The 53-year-old entertainer said she finds time to watch her Oscar screeners.
Haley Joel Osment
"They have a lot of programs about film preservation, and I really dug that as a kid."
"The Oscar is the most legitimate movie award there is in the whole world."
"Everybody is trying to work an angle. Not because they don't have morals, but because it's tough."
"Cinema is a passion for Indians -- we can't live without it..."
"I am a serial killer aficionado..."
"There were all these action movies out and we would play a big part in them..."
"My father wasn't in it ... and Mr. Hitchcock wasn't in it either."
"I'm a movie fanatic and [the academy] has no category for choreographers."
In 2011, "there were more interesting foreign movies than American movies."
"Maybe you can get a chance because of nepotism, but if you don't deliver no one gives a crap."
Michael S. Baumohl
"Oh God, I miss the old life and the old people..."
"I get the movies and I watch them religiously and I vote."
Sally Van Slyke
The "pitching skills" she developed in PR "always come in handy."
The Landakers abide by an academy commandment: Thou shalt not divulge thy ballot.
"I was always eager and ready to write screenplays..."
Photo credits: Harvey Jason (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times), Haley Joel Osment (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times), Connie Sawyer (James J. Kriegsmann / Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times), Hilton Green (Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times), Agnieszka Holland (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times), Harold "Hal" Landaker (Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times), Madonna (Associated Press), Bhanu Athaiya (Shantanu Das for Bhanu Athaiya), David Newman (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times), Vincent Paterson (Kirk McCoy/Los Angeles Times), Nick Bosustow (AMPAS), Michelle Reese (Herb Ritts), Michael S. Baumohl (Nicky Baumohl Hughes), Jeremy Larner (Susanne Kaspar), Beverly Wood (Kirk McCoy/Los Angeles Times), Billy Burton (Kirk McCoy/Los Angeles Times), Sally Van Slyke (James Brian Fidelibus)
David Newman | Music branch
When he's not busy composing movie soundtracks, David Newman does his part to help Hollywood preserve its musical family jewels.
One of the industry's most prolific film-score authors ("Ice Age," "The Spirit," "Norbit"), Newman, 57, hails from a multiple-Oscar-winning, tune-crafting clan that includes his late father Alfred Newman, brother Thomas Newman and cousin Randy Newman.
His personal sense of cinematic posterity is one reason why Newman works to keep Hollywood's musical heritage alive by reconstructing and restoring lost or fragmented scores and orchestral parts of classic movies, such as Jerry Goldsmith's memorable works for "Alien," "Poltergeist" and "As time goes on, you do feel a custodial aspect," said Newman, emphasizing that such reconstruction projects are always "group efforts" that make it easier to rent, play, study and relive great film music.
Decades ago, many big studios, and even the composers themselves, tended to treat such music as disposable, Newman said. "I would see more value in the music that Alfred Newman wrote than Alfred Newman saw value in what he wrote." But that's changing, and maintaining the industry's legacy, "I think, is a big part of what the academy does."
With hundreds of film credits among them, Newman and his kinfolk earned their spots in the academy. So do most academy members, Newman believes. "To get into the academy you have to be working, you have to be doing things," he said, which is true of the industry generally. "Maybe you can get a chance because of nepotism, but if you don't deliver no one gives a crap."
-- Reed Johnson
Bhanu Athaiya | Art Directors branch
For Indian costume designer and painter Bhanu Athaiya, 85, becoming an academy member was almost an afterthought. But it's a decision she's never regretted.
In 1982, she was commissioned to design the costumes for Richard Attenborough's epic "Gandhi," much of which was shot on location in India. When Athaiya took a trip to Los Angeles that year for a women's conference, several Hollywood friends asked why she wasn't an academy member. Soon after returning to India, she was admitted.
"Ever since, I've regularly gotten ballot papers and I vote," she said. "It's a pleasure. Each day, a whole pile of films arrive on my table; it's a lot of fun."
