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Anonymous Oscar Ballot: Costume Designer Celebrates ‘American Fiction,’ ‘Barbie,’ and Lily Gladstone

With final Oscar balloting closed on February 27  we’re continuing with our seventh annual series of interviews with Academy voters from different branches for their unfiltered takes on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued in the 2023 award season. Interview edited for brevity.

Generally, this has been a lackluster year. The Academy portal helps. I watched 25 international films in order to vote. It’s a lot easier to do that from the comfort of one’s home, if you don’t live next door to the Academy.

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Best Picture

“American Fiction” spoke to me. I liked the message and the way it was done. It was my first choice.

“Past Lives” was powerful.

“Anatomy of a Fall” was great. I loved the journey that it took you on. You’re not sure at the end what happened. I loved the ambiguity of it, watching the French court world play out, all the points of view and different languages, the unreliable narrators.

“Barbie” I saw the first day it came out with my two nieces. I was sad Greta [Gerwig] wasn’t nominated [for Best Director] and Margot Robbie [for Best Actress]. That’s how it goes with comedies.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” was terrific. I saw it at 9 a.m.: “3 hours, oh fuck!” It’s riveting. It’s a movie about a subject I knew nothing about. When I saw the film, Scorsese explained how it started out following the book and then they decided to take this other turn and do a romance instead. I get why they made that choice. The book is so episodic. You couldn’t tell that story. It would have to be a miniseries. Maybe the film should have been a miniseries, stuffed into that three hours.

International Feature Film

Io Capitano
‘Io Capitano’GRETA DE LAZZARIS

“Io Capitano” was extraordinary, a political film without being overtly political. There’s no message at the end. Everything is revealed to you: the ghastliness of trying to leave one country thinking the grass is greener, and the experience [the two Senegal boys] went through. The magic realism worked. It really told a story. It wasn’t just stuck in there. You were holding your breath when they were in that prison. I don’t know how [Matteo Garrone] shot it. It all felt so real and horrifying and authentic. I hope that it wins.

“The Teachers’ Lounge.” What a disturbing movie. It’s so on topic with people I knew who were teaching, whether in college or in school. It is so fraught. At every turn you are offending somebody. It’s a quagmire out there.

“The Society of Snow” had one of the best airplane crash sequences I have ever seen. I felt everybody fold like an accordion. He showed that world. I saw “Alive.” This was much more in depth, people buried in the snow in the avalanche, the deterioration of the clothing. It’s a tour de force on that level.

“The Zone of Interest.” Right now things are so shitty in the world, there’s so much awful stuff, that my tolerance for anything disturbing is low. A lot of people love this film, I get it. Not for me. I saw it in a theater and didn’t know much about it, except for the outline. I was really disturbed by it, but I felt slightly “what’s the point?” I get it, it’s horrifying, I liked his other films better. The use of clothing was good. It had some great moments, as when [Frau Hoss] tries on the fur coat of Jewish people sent to the gas chambers.

“Perfect Days.” I’m a big fan of Wim Wenders. That was so touching. Every time they went to an amazing new toilet I want to live there. The film got into these lives. The whole thing was touching and funny. It’s an underrated film.

Costume Design

"Killers of the Flower Moon"
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’Courtesy of Apple

“Killers of the Flowers Moon” is fantastic: all the research, attention to detail. [Jacqueline West] hired local people to make everything. She did a fantastic job.

Missing is “Poor Things,” which everybody thinks is the bee’s knees. I couldn’t sit through it. We went to see it in a theater and left after 40 minutes. Other costume designers thought it was fantastic. I’m not a huge fan, even though I liked “The Favourite.” I can’t vote for the “Poor Things” costumes. It’s my policy. I have to enjoy the film.

Best Actress

Lily Gladstone was amazing. She didn’t speak that much, but had an incredible presence.

Sandra Hüller was great in “Anatomy of a Fall.” It’s tough.

