AMPAS Members Holiday Check In – What are Voters Thinking as They Await Oscar Ballots?

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oscar_ballot_a_lThe Christmas break is full of holiday cheers, relaxation, and screener watching for an Academy member.  All the major studios have got their major ponies out to AMPAS voters to feast their eyes on during the break.  Academy ballots go out Monday, December 29 and are due back on January 8.  For some, this will be the first time they’re watching the films they’ve heard about for so long.  I reached out to three Academy members this past week, and gained a unique take and perspective on what they’re watching, and what they think about the everything so far.  These three individuals will be referred to as “Brando,” “Hepburn,” and “Grant” to protect their identities.

As always, PLEASE take these reactions with a grain of salt.  These are only three among thousands of members.  These three individuals are all from different branches of the Academy, and have been kind enough to speak with AwardsCircuit exclusively (and anonymously) for this quick take.  I asked them just basic questions regarding their break and their movie-watching habits so far.  At the end of each interview, I encouraged them to watch some of my favorite films of the year, which will be reflected in my year-end column next week.

BRANDO” started off by saying how insanely busy he’s been this year, and only recently has been able to set aside some time to watch some of the movies.  “Everything came so freaking late this year” he says.  “In the past week I received 40 to 50% of all the screeners that are sitting on my desk.”  From the perspective of a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and New York Film Critics Online, I spoke about a similar feeling when screeners came to my doorstep.  Everything seemed to pile on around the same time.

When asked what films he’s received in the past week, he added, “Selma, Guardians of the Galaxy, Wild to name a few.”

Have you seen Selma yet?

“No, not yet.  But I’m hearing great things about it.”

What are some of the things you’ve seen this year, and what do you think about them?

“I did see Boyhood.  I liked it a lot, but I didn’t think it was this AMAZING film.  I’m extremely happy for Richard Linklater though.  Here’s a guy that’s been completely ignored by the film community for his whole career.  An indy guy who is finally getting the recognition he deserves, and is a triple threat in Picture, Director, and Screenplay.  I couldn’t be happier for him.”

What else have you seen?

“I caught up with Birdman.  I thought it was pretty darn brilliant.  I saw Into the Woods just the other day with my family and was disappointed.  For a musical, the music felt so secondary.  My kids hated it.  I didn’t think Streep was all that great other than she’s Meryl Streep.”

What’s one of the top 3 films you’ve seen so far?

“I absolutely loved Clint’s American Sniper.  Of all the war films (Unbroken & Fury included), it was by far the best one.”

What’s on the docket for the next two weeks?

“I’m trying to watch Wild, Selma, and Mr. Turner before the weekend is up.  It’s hard to set aside 2+ hours when family is around.”

Is there anything you’re sure that you will NOT get to before the voting deadline?

“Let me see what I have here…[goes and looks through his pile] I don’t think too many of my friends will be popping in Song of the Sea or Still Alice.  That’s not something I think I’ll get to.”

HEPBURN” had a completely different perspective on the process so far.  She passionately says “Every year just keeps getting better and better.”

What are some films that you’ve loved this year?

“I loved the Wes Anderson movie.  For a long while, that was my favorite movie of the year and couldn’t imagine liking anything else more than that.  Then I saw Birdman, Calvary, Gone Girl, and ESPECIALLY Inherent Vice.”

Paul Thomas Anderson fan?

“Definitely.  I love all his movies.”

Who did you love from the movie?

“Joaquin Phoenix is always amazing and I thought Katherine Waterston was pretty good.”

What have you hated this year?

“Not too much actually, which is surprising.  I didn’t like St. Vincent too much.  Didn’t like Wild.  You know what I really didn’t like?  Two Days, One Night, and I usually love anything Marion Cotillard is in.  Didn’t do anything for me.”

What do you still need to see?

“As soon as I’m done speaking with you, I’m watching Cake with Jen Aniston.  Heard a lot of great things about that.  I’m dying to see Selma and Nightcrawler.”

GRANT” had an optimistic outlook on the season, adding that he’s been taking this very seriously this year because he wasn’t happy with the results of last year.  “I’m watching as much as he can so I can make the best decision possible.”

What has stood out to you this year?

“There’s a lot of extraordinary things that have been made and written this year.  I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was incredible in Nightcrawler.  Probably the best thing he’s ever done.  I loved many of the foreign films this year, Ida, Leviathan, and Force Majeure.  All great.”

What have you not liked?

“I didn’t really like Foxcatcher but I thought Mark Ruffalo was really amazing.  Big Eyes was rough and I don’t get why Amy Adams is a frontrunner.”