She particularly appreciates the honor because many Oscar-nominated films never make it to Mumbai cinemas. Her privileged position affords her a front-row seat at the latest openings worldwide.
"I was watching Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo since I was a kid," she said. "Cinema is a passion for Indians — we can't live without it. Unless we see a movie, our day isn't complete."
Athaiya wishes an Indian film would win the best picture Oscar. "Slumdog Millionaire," despite its Indian setting, was a British production.
"Since ancient times, the Indian film industry has entered quite regularly. We don't get it, but they know who we are and what we do. We're in the field."
-- Mark Magnier
Madonna | Actors branch
In recent months, Madonna had a lengthy to-do list: finish an album, promote a film, glide through the Super Bowl halftime show aloft a golden chariot propelled by well-oiled warriors. Amid these myriad responsibilities, the 53-year-old entertainer said she also found time to watch her Oscar screeners.
"'Tree of Life' is stunningly beautiful. That's my favorite," Madonna said in an interview in January of her top choice for best picture. "I think it's a spiritual, deeply profound movie. My mouth was hanging open the entire time I was watching it."
Prohibited from watching most movies while growing up by her strict father, Madonna said she traced her connection to cinema to an art house theater she frequented while a dance student at the University of Michigan in the 1970s.
As an actor, many of Madonna's film roles have played off her status as a diva vocalist — she performed as singer and actress in 1990's "Dick Tracy" and belted out "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" as Eva Peron in 1996's "Evita." Non-singing roles include "A League of Their Own" (though she did do the theme song).
A member of the academy's acting branch since 1999, Madonna has turned more recently to directing. Her new film as a writer-director, the period romance "W.E.," secured an Oscar nomination this year for its costumes.
-- Rebecca Keegan
Harold "Hal" Landaker, Alan Landaker, Gregg Landaker | Sound branch
There are Hollywood families more famous than the Landakers. (The Beatty-Benings and the Voight-Jolie-Pitts come to mind.)
But there likely are few, if any, who profess a greater love of their craft — sound engineering, re-recording and mixing, in the Landakers' case — or who take more seriously their responsibilities as active academy members.
The family patriarch, Harold "Hal" Landaker, 87, got his start in movie-sound work on the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic "House of Wax." Hal also served as a member of the academy's Scientific and Technical Committee, an amalgam of camera operators, sound technicians, laboratory workers and others that bestows annual awards in several scientific categories.
One of Hal's sons, Alan, 65, served as a top engineer on several of the "Star Trek" movies. His younger son, Gregg, 60, is a three-time Oscar winner, part of teams that shared trophies for "The Empire Strikes Back," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Speed." Gregg's first film shoot occurred "in the middle of the night, out in a junkyard in the San Fernando Valley. I'm going, 'This is not what I was thinking.'"
The Landakers hew devoutly to the academy's first commandment of Oscar voting: Thou shalt not divulge thy ballot. To this day, Gregg doesn't know whether his dad and brother voted for him when he won his gold statues.
"He never asked," Hal said, laughing. "I don't think I've ever told."
-- Reed Johnson
Agnieszka Holland | Directors branch
Agnieszka Holland's films, which include "Europa, Europa" and "Olivier, Olivier," often explore the deeper recesses of history and the human psyche. The Polish-born director's latest movie, "In Darkness," which recounts the true-life story of Jews who survived the Holocaust by hiding in sewers, is a nominee for the foreign-language film Oscar.
Holland's troubling, complex views of human behavior haven't made her fit easily into Hollywood. But over the last decade she has been landing plenty of work in television, where her technical finesse and chiaroscuro worldview can be glimpsed in episodes of shows including "Treme," "The Wire" and "The Killing."
"In some ways, some of the television shows, especially cable shows, are closer to my sensibility than some Hollywood movies," Holland said. "It's like the great American novel, which doesn't exist anymore."
She thinks American movies have become generic and "globalized" as U.S. producers increasingly chase overseas audiences.
