Four Oscar voters share their super-secret ballots

Final voting for the 91st Oscars is now underway.
(Robyn Beck / AFP)

Oscar voting is underway, and academy members are busy balloting, replaying movies to freshen their memories and considering whether a vote for “Roma” in the foreign-language film category is enough or to go all in and mark it for best picture as well.

We asked academy members from four different branches — writer, actor, director, producer — to anonymously share their choices in the top eight categories. In some cases, they were still debating. But here’s a snapshot of where they’re currently landing.


WRITER, woman in her 30s

Picture: I debated between “Black Panther” and “The Favourite,” deciding on “Black Panther.” My best picture picks have always been based on movies that fill me up and stay with me on top of being technically well-made. I want a best picture winner to be a movie that took the most risks and that people enjoyed (a.k.a. went to see). I loved “The Favourite” but ultimately decided on “Black Panther” because it ticked every box for me and yet didn’t feel like a movie designed for winning Oscars.

Director: This was a tough one. I think that Alfonso Cuarón absolutely deserves the Oscar for “Roma” — it was so gorgeously shot, and as a writer I have so much respect for how he can tell a story with images. However, Spike Lee is Spike Lee. I try to base my opinions on the filmmakers’ current films, and I don’t know if “BlacKkKlansman” is a better-directed movie than “Roma,” but I do know that Spike Lee has somehow never been nominated for director, and I want him to win for his consistent ability to move my world sideways with his storytelling.

Original Screenplay: “The Favourite”! What a terribly fun, inventive and gorgeous tale, efficiently told. And it’s a story that would normally involve two men and the queen — how refreshing that this movie went a different route.

Adapted Screenplay: I love the Coen brothers eternally, but something about “Buster Scruggs” being an anthology film kept me from voting for it. That might be ridiculous, but it’s true. Instead, I’m going with “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Having read the source material recently, I was struck by how Barry Jenkins was able to convey the warmth, tone and detail of Baldwin’s words into his script.

Actress: I would be happy with any of these women winning, but my favorite performance was Olivia Colman’s. Her ability to emote the endless pit of sorrow just underneath her frazzled demeanor broke my heart. Plus, I feel like best actress nominees never get to be funny, and, my God, was she funny.

Actor: Rami Malek. I was not a fan of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but I was impressed with Malek’s performance. If Christian Bale takes this, that’s fine. Both men took on very physically altering roles, and both men did a good job with those roles. But one played a ferocious rock star with gusto and complexity that transcended the movie itself, so I’m going to go with that one.


Supporting actress: Regina King. No question. Again, I loved all the performances in this category, but the scenes in Puerto Rico alone earned her this Oscar for me.

Supporting actor: Richard E. Grant is my choice in this very stacked category. I’d be pleased with any of these actors winning, but Grant’s performance was moving and caustic and perfectly pitched, and I want him to be in every movie.

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ACTOR, man in his 50s

Picture: I’m going with “Black Panther.” It sounds bananas. I thought the popular film Oscar idea was absurd, and I’m glad they got rid of that quickly. Ryan Coogler … to go from “Fruitvale Station” to this in five years is incredible. That whole production should be honored. I think it would be good for the industry, and I think it would be good for the academy. And if “Bohemian Rhapsody” wins, I’ll quit the academy.

Director: If I could vote for Bradley Cooper, I would. I thought he got ripped off. So Pawel Pawlikowski [“Cold War] is my choice.


Original screenplay: I voted for Ethan Hawke for actor. He should have slipped in. I loved him; I loved the movie. It’s crazy that [“First Reformed”] is Paul Schrader’s first nomination. I hope he gets his due.

Adapted screenplay: I lived in New York when that whole thing happened with Lee Israel, and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” captures that great tale. I’m also a big Nicole Holofcener fan. She just keeps turning out really great, interesting stuff. I think this is her best ever.

