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

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!