EW asked five Academy members to tell us, anonymously, how they're voting and why. Their answers will surprise you.

By Sara VilkomersonLynette Rice and Josh Rottenberg
February 15, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

The Director

A veteran filmaker with both indies and major commercial hits under his belt

Picture: Silver Linings Playbook

I vote with my heart, and I loved that movie more than any other I saw last year. It’s really that simple. As for Lincoln and Argo, the more I feel like there’s a critical mass and momentum for a particular film, the more I try to shut my ears and eyes to that.

Director: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

I’m going crazy here, and going Silver Linings. I feel like the flashier feats of directing are so much more frequently rewarded, but the heart of the job remains performances. I feel the ensemble performance work in Silver Linings was superior. Sometimes the subtle hand should be rewarded.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Unoriginal as the choice may be, it was the most jaw-dropping performance I saw last year. What he pulled off was in a category of one.

Actress: Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Nobody is talking about that movie to the extent they should. It was harrowing, and frankly every performance in the movie was devastating. All four other performances were really good, but none was as transportive and visceral as Naomi Watts’. That was shattering to me.

Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

I’m on the fence still. Robert De Niro was lovely in Silver Linings Playbook, and I’m torn between him, Christoph Waltz, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m leaning toward Hoffman. There’s more depth of emotion, and to me the strength of that movie was that performance. I felt like I was watching Lancaster Dodd. I was not watching a performance — I was watching a character.

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

I have a little self-loathing in the predictability of this vote, but it’s Hathaway. It was so emotional, those 23 minutes or however much it was. She really affected me more than any of those other performances.

The Actress
Never a nominee herself, she’s had iconic roles in beloved (and Oscar-Recognized) Films

Picture: Life of Pi

I’m a real animal person, and I know that extraordinary relationships can develop between man and animal. So watching the boy and the tiger go through this fight for survival together — I thought it taught a very good lesson. I liked Lincoln — it’s an incredible story, and Steven Spielberg makes big, beautiful movies. But I was interested in learning more about Mary Todd Lincoln rather than all the politics.

Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

I just like Ang Lee’s approach to making movies. He goes about it in a different, sort of scientific way. He made an absolutely impossible novel into a magnificent film.

Actor: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis is a magician, and I admire how he can make himself disappear in a part. But I also like to be entertained. I like to laugh, I like to cry, I like to hope for someone. And you hung out a lot of hope for Bradley Cooper’s character to get through his mental illness and get his life together and deal with his crazy family. I thought that was the most delightful, most honest, most entertaining performance.

Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

That character could have been very unappealing, very neurotic, and she completely turned it around. That girl is a genius. Quvenzhané Wallis is adorable, but I’m always worried for children who win an Oscar, because it’s a lot of pressure. A couple of times actresses have kind of gone mad after that. They just can’t handle it. I don’t want anything to happen to her.

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

This was a hard decision. It was a toss-up between Christoph Waltz and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was brilliant in The Master. But Christoph is just so natural, so easy. He never misses a beat. I’ll watch anything with him in it.

Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Session

That performance was gutsy. The scene where her character is crying in the car, where you saw how [her relationship with John Hawkes’ disabled poet] was really affecting her — that absolutely got to the core of me. It just moved me so much.

The Actor
A past Oscar nominee who has appeared in dramas as well as comedies

Picture: Argo

I was torn between Argo and Lincoln, but I’m leaning toward Argo. Ben Affleck is a great young director, but I think of him as an actor first, and actors feel the slight that — for whatever reason — he didn’t get nominated [for directing]. That’s obviously been reflected with some of the other awards. And it made me rethink Argo, and rethink what Ben was able to put together, walking that fine line between keeping it light, with the Hollywood scenes, but also tense with the hostage situation.

Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

To take everything we know about Lincoln and put it in the form he did, structurally, and have it play in a compelling way was remarkable. There was that feeling of ”I gotta learn a history lesson,” but it was a pretty interesting history lesson, and it sends a message about the current politics of gridlock and how a great leader can break through that. He may not get Best Picture, but I’m inclined to give him this. Not that any Oscar is a booby prize.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Every voter is going for him, and I have to echo that. He was just mesmerizing.

Actress: Quevenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

I’m going unexpected here. I can’t pronounce her name [laughs], but I’m going to vote for her. I was so moved by that performance, especially when she was alone and blowing up the place and trying to figure out what to do. It was so touching and moving to me.

Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

I saw a different De Niro in this movie, kind of the old De Niro, more reined-in and economical with his acting choices. It’s not as showy as the other roles, but I found it very poignant and believed him as a dad.

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

That song [”I Dreamed a Dream”] is obviously killer. To know that she did it live made it really impressive, a real tour de force. A close second was Helen Hunt, who gave a bold, bold performance. That’s obviously a tough movie, to do what she did. But I have to vote for Hathaway.

The Writer
A past Oscar nominee whose credits include fact-based dramas and comedies

Picture: Beasts of the Southern Wild

It was the most original and authentic picture of the year, an unforgettable experience for the viewer and a spectacular filmmaking achievement.

Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Casting an unknown teenager with no acting experience after auditioning thousands of young men from India, then creating Richard Parker, his special- effects tiger, and putting them together in a titanic shipwreck…all in 3-D! Lee wins for degree of difficulty alone.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Since I’m picking mostly underdogs, I figured I should go with the chalk on at least one pick. I loved Denzel Washington in Flight, but Daniel is a 20-to-1 favorite for a reason.

Actress: Naomi Watts, The Impossible

This was my toughest call, but I’m going with Naomi Watts over Jennifer Lawrence, who’s already got two noms at age 22. Naomi took what could have been a predictable and schmaltzy survival film and turned it into a riveting tour de force. I can’t imagine an actor putting more into a role.

Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

He reminded me of my dad, and got the [character’s] obsessive- compulsive disorder just right. Somehow De Niro managed to be pathetic, exasperating, and lovable all at the same time.

Supporting Actress: Helen Hunt, The Sessions

I couldn’t find a more courageous performance all year.

The Executive
A studio exec who’s handled both blockbusters and artier Oscar bait

Picture: Argo

I feel like Ben Affleck has turned in his third great movie in a row. He’s a great director. He casts great people, the story was well told. It’s the kind of movie you go to the movies for. The snubbing of Ben has been the best thing for the movie. It went from early favorite to underdog.

Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

What he did with Life of Pi was just amazing. I’m going to vote for Michael Haneke in Foreign Language Film, so that takes care of Amour.

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Life of Pi

I went back and forth between him and Hugh Jackman. In any other year, Hugh would win, but when Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated…Poor Hugh. It just wasn’t his year.

Actress: Naomi Watts, The Impossible

No question. Compared to the rest of them, hers was the most grab-you, rip-your-heart-out performance. Jessica [Chastain] and Jennifer [Lawrence] are both young and fairly new; they’ll have the chance to get in again.

Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

This one is hard. It’s between Tommy Lee Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’ve thought about rewatching both movies, but that’s almost six hours of my life. I am leaning toward Tommy. [Steven] Spielberg really brings together the best group of people.

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

When I was watching her in that scene [singing ”I Dreamed a Dream”], I thought, ”Okay, there’s your Oscar.” Helen Hunt was amazing and Sally Field is always great, but I just feel like this is Anne’s year.