Carey Mulligan was great, but Felicia was more glamorous than her. “Maestro” was such an ego trip of Bradley Cooper, which lessened my appreciation of the movie. I knew Lenny Bernstein; he was a friend of my parents. He had a tremendous love for children. The film missed how complicated it was to be gay at the time. By focusing on the marriage, I felt certain things were missing. I appreciated how Cooper got his voice and his love of children. That was authentic. At the end of the day, I didn’t love the film.

Emma Stone. I don’t like “Poor Things.” She was terrific. I like her a lot. She’ll probably win. She deserves to win. She has won once. They should spread it around.

Best Actor

The Holdovers
‘The Holdovers’Focus Features

Paul Giamatti in [“The Holdovers”] gave a great performance with the weird eye; he captured something that was so moving.

Bradley Cooper did a great rendering of Lenny.

Jeffrey Wright‘s performance [in “American Fiction”] is so great.

Cillian Murphy was almost Asperger, in “Oppenheimer,” which he probably was.

Supporting Actress

Da’Vine Joy Randolph. She’s such a great actress. We have to do something about clothes. Nobody over 25 should wear a strapless gown. It’s so unflattering. How dare any stylist let her walk out [at the Golden Globes] looking like that? I’m sorry.

Supporting Actor

BARBIE, Ryan Gosling as Ken, 2023. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Barbie’©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Barbie.” I did love Ryan Gosling. I’ll vote for him. “Barbie” needs some kudos.

Sterling K. Brown is great in “American Fiction.” I didn’t like him in “This is Us.”

Robert De Niro [“Killers of the Flower Moon”] is always great. But he’s won a million times.

Director

It was between Martin Scorsese and Justine Triet [“Anatomy of a Fall”]. Every time I hear Scorsese talk about the making of his films, how every decision is carefully thought out from an emotional standpoint, where to place the camera.

Chris Nolan. I appreciated “Oppenheimer.” Then, it left me; it didn’t stay with me. The more I read outside the film, I felt stuff was missing about him, given how much time they took to tell the story. It didn’t remain with me. It looked great. Emily Blunt and the other women weren’t part of the story. I thought he was a more complicated person.

Animated Feature

“The Boy and the Heron.” I love Miyazaki. The visuals are so poetic. Nothing can compare.

Cinematography

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is so beautiful: the production and costume design and cinematography.

Makeup and Hairstyling

“The Society of the Snow” was incredible.

“Maestro.” Cooper was right about the ridiculousness about the nose. It transformed him.

Documentary Feature

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” was fucking amazing. I was worried that the people filming would get abducted and shot.

The same is true of the people in “20 Days at Mariupol,” putting their cameras on the line to get the story out. I was gobsmacked by “Bobi Wine” and his wife.

Editing

I want “The Holdovers” to get some praise. It’s not up for director [Alexander Payne].

It’s hard to vote for editing for a film over three hours like “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Production Design

“Barbie” was fabulous fun, witty, clever.

“Napoleon” I was disappointed in. I didn’t know anything more about Napoleon when I finished than at the beginning. Joaquin Phoenix is vegan and won’t wear wool and leather: the indulgence of it. I feel sorry for the costume designer on that show. All that stuff they had to fake.

Adapted Screenplay

ANATOMY OF A FALL, (aka ANATOMIE D'UNE CHUTE), Sandra Huller, 2023. © Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Anatomy of a Fall’Courtesy Everett Collection

It was between “American Fiction” — I love the writing — and “Barbie.” So fun.

Original Screenplay

“Anatomy of a Fall” had a slight edge over “The Holdovers.” It was so clever the way it fucked with you.

“The Holdovers” is a tight screenplay.

“Past Lives” was the whole experience of it rather than just the screenplay.

I didn’t like “May December.” I got distracted when looking at the house. How can somebody who bakes occasionally and a guy who’s an X-ray technician afford this house? It was downhill from there, I didn’t believe any of these people.

Live Action Shorts

It’s sad that live action short films are being made by people like Wes Anderson who get to make feature films, and now move in on this category, which used to be more open to lesser known people. I wish people with less money got to make it.

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