Director Gets Cranky About Oscar Nominees

oscars 2014 3[The Hollywood Reporter] BG Note: An anonymous director gave his honest – and quite funny – opinions about this year’s Oscar nominees.

This story first appeared in the March 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

One cranky member of the Academy’s directors branch talks THR’s Scott Feinberg through his picks: “‘Gravity’? I’ve seen better things at planetariums,” while Julia Roberts “was horrendous” and Meryl Streep gave “a bottom-drawer performance” in “August: Osage County.”

VOTER PROFILE: This Oscar voter is a longtime member of the Academy’s 377-member directors branch.


Captain Phillips struck me as a slightly hokey, overacted, not particularly gripping action movie. Gravity pales in comparison with Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent 13-part reboot of Carl Sagan’s famous TV series about the universe. Philomena, which I’ve wanted to call Philomania ever since the Golden Globes, was an effective tearjerker — I was moved by it — but that doesn’t make it a great film. Nebraska was skillfully done but limited by its limited ambitions and its overly measured pace. Her interested me because of my complete ignorance of everything in it — it was like sitting through a class that I wasn’t necessarily enjoying but that I knew was good for me. (And just because I fall asleep in a movie doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t admire and like it; I’ve actually occasionally fallen asleep in my own movies.) Dallas Buyers Club was very good, and I was engaged by it all the way through, but there were no real surprises in it. The Wolf of Wall Street has almost nothing to say, but I found it hysterically funny. Conversely, with 12 Years a Slave, you don’t even crack a smile, but it was interesting, admirable and well done; I must say, though, that contrary to what some have asserted, it’s not as if it required great courage to make that movie — maybe if you made it in Mississippi in 1930. As for American Hustle, its ambition is not overwhelming, but it takes an interesting subject and very interesting characters and delivers 100 percent on what could be done with it in a very engaging, entertaining, interesting and truthful way. I would not put it in the legendary masterpiece category, but it doesn’t fail on any level.

MY PICK: (1) American Hustle; (2) 12 Years a Slave; (3) The Wolf of Wall Street


David O. Russell, hands down. Steve McQueen made an admirable movie, but I don’t think it’s remotely as ambitious or good as his previous film, Shame. Wolf is like Casino and GoodFellas — fun, bubble-gum Scorsese. Payne — whatever. And Cuaron was part of a committee of technicians who made that movie, and I have seen things at the planetarium that were at least as impressive.

MY PICK: David O. Russell (American Hustle)


Ejiofor was good. DiCaprio has been better; this is a popcorn performance. McConaughey was very good; he’s really doing some great stuff now, and I would give it to him for True Detective. Dern is a great guy and a friend and is excellent in the movie, and if I were not as taken by Bale’s performance as I am, I would have voted for him. But Bale had a much juicier role — Dern’s role is very contained, whereas Bale is all over the place — so I had to go with him. It’s the role of a lifetime.

MY PICK: Christian Bale (American Hustle)


Blanchett has to win this. Bullock is the weak link — she’s just OK. For Streep, whom I love, this is a bottom-drawer performance. Dench is a terrific actress, and she’s very good in this film. Adams I love. But you have to vote for who’s truly the best, and to me, Blanchett — whom I’m normally not that wild about, with the exception of Bandits — is that. She was just a revelation; she was just spectacular.

MY PICK: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)


Everyone was at least very good, but Cooper was the best. I think this is the best he’s been in anything. If he wasn’t in the category, I’d probably end up voting for Jonah Hill, only because I found him so funny. Jared Leto was good and will win, but he’s getting tremendous points because of the person he’s playing more than the way he played it, which is as close to pandering as you can get.

MY PICK: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)


Lawrence and Hawkins are the two obvious best of the five. Hawkins had a difficult part — it’s not an attractive role, and she’s intentionally overshadowed constantly by Blanchett, but she registers strongly in each scene she’s in. Jennifer was even better — she has that extra level of excitement in every scene she’s in. She just dazzles; she’s always doing something original and bold and surprising and believable. June Squibb was fine. Julia Roberts was horrendous. And Lupita was very good, but a lot of the commotion over her is attributable to people’s tremendous empathy with and sympathy for the role she’s playing.

