What Will Win Best Picture? 20 Oscar Voters Spill Their Secrets | Modern Society of USA

What Will Win Best Picture? 20 Oscar Voters Spill Their Secrets

What Will Win Best Picture? 20 Oscar Voters Spill Their Secrets

LOS ANGELES — Voting for the 91st Academy Awards ends on Tuesday, with roughly 8,200 movie industry insiders using a private website to mark their choices. Just what goes through their minds when they point and click?

In a perfect world, each voter would approach the task with solemnity, taking time to watch all of the nominated films and putting aside biases to consider the degree of artistry onscreen.

But Hollywood is no utopia.

To a large degree, Oscar voting is about personal prejudices and petty grievances. (Just read the anonymous voter columns The Hollywood Reporter has published in the past.) It is about who has the most pals in the voting pool, which remains 69 percent male and 84 percent white despite years of diversification efforts. It also involves Hollywood’s changing business landscape — namely, whether Netflix should be embraced by the industry or kept out of the club for as long as possible, regardless of the quality of the films it serves up.

So, as an experiment, I called 20 academy members (none directly associated with any of this year’s nominees) and asked for utter candor: How are you evaluating the eight candidates for best picture?

On the downside, movies that win best picture usually connect with voters on an emotional level. At least in my little sample, “BlacKkKlansman” fell more into the “deeply admire but don’t feel the need to watch it again” zone.

Lee could be the ceremony’s best hope for a viral moment, however. Some people relished the idea of his striding onto the Oscar stage and excoriating studios for sidelining minorities. (He’s never been one to mince words.) “Can you imagine?” said a voter who is a member of the academy’s writers branch. “People would have to be hauled out on stretchers.” (Lee is also nominated for best director for the first time in his singular career.)

This Queen biopic, directed by Bryan Singer (at least until he was fired for erratic behavior), ranks as one of the more puzzling best picture contenders in memory. (And that’s saying something, considering that the talking-pig movie “Babe” was a contender in 1996.) Voters used words like “superficial” and “messy” to describe the film, which received lukewarm reviews from critics and prompted an outcry for soft-pedaling gay plot points.

Almost everyone admitted that “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a guilty pleasure to watch, however, as Rami Malek turned in an Oscar-worthy performance as Freddie Mercury. (All 20 people I contacted said Malek had their vote for best actor.)

In a surprise — or not, given the way that Hollywood likes to sweep problems under the rug — most voters said they would not hold Singer’s involvement against the film. The director has long been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct and new claims about sex with underage boys that surfaced in The Atlantic the day after Oscar nominations were announced. Singer denied wrongdoing and labeled the article “a homophobic smear piece.”

Nobody thought this period segregation comedy was perfect. Could we please have a touch of nuance? And that fried-chicken scene makes everyone cringe. But “Green Book” tugged hard on a lot of voter heartstrings. One producer in his late 60s said the movie’s feel-good ending made him “absolutely melt.”

Peter Farrelly, who directed “Green Book” and was one of its writers, has also proved to be an effective campaigner, a couple of voters noted, with his self-effacing speech at the Producers Guild Awards in January as Exhibit A. “When you make ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ you never expect to get an award,” Farrelly said, referring to one of his early films. “I’m damn thankful.”

One voter, a studio executive in his 50s, admitted that his support for “Green Book” was rooted in rage. He said he was tired of being told what movies to like and not like. (Much of the public debate about “Green Book” has turned on its handling of racial issues, which some see as woefully retrograde and borderline bigoted.)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and distributed by Netflix, “Roma” seems to be prompting a crisis of conscience.

Do we vote for “Roma” because we think it’s the best? Or do we withhold our support — regardless of the film’s artistic merit — because we see Netflix as a threat to moviegoing? Although the company pushed “Roma” into about 250 independent theaters in the United States, on par with many foreign-language releases, the streaming giant mostly bypasses cinemas. There are voters in both camps. A couple of those in the anti-Netflix group told me that they would vote for Cuarón for best director as a way to assuage their guilt.

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