Although she now spends much of her time in Paris, Holland, 63, said she technically still lives in the United States, and has maintained a Los Angeles residence for a decade.
Holland thinks that last year "there were more interesting foreign movies than American movies." But she points to the number of foreigners among this year's Oscar nominees as a positive sign for Hollywood. "It shows some generosity, they are recognizing not only the big stars and high-level movies but also making room for some outsiders."
-- Reed Johnson
Hilton Green | At-large branch
Hilton Green's mother was silent-film actress Vivian Reed and his father was Alfred E. Green, who directed his first feature film in 1917. Yet it was his onetime boss, Alfred Hitchcock, who came to mind when Green watched "The Artist,"the Oscar-nominated 2011 film that pays homage to the pre-talkie era.
The legendary director, he said, ran many of his dailies without sound to make sure he was getting through to the audience visually. "He always said you can tell a good picture by running it without sound and still being able to follow it," Green says. The success of "The Artist," he says, is "all very interesting because it takes you right back to the old way."
Green, 82, worked with Hitchcock in the 1950s and 1960s as assistant director on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and the films "Psycho" and "Marnie." In the early 1970s, Green moved to the executive offices at Universal Studios, helping shepherd films including "The Sting" and "Jaws" to the screen. It was during this period that he entered the academy with help from Walter Mirisch, producer on many Universal films. "He said they could use someone with my experience," Green recalled.
"My father wasn't in it," Green said, "and Mr. Hitchcock wasn't in it either. He never won an Academy Award, and he always regretted it. It was a sorry point in his life."
-- Laura Randall
Harvey Jason | Actors branch
Harvey Jason's decision to drop out of Hollywood, after a 40-year acting career, came in a flash; and the first person he told was Steven Spielberg.
They were filming 1997's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" in Eureka, Calif., and the London-born Jason, a lifelong bibliophile, often took refuge in the town's bookstores. One day, while meandering down the sidewalk with a stack of books, Jason ran into Spielberg. "I told Steven, 'When we wrap, I'm going into the book business!' He laughed. It was a pipe dream."
Not so. Together with his son Louis, Jason opened Mystery Pier Books in 1998, selling collectible first editions. Tucked down a narrow corridor off of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, the store is full of signed classics and is frequented by celebrities and wealthy book collectors, as well as looky-loos.
"The idea that I could be around great literature and work with my son in a place like this — which is heaven on earth, just magical — I feel it every time I come in. I'm filled with optimism and enthusiasm. I never felt this way when I was an actor."
An academy member since 1973, Jason, 71, says he sees nearly every movie that's released and continues to vote for the Oscars. He also serves on the academy's foreign film committee. "I don't miss it [acting] at all," he says. "I'll tell you what I do feel: relief."
-- Deborah Vankin
Haley Joel Osment | Actors branch
Haley Joel Osment may have entered the academy at age 11, but his youth didn't stop him from becoming an active member of the organization. Following his supporting actor nomination in 2000 for "The Sixth Sense," Osment, now 23, said he was very involved with the academy throughout his high school years but his activity fell off while he attended New York University.
In high school he joined the animation committee, which helps to determine which films make the final cut in that category, and often attended academy screenings and lectures.
"They have a lot of programs about film preservation, and I really dug that as a kid," he said. "They did a thing where they restored Mary Pickford films from 1914 or something, and that was the cool thing about what the membership did. You are a part of something that isn't just voting for the awards, but is part of preserving films."
After he moved across the country for college, Osment continued voting.
"I guard the screeners really closely because they always have your name stamped across them," he said. "When I walk out of my apartment in New York, I always get a little nervous, because those guys who sell pirated DVDs on the street are everywhere."
Two years after graduating, Osment is back in Southern California, again pursuing acting.
-- Amy Kaufman
Connie Sawyer | Actors branch
At 99, Connie Sawyer believes she is the oldest working member of the Screen Actors Guild (roles in recent years include James Franco's grandmother in "Pineapple Express"). She's presumed to be precisely the sort of voter apt to fall for "The Artist," the French-made film about a silent-movie star whose career runs aground with the advent of talkies.
