EW Staff
February 18, 2011 AT 05:00 AM EST

THE ACTOR
A wry leading man with a penchant for comedy and an Oscar nod under his belt

Picture
The Fighter

I’m old enough that I saw that Dick Eklund — Sugar Ray Leonard fight on TV in 1978 — I remember rooting for Dicky because he was so scrappy — and I was always a big fan of Micky Ward when he fought. The Social Network was very well executed, but, to be honest, that movie speaks to a generation that’s, like, 20 or 25 years younger than I am. That whole social-networking digital-age thing is not really a part of my life. The King’s Speech is clearly about an important piece of British history and it’s an amazing story, but The Fighter is such an American story.

Director
Ethan and Joel Coen, True Grit

True Grit was my second choice for Best Picture. I loved how spare that movie was and the way the Coens removed the contractions from the dialogue to give it that archaic, stilted quality — like in that scene where they cut down the hanged guy and Jeff Bridges stands over him and says, ”I do not know this man.” I have to admit, if Christopher Nolan had been nominated [for Inception], I probably would have voted for him.

Actor
James Franco, 127 Hours

James Franco was phenomenal. Flipping back and forth between the meeting-your-maker drama and the levity of some of the moments, like when he’s interviewing himself on television — he was brilliant. And that whole movie is him. Colin Firth is great, but it’s a very specific kind of performance: very mannered with occasional emotional explosions because he can’t communicate because of his stammering. Franco has been building for a long time — he was damn good in Milk, he was great in Pineapple Express — and on top of that he’s now going for his doctorate in f—ing literature at Yale?

Actress
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

She was so real. She’s a mom, she’s falling out of love with her husband, this hunky dude that she fooled around with in college is paying attention to her and it’s flattering to her — it just was a very undulating sort of performance, and there is a gravitas to her in the dramatic moments not unlike what she did in Brokeback Mountain. Annette Bening was great, but I thought Julianne Moore was robbed — not only is she in all the big dramatic sequences, but I never knew she could be that funny! And Natalie Portman was great in Black Swan, but I couldn’t really find my way into a ballet movie.

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter

Christian Bale was amazing. A-ma-zing. Seldom in life do you witness someone who can so completely re-create himself like he can for a role. Christian, Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman — these guys are giants. I didn’t think any of the other performances spanned as much as Christian’s did.

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter

Melissa Leo was great as that ironfisted matriarch, but Amy was closer to the heart, the human core, of the story.

THE WRITER
A veteran filmmaker known for both writing and directing

Picture
Black Swan

Black Swan was the most ballsy. It’s original and has all these genre elements, and it feels much more exciting than The King’s Speech [pronounced with a haughty British accent]. That one felt well-done but sort of canned. With Black Swan, I started out hating it, and then by the end I thought it was genius. It’s the story of my life! I am Nina! I’m always projecting enemies who aren’t there!

Director
David Fincher, The Social Network

I’ll probably go for Fincher. In a different director’s hands, I probably wouldn’t have liked the movie. It was a good screenplay, but Aaron Sorkin’s stuff is always, to me…there’s no subtext, everybody talks in the exact same way. Fincher made it so much more sexy. That movie, to be honest, felt like a night on cocaine. It was exciting and juicy while watching, and then the minute it was over…I felt kind of empty. I was thinking of going Black Swan all the way, and I might still.

Actor
Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Colin Firth is, whatever — he was good. But I would rather reward movies that are trying to do something new and challenging, with at least a slight subversive streak. The King’s Speech is just too much of a down-the-middle Oscar-bait movie. I had issues with Biutiful, but Javier’s performance stayed with me. You just go through all of these horrible and intense emotional psychological states with him.

Actress
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

I’ve always liked Natalie Portman okay but was never convinced that she was a great actress. But in this movie, she was just off the chain. She maintained high-end intensity for the whole thing. She just got that crazy anorexic-ballerina OCD thing.

