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Brutally Honest Academy Voters Reveal Secret Ballots

Just like the Grammys, four anonymous AMPAS voters are giving Entertainment Weekly an inside look into the voting process, and while some industry folk want to sell you on the illusion that they're celebrating the art of cinema, these voters are revealing what really goes through their minds when casting their ballots.

via EW:

"I'd sort of stopped watching them," one anonymous (and longtime) actor tells EW of his relationship to the Oscars before becoming a voting AMPAS member. "I was so disgusted by the whole thing, and then I got into the Academy, and now I'm forced to — so, be careful what you wish for. The whole Hollywood back-slapping, 'get a big stinkin' load of me,' it's not a newsflash, it just seems to get worse and worse."

His assertion is the kind of juicy candor we came across when chatting with four Academy members on their 2023 Oscars picks for our annual secret ballot survey, and, if their final choices are any indication of how the organization at large feels, Hollywood's biggest night is going to be a bumpy one.

"I think the Academy is making an effort to please everybody, and it's reflective of the state of the world, but I feel like they're being held hostage — somewhat unfairly — by the wokeness," the actor later adds, taking issue with the group's "increasingly political and increasingly commercial" tastes.

This year, he criticizes media blowback over Best Actress snubs for Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) as going one step too far, when, despite this year's crop of nominees still being overwhelmingly white, he feels the Academy is doing its part to champion diversity in the industry.

"When they get in trouble for not giving Viola Davis an award, it's like, no, sweetheart, you didn't deserve it. We voted, and we voted for the five we thought were best," he finishes. "It's not fair for you to start suddenly beating a frying pan and say [they're] ignoring Black people. They're really not, they're making an effort. Maybe there was a time 10 years ago when they were, but they have, of all the high-profile things, been in the forefront of wanting to be inclusive. Viola Davis and the lady director need to sit down, shut up, and relax. You didn't get a nomination — a lot of movies don't get nominations. Viola, you have one or two Oscars, you're doing fine."

Before the 2023 Oscars air Sunday on ABC, read on to see what the following four (very, very shady) Academy members had to say when asked about top contenders in the race, their thoughts on Davis and Deadwyler's snubs, and campaign tactics that the Academy investigated following Andrea Riseborough's surprise nomination for To Leslie.

EW's anonymous Academy voter panel:

EW's anonymous Academy voter panel:

The Actor: His performances in critically heralded prestige dramas, biting mainstream thrillers, and on Emmy-winning TV shows have earned this actor consistent acclaim throughout his career.

The Marketer: A heavy-hitting, veteran marketing pro who regularly promotes some of the biggest films and performers of the year.

The Director: Known for both TV and film work, this filmmaker has an Emmy nomination to their credit, and has helmed several recent movie projects featuring mega-popular Hollywood elite.

The Costume Designer: Their track record includes dressing several A-list stars on critically lauded TV projects, prestige awards season movies, and commercial flicks that hit theaters and streaming.

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Picture

Actor: Everything Everywhere All at Once, because I admired its ambition, it was the most ambitious of all of them. It was a really good ride.... there were quite a few vying for last [place]. TÁR was next to the bottom.... Banshees of Inisherin perfectly satisfied what it set out to do. I thought Top Gun: Maverick was an incredibly well-made, fun, popcorn movie. Completely successful in what it set out to do, and I liked it so much better than the first one, which I watched again to put it in context, and it hasn't aged well.

They have their favorites, they have their pets, and if Cate Blanchett opens a door, she gets an Academy Award nomination. I feel like they bought [TÁR] hook, line, and sinker. It seemed way too long, it seemed really ham-fisted, I got very confused about, like, when she went to her assistant's house and it was this run-down slum, like, what? What are we doing? Where are we? What's happening? I didn't think it was good storytelling, and with a central performance that's inauthentic, it felt so much longer. I really struggled to get through that thing.

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  2. The Banshees of Inisherin

  3. Top Gun: Maverick

  4. All Quiet on the Western Front

  5. Elvis

  6. Avatar: The Way of Water

  7. Women Talking

  8. TÁR

  9. Triangle of Sadness

  10. The Fabelmans

Director: I did something very weird this year. I put Everything Everywhere All at Once as No. 1, and then I put Women Talking at No. 2 because Sarah Polley didn't get a directing nomination. I put Banshees of Inisherin as No. 3 because it was such a good movie.... and then I abstained from the rest, which I've never done in my life. I was so afraid that even a No. 4 vote for something would knock Everything Everywhere out of No. 1, that I didn't give anything else any juice. I even thought about taking Banshees off because I want Everything to win so much. It was negative voting for the other ones, only to ensure that Everything Everywhere will win.