But Sawyer, who was a teenager living in Oakland in 1927, when "The Artist's" story begins, wasn't so enamored of the black-and-white film. It was enjoyable enough, she says, but she frankly doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. "Hasn't anybody seen old films?" Sawyer asked in exasperation. "They're easy to make and easy to act. All you have to do is overact."
Sawyer, who began working in stand-up comedy in Depression-era New York at the age of 19, takes her Oscar duty seriously. Every year, Sawyer, admitted to the academy after appearing in 1959's "A Hole in the Head," watches the movie screeners that are sent to her cottage at the Motion Picture & Television Country House, the Woodland Hills retirement community that's home to many show business veterans. She views many of them twice.
Her best picture vote this year went to Martin Scorsese's "Hugo."
"The Oscar is the most legitimate movie award there is in the whole world," Sawyer said. "If movies are good, they're going to get nominated. If they're not good, they're not going to get nominated. [Academy members] are pretty honest."
-- Emily Rome
Nick Bosustow | Short Film and Feature Animation branch
After a career that began in the mailroom at Universal and blossomed into producing animated shorts, including the Oscar-winning "Is It Always Right to Be Right?" in 1971, Bosustow, with his wife, Julie, joined the Peace Corps in 1999 and stayed for 10 years. His Peace Corps duty included two and a half years in a Guatemalan village and two years in Suriname and ended as a recruiter in San Francisco.
He has no regrets about his radical career shift. The Peace Corps was "authentic — real people doing real work for a real reason," he said. "We'd started talking about the Peace Corps because our daughter was in Africa as a volunteer. We went to visit her and Julie said: 'Do you think you could do this?' I said: 'In a heartbeat!'
"What I was doing [in Peace Corps] was important and appreciated. And there were no secrets; no subterfuge, no drama. In the entertainment business — which I loved — everything is so competitive. Everybody is trying to work an angle. Not because they don't have morals, but because it's tough."
Now 71 and retired in Eugene, Ore., Bosustow stays current with today's movies and has resumed his Oscar voting. "I get the screeners.... Several friends are writers and filmmakers and I'm in touch with them. But I'm more a fan than an insider."
Today his Oscar is on display in his den, he said. "Let me tell you, it really plays in Eugene, Oregon."
-- Deborah Vankin
Vincent Paterson | At-large member
As a young dancer, Vincent Paterson played the white gang leader in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video. He went on to direct more than 250 commercials, lead Madonna through her sold-out Blond Ambition tour, and choreograph the films "Evita" and "The Birdcage." Lars von Trier gave him a speaking role in "Dancer in the Dark," which he also choreographed, and in 2006, he directed his first opera, "Manon."
But about 11 years ago, Paterson thought perhaps one thing was missing from his career.
"I'm a movie fanatic and [the academy] has no category for choreographers," he recalled. He shared his thoughts with director Mike Nichols, whom he had worked with on "The Birdcage" and "Closer." Nichols and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel sponsored him in 2001 for membership in the at-large branch, a catch-all for members who don't fit into other branches.
Paterson, 61, who is preparing to direct a stage production of Duke Ellington's "Jump for Joy," marvels at the perks of academy membership.
"There is the possibility of seeing four different movies every weekend, and they're perfect prints with no static, no lines through them, and nobody eating popcorn all around you," he said. "It's the most incredible moviegoing experience one could ever want."
-- Laura Randall
Michelle Reese | Public Relations branch
In 1980, Michelle Reese was fresh out of the Marines, where she had served as a public affairs officer in L.A. and worked on TV and film sets. She got a job as a star wrangler for "The Blues Brothers."
"I knew everybody in the industry, and they were having all sorts of trouble with John [Belushi] and Danny" Aykroyd, she recalled. The person who hired her, she said, thought: "If a Marine can't get them through the next six weeks until the premiere, I don't know who can."
