Projection: Oscar – My Ballot


We’ve been grousing about how “this race is over” for weeks now, but yesterday, that notion became literal: the final deadline for Oscar ballot submission 5pm Tuesday evening, which means…this race is over.

So, out of reverence, or celebration, or simply the desire to do something different, this special edition of Projection: Oscar will sidestep the regular analysis and focus on what comes natural – personal favorites.

Here now, I submit my Oscar ballot to you. These are not predictions, mind you, but the choices I would make if I had a vote. It should also be noted that I am merely working with what the Academy has given me…these choices do not necessarily reflect my picks for the best films and performances of the year…just the best films and performances in this nominee pool. In truth, I disagree with probably 80% of this year’s nominees…but at this point, hating the Oscars is part of loving the Oscars, isn’t it?

Here’s my ballot, with the major categories saved for last, of course…

Best Visual Effects

Rise of the Planet of the Apes


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Real Steel

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

In what is honestly a very thin category this year, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a technical marvel…and not just for the motion capture work.

Best Sound Mixing


War Horse


Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I’m going with the favorite here, simply because there are layers and subtleties to the sound environment that become a major part of the film’s magic.

Best Sound Editing


War Horse

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Maybe it seems obvious to pick the movie with all the screeching sounds (although for sheer screeching power, why not pick the heinous Transformers flick?), but Drive turned screeches into a symphony.

Best Makeup

The Iron Lady

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Albert Nobbs

At this point it’s probably well-noted that I’m no Harry Potter fan. But I can give credit is due, and the complex makeup work over the duration of the series is far more interesting than any of the nose-tweaking and aging work done in the other two nominees.

Best Costume Design

The Artist




Jane Eyre

The costuming in Hugo isn’t overly elaborate (unlike Anonymous or certainly W.E.), and it also becomes part of the fabric (no pun intended) of the film’s whimsy, inspired by French animation.

Best Original Score

The Artist


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Adventures of Tintin

War Horse

I nearly went for the intriguing chords of Tinker Tailor’s elegant score. I also considered John Williams’ rollicking work on Tintin. But I’m going with Hugo for its seamless blend of epic adventure, whimsical comedy, and intimate character study, each stage of which is reflected in Howard Shore’s music.

Best Original Song

The Muppets


This one’s easy enough to pick. “Man or Muppet” is genius, Broadway-level work. No contest.

Best Animated Feature


Chico and Rita

A Cat in Paris

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Kung Fu Panda 2 is so shockingly good that I could easily pick it as the winner any other year. And, of course, I wish Tintin was here. But even if it was, I’d still go with Rango, which took animated sophistication to a new level. It’s humor is so quirky and it’s psychology so deep, I’m a little surprised it didn’t alienate more audiences.

Best Foreign Language Film

A Separation

Monsieur Lazhar

In Darkness



It is with disappointment that I confess I haven’t seen all of these nominees at this point. So technically I shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But I doubt anything would match the wrenching A Separation.

Best Documentary Feature

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Hell and Back Again



If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Another category in which I haven’t caught all the nominees (sorry, Hell and Back Again). But there is a depth of passion that emanates from Paradise Lost 3, passion that has fueled a debate that redefines “contentious.” That’s true power.

Best Art Direction


The Artist

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

War Horse

Midnight in Paris

There is a reason Hugo is the clear favorite in this category – some films are just undeniably deserving.

Best Cinematography

The Tree of Life

The Artist


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

War Horse

Emmanuel Lubezki has long been one of the absolute giants of cinematography. He also has a knack for doing work that is apparently too good to win an Oscar. He outdoes himself in The Tree of Life. An easy choice.

Best Film Editing

The Artist



The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Descendants

In one of the most thematically complex films of the year, Christopher Tellefsen’s editing weaves those themes into the film’s visual fabric, with gorgeous cuts that never tell us what to feel, but underscore the film’s emotion with subtlety and grace.

Best Original Screenplay

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius

Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumulo

A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Margin Call, JC Chandor

Yes, indeed. There is no greater screenwriting challenge than developing a comedy that not only delivers huge laughs, but also probes the depths of character ennui in subtle and interesting ways. That is what Wiig and Mumulo accomplished with this Bridesmaids screenplay.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants

Moneyball, Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan

Hugo, John Logan

The Ides of March, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon

It was a tough call for me between Moneyball and The Ides of March, but I went with the rich, multi-faceted subtlety of the former.

Best Supporting Actress

Octavia Spencer, The Help

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Her co-star has received all the love, and it’s well-deserved. But Chastain is the standout performance in The Help, so infectious and entirely different than any of her other incredible performances from 2011.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Nick Nolte, Warrior

I love Plummer and I love Hill. But Nolte’s work in Warrior is towering, full of furious anger and buried pain. His best work in years is also the best supporting performance of the year.

Best Actress

Viola Davis, The Help

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Oh, why wasn’t Tilda Swinton nominated in this category? Would’ve made it so easy. But alas, I am going with the favorite here, just because it is the only performance in the category (other than maybe Rooney Mara’s) not dependent upon artifice or impersonation of some kind.

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

George Clooney, The Descendants

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Demian Bichir, A Better Life

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

It was a tough call between two polar opposites: the subtle humanity of Pitt and the external glee of Dujardin. I tend to appreciate subtlety more, so my vote goes to Pitt.

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Malick’s work on The Tree of Life is easily the most ambitious and towering directorial achievement of the year. His inclusion in this category is a rare positive reflection on the Academy…and it leads to an easy choice here.

Best Picture: ordered in descending preference


The Tree of Life


The Help

The Artist

War Horse

Midnight in Paris

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Descendants

What’s interesting, for me, is that, for different reasons, I could’ve gone with Moneyball, Tree of Life, or Hugo. All three are masterful in their individual, very different forms. And it would seem wrong to go against something as grandiose as The Tree of Life, but Moneyball is the film that speaks to humanity in the most current and identifiable way. I don’t know if I would call it a “zeitgeist film” necessarily, but I would say it speaks to notions of a world in flux, and a life in flux, while tying it into a true-life baseball story. Masterful work all around, and director Bennett Miller was criminally left out of the Best Director category, for he turns what could’ve been a Hollywood crowd-pleaser into a character study that is both precise and intimate.

So that’s my ballot. Over the next few days, we will all be hashing out our final predictions, trying to read tea leaves and decipher last-second surprises. But for now, I wanted to celebrate the work I feel deserves to win. In the comments section, share your winners, too…it will be one of the most interesting conversations of the season.

Jason McKiernan

Awards Pundit & Senior Film Critic. I married into the cult of cinema at a very young age - I wasn't of legal marriage age, but I didn't care. It has taken advantage of me and abused me many times. Yet I stay in this marriage because I'm obsessed and consumed. Don't try to save me -- I'm too far gone.