I said, she’s really not considered a frontrunner, just contending at this point for a nomination.  He says:

“Oh, good because that wasn’t really a great performance.”

Anything that you’re hoping for to get some love?

“Definitely Birdman, Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything, Ida, Leviathan.  Those are all amazing.  I still need to see The Imitation Game, which I’ve heard good things about and A Most Violent Year.”

Oscar nominations will be announced January 15, 2015.  Check out the latest official Oscar Predictions!

  • Nick

    Heard great things about Cake? Oookkkaayy. Agree with Brando about Boyhood, completely disagree on ITW and Streep. Both deserving. Agree with the rest, but not The Theory of Everything. Baity film with great performances.

  • Ryan

    Ouch on meryl streep

  • Sophie

    What are those branches? Please tell us Clayton.

  • Tom

    Seems they they all really want to see Selma, no real talk about Unbroken, with exception of Brando saying that American Sniper was best out of the three war movies. Of course this just a few opinions, we’ll see in a few weeks how everything pans out, exciting

  • Nikos Jordan

    Even though it’s one person, the fact that “Brando” said that they & their friends were going to be skipping Still Alice really makes me think; although Julianne Moore is a presumed frontrunner, I just have a feeling that Aniston will be walking away with the Oscar this year. That might be a bold prediction, but Aniston is doing something dramatically different with her career, she’s going “ugly” for the role (though not in a very out-there way), she’s well-liked, & she does give a great performance. Julianne Moore on the other hand (although she gives another good performance), basically only has the “overdue” narrative on her side; that might not pull her through in the way that people are expecting.

    • Sophie

      Aniston could be snubbed so I think Rosamund Pike could take the award over Moore.

  • Jeffrey Edwards

    I hope that enough members of the Acting Branch respond well enough to “Inherent Vice” for Josh Brolin to get nominated (instead of Robert Duvall). I get the impression that AMPAS members are more likely to want to check out “Inherent Vice” rather than “The Judge” so Brolin getting nominated in that “5th slot” is quite possible.

    In terms of the ‘Best Actor’ race, Gyllenhall is looking strong to take the “5th slot” instead of Steve Carell and perhaps there’s room for a surprise in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category where I’d like to see Tilda Swinton get in over Meryl Streep.

  • Phillip Milner

    I must say, I just had the chance to catch Men, Women, and Children and was in complete awe after the movie. I know that Joey and I seem to be the only two suckers for non-conventional love stories, but I am baffled on how such an excellent movie can be so hated and snubbed. Disgusting!

    Also had a chance to catch Foxcatcher and was heartbreakingly disappointed. Still a really good movie, but I suppose my expectations were too high.

    I also caught Into the Woods twice this weekend (the GF insisted), and was pretty pleased. I don’t think it’s a top 10 movie, but still good. Loved Streep and Pine. Both the standouts. And I normally find Streep overrated. And how does Emily Blunt get nominated for lead when she is clearly supporting? Kendrick is the lead if there is a lead at all in that movie.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Homer

      I didn’t see yet Foxcatcher, but Miller’s movies are always fantastic so i have good fellings about this one (actually i’m a fan of sport movies). How was Carell’s performance?? Is it good enough for a nomination?

      • Phillip Milner

        I’m a little biased toward Carrell. As someone who has seen The Office all the way through 3 times, I’m really rooting for him… but the fact of the matter is that his performance (while being superb) doesn’t stand out against the likes of Gyllenhaal and Redmayne IMHO. Tatum is really the show stealer if you ask me. He is the highlight of the movie in a big way. I currently have them both nominated in my “Philly Awards” but Carrell is even on the back end of those :/

    • Austin Kemprowski

      I recently watched Men, Women and Children and absolutely loved it as well! Looks like the group is growing

      • Phillip Milner

        One of the few (maybe the only) movies of the year that really had my emotions playing. I felt really involved. It reminded me of how I felt after watching Short Term 12 last year (which was the best movie of Last Year and was also largely and disgustingly ignored).

        • Austin Kemprowski

          I agree that it was deeply emotional. Short Term 12 was my #3 of last year, and you’re right, it was disgustingly ignored. I’ve shown it to a handful of friends and everyone absolutely loved it. Brie Larson (at least) should have been nominated

          • Phillip Milner

            Couldn’t agree more.

  • Robert MacFarlane

    I know it’s just one AMPAS member, but.. I hope this means good things for Gyllenhaal.

