Anonymous Oscar Ballot: Costume Designer Swoons Over Licorice Pizza

This voter went out to see “The Power of the Dog” and stayed home to watch “Dune.”

With final Oscar balloting closing for Academy voters today at 5pm PT, we’re continuing with our fifth annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their honest takes on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued in the 2022 award season. Today we speak with a costume designer; interview edited for brevity.

Best Picture: I am always an outlier. I always presume anything I’m enthusiastic about won’t get in. Ten choices was an extreme stretch. What I wanted included five international titles and two documentaries. On top of this ballot: “Licorice Pizza,” “Drive My Car,” and “Don’t Look Up,” which I enjoyed as a fun, relevant, and poignant ride. “King Richard” is a good biopic: It told a story you think you know, but it turns out you don’t. It was not demonizing the father, but showing how fucked up he was, and how they all suffered for this insane dream that he carried out. That’s complex, not black-and-white. That’s an achievement. It could have been a lot less interesting. We all know children who love their abusive parents: This is a reality.

Best Actor: I’m heading toward Will Smith. It’s such a nuanced performance. I was impressed. I was drawn in by that character; he conveyed a complicated person, ambitious and messed up. Also, Denzel Washington was good [in the title role in “The Tragedy of Macbeth”], but it felt like there was a bit of strain there. My problem with Benedict Cumberbatch was that he is so obvious. He started out “The Power of the Dog” at 100. There was nowhere to go with him. I wish that Campion had modulated his performance more, that it had been subtler. I was impressed with Javier Bardem [in “Being the Ricardos”], who doesn’t look like Desi Arnaz, but was as handsome. He did a good job of conveying him; he did an interpretation rather than an imitation.

"The Eyes of Tammy Faye"

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

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Best Actress: It’s a toggle between Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and Kristen Stewart in “Spencer.” They both gave fantastic performances. I preferred “Spencer” as a movie, which would tilt me more toward Stewart, but Chastain was extraordinary. She transformed into and captured Tammy Faye.

I thought Penelope Cruz was terrific in “Parallel Mothers.” Olivia Colman was also good [in “The Lost Daughter”]. But I didn’t like “Being the Ricardos” or Nicole Kidman. I can’t get over her botoxed face. She’s a terrific actress and voiced Lucille Ball perfectly, but I wish they had cast somebody less plastic looking. She wasn’t a great beauty, is the point. Aaron Sorkin cast somebody who is a beauty, and has had all this work done, and it’s not appropriate. It’s tricky when you are taking a real-life person, of course you fictionalize, but you have to have one toe in reality. When the lead actress doesn’t feel real, then I have a problem. She’s a good actress. She’s done a Cher; she can no longer be seen on the big screen. Emma Thompson in “Cruella,” she’s got age lines and whatever, but the face moves.

CODA, Troy Kotsur, 2021. © Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

“CODA”

©Apple TV/Courtesy Everett Collection

Best Supporting Actor: The “CODA” guy, Troy Kotsur, was incredible. I liked that film in spite of myself. It’s a tad sentimental, but powerful. I loved Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog;” he’s a terrific undervalued actor. And Kodi Smit-McPhee was incredible. Ciaran Hinds, yes, but ugh, “Belfast.” I might vote for Troy. I want to support what they did.

Best Supporting Actress: I had issues with “The Power of the Dog,” but Kirsten Dunst was fabulous. She has this quality that is compelling. You go with her on the journey. But why did she go downhill so quickly? That pulled me out of this story I wanted to be in. Judi Dench is always great, but I didn’t like “Belfast.”

Adapted Screenplay: I’ll vote for “Drive My Car.” I read “Dune” a million years ago. I didn’t like “The Lost Daughter.” I haven’t read that book. Things didn’t make sense in it, I didn’t understand what the obsession was, why she was behaving the way she did.

Original Screenplay: “Licorice Pizza,” “King Richard” and “Don’t Look Up” ate the other contenders. I’ll vote for “Licorice Pizza” again. Hats off to [Zach Baylin] for creating “King Richard.” They didn’t whitewash it. Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” is clever and entertaining.

CRUELLA, Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil, 2021. ph: Laurie Sparham /© Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

CRUELLA, Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil, 2021.

ph: Laurie Sparham /© Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Costumes: Jenny Bevan did a fantastic job on “Cruella.” It’s entertaining, fabulous, and witty, appropriate for the period, and extravagant in a wonderful way. A close second is “Cyrano.” Jacqueline Durran started with the costumes [for Roxanne], and Massimo Cantini Parrini took over and did all the rest. (He did “Pinocchio.”) His costumes were stunning, the layers and quality.

I can’t divorce the film from the costumes. If I don’t like the film, I’m less enthusiastic about the costumes. The costumes for “Dune” were perfect for that kind of film, the volume was impressive. But they didn’t move me in the same way as “Cyrano” or “Cruella.”