Reese went on to work for Universal and Columbia and became a member of the academy's public relations branch in the mid-1980s. Her last job in Hollywood was as an executive vice president of marketing for the Walt Disney Co.'s attractions division.
In 1999, she quit Hollywood. "My husband and I were living in Santa Monica. After the third car was stolen in a year, Dennis decided that he had had enough. I was born in a little town called Cut Bank, Mont., so we decided to move back here."
Reese had planned to open her own publicity firm, but within the first week of returning was asked to become chief operating officer at Big Mountain resort. She did that for five years before opening her own firm, Beargrass Marketing.
"We do a lot of commercials up here. I help the [Montana Film Office]. I still keep my hand in the publicity stuff and the academy stuff," Reese, 62, said. "I get the movies and I watch them religiously and I vote."
Reese sometimes misses her friends in Los Angeles. "I will watch the red carpet [coverage] and I think that looks like fun. But I was a lot younger then and my feet didn't hurt when you spent 12 hours in heels," she said. "From time to time my husband and I, we both look at each other and say, 'Aren't you glad you're not there?'"
-- Susan King
Michael S. Baumohl | Public Relations branch
Michael S. Baumohl was a unit publicist when Universal Pictures dispatched him to Europe to work on the Kirk Douglas epic "Spartacus."
"As I wandered around Europe in 1960, I said, 'Oh my goodness, there are so many American films being made over here, wouldn't they like to have an American publicist?'" he recalled. "'A nice young boy like me could work over here and have a great life.'"
Baumohl, 80, spent most of the next three decades as a Europe-based public relations executive, where his projects included the Oscar-winning "Lawrence of Arabia." After returning to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, he set up shop in Beverly Hills and continued working on both continents. He gradually became disillusioned with the studios' changing notions of publicity. "The element of publicity has been pretty much thrown away," he said. "Other than having a junket for the stars in a city two weeks before the film opening, publicity is almost totally ignored.... I felt there was not going to be a future for me."
He also works in publishing and business consulting and now lives in Naples, Fla.
"Oh God, I miss the old life and the old people," Baumohl said. "We knew the history of the motion picture business. We knew who D.W. Griffith was and even knew what his initials stood for. It was fun. It was exciting."
-- Susan King
Jeremy Larner | Writers branch
Jeremy Larner's big Oscar moment came in 1973, when he won for his original screenplay for "The Candidate," about a young Senate candidate (Robert Redford) who loses his way during the campaign. He thought he'd prepared a memorable speech.
"I said as long as politicians are what they are and say things like 'peace with honor,' which was what Richard Nixon was saying, there will be chances for more films like 'The Candidate,'" Larner recalled. "In fact, 40 years later [the film] still gets me royalties."
But that was the night that Marlon Brando won the lead actor Oscar for his role in "The Godfather" and memorably sent Sacheen Littlefeather up on stage to explain why he wouldn't be accepting his award — he was protesting the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.
"I may have made the second most provocative statement [that night], but it was second by a long shot," said Larner, now 74.
Larner, who wrote five novels including the award-winning "Drive, He Said," was a speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 presidential campaign and a college professor. A member of the academy's writers branch, he penned a dozen screenplays all the way into the 1990s, but never had one produced after "The Candidate."
"These scripts, some of them were better than 'The Candidate,'" said Larner, who lives in the Bay Area. "They put my children through college and contributed to the support of two different sets of stepchildren. I was always eager and ready to write screenplays, but I was not good at career management. I probably didn't have the right agent."
With his kids out of college, Larner said his personal needs "grew far more minimal. I discovered around 1989 that I loved to write poetry. I started writing a poem a day and sometimes I would write 10 poems a day. I started to give readings. People came to these readings and they loved this poetry. They applauded every poem and there were turn-away crowds. And there still are."
