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How they voted: Three academy members size up the Oscar race

An actor, a director and a screenwriter reveal their ballot picks.

February 15, 2011|By Glenn Whipp, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Colin Firth, left, in "The King's Speech, Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter" and Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone."
Colin Firth, left, in "The King's Speech, Christian Bale and… (From left, Laurie Sparham,…)

Conventional wisdom says the races in the top Oscar categories are all but locked. Colin Firth and Natalie Portman will win the leads, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo provide the support and "The King's Speech" cleans up for picture and director.

But judging from how the three academy members we polled — a writer, an actor and a director, all men — marked their ballots, upsets could still occur. Which is why, of course, we tune in on Oscar night. Because in that moment between the opening of the envelope and the winner being announced, anything remains possible.

THE ACTOR

BEST PICTURE

"The King's Speech"

It's getting knocked, unfairly, I think, as being conventional. And when you look closely at it, there's all sorts of bold, interesting choices being made. It's a beautifully crafted film.

DIRECTOR

David Fincher, "The Social Network"

It isn't the most natural subject for a movie, is it? But he propels it forward with a momentum and a rigor that makes the time fly. It's different from his other movies, more disciplined, but just as interesting.

ACTOR

Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"

I voted for him last year too. But this isn't a make-right vote. He's fantastic.

ACTRESS

Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"

The way she uses silence always strikes me as brilliant. I'll never listen to Joni Mitchell again without thinking of her.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

You knew he had just immersed himself into this man's life. Then, of course, you see the closing credits and it's no surprise how closely they match.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"

She could have been nominated for "Alice In Wonderland" too. She's always a delight, capable of doing anything handed to her.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

David Seidler, "The King's Speech"

It's history that no one knew. Every moment is earned, every accolade justified.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"Toy Story 3"

I admit it: I blubbered like a baby.

THE DIRECTOR

PICTURE

"The Fighter"

It's a story of triumph, and yes, there's that kind of "Rocky" moment at the end, but, by and large, it subverts expectations almost every step of the way. It's very funny. I loved the family, and every actor in the ensemble is completely charming in their own way.

DIRECTOR

David O. Russell, "The Fighter"

He does some of his best work here, and I think he contributed a lot visually and structurally to the story with one perfectly staged scene coming after another.

ACTOR

Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"

He handles everything thrown at him, particularly in the way he conveys the character's intelligence and seething resentment, and how the two are intertwined.

ACTRESS

Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

I've always been a great fan. Clearly she put a lot of work in this, just to be able to do the dancing. But it's in her close-ups toward the end where she's completely mesmerizing.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"

He's terrific. I've never met anyone in Los Angeles like the character he plays, but maybe someday I will.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"

I read that she hasn't acted before, which makes me think that they had very good fortune to find her. With everything she has to handle — the language, the balance of tone — she delivers, and it's quite moving to watch.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

"The Kids Are All Right"

Funny, quite touching and convincing.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"True Grit"

[Joel and Ethan Coen] incorporated the language of the [Charles] Portis book and tailored it to the classical western form. It's true to the material, but it's very much their thing as well.

THE WRITER

PICTURE

"Winter's Bone"

This movie affected me deeply. It creates such an authentic world and presents this young woman trying to stave off a disaster in such a heroic but unsentimental way.

DIRECTOR

David Fincher, "The Social Network"

There are a number of strong choices here, but I feel Fincher is a master in complete command with this movie.

ACTOR

Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"

You can see that he's lived with this character, this material. It is inside him. He carries the weight of this man and takes you on his journey.

ACTRESS

Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"

Movies with this subject matter are difficult to do. Actors can fall into traps. I feel as though she avoids them. There are times you do not understand this woman. There are times you do not like this woman. But, even in those moments, you do not lose sight of her humanity.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"

He makes you uneasy. He frightens you. And he does it so quietly.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"

Where did they find her? It seems absurd to call her supporting since it's her story, her finding her own measure of strength, of grit.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

"Inception"

For the genre within which he was working, it is exemplary. It pushes the limits of its audience's patience and rewards them for exercising patience.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"Winter's Bone"

For the reasons I outlined in the [best picture] category. There are brutal truths mixed with a measure of hope. It's what storytelling should be: deeply personal without smoothing the hard edges.

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