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Oscars 2012: How I'm voting

We asked four high-profile Academy members to tell us, anonymously, who’s getting their votes and why. Their answers may surprise you

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The Actress
A past Oscar nominee who has appeared in both dramas and comedies

Picture
Moneyball
It’s ridiculous having 9 or 10 nominees. That’s too many movies for anyone to have to watch. Anyway, I hated Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It was maudlin and sentimental, and the whole movie hinged on a child actor who seemed like he was out of a sitcom. War Horse was the kind of movie that used to win Oscars — an old-fashioned sweeping epic. Hugo was a children’s film — and children’s films shouldn’t win Best Picture. Midnight in Paris was sort of a soufflé: enjoyable but very slight. The Help was a beautiful movie. Great attention to detail. It was sentimental without being overwrought, but a little cutesy in spots. The Tree of Life was really interesting but a little too artsy and esoteric. The Descendants was another beautiful film, melancholy and odd, but a little sitcommy in places. The Artist was amazing, but I felt like it was an aberration. I don’t think it represents Hollywood in the 21st century. I mean, a Best Picture should have sound. So I’m going to vote for Moneyball. A brilliant film, really smartly written, but it didn’t condescend to the audience.

Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
I love Martin Scorsese, but I’m voting for Michel Hazanavicius. He created a wonderful fantasy and pulled off the near-impossible.

Actor
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
George Clooney turns in quietly beautiful performances year after year. He makes it look easy. And I loved Brad Pitt’s performance. Very wistful and full of melancholy. But I’m voting for Jean Dujardin. He has this quiet dignity when everything falls apart. He has these little gestures with his hands. You could see the sense of loss. It was the quintessential film performance — it’s all about his face.

Actress
Viola Davis, The Help
Every performance in this category is amazing. Glenn Close — I totally believed her as a man. Rooney Mara had this quiet intensity and rage. But she’s young and seemed kind of arrogant in interviews, and it really does matter how you campaign for an Oscar. I love Michelle Williams, but the performance was a little labored and self-conscious. Meryl Streep gave a lovely, nuanced, heartbreaking performance, but she gets nominated every year. But Viola Davis in The Help was such a revelation. She anchored that movie. You were never aware that she was acting — there were no actor calisthenics. That’s who I’m voting for.

Supporting Actor
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
He brought out the humor in the character without going broad. It was a lovely characterization.

Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Her performance was so wonderfully grounded and quirky and ferocious. She’s this amazing actress I’d never really seen before, and she was holding her own among such amazing actors.

The Writer
An Oscar-nominated scribe and filmmaker known for movies both silly and serious

Picture
The Tree of Life
I like the idea that a piece’s flaws are as much a part of what make it a great work of art as its successes. In the case of The Tree of Life, I found myself shocked at certain points — because we were asked to be incredibly patient — and I felt a degree of labor in watching it. But at other points I felt a complete emotional undertow, which I can’t explain. It absolutely sucked me into it. I found it to be the most moving of the films I saw this year.

Director
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
He took the boldest risk, and he seems to be completely operating inside his own head while somehow being able to manifest it on screen. I felt like it all headed toward something really universal.

Actor
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
This category is incredibly strong this year because the performances are so different. I like Demián Bichir because it’s a performance akin to those given by amateurs in Italian neorealist films. Demián managed to erase any acting technique. It’s interesting to see him and Jean Dujardin in the same category because they’re such different performances.

Actress
Viola Davis, The Help
I really loved Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie & Julia, which got slightly less attention than The Iron Lady. But I’d give the edge to Viola because she walked a tightrope over a yawning chasm of sentimentality that her performance could have devolved into.

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
I love the light touch of that film. The details of his illness [he’s dying from cancer] were very accurate, I thought. For me there was no sentiment in it, just an effort at self-preservation. When confronted with terminal illness, one deploys all these things to not cave in mentally — and I can see that happening in that character.

Supporting Actress
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
I don’t know who I’m going to vote for! Which may mean I won’t vote in this category. I need to do a little bit more homework. But Janet McTeer kicked ass.

The Producer
A wheeler-dealer who makes big-budget action films, thrillers, and comedies, but also the occasional love story

Picture
The Artist
I hate to sound like I’m using a pun, but I’m going with this because of the artistry behind it. They took a silent movie, in black and white, and the emotional way they conveyed it is very modern. It is about something eternal: The caveman who can’t figure out how to light a fire gets left behind. Mankind evolves, and it’s always difficult when things evolve past you. We’re always worried about becoming obsolete — particularly in Hollywood! In a year where there were a lot of good movies but not particularly great movies, The Artist got me because it’s so enjoyable.

Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
It’s a tricky group. There wasn’t a bravado film that got put on one person’s back. Hazanavicius has my vote, and I think he’ll win, but it’ll be very close because Scorsese made a similar film [Hugo] in a new medium and put his heart and passion into it. Ultimately, I think The Artist is a better film and satisfies on more levels.

Actor
George Clooney, The Descendants
This one got pretty interesting [when Jean Dujardin won the SAG award]. There’s an appreciation for what Jean did. He gave a brilliant performance without speaking a word. I still think George is my choice. I really appreciate what George did, with his subtleties and vulnerabilities.

Actress
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tough one. It’s weirdly similar to lead actor in the sense that one is a little showier — what Meryl did to become the prime minister and get lost in that role — and one is more subtle, which is what Viola Davis did in The Help. I’m favoring Meryl. She did something that’s very hard to do and is always scrutinized — to perform an accent and play an icon — and she did it seamlessly. It’s a better performance in a mediocre movie.

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
He’s someone everyone has always loved and he got out in front of this horse race very early, with no one to catch him. He has my vote, and I think the Academy wants to honor someone with the breadth of his career. Everyone hopes to be Christopher Plummer at that age.

Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, The Help
It was a great performance, and she was beloved by everyone who knew that book. One of the virtues of that film, and why it deserved the [ensemble] win it got at the SAG Awards, was all of those actors were terrific. The Academy is going to want to award one of them, if not two of them. Octavia feels like a lock.

The Executive
A studio exec with experience handling all types of movies, from blockbusters to Oscar fare

Picture
The Artist
A Best Picture winner is like a cocktail. It’s not just one thing, it’s how all the things go together. I’m picking The Artist. It has a certain amount of risk to it because it’s silent and in black and white. But it’s not silent and black-and-white and depressing — it’s silent and black-and-white and uplifting. It recalls a time we’re all nostalgic for, when movies were the predominant cultural influence and movie stars were royalty, which I think is something that’s going away.

Director
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
I’m voting for the Artist guy. If Marty Scorsese had not won already for The Departed, I would have voted for him for Hugo, but he won too recently.

Actor
George Clooney, The Descendants
His performance was extraordinary. It was lovely and nuanced. He’s the closest thing we have now to an all-around versatile actor-slash-movie star. I look at the grosses of The Descendants and I know that the grosses are about him.

Actress
Viola Davis, The Help
I’m not voting for Meryl Streep. I thought she was better in Julie & Julia. In the pantheon of Meryl performances-slash-impersonations, this one was not as good as others. I’m voting for Viola Davis.

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
He’s the bee’s knees. And I have thought so since 1965. He is an actor’s actor. And he’s somebody who isn’t afraid of his age. He plays old guys. Unabashedly old. And I appreciate that.

Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, The Help
It was the kind of performance that back in August, you got up out of your seat and said, ”She’s going to win.” And nothing has changed since that moment. The history of movies tends to favor performances like that — flashy, comedic. It’s a perfect supporting part.