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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Stuart Heritage

What can we learn from this year’s honest Oscars ballots?

Will Smith, set to win best actor for King Richard.
Will Smith, set to win best actor for King Richard. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

This weekend’s Oscars come to us soggy and shorn of spectacle. Covid meant that the nominees couldn’t all have their photo taken together, plus the lack of a televised Golden Globes has sapped awards season of all momentum. But at least one time-honoured scrap of Oscars tradition has remained undimmed: the anonymous ballot.

A mainstay of contemporary awards hype, this is where a voting member of the academy will dash off to one website or another under the cloak of anonymity in the run-up to the Oscars so that they can be extraordinarily bitchy about all the films they didn’t like. And while this is often good fun, they do also provide the tiniest insight into which way the winds might blow on Sunday night. Here’s what we’ve been able to glean from all of this year’s assorted moles.

Troy Kotsur is a lock for best supporting actor

Troy Kotsur

Almost unanimously, this is the most concrete prediction, with Coda’s breakout star winning voters over in droves. Indiewire’s voters called him “incredible”, and stated that his victory “will be an historical win”. Four of the five voters who spoke to Gold Derby also went with Kotsur, with one calling their vote a “no-brainer”. The voters who spoke to the Hollywood Reporter praised his ability to “move a non-deaf audience to tears”, with another adding: “I just want to see the guy up there.” However, his win won’t be a complete landslide. While three of the five voters who spoke to Entertainment Weekly picked Kotsur, the other two opted for Kodi Smit-McPhee or, as one anonymous director called him, “the gay kid in Power of the Dog”.

The Power of the Dog isn’t as much of a lock as you thought

Kirsten Dunst

A couple of weeks ago, The Power of the Dog’s Oscar victory seemed all but guaranteed. However, if you believe the anonymous voters, that respect is largely begrudging. Genuine praise was thin on the ground, with one of Gold Derby’s voters cooing: “All the actors in this movie are amazing!” The rest of the responses ranged from measured (Indiewire’s voter sighed: “Jane Campion will win and I don’t think anybody is going to be mad about that”) to actively hostile. The Hollywood Reporter’s voter called it “too long” and “really dull”, while Entertainment Weekly’s just said: “I was like, ugh, enough.”

Best actor might be Will Smith

Will Smith.

This category seems like a much tighter race but, on this evidence alone, Smith might just nudge it. Of the 15 voters who spoke to various publications, six of them went Smith’s way. If you’re counting, Andrew Garfield and Benedict Cumberbatch got four votes each and Denzel Washington got one. Javier Bardem, on the other hand, received no love at all.

Best actress might be Penélope Cruz

Penelope Cruz.

Again, going by the numbers, this category is going Cruz’s way. Eight voters named her as their pick, leaving the other nominees in their wake. Kristen Stewart picked up just three nods, while Olivia Colman and Jessica Chastain could only scrape together two, the consensus about the latter being that her performance propped up a terrible film. But wait, aren’t there five nominees in this category? Yes, I’m glad you brought that up.

Nicole Kidman, look away now

28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Roaming Arrivals, The Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Feb 2022Mandatory Credit: Photo by Christopher Polk/REX/Shutterstock for SAG Awards (12825989as) Nicole Kidman 28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Roaming Arrivals, The Barker Hangar, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Feb 2022

Only one voter went out of their way to single out Kidman’s performance in Being the Ricardos, and not for a reason she’ll probably want to hear. “I can’t get over her botoxed face,” the voter (a costume designer), told Indiewire, before adding: “I wish they had cast somebody less plastic looking.” At the end of their screed, the voter stated: “She’s done a Cher; she can no longer be seen on the big screen.”

Being the Ricardos will leave with nothing

Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, left, and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz.

Although Don’t Look Up has become the film that everyone loves dunking on, the movie most likely to crawl away with its tail between its legs is Being the Ricardos. Aaron Sorkin’s film was already cut out of the best picture, best director and best original screenplay categories, but the voters clearly have no love for the three nominated performances. Aside from the Kidman outburst, the director who spoke to Entertainment Weekly said of Bardem’s performance: “No. Absolutely not. No way … Like, what the fuck? Why are these guys nominated?” Meanwhile, one of the Hollywood Reporter’s voters said that “he’s too old, he’s too thick and he’s not funny enough”.

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