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Oscars 2010: Academy members spill the beans

Four Oscar voters reveal who’ll be getting their votes this year, and why

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The Actress
This one-time Best Supporting Actress nominee has managed to toggle successfully between indie films and big-studio projects. She’s as funny on screen as she is frank off it — especially when it comes to this year’s new Oscar rules.

Best Picture
Avatar
”Having 10 Best Picture nominees this year is one of the most idiotic things the Academy’s come up with. It’s just about the studios trying to get more money for their movies. They’re just so angry that every year some independent film nobody’s heard of walks away with all the honors. I think Avatar is the film to beat — it’s like Fantasia for adults. Everything else runs a far second. People argue about James Cameron’s artistic ability, but he’s like Steven Spielberg: He really knows how to make a satisfying movie. Avatar represents Hollywood in all its vulgar, over-the-top glory. I sound like I’m disparaging it, but I’m not.”

Best Director
Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds
”As an actor, to me directing is about acting. I felt the performances Tarantino coaxed out of his cast were truly phenomenal. Inglourious Basterds was my second Best Picture pick. It was so unbelievably ballsy that he just rewrote history. That’s the thing I loved about that movie.”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
”That’s a really hard category, but I think it’s probably a shoo-in for Jeff Bridges. He’s always good. He’s your understated, well-respected actor who delivers great performances. And I think there’s a consensus in the industry that it’s Jeff’s time.”

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
”One of the things that was so great about Christoph Waltz’s performance was that you haven’t seen him before. You really don’t know what to make of him. He really chewed the scenery in that movie, but in a good way. He played a person who had such delight in his cunning abilities. When you were watching him acting, it was like listening to a really well-written symphony.”

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
”It’s a two-woman race between Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. I think the thing with Sandra — or ‘Sandy’ as they call her now, I’ve noticed — is she’s like a girl’s girl. She usually plays fun, funny characters. So this is a departure for her, and actresses get rewarded for departures. I also think there’s a history in Hollywood that when you play a feisty, Erin Brockovich-type character, people go, ‘Wow, she’s really stretching!’ So she might win, but I picked Meryl. With Julia Child, it could have easily been a caricature, but she has the ability to get to the humanity of a character. Who were the other nominees?”

Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, Precious
”Maggie Gyllenhaal almost ruined Crazy Heart for me. I thought she was astoundingly miscast. She’s a really good actress and I’ve loved her in other things, but I really felt like Crazy Heart was a one-man show and he was not really supported by her. I voted for Mo’Nique and I think she’s going to win it. Vera was great. Anna was great. But Mo’Nique is probably the shoo-in, and the rest are there so you can have five nominees.”

The Director
This relative youngster (at least when it comes to Academy voters, anyway) has a sweet tooth for big-ticket tentpole movies and enjoys casting his vote for underdogs. He also has a mystery connection to at least one nominee.

Best Picture
Avatar
”I couldn’t come up with 10 on my ballot. Avatar is just a force of nature and is transformative to the industry. That’s why it’s going to win. Something that can be best appreciated in theaters or in the spectacle of 3-D is going to be rewarded even if I thought the story was basically Dances With Aliens.”

Best Director
James Cameron, Avatar
”This is the big ‘divorced’ stakes, isn’t it? Cameron or Bigelow? I voted for Cameron because of the sheer enormousness of the task, though I was torn because the performances in The Hurt Locker are more nuanced.”

Best Actor
Colin Firth, A Single Man
”Jeff Bridges is going to get the Oscar, but he should have won it for The Big Lebowski. I voted for Colin Firth. I can’t say exactly why without destroying my anonymity, but I thought flat out in terms of pound-for-pound performance, he was the guy.”

Best Supporting Actor
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
”Although you would think that Christoph Waltz is going to win, I think Christopher Plummer is also in there with a really good chance. But I voted for Woody Harrelson. I thought The Messenger was a great film and that he was extraordinary in it and showed something that he hadn’t in other films. He wasn’t flashy, just lovely and restrained. However, I’ll be happy if Waltz wins, but I hope he doesn’t suffer from the curse of the Supporting Actor Oscar, which seems to cap people’s careers in a weird way.”

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
”As far as I was concerned, it was Julia, not Julie & Julia. I felt like I was only interested in one of those two movies, and that’s not Amy Adams’ fault — she was superlative in that picture. But I just think that Meryl Streep’s performance kind of stood alone. There’s a tendency for people to get Oscars for other work that they did that was ignored, but that’s not the case here.”