The more contemporary films often get short shrift; they get overlooked compared to the more splashy stuff. “Licorice Pizza” was terrific and real, and a wonderful view of that period. Sometimes period films can get too glossy and chic. This was down-to-earth and appropriate to the story. The costumes didn’t stand out, which is a good sign. Also “King Richard” was excellent in the same way, conveying a certain class of person and what in reality they would wear. Both felt authentic, which is not easy to do.

Best Director: It’s a toss-up between “Drive My Car” and “Licorice Pizza,” which delivered an entertaining and funny world. It’s hilarious. Paul did a fantastic job with the two leads [Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim]; they were so charming and real.

“The Power of the Dog” could have lost half an hour, honestly. I wanted to like it more. It came together at the end and it made sense, but it took a little too long to get there. It was one of the few screenings went to. Afterward, I loved the way Jane Campion talked about what she did and how she works. But the film didn’t deliver the way I wanted it to. I’m a huge Campion fan.

“Attica”

Sundance

Documentary Feature: These are some of the most important films of the year. It’s an abundance of excellence there. I just watched “Attica,” which blew me away. I am recovering from the effects of the images of naked men paraded and beat the shit out of. It was back to slavery, horrific. That definitely will get my vote.

I liked “Summer of Soul,” which took place around the time of Woodstock, but neither I nor any of my contemporary music lovers had heard of it. And there was Nina Simone telling people to go kill people! It took you into this world and showed all the different points of view, not to mention the music.

“Ascension” was an amazing document of China. It didn’t have narrators, but showed you images and people talking and you made your own assumptions. It’s scary what life is like for a lot of people in China. It was beautifully shot, it’s an important film, as everything we own comes from China.

“Flee” was put in documentary, and international, and animation. In my view it belongs more in the documentary world.

“Writing with Fire” as a subject was incredibly compelling. While I wasn’t impressed with it as a piece of filmmaking, I was gripped by these women: what they did was mind-boggling. It was another world I had no clue about. No one knows how bad it is for the Untouchables, and to see the reality for women on top of that was gob-smacking.

The Queen of Basketball

“The Queen of Basketball”

NYT Op-Docs

Documentary Shorts: The two that stood out were “When We Were Bullies” and “The Queen of Basketball.” Lucy [Lusia Harris Stewart] is so touching. What a life! She was drafted by the NBA and had a breakdown; it was very moving. In terms of filmmaking, “When We Were Bullies” was clever, mixing cartoons and animation with interesting takes on small events that happen in an elementary school classroom and how it impacted everyone. It’s a topical issue, well made.

Editing: My general complaint about films is they’re too long. Should a film be over two hours long? Few films can be sustained past that. “Don’t Look Up” and “The Power of the Dog” were smartly done. I’ll vote based on which films I like the best, as I may not be the best judge of the quality of the editing.

DRIVE MY CAR, (aka DORAIBU MAI KA), from left: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, 2021. © Janus Films / courtesy Everett Collection

DRIVE MY CAR, (aka DORAIBU MAI KA), from left: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura

2021. © Janus Films / courtesy Everett Collection

Best International Feature Film: I watched all 15 contenders, and while I am sad with what they chose, I’ll vote for the fantastic “Drive My Car.” “Luhana” was a charming sweet story, but far below my favorites. “Worst Person in the World” is appalling. The average age of the Academy has decreased; I was so surprised it got in there.

Makeup and Hairstyling: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is pretty amazing: Jessica Chastain was incredible. “Cruella” was great. “House of Gucci”  disappointed me with its jarring story, but Lady Gaga was great. I didn’t see “Coming 2 America,” and I don’t think I will.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

“The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Courtesy of Apple

Production Design: “Macbeth” was austere, folded into the movie and what it was presenting, the perfect backdrop for the black-and-white. The nod to Expressionism was terrific. The production design on “The Power of the Dog” was pretty great. Even though it did not look like Montana, that’s not their fault; it had a great look. The houses and environment felt authentic.

“Nightmare Alley” is incredibly stylish and beautifully done. I can’t fault it. But there was a lot of hot air and pretension, honestly, so it didn’t matter what the production design was, because I wasn’t in the movie.

“Dune” was amazing and took you into another world, with a lot of special effects. But I didn’t love “Dune,” it didn’t move me.

“West Side Story” was superimposing social realism on top of that story. It felt false. it’s not intended to be a realistic movie, but the choices that were made in the production design didn’t help it. I didn’t love the costumes either. They were mediocre. Rita Moreno singing “Somewhere”? Please. In terms of costume design, what the guys were wearing and the sneakers weren’t appropriate. I just don’t understand why he remade that movie and what the point was.

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