MY PICK: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)


12 Years a Slave wins easily. Wolf is enjoyable, and if you were giving awards for most fun, it probably would be the biggest winner this year, along with American Hustle, which is a much better movie overall. On the other hand, by that logic, Step Brothers would have won. Philomena is an earnest and emotionally effective tearjerker, but that doesn’t mean its script is great. Captain Phillips is one step above hokum. And Before Midnight is a travesty of ineptitude and dreadful writing, like the other two in that horrible trilogy — if I was sitting next to those people, I would run in the opposite direction.

MY PICK: 12 Years a Slave


All five scripts are extremely good. Her is a worthy contender, and what it has over the others is that it’s completely original, but, even though I was impressed by the movie, I found myself nodding out periodically, so that meant I couldn’t put it on the same level as American Hustle and Blue Jasmine. I often choose personal friendship when I am torn between two almost equally good options, but in this case I’m friends with both David and Woody, so that doesn’t help. … I’m going for American Hustle because Woody has already been overwhelmingly rewarded. I feel very badly about the absurd bullshit that’s flying Woody’s way, but that can’t intrude one way or the other on voting. Both films have literally not a single dead spot in them.

MY PICK: American Hustle


I have seen none of them. I have no interest whatsoever. That ended when I was 6. My son dragged me to a few when he was 6; I would seat him and go outside and make phone calls.

MY PICK: I abstain.


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48 comments to Director Gets Cranky About Oscar Nominees

  • Michelle

    Director: David O. Russell

  • surfcity

    Clint Eastwood. He’s often described as cranky, and these comments sound like things he would say.

    • redstilettos

      The great thing is that you can call out people when you are old. Go Clint! The Oscars are a partly a talent contest and partly a who-you-know -and-are-friends-with contest. You can’t tell me that “Saving Private Ryan” should have lost against “Shakespeare In Love.” Miramax bought that year’s Oscars.

  • valleygirl

    Fat Kevin Smith

    • PardonMyNerdity

      No. I follow him on Twitter and he’s always incredibly supportive of his fellow directors.

      And he’s awesome. What’s your problem with him?

  • ImThinking

    So many possibilities, I’m thinking Francis Ford Coppola or James Cameron.

  • meemo506

    Uh, RUDE on the animated films. Miyazaki makes complex masterpieces with adult themes and social commentary that can still be enjoyed by children. Anytime he puts a movie out I am totally there.

    Otherwise, though, I agree with this dude.

    • LeeLee12345

      He has a new one (The Wind Rises) hitting the States soon!

    • La Llorona

      I agree 100%. As soon as I read that, I pretty much dismissed his opinion as that of an asshole. I dunno why they insist on interviewing these voters, if not to show how completely out of touch they are with picking objectively good movies.

    • KatarinaJ

      I think it is Eastwood too. Nods to Dern being a friend, Adams he loves (played her dad in that baseball movie) as well as the personal nod to Meryl who was amazing in BRIDGES with. Also agree animated comment was rude. You could say you abstain simply because you don’t watch them but animated stuff is a masterpiece in and of itself and well written these days! Seemed like he just plain dissed the whole genre.

  • CanaryCry

    I’m going to guess James Cameron, & not only because I can smell misogyny. It’s good that he also hates Julia Roberts.

  • I Am PunkA

    Have to say I agree with every comment he made for the movies I had seen. Seemed like a harsh, but accurate assessment.

    Director: Jonathan Demme

  • sabrina325

    David O. Russell?

  • SamuraiJack


  • RuHa

    Have not yet seen any of the nominated films but love what this person says about the so-called heavy weights: Bullock, Streep and Roberts (sounds like a NY lawn firm, no?). Because they are who they are – and this is not to discredit any of their work, it’s like they get an automatic nomination. You don’t often read that Streep’s performance was “bottom drawer,” or Julia was “horrendous,” but it gave me a giggle to know that someone out there in H land is going on record – although anonymously. Thanks for the pre-Oscars amusement.