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  2. Women Talking

  3. The Banshees of Inisherin








Marketer: I enjoyed Everything Everywhere All at Once, thought it was maybe 20 minutes too long, but each bit of artistry here, every film should be rightfully awarded, but it's imperative that Academy acknowledgment is spread out.... The Banshees of Inisherin is my No. 1. I didn't know what to expect walking into it; what Martin McDonagh did is such an accomplishment. Unity of time, place, and action on that island, these performers I didn't know before whom he brought to life, the wit, the dark humor, the sadness, the longing, the sense of community, the cinematography. Don't we all just want to move there right now? Even in the darker times, that movie made me feel fantastic.

  1. The Banshees of Inisherin

  2. The Fabelmans

  3. All Quiet on the Western Front

  4. Triangle of Sadness

  5. Women Talking

  6. Elvis

  7. Top Gun: Maverick

  8. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  9. Avatar: The Way of Water

  10. TÁR

Costume designer: I'm voting for Everything Everywhere All at Once. It was the best picture of the year in that it was a small movie, it didn't rely on stunt casting or effects or a transformation, any of the typical tricks we've watched other directors and casts win with. It was just a really f---ing great movie. After that was Elvis. I'm a huge Baz Luhrmann fan, I love the film and character study and visuals. It's Hollywood at its best, it takes a subject we think we know, celebrates it, and humanizes a person we feel like we know.

Avatar: The Way of Water [is ranked at No. 7] only because of its achievements in terms of where filmmaking is headed. James Cameron is at the forefront of technology that will be watered down in other films. [All Quiet on the Western Front] wasn't necessary — I wasn't able to answer that question as the credits rolled. I just don't think I'm the audience for it. It just felt like, okay, another war movie. I feel like, as an Academy of people who celebrate films, maybe we can expand this so we don't have what, to me, felt like a similar film about war and men in war and realities of war. I feel like that's a subject we've investigated as an art form over and over again.

  1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

  2. Elvis

  3. Triangle of Sadness

  4. Top Gun: Maverick

  5. TÁR

  6. Women Talking

  7. Avatar: The Way of Water

  8. The Banshees of Inisherin

  9. All Quiet on the Western Front

  10. The Fabelmans

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Director

Actor: I voted for Everything Everywhere All at Once. It's such a big swing. They did it impeccably. I decided five minutes in that I wasn't going to try to follow it, because I would go mad, so I just sat there and let it wash over me, and it's lots of fun. They manifested their vision perfectly.

[Steven Spielberg's direction] was bad. It was sentimental. He was working something out, clearly. I don't know what it was. The story wasn't that interesting. Alright, you made movies? Who doesn't make movies when they're a kid? This particular slice you decided to show us wasn't that compelling.... it felt indulgent, and he couldn't be objective about it. I thought it was not well cast, people were just playing types. I thought Michelle [Williams] was trying to be "Jewish Mama." Paul Dano seemed really lost to me — I don't know if he was intimidated by Spielberg. I thought he was great in Batman, but to play a regular guy was painful.

Director: I felt like people went out of their way to exclude [women], because inclusion is hard, and they're tired. The Academy still has a lot of work to do with its membership to make it more representative.... it did feel purposely exclusionary.

Yes, [I was disappointed by this group of nominees] for sure. Everything Everywhere All at Once and the Daniels stood out, like, at least one made it through! They [got my vote], 100 percent. I just think they did the most phenomenal original vision that I've seen in a while, everything from stop-motion rocks to those bananas worlds, and drew all elements of filmmaking together; it's just beautiful directing.... Spielberg, whatever, at least he knows how to direct, and he got me at the end with that John Ford story. I guess I'm going to say Todd Field is the least deserving. The subject matter was kind of lame, he bored us to death, but that's kind of brave, too.

Marketer: I went with an up-and-comer by the name of Steven Spielberg. His vulnerability, his willingness to be open, his masterful work of the entire film, from the mise en scène to the costuming to the framing and performances, we were able to watch a maestro at the top of his field, and to do it with such a personal story made it even more impactful and powerful.

TÁR didn't work for me. I will say, in conversations, TÁR is one of those things where a lot more people than I thought didn't care for it. When you dig a little deeper, sometimes the stories aren't necessarily the narratives you see at every single awards show. Talking to various members at Academy screenings, a lot of people felt the same way.

Costume designer: I'm doing Everything Everywhere All at Once, simply because it has so much heart. A scene in this movie was two rocks and subtitles. That's the emotional crux of the movie. That's an achievement in directing, they've directed the audience to feel a certain way while looking at two rocks with googley eyes. It's incredibly directed.

