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Three anonymous Oscar voters share their super-secret ballot choices in key categories

An illustration showing voters surrounding an Oscar
(Anthony Russo / For The Times)

Oscar voting begins Thursday, meaning we’re one step closer to putting a bow on this never-ending awards season. With academy members making their final choices, we asked three from different branches — a writer, producer and actor — to anonymously share their picks and the reasoning behind them. Their choices were different, but the trio did share a passion for this year’s nominees, a desire to celebrate the strong work and relief that we might soon be seeing movies in theaters again and not on a streaming platform.

WRITER, woman in her 40s

Picture: This is such a stacked category this year. I would be happy for “Minari,” “Nomadland” or “Sound of Metal” to win. If I’m going by my own standards of what makes a best picture — excellent craft, spectacle and a deep well of emotion — I think perhaps “Minari” might be the top choice. But it’s not that I didn’t love the other movies nominated. “Mank” was well made but didn’t feel timely to me. It seemed like it was being made off a playbook from a few years ago. “Judas and the Black Messiah” had tremendous performances but was not as tight as my favorites. “The Trial of the Chicago 7" was fun and again had great performances but felt a bit conscious that it was trying to be an awards movie at times. And “The Father” was truly moving and had imaginative production design, but I read a review that called it “ruthless,” and that felt exactly right. And I can’t have a ruthless movie win best picture.

Director: This one is a toss-up between “Promising Young Woman” [Emerald Fennell] and “Nomadland” [Chloé Zhao] for me. Both were directed so skillfully and confidently, and both directors have such a distinctive stamp on their work that excites me. I’d love to give it to “Another Round,” but the directing wasn’t what I loved most about that movie. Side note: I wish “Another Round” had gotten more nominations.

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Actress: I love all the actresses in this category, and it’s always tough to judge when several actresses are playing real people. But I was so pleasantly shocked by the range of Carey Mulligan’s performance. And Andra Day is such a revelation as Billie Holiday. Frances McDormand is a perennial Oscar favorite and could take it, and I’d be OK with that, but I’d rather someone new get the gold. That’s unfair to Frances’ amazing performance, and I know that. I’m going to go with Carey Mulligan here.

Actor: This is between Riz Ahmed and Anthony Hopkins for me. Both performances were deeply moving and satisfying and had so many layers. I think I’m going to go with Riz, though. That was a role well outside of many of his comfort zones — being a metal drummer and being deaf — and he completely nailed it.

Supporting actress: Maria Bakalova was positively revelatory in “Borat.” I didn’t think anyone could match Sacha Baron Cohen’s energy, but she matches and exceeds it. However, this is Yuh-Jung Youn’s. Her performance as that grandmother was surprising, fun and heartbreaking. It knocked me off my feet and was a big part of the reason I loved “Minari” so much.

Supporting actor: It is so bizarre that both Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield are nominated for supporting actor. This for me is between Leslie Odom Jr. and Paul Raci. Leslie really shines in the second half of “One Night in Miami ....” He is so amazing at playing Sam Cooke’s frustrations bubbling just below the surface. Paul Raci gave such a heartbreaking and charming performance in “Sound of Metal.” Completely authentic and lived-in. I think I’m going to say Paul Raci, partially because I want to watch him win.

PRODUCER, man in his 40s

Picture: “Minari.” It’s normally not one I would vote for for picture. But something about it, maybe because I didn’t know anything about it going in ... it felt like a perfect, charming drama about America.

Director: “Nomadland” wasn’t my favorite movie this year, but I think what Chloé Zhao did as a director, to create that thing out of thin air and mix real characters with actors and move around and make a road movie that had a restrained emotion, was superb.

Actress: Andra Day as Billie Holiday ... I started skeptical because Billie Holiday is so well-known, but she became the character. Viola Davis was solid too. Frances McDormand is always amazing. And it was fun to see Carey Mulligan in that role. But it’s hard to portray a legend, so Andra Day.

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Actor: Anthony Hopkins was so good in “The Father.” I was completely devastated by that one. As someone who has parents getting older, that one really affected me. It’s a good category, though I thought Chadwick Boseman was terrible in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” I didn’t understand that one. The movie was too theatrical and too over-the-top in a way that just wasn’t landing.

Supporting actress: Right when I was watching it, I thought Yuh-Jung Youn is going to be my supporting actress choice. She was just so good.

Supporting actor: I don’t know how they decided supporting for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” I liked them both. I’m voting for Daniel [Kaluuya]. LaKeith Stanfield was really good too, but I thought that was more a lead role. In terms of movies covering that era, I thought that movie was much better by far than “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

ACTOR, Woman in her 50s

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Picture: I adore all these movies and could rank them one way today and a different way tomorrow. I’m leaning toward “Nomadland” for its beauty and the way it captured this woman’s journey of discovery. It felt like something we’ve all been going through in some fashion the past year.

Director: Chloé Zhao for the reasons I’m voting for “Nomadland” and for the way she blended the fictional narrative and the true stories of the nomads in such a powerful way.

Actress: Frances McDormand has always been an inspiration, and I love all the subtle things she does in “Nomadland.” That last scene of her going through the house just moved me to tears.

Actor: Anthony Hopkins is another inspiration, and there’s nothing sentimental in the way he depicts this man’s descent into dementia. Still through all the bravado, the vulnerability seeps through and breaks your heart. Just astonishing what he does.

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Supporting actress: I love “Minari.” Maybe I’ll change my mind and vote for it for best picture! Anyway, Yuh-Jung Youn is so good in that movie, funny and warm and wise. She’s the grandmother I aspire to be someday!

Supporting actor: The whole cast of “The Trial of the Chicago 7" is superb, so I feel like someone should be recognized from that movie. Sacha Baron Cohen really captured the essence of Abbie Hoffman, so he gets my vote.



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