Larner's latest book of poetry is called "Chicken on Church," but he still keeps a hand in the business. He helps friends with screenplay projects, and enjoys getting the DVD screeners that studios send out to Oscar voters. Voters are supposed to destroy them after seeing them. He says he does, but "it's hard to destroy the good ones."
-- Susan King
Beverly Wood | At-large member
An editor once likened Beverly Wood's job to hiding out in the basement with a bubbling caldron, stirring up a secret sauce that eventually resulted in a film's final print. In reality, she is executive vice president of technical services and customer relations at Deluxe Laboratories and EFilm, digital labs that specialize in image quality for feature films.
Wood also describes herself as a collaborator who happens to know a lot about chemical processing and filmmaking. Using a process known as silver retention, she has helped create just the right textures, grains and overall look for films including "Monster's Ball," "Angela's Ashes" and Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow."
"What I'm doing is facilitating within the laboratory and digital intermediate environment the exact look that directors and DPs [directors of photography] want for their movie," she explains. "I've got the best job in Hollywood." Armed with a graduate degree in analytical chemistry, Wood started her career as a management trainee at Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y., eventually joining its motion picture department and moving to Hollywood. After a brief flirtation with becoming a producer, she joined Deluxe Laboratories and helped create a department that worked on feature films exclusively from start to finish. One of her first clients was David Fincher, who wanted a particular look for his 1995 blood-soaked thriller, "Seven."
"I am a serial killer aficionado, so I was in heaven," she recalls.
Wood is one of the academy's newest members at large, joining in 2011 after cinematographer Roger Deakins and Colin F. Mossman, an engineer who has won several of the academy's Scientific and Technical Awards, sponsored her.
"It was the one thing left in my career that I hoped to get one day, so I was totally gassed about it," she says. "Still am."
-- Laura Randall
Billy Burton | At-large member
Veteran stuntman Billy Burton isn't sure if people believe him when he tells them he's a member of the academy. "I wonder if they think I'm just telling a story," muses the former rodeo cowboy.
Burton, 66, joined the academy in 1994 with a group of other stunt performers after attempts to create their own Oscar category failed. "There were all these action movies out and we would play a big part in them," Burton said. "We tried to get our own category, but that didn't happen, so they lumped us all into members at large."
Burton grew up in Culver City riding horses and watching Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers perform at a nearby rodeo. He started doing stunts at 19, playing an Arab horseman in "Beau Geste" and taking horse falls for Frank Sinatra in "Dirty Mingus Magee." As fewer westerns were green-lighted, he turned to mainstream action — directing high-speed car and boat chases in "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible 2," and coordinating stunts for films like "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" and "House of Wax."
Burton often plans his Sundays around screenings at the academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Wilshire Boulevard, following them with a roast beef dinner at Lawry's The Prime Rib nearby. "It's a nice ritual," he says.
-- Laura Randall
Sally Van Slyke | Public Relations branch
Sally Van Slyke started as a TV page at Metro Media in the mid-1970s, and eventually became a powerful public relations executive, clocking more than 25 years in the entertainment business. She ran the Oscar campaign for Universal Pictures for eight years as senior vice president of marketing and, she says, sparked the trend of sending academy voters personal screeners.
"It was for 'Do the Right Thing.' The academy, which was all white and staid at that time, was simply not going into the theaters to see the movie. It was such a convenience, sending a screener. And it mushroomed after that."
After her mother became sick with cancer in 1993, Van Slyke left Hollywood for Northern California and, in a bittersweet twist of fate, Van Slyke, now 63, met and fell in love with her future husband at a Berkeley hospital.
Today, Van Slyke is an author — her memoir, "Wild Thymes: Catering to the Egos of the Hollywood Elite," comes out Feb. 20 — and owner of the Walnut Creek, Calif.-based event management company Wild Thyme Catering. "I went from never having done any catering to serving 575 people a night for the California Shakespeare Festival," she said. In drumming up new business, the "pitching skills" she developed in PR "always come in handy."
She often attends academy-sponsored events in San Francisco and still casts her Oscar votes annually.