    • Homer

      I hope so, if Gyllenhaal is out of the nominees will be a complete disaster… BTW, am i the only one who really thinks Redmayne is such an overrated actor?? I already saw his performance and i don’t understand why all the love for him…

      • Robert MacFarlane

        I thought Redmayne was very good, though he’s not in my top 5. Same for Cumberbatch. Really as long as Keaton and Gyllenhaal make a splash, I’m good.

  • Ryan

    Sans grain of salt, I am wondering how much this opinion of Still Alice is popping up in the voter community. For a film with really only one reason to see it, I wouldn’t be surprised if voters would pass and hold on to whoever they were already going to vote for in Lead Actress. Good news for Witherspoon and Pike. However, when I add said grain of salt, Moore is still the frontrunner, no question.

    After seeing Into the Woods, which I gave maybe a 7/10, I’m kind of wondering whether this film gets anywhere other than the tech categories and Streep categories. Picture seems like such a long shot, especially when you have Foxcatcher, A Most Violent Year, Interstellar, Nightcrawler, etc. all fighting each other for however many spots are available. And these films have very vocal supporters. I have yet to see that kind of support be assigned to Into the Woods, and for now, the lack of support among critics groups is enough to persuade me that it isn’t a real contender.

    • Nick

      I think Pike could be Moore’s slight competition since she is very loved in the film. I loved Into the Woods, but I can see what you’re saying. The people who did not like it (not all of them) seemed to have not understood it and expected a children’s movie instead of thinking outside of the box. I figure this; if Les Mis can get in, Into the Woods is a possibility. And Les Mis was received a little worse than ITW.

      • Ryan

        Very true what you are saying regarding Les Mis. It certainly wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world to me if Into the Woods made it in a lineup, its just that when Les Mis was in contention, there was a huge group of people who hated it with an even bigger group singing its praise. Into the Woods, though generally more accepted by the masses, probably won’t get a ton of number one votes for Picture.

        Also, I agree that Pike seems to be the number two and gaining ground. Since I have Gone Girl making Picture, she seems to be the highlight that voters just might want to reward. I’m still confident that Moore wins this in a walk, but it isn’t impossible for Pike to win some precursors, notably BAFTA and a Globe, and become a real challenger.

        Just thinking out loud, or in digital ink, as it were.

        • Nick

          And Les Mis was more “Oscar prestige”, but I still don’t know how Academy Members are responding with Into the Woods. Right now, it seems to be a love it or hate it film, like Moulin Rouge but yes, I don’t see Into the Woods having high numbers for Best Picture.

          I feel as though they might want to give Gone Girl at least something. Still Alice really only has Julianne Moore on its side, no other nominations, but they still could play that “overdue” factor.

  • Jamie Teller

    In response to the question, “What are they thinking?”…

    About lunch, probably.

  • Austin Kemprowski

    I’m curious, do people consider Steve Carell in Foxcatcher to be a lead or supporting performance?

    • I didn’t even think to ask. It didn’t come up in conversation. Will check back next time.

  • Carlos

    Considering that “Brando” is a member of The Critics Choice and New York Critics, for sure he is not a member of the “actors branch”. Moore has it in the bag. Nobody was excited about “The Iron Lady” too, and Streep won all the way. The actors branch loves Julianne Moore, and in the post nomination day SPC will push Still Alice hard, releasing the film in a strong way.

  • ChrisA90

    Does anyone think American Sniper has a shot at one of the Best Adapted Screenplay slots? Not saying it will win, but if there is love for it in the Academy, I could see them nominating it for something.

  • Carlos

    Moore is loved by the Actors Branch and Academy Members as well. Even if “they” are not too excited about “Still Alice” (although it was the voice of one member among 6.000), in my opinion Moore has it in the bag. Maybe “Brando” is not even a member of the actors branch, which is filled with more than one thousand Academy Members. And we have to consider some important points: 1) SPC is pushing “Still Alice” hard, and Moore is everywhere. 2) The day after nomination, the film will be released in a strong way. 3) We have to consider that maybe Pike or Aniston (and it is not impossible, considering that we have Amy Adams, Hilary Swank, and Cottilard) could miss the nomination. People weren’t excited about “The Iron Lady” and Streep won it all the way, despite Viola being strong and ‘The Help” a box office and critical darling. If Jack Weaver can be nominated for a performance like she did in “Silver Lining…”, don’t count Moore out! She has it!

    • Burt Mizaki

      The Help wasn’t that much of a critical darling, 62 on MC and 73 on RT