Best Supporting Actress
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
”Mo’Nique’s going to win, so I didn’t even have to vote for her. I voted for Anna. I thought she was very good, but it’s difficult to compare performances in utterly different roles. Sometimes you’re left with other considerations, like saying ‘I’m going to vote in a way that makes me feel good, even if that person isn’t going to win.”’

The Executive
Proving how diverse an Academy voter’s picks can be, this high-ranking studio exec has a passion for both Sandra Bullock’s star power and The Hurt Locker‘s gritty realism.

Best Picture
The Hurt Locker
”You cannot ignore the enormity of the achievement of Avatar, but The Hurt Locker was the film that burrowed under my skin the furthest and stayed there the longest. It was nearer to perfect, in every category, than any other film this year.”

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
”She seemed to find a way to unlock the dilemma of the modern warfare picture. She made an agnostic movie about character and action, not politics. The discipline and artfulness of that film was the best directorial achievement of the year to me. My vote is completely free of consideration of her gender, but won’t it be an awesome historic moment if she wins?”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
”There’s been so much talk about how this is his ‘It’s time’ award. And you know what? It’s f—ing time! [Laughs] It’s such a lived-in, real performance with a lack of vanity and a weariness and a nobility to it. He’s been close to winning an Oscar so many times. He deserves to win.”

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
”You feel all kinds of wrong calling a performance as a Nazi delightful, but there’s no other way to put it. Christoph came out of nowhere and delivered a performance that is as multifaceted as the film is. He is funny and chilling; he’s tyrannical and infantile; he’s silent and hyperverbal; he does it in English, German, French, and Italian; and you can’t take your eyes off him.”

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
”I enjoy sheer star power when it is applied like that. In less assured hands, that performance could have been pandering or a broad, Steel Magnolias portrayal, but Sandra plays it at a bit of a remove, which was gutsy. She created a real human being. Plus your magazine declared this ‘The Year of Sandra,’ so I just blindly followed [laughs].”

Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, Precious
”What she does in that final scene in the office is just stunning to me. She transforms in front of your eyes from predatory to pathetic. I was blown back. The power of that performance was monstrous, in every sense of the word.”

The Producer
A champion of populist fare, this producer has worked on major international blockbusters as well as innovative independent films. Her votes reflect both her personal sensibility and her cinematic sophistication.

Best Picture
Avatar
”I was really touched by Precious and I wanted to vote for An Education, but I couldn’t in the face of Avatar. Those films almost shouldn’t be in the same category. I was knocked out by Avatar. I thought it was totally profound and fantastic.”

Best Director
James Cameron, Avatar
”He’s such a bastard. He’s a really hard guy to root for, and always has been, but what he created with this movie — just the beauty of it — he blew me away.”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
”I flipped out for him. The way that he could play this grotesque character and make it so romantic and appealing, even when he’s barfing in his tighty whities? It’s totally authentic. I just fell for him.”

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
”Unbelievable performance. He blew my brain off.”

Best Actress
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
”I couldn’t stand that movie. I had to fast-forward the Amy Adams parts. I don’t like cooking. I don’t want to watch people eat. But Meryl Streep is flawless, even in tedium. I hovered over Gabourey Sidibe, but I didn’t vote for her because I didn’t want to jinx her. Sandra Bullock — I get it, and if she wins, great, but it feels like, ‘Let’s give it to her because it’s not a romantic comedy.”’

Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, Precious
”I was horrified by that performance, in the best way. I really could have murdered her if she had been standing outside when I left the theater. What a great villain.”


How They Rank the Best Pic Nominees
In years past, Academy members voted for only one film for Best Picture. This time, they’re being asked to rank all 10 nominees. Here’s a look at a few insiders’ real lists.

The Actress
1 Avatar
2 Inglorious Basterds
3 Up in the Air
4 District 9
5 A Serious Man
6 Up
7 The Hurt Locker
8 Precious
9 An Education
10 The Blind Side

The Director
1 Avatar
2 The Hurt Locker
3 Up
4 District 9
5 A Serious Man
6 Inglorious Basterds
(”I couldn’t come up with 10,” he says.)

The Executive
1 The Hurt Locker
2 Avatar
3 Inglorious Basterds
4 District 9
5 The Blind Side
6 Precious
7 An Education
8 Up in the Air
9 A Serious Man
10 Up

The Producer
1 Avatar
2 An Education
3 Precious
4 Up in the Air
5 Up
6 The Hurt Locker
7 District 9
8 Inglorious Basterds
9 A Serious Man
10 The Blind Side

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