    • KatarinaJ

      Oh Julia is awful. She won for playing Erin Brokovich. That character was cool but all fluff, kitchy, not really range-like. Think of her contemporaries like Winslet, Blanchett and even JLaw who has RANGE. Julia plays a variation of Julia Roberts in everything. She has ZERO ability to play period/historical, super serious alone. Her entire look and demeanor are modern and emphasize she is who she is.

  • cottoncandyforthebrain

    Director: David O. Russell

    This is nothing but praise and love for all things American Hustle, he’s cranky and he has kids, including a son. My money is totally on this being him.

  • k_star

    Sexually abusing a small child is not “absurd bullshit”.

  • rudy

    That was hysterical!! I loved the comments. Who was it?? I don’t know. An older white guy, married with kids.

  • radmom

    I’m going to go with Terrence Malick. For one thing, he fell asleep during a screening for his own film “Tree of Life”. Also, he refers to Meryl Streep, Bruce Dern, in a familiar way, as if they were contemporaries. He’s also a director and a writer, which was obvious during the interview.

  • MaryQuiteContrary

    For some reason, I think this is Oliver Stone.

    • ravenglass

      Me too. “JFK” probably being one of the movies he fell asleep watching.

      I agree with most of what this director is saying. Especially the comments about Bullock & Roberts.

  • laili6

    This is awesome! Thanks for posting it.

  • Vagabondage

    Clint Eastwood

  • brobdingnagian

    Ha! Clint Eastwood telling his Oscar picks to an empty chair!

  • Booboo1068

    Not sure but…

    They’re old enough/ been around long enough to comment with credibility on the remakes – comment about if Twelve Years A Slave was made in Mississippi in 1930.

  • bananas

    Have a seat Mr Eastwood

  • huhwhoami

    Eastwood, Redford, Coppola ……

  • AuntieMama

    American Hustle? Please

    Cranky? For something different, how about Spike Lee? cuz that is one cranky person. Plus the historical reference to Mississippi in 1930 is something he wouldn’t hesitate to put out there as well a praising Tyson.

  • august

    People aren’t talking he was good because of who he played but how he played it.
    Totally disagree with that ass.

  • Fan

    Either David O. Russell or a very good friend of his.

  • jezzadezza


  • Okayeah

    He’s a heck of a dad, that’s for sure. Poor kid(s).

  • Jack Draper

    It’s NOT James Cameron because 1. he would NEVER crap on Gravity like that; he loves that film and was it’s first, biggest champion. 2. he would never say that he’s not interested in animation. 3. he has four kids, only one of which is a boy, and his youngest is a girl. 4. he also would never crap on documentaries like this person did. Cameron MAKES documentaries.

    This sounds like David Russell himself. Or maybe Tarantino. Whoever it was, I don’t think “funny” is the way to describe his comments.

  • libby480

    hahahaha I don’t know who this is but I saw all the films and agree with every word!

  • cantthinkofagreatname

    I don’t think it’s Eastwood because somewhere in the comments it said that something or another was as fake as Bush’s victory for his second term as Pres…Eastwood is Republican so I cross him off for this.

    I’m going with David O. Russell.

    • surfcity

      I agree that particular remark (found in the original Newsday article) is puzzling but Eastwood is a Liberterian and has supported some Democrats and environmental issues in California. He doesn’t necessarily go along with the Republican party line. Here’s the quote about Documentaries – “Even with its new rules, the documentary category has about as much claim to legitimacy as the Bush-Gore presidential election. It’s an incestuous little club.”

  • ivyleaguer

    the director: someone who didn’t see most of the films he’s critiquing and someone who’s film didn’t get nominated.

  • ClownWrangler

    Francis Ford Coppola : Director-Writer-Producer who has worked with Bruce Dern and Woody Allen and is probably personal friends with both; has experience enough as a writer to say “travesty of ineptitude and dreadful writing”; old enough to have been traumatized by Bush-Gore election as a defining moment in his life; has intimate knowledge of the incestuous world of documentaries due to 1.) Hearts of Darkness & 2.) wife Eleanor Coppola makes documentaries.

  • gaelgorham

    Woody Allen?