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter

I never expected to find Christian Bale so funny. It’s totally unrestrained, but it did make that movie feel watchable. That scene where he’s watching the HBO documentary in prison and he goes through the whole spectrum of he’s proud, he’s cocky, he’s decimated, he’s embarrassed, he’s angry — all those colors are authentic.

Supporting Actress
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

For me, Melissa Leo’s performance was so much about her hair. Jacki Weaver, in a year of sinister mothers, that mother takes the cake. She’s sexy and diabolical and real, and has this weird combination of maternal sexuality and desperation.

THE DIRECTOR
A veteran director who has picked up several Academy noms over the years but has yet to win an Oscar of his own

Picture
The King’s Speech

With The King’s Speech, they made such a beautiful, classic, almost big movie out of something so little. That someone of such station and privilege still has such a human frailty that he has to wrestle with is so beautiful — and the way he reached outside his class to do it? Ri-dic-u-lous! I voted for King’s Speech and nothing else on the ballot. I just didn’t feel like ranking.

Director
David Fincher, The Social Network

People often confuse Director with Picture. Considering the material, David did such a consummate job. He found the movie within the story. And there were certain shooting choices that Tom Hooper made in The King’s Speech that I didn’t love even though I loved the movie.

Actor
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

It was hard, but I voted for Jesse Eisenberg. He was this fresh, young, really complex talent. Colin Firth was good, it was fine, but Geoffrey Rush’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen in years. So maybe it’s unfair that I saw him in relief to Colin Firth.

Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

This was the hardest choice for me. I was waffling between Annette Bening and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s just so exciting to see a brand-new talent. Jennifer had such chops and such depth and such strength. But Annette gave the performance of a career. In the end, I went with Annette.

Supporting Actor
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

There’s no question: Geoffrey Rush. I would’ve voted for him 10 times. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It was so unbelievably subtle and restrained; there was no need to show off. I think he’ll win. I hope so. I don’t know — it could go to Christian Bale. They’re both great performances. But I think Geoffrey Rush was better.

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter

Amy Adams’ work was complicated, it was self-confident, it was far from her self. It’s a tougher performance than you’re used to from her.

THE EXECUTIVE
A studio exec with experience handling all types of films, from blockbusters to Oscar bait

Picture
The Social Network

I want the Academy Awards to matter to people who are 22, not just people who are 62, and I think The Social Network is a movie that will define a moment. It’s great that my mother loved The King’s Speech because she remembers Princess Margaret, and I admired the movie. But I feel like I voted for a version of The King’s Speech in 1995. But The King’s Speech will win and it’ll be: The cool movie loses yet again to the pearls-and-furs movie.

Director
David Fincher, The Social Network

I remember thinking to myself, ”How is somebody going to make guys sitting at a computer tapping away interesting?” Aaron Sorkin wrote a great script, but there was still every potential for The Social Network to be a TV movie. David was the reason it wasn’t.

Actor
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

I haven’t made up my mind about this category yet, but I’m leaning toward Colin Firth. I would have voted for James Franco, but I feel really weird about the fact that he’s hosting the Oscars, too. There’s something about it that’s just…weird.

Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

I’m voting for Annette Bening for the total wrong reason: because she has come to bat a bunch of times and lost to a 25-year-old. Natalie Portman did a great job, but Natalie is going to have countless chances to be nominated, and I don’t know how many more Annette will have. This sounds terrible — it sounds like Annette is 100. She’s great in the movie, so it’s an easy vote. But it’s an ageist vote.

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter

Christian Bale. I was a big fan of Geoffrey Rush’s performance in King’s Speech, but then I saw The Fighter and Christian just gives a mind-boggling performance.

Supporting Actress
Melissa Leo, The Fighter

When I watched The Fighter, I knew it was Amy Adams, but Melissa Leo disappeared into her character. I did not care for her [self-made for-your-consideration] ads. Oh my God, that was a huge misstep! It’s like, ”Who the f— is your representation and why did they let you do that?” The shallow part of me wants to hold those ads against her, but the performance is really great so I will look past it.

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