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Actor

Actor: I voted for Austin Butler. I hated that movie, it's a headache and a seizure waiting to happen, but I thought his performance transcended it, despite Baz Luhrmann trying to undermine his performance every step of the way. I thought it was a real accomplishment and a beautiful achievement. He worked hard and it paid off, it all showed up on screen. I didn't feel like he was begging for an Oscar. I felt like he wanted to be Elvis Presley. There didn't seem to be a lot of ego around it.

[The Whale] is so pandering for an Oscar. I think he's a very talented guy, but I didn't buy a second of that movie. I'd seen the play, so I knew what I was in for, and somehow turning it into a movie just made the artifice look so magnified.... cheeseball from the get-go, and I didn't even think the makeup was that good.

I don't believe that thing of you have to be a murderer to play a murderer — I know it's all the rage. You can't play a gay guy unless you're a gay guy — it's so out of control with the wokeness. I'm a fervent liberal, but wokeness, I think we all agree, has taken over. I thought he was fine casting, I just wish the movie had been better.

Director: This is such a hard one, too. I thought Brendan Fraser was so moving and beautifully vulnerable. First I was like, do I want to watch Brendan Fraser in a fat suit? And Bill Nighy, is that an Oscar movie or performance? I don't think so. Austin Butler, I had such a big internal protest against Elvis because the best thing someone said [about it] was, "It's not as bad as you think it's going to be."

I think ultimately, Austin Butler gave a beautiful performance, but I went with Brendan for daring to do the smaller movie that's a bit of a darker story. He surprised me. I knew him as this slightly cheesy actor from the '90s, and that was a real revelation, like, this guy is an artist and has something to say. He's trying.

Marketer: I think it's a three-way race. I just had a tough time watching The Whale.... I think the approach to this very sad character, the shocking moment of the body suit and the makeup, it's something where I think the hair and makeup led more than the performance.... It was really hard to watch this actor in this fat body suit whaling down pizzas and copious amounts of food and the perverse way the camera would track a body part. I did find it grotesque. I was really disappointed in The Whale.

I put my vote for Colin Farrell. What he did with that character and the arc of the character, the sympathy of the character, a character who's not the most intelligent person in the world, and he was able to bring that character to three-dimension. There are moments that are outstanding.

Costume designer: Brendan Fraser. I thought it was a really quiet performance, it's a great example of what the category is meant to honor: an extraordinary performance held by an actor. You're with this fully fleshed-out character who you stay with through the majority of the movie, and you experience the world through a different perspective, and I think Brendan offered that beautifully in such a quiet, human, truly awesome way. When you're trying to isolate the best performance by an actor in a leading role, Brendan, for sure.

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Actress

Actor: I voted for Michelle Yeoh. It's a big, big swing, that movie, and I don't know that it completely lands successfully. The thing about Michelle that I appreciated is that she was a very grounded center of that movie and all the things she had to do, I thought she did them all beautifully. I'm sort of resentful because clearly we've all been told that she's going to win, and I hate that I have to support that, that it had been made up that this is her year, but of all those performances, she gave the best of the five that were nominated. I said a little prayer during TÁR that I would never have to watch Cate Blanchett act again. I thought, this has got to be the end of this, this can't go on. I think she's a talented woman, but she's so technical, she's ice cold, and I always see her acting. The person I wanted to be in there was Judy Davis in Nitram. Astonishing. You've got Cate Blanchett and Judy Davis, both from Australia, and they couldn't be more different. Cate is working it like crazy, like, get a big stinking load of me, and Judy Davis is just doing the work and knocking it out of the park every single time. I feel like Cate just wants us all to fall in love with her and be a movie star, and I'm not on board.

I thought [Ana de Armas] was really good, and there were moments in that movie where I believed she was Marilyn Monroe. She captured it so fantastically, I just hated that movie so much that I couldn't revisit it. She was tortured and raped and victimized in every single scene. She couldn't walk through a door without somebody raping her. [Laughs]

[Michelle Williams was] tragic. The whole thing, her running around going, "Dahlink! Dahlink!" It's like, oh, come on. It was like that old quote about Garbo in her last movie, it's like seeing your mother drunk.... I think she's a wonderful actress in the right thing, but she was struggling in this.

Director: Definitely Michelle Yeoh, of course, just for her years of stunning work and her unexpected delivery. There's such a beautiful moment when she looks to her husband and says, "I saw my whole life without you," and you're waiting for this moment, and she goes, "It was so beautiful." The line is heartbreakingly hilarious, but the way she says it with that dedication, you're like, oh my god, it was so honest. The woman does stunts — what can Michelle Yeoh not do? I want her to get all the awards all of the time.

