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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Stuart Heritage

What can we learn from 2024’s brutally honest Oscar ballots?

man in a lilac suit
Ryan Gosling. Photograph: Michael Buckner/Penske Media/Getty Images

Forget the actual Oscars. Increasingly, the highlight of awards season is the sudden influx of Anonymous Oscar Ballots, in which actual Oscar voters scurry away to various industry publications to explain why they voted the way they did.

To be clear, the fun of these pieces isn’t getting to hear film-making veterans, who intrinsically have more insight into the production of feature films than a member of the public, laud the work that most impressed them this year. No, the fun of it is that these people are cartoonishly catty and vindictive, and it’s nuts to hear them indiscriminately badmouth everyone in sight.

Although a lot of the nominated films this year have (unusually for the Oscars) managed to combine critical acclaim with commercial success, this does mean that many of Sunday’s awards are already a foregone conclusion. Or are they? Let’s parse this year’s flurry of anonymous Oscar ballots to see what the big trends are.

Oppenheimer will definitely win a lot

There is no getting away from the fact that this will be Oppenheimer’s year. Of the four voters who spoke to Entertainment Weekly, half voted for the film to win best picture and three picked Christopher Nolan for best director. One of Indiewire’s anonymous sources went to Oppenheimer for picture, actor, cinematography, directing, editing and score, although it’s worth pointing out that its other voter didn’t throw a single vote Oppenheimer’s way. Impressively, Variety’s clutch of voters voted for Oppenheimer almost 40 times. Barbie might have won the battle, but it looks as if Oppenheimer is going to win the war.

But it might not win everything

Not so long ago, it seemed as if Oppenheimer’s most certain win would come courtesy of Robert Downey Jr, thanks to a combination of talent, goodwill and the fact that he has won basically every other award in his category. So is an Oscar locked down? Don’t be so sure. Of Next Best Picture’s anonymous ballots, two went with Ryan Gosling while only one plumped for Downey Jr. Indiewire’s two ballots were split between Gosling and Downey Jr too. Of EW’s four ballots, two went to Mark Ruffalo, one went to Sterling K Brown and just one went to Downey Jr. In Variety’s slightly unsatisfactory data dump of ballots, the vote was split equally between Downey Jr, Gosling, Sterling K Brown and Mark Ruffalo. But let’s not rule RDJ out completely. As the Hollywood Reporter’s voter said: “I’ll be real with you: I met Downey at an awards season party, we had an interaction that I did not initiate, and it tipped the scales for me.”

Poor Things is the most divisive film of the year

For every person who loved Poor Things (a Next Best Picture voter said of its cinematography: “The whole visual style of the film was just so overwhelming and creative”) it seems as though several others absolutely couldn’t stand it. “Nobody was more excited to see Poor Things than me,” says the anonymous director on EW’s panel, “And then I hated it! I was so shocked. I love this director, I love all these actors, how could I hate this movie so much? … It felt like it was trying to make this comment on misogyny, but it ended up doing misogyny, for like, three hours.” Meanwhile, an Indiewire voter said of the film: “I couldn’t sit through it. We went to see it in a theater and left after 40 minutes.” Emma Stone is currently the frontrunner to win best actress, but perhaps this is undone by the fact that lots of people can’t stand the movie she’s in.

Godzilla might win something

The VFX category currently seems to be a two-way split between The Creator and Godzilla Minus One. Interestingly, the split seems to be separated between those who saw Godzilla’s official Oscar VFX “bake-off” presentation and those who didn’t. The first category tended to be blown away by what the film did with such a minuscule budget, and the fact that the film’s director was also head of VFX. Did enough people see the presentation to tip the Oscar in the film’s favour? Unsure. But would it be cool if Godzilla got to win its first ever Oscar? Undoubtedly.

Bradley Cooper should maybe stay at home

You already know that Maestro isn’t the best film around, because you’ve seen it. But your opinions pale into insignificance next to the fury the film inspired in actual Oscar voters. The EW director said: “I hated Maestro, absolutely hated it ... If you’re going to go so far with the makeup and prosthetics, God forbid Bradley Cooper cover up his piercing beautiful blue eyes to be accurate. That was such an actor’s vanity show.” Meanwhile, EW’s writer voter said: “I did not like Maestro … ALSO [Bradley Cooper was] terrible. He didn’t take his cigarette out of his mouth the whole time, I could hardly hear him. He was mumbling all the time. I thought it was a terrible performance.” Indiewire’s voter said: “Maestro was such an ego trip of Bradley Cooper,” while one of Next Best Picture’s voters said: “I did not bother to see Maestro. Two people I trust in the industry told me very strongly, ‘Don’t waste your time,’ so I didn’t.” Better luck next time, Bradley.

Read more about the 2024 Oscars:

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