one place where I’ll choose 1917 over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; the cinematography made that film.

MY VOTE 1917

Best Costume Design

I wasn’t going to vote for The Irishman or Jojo Rabbit — I mean, Jojo Rabbit is basically just Nazi uniforms. The costumes in Joker and Little Women were great. But I voted for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because they brought back the ’60s so beautifully and with such detail.

MY VOTE Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Film Editing

The Irishman was too long; she [Thelma Schoonmaker] has worked with him [Scorsese] for years and should have reined him in. The best film editing was clearly in Ford v Ferrari, with the races and everything. It knocked me out. I was along for the ride.

MY VOTE Ford v Ferrari

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I haven’t seen Maleficent [Mistress of Evil], but I saw everything else. 1917 and Joker were fine. I wasn’t blown away by Bombshell, even if all the women had Fox News hair. I voted for Judy because I thought that transformation was wonderful.


Best Production Design

I wasn’t blown away by the production design of The Irishman or Jojo Rabbit. The other three were great. But I couldn’t vote for Parasite or 1917 over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. When he drives that car down the street with all of the signs, I thought, “Oh, my God, I’m back there.” And then there were the ranch sets and everything else. They did a great job.

MY VOTE Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Original Score

I haven’t seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The scores of Marriage Story and Little Women I don’t even remember. Joker was good. The only score that I thought was really great was 1917. A lot of times a score overwhelms a film, but this one complemented the story.

MY VOTE 1917

Best Original Song

I listened to all of them, and I don’t like any of them. None of them stayed with me, even Elton John’s song [“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman]. If I had a gun to my head, I couldn’t sing any of them, unlike songs from the past that you would remember.

MY VOTE Abstain.

Best Sound Editing & Best Sound Mixing

I thought that Ford v Ferrari sounded good, but I don’t vote in these categories because I don’t know enough about the difference between the two.


Best Visual Effects

I thought the reverse-aging in The Irishman sucked — it was distracting. [The VFX in] The Lion King was good. The camerawork in 1917 was great, but I don’t know how much of that is owed to visual effects. But I do know that Avengers: Endgame had great visual effects.

MY VOTE Avengers: Endgame

Best Animated Short

I didn’t have an opportunity to watch them.

MY VOTE Abstain

Best Documentary Short

I didn’t have an opportunity to watch them.

MY VOTE Abstain

Best Live Action Short

They were all good. I liked Brotherhood quite a lot. But Nefta Football Club stood out for me because there was humor to it, with the donkey and the headphones, and also because I liked the twist that it took.

MY VOTE Nefta Football Club

Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 лютого 2020 року