Actress: Olivia Colman, I think. I’m partial to Glenn Close finally getting an award. But I’m not a fan of the movie. I’m a fan of her amazing performance. But the range Colman shows in “The Favourite” just covers all the bases. She gets to do everything in the emotional spectrum in that film.

Actor: I’ve been going back and forth between Rami Malek and Christian Bale. I’ve watched both films two or three times. It’s so silly and arbitrary to say that Rami Malek’s performance is better than, say, Bradley Cooper. They’re all so individually fantastic. But I loved what Rami Malek did, and the work ethic he brought to it was extraordinary.

Supporting actress: I love Regina King. She’s always just been an underrated actor for me. She brings such strength to everything she does. Plus, I love “If Beale Street Could Talk.” I think it’s an underrated movie, and I’d like to see it win something.

Supporting actor: Richard Grant is fabulous in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” And there’s no bigger “Withnail and I” fan than I am. I just love seeing a comeback story.


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DIRECTOR, woman in her 40s

Picture: Alfonso Cuarón has made so many amazing movies, but I think “Roma” is his best. It’s personal, it’s political and it’s a world you can lose yourself in repeatedly. I’m glad it’s on Netflix. I know so many people who’ve seen it who otherwise would never have taken the plunge.

Director: Again, Cuarón for all the same reasons.

Original screenplay: “The Favourite.” It’s nasty. It’s funny. It has a duck race. And it leaves you devastated.

Adapted screenplay: I could have easily voted for Spike Lee for director. That category is ridiculous. I feel good voting for him here too, because “BlacKkKlansman” has everything you’d want from a Spike Lee movie — it’s provocative and thrilling and offers a window into the American experience, past and present.

Actress: Olivia Colman. All those things I said about “The Favourite” are there in Colman’s acting. It’s wonderful to see so many people discovering her with this movie.


Actor: I think Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate” does something extraordinary. He makes you see how consumed Van Gogh was by his passion, by his art. It’s the first Van Gogh movie I think that’s truly made a case for the necessity of art.

Supporting actress: I came close to voting for the screenplay of “If Beale Street Could Talk,” so I feel moved to support Regina King here for her wonderful work in that movie.

Supporting actor: Richard E. Grant made me laugh, and he made me cry. That counts for a lot.

Stephan James as Fonny and KiKi Layne as Tish star in Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk."
(Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures)

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PRODUCER, man in his 50s

Picture: “Roma,” for its delicacy and expertise in craft. [Forget] the Netflix theatrical argument. I’m so sick of that discussion. It’s just a super-well-crafted movie that deserves all the accolades. That’s a clear choice to me.

Director: Hands down, Cuarón has to win. It’s a singular vision. I know he’s been lauded already, but I don’t care. He deserves this.


Original screenplay: I probably have to go with “Roma,” again, for that same kind of transformative emotion that I felt. I’m a little bit of a purist. You can’t get picture and best director without getting best words.

Adapted screenplay: Hearing people speak on the original material and hearing Barry Jenkins speak about adapting it, I’m leaning toward “If Beale Street Could Talk” for its specific transmutation.

Actress: I’m probably spitting in the wind here, but Melissa McCarthy. I’m a New Yorker, and I know that lonely person. And she just blew me away.

Actor: I’m really fighting through two choices. I didn’t like “Vice.” I’m a big fan of Adam McKay, but I didn’t think this was a well-built narrative. However, Christian Bale is transformative, and if you could separate a performance from a movie, it’s here. But Rami Malek … like Christian Bale, he personified this real person but also made it his own. I’m leaning toward Rami because I appreciated the movie more.

Supporting actress: I’m so confused. I almost don’t have a choice … but Regina King will probably be it. “The Favourite” was fun, but Emma and Rachel — and I felt the same way about Amy — great scenes, for sure, but those performances came up short.

Supporting actor: This is really hard. Again, because I love the movie, I was thinking of Richard E. Grant. But I think I’m going with Adam Driver, who I think stole the movie as a supporting actor.


Twitter: @glennwhipp