I've been hearing a lot of people complain about Cate's acting in TÁR being over-the-top and chewing up the scenery. I always love Cate, I think she's an incredibly talented performer, but the thing about TÁR is you were watching her performance from afar, you weren't in it with her, but Michelle brought you in and you're feeling everything with her.

Marketer: I'm picking Michelle Yeoh. She brought sympathy, humanity, and literally what it means to be a movie star to that role in an incredibly naked way. She inhabited that character in a strong way, and didn't let the effects or multi-universes take over. She's the heart and soul of the film.... I thought TÁR was absolutely pretentious. I wanted to love it. Cate Blanchett can do no wrong. She's phenomenal in TÁR, but I did not care for the film. The credits thing in the beginning was pretentious, I don't understand it. That was a major disconnect.

Costume designer: Michelle Yeoh. Again, she's one of these people, like, how have we not done this already? It's difficult for me to not vote for Cate, because TÁR is singular, I don't think it has competition, but I think Michelle played 400 characters in just one close-up, she did the work of some of these other actresses in their entire films. This is a moment where we need to recognize a person's body of work.

I'm not a fan of Blonde. I think that Blonde was a great conversation to have over a glass of wine, I don't think it needs to become a film. I thought it was pretty, great to look at, but I didn't see performances or direction that landed with me. It didn't spark conversation that was thought-provoking, pleasant, or necessary.

How Academy members feel about Andrea Riseborough's Oscar Nomination and accusations of the Academy shutting out black women

Actor: I feel like anything goes, all's fair in love and war. I thought she gave a great performance. It was very much "for your consideration" — like, what's going to win me an Oscar? It had all the check-boxes through it, and it seemed to be pandering a bit, so that bugged me. The ending was terrible. Good for them, they went about it and got her a nomination. I'm sure other people were doing equally political maneuverings behind the scenes, they just didn't get caught. If it hadn't been for Viola Davis being mad she wasn't nominated, I don't think anybody would've questioned it.... it's ridiculous, it's sour grapes. The Academy has bent over backwards to be inclusive. Last year, there were more Black people presenting. It's like, come on. I think Viola Davis is talented, I didn't see Woman King, but I'm a little tired of Viola Davis and her snotty crying. I'm over all of that. I'm willing to believe that Andrea Riseborough gave a better performance. [Danielle Deadwyler] was so pandering [in Till] for an Academy Award nomination. She was good. I mean, who wouldn't be good in a part like that? The strong, wronged mother. But you look at the real Mamie Till, she's not wearing all of these incredible gowns and beautifully made-up. I thought it was a confusing message. If they'd really [made a movie about] that woman, who was not used to being in the public eye and wore house dresses, she [wouldn't have] had one incredible outfit after another. The ego behind this pushing her to be a movie star was too blatant for me.

Director: That was so bizarre, because for years people have had to campaign out of the box to get some attention for themselves, because the system isn't going to. It's the first time, frankly, I've seen a white person have to do it. The shocking thing is that it worked for her, but all the money and campaigning for Woman King didn't work for Viola. That's the real thing underneath it all. Normally The Woman King would have had to do out-of-the-box attention-getting to get the nomination, maybe they felt like it was such a shoo-in they didn't campaign as hard. I watched the Andrea Riseborough thing happen in real-time, I was at an agency party and I heard actresses of a certain age talking to each other about how good Andrea was, and at the end of the conversation, one of them — who's a pretty big Academy voter — said, "I'm going to do it, I'm going to vote for her and support her," and then the other one said, "Me too!" Then I went to a party at Universal a week later, and it was all the talk in side conversations among the actresses, like, "We're going to do this, we're going to get Andrea in there." It felt like white women over 40 were rallying behind getting Andrea the nomination.

Marketer: I did not find an issue with [the campaign tactics]. I think there was one egregious moment by a certain actor that the Academy bylaws said is negative campaigning by calling out other performances, in that case [they used] a pull-quote [from a critic]. It was a great representation of the possibility of what can be done without $8 trillion behind you. I do feel that Danielle Deadwyler should've been in the category.

Costume designer: I think [the tactics] were modern, and I think it's not the first time something like that has happened — it might be the first time it's gotten that much of a reaction or notice. We have to move into a world in which the Academy Award has become an incredible prize and career-defining, and people will get there through different methods, and this is one of them. I think it's the first time, I don't think it's the last time. I don't have an issue with it.

I don't know that it was an attempt to shut out anybody — I'd hate for that to be the truth. I can't imagine it was. I do miss Viola in [Best Actress], I thought that performance deserved to be here. I didn't need Ana [there], I needed Viola.

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Supporting Actor

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, it was a fantastic performance. It was unflinching, he wasn't asking us to like him in any way, it wasn't sentimentalized.... he was wonderful. I thought the guy from Everything Everywhere All at Once was very good, but it felt like we were more sentimental about him because he'd been the kid who disappeared for 100 years, and then he's back. Barry Keoghan would've been my second choice. I wasn't quite as convinced. It's very hard to play somebody dim, and it always veers into, "Look, Ma! I'm acting!" Brian Tyree Henry, I actually didn't watch Causeway because there are some actors in there that I'm not a fan of, and I just didn't want to go there. Judd Hirsch, that was awful, everything about that movie was awful, horrible.

Director: Ke Huy Quan, please! He did so much in that movie, I was shocked he was Supporting and not Leading. You could tell what time, era, and who he was, just by him removing his glasses and putting them back on.... The fact that he went from romantic leading man to low-self-esteem partner to action hero [in this film], he was awesome, he never lost the through-line in his performance.

Marketer: I went with Barry Keoghan. I think he gives a masterclass in acting in an incredibly competitive field. I enjoyed Ke Huy Quan's work, and his awards season moments were incredible and powerful to watch. It speaks volumes about this industry and the universality of second chances. But, in terms of performance alone, I voted for Barry.

Costume designer: Ke Huy Quan. I feel like Hollywood loves the story of the underdog getting it. No one like Ke has had this campaign. You have to recognize a campaign that's been played the whole time, and his has been brilliant. He gives gripping speeches, it's so moving to watch him succeed, and we all want that second act or a second chance at getting what we love again. To watch this person who's had a full-circle moment from childhood to adulthood is so moving and it's incredible to watch him succeed.... He was up against Michelle Yeoh, and that's a difficult place to hold a candle against.

Oscars secret ballot picks for Best Supporting Actress

Actor: Kerry Condon. I really liked Banshees, everybody was bringing their A-game, there wasn't a lot of grandstanding or for-your-consideration acting. They dove into the story and put their egos aside.

Angela Bassett, you know, it's a comic book, and she was a comic book character. She sort of over-articulates everything in this weird, fake English way. I didn't buy it. Jamie Lee Curtis just seemed like a stunt. Like, here, I'm not going to wear a girdle, you're going to see how fat I am, I'm Hollywood royalty and I'm putting on glasses and a funny wig and we'll all have a good laugh at it. It seemed ordinary.

Director: I wish all of them could get an Oscar. They're all outstanding. Kerry Condon, so good for years; Jamie Lee Curtis, who knows that she even understood the script when she was doing what she was doing, and it was brilliant.... I feel like Jamie might get it, but she's doing that thing where she's going out and campaigning for other people, and that's something to be rewarded. She's lifting everyone up around her.

I voted for Stephanie Hsu, because she's an Asian woman, and I wanted to vote for the Asian woman, even though she has competition there. I thought Stephanie had a chance a little more than Hong Chau.

Marketer: I was disappointed that [Triangle of Sadness'] Dolly de Leon didn't get in.... I probably would've swapped her out for Stephanie Hsu. I was impressed, but I think what Dolly did in those eyes was incredibly powerful. I was blown away by Hong Chau — she redeemed The Whale, which I was not a fan of. I found it grotesque and hard to watch. It was shot really dark, she was the light and sunshine of that film, and I want to see Hong Chau in everything. I voted for Angela Bassett. Everything I vote for is based on the performance, not about how much marketing there is.... when I first saw Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, I thought she was phenomenal.

I'm hearing a lot of love for Kerry Condon, for sure, and I wasn't familiar with her until I saw Banshees. This is one of the harder categories of the season. But, ultimately, Angela got my vote. I loved Black Panther and Wakanda Forever, but I sort of gave up on the Marvel universe five or six years ago, and this was something I stayed with. That helped.

Costume designer: My answer is pretty clear: Angela Bassett. It's embarrassing that this is the first time Anglea Bassett is getting an Oscar. I love Jamie Lee, I love Stephanie, I love Hong Chau, but this is Angela's to win. Somebody is usually rewarded for a body of work, not necessarily the performance they're nominated for, so I do think this is a course-correction for the Academy to make sure Angela is given the "Academy Award winner Angela Basset" that we should've been saying for 20 years. I think her opening monologue is extraordinary, and how a lot of people were able to process Chadwick Boseman's death.... it's kind of Angela Bassett giving Angela Bassett at peak Angela Bassett. She looks incredible, delivering lines from her soul, and that's what she's about and deserves to be known for.

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