So, who really votes for the Oscars? Members of the Academy -- actors, directors, writers, cinematographers. Even PR people. We're none of those, but it doesn't mean we can't pretend. For b's second Oscar Panel of Greatness (trademark pending), we enlisted the help of four local movie buffs to pick who'd they vote for in six major categories if they had an official ballot in their movie-loving hands. Love was spread around, even for people who weren't nominated -- though there was one consensus pick. As we get ready for Sunday's Oscar ceremony, here's a look at our Oscar faves this year.
(But first, meet our panel.)
Michelle Early (29, Bowie). Occupation: writer/editor, U.S. Department of Transportation. Favorite film of 2009: "Not Easily Broken"
Kevin Walling (24, Mount Vernon). Occupation: director of development and communications, Equality Maryland. Favorite film of 2009: "Creation"
Kristen Anchor (36, Waverly). Occupation: director, Creative Alliance MovieMakers (CAmm). Favorite film of 2009: "Stingray Sam"
Carlin Cook (28, Abingdon). Occupation: research analyst by day, filmmaker by night. Favorite film of 2009: "Trick 'r Treat"
Jordan Bartel (28, Mount Vernon). Occupation: assistant editor, b. Favorite film of 2009: "Inglourious Basterds"
MICHELLE: "Inglourious Basterds." The movie was a great combination of funny and somber, fiction and fact. It was a really great cast -- Brad Pitt was absolutely hilarious -- and I was amazed at how quickly the 2 ½ hours went by.
CARLIN: " The Hurt Locker." One of the most original stories for a 2009 film, it successfully tread through serious new territory while keeping the viewer fully engaged. Numerous scenes take the viewer for a nail-biting ride while making important cinematic points.
KEVIN: "Avatar." Again, what Cameron has done has changed filmmaking forever. Obviously the plot needed a lot of work and it was fairly campy at moments, but in the end, "Avatar" is nearly impossible to beat.
KRISTEN: "Precious." The underdog for sure, but I loved this film. As a professional champion for local, indie films, I would love to see an indie win best picture again.
JORDAN: I'd be happy if "The Hurt Locker" won, but my vote has got to be for "Inglourious Basterds." It was innovative, awesomely violent, turn-the-war-film-on-its-head magic. Who says history can't be rewritten?
YOUR PICK FROM BTHESITE.COM POLL: "Avatar" -- 38%
MICHELLE: Jeff Bridges. For the first time since the early '90s, I wanted to light a candle and sway from side to side.
CARLIN: Sharlto Copley in "District 9." Copley tackled an unbelievably demanding role in a fast-paced format. A large amount of his dialogue was improvised, which further speaks to his acting talents. His role was both mentally and physically demanding.
KEVIN: I'm not much of a George Clooney fan, but his performance in "Up in the Air" is spot-on and inspired.
KRISTEN: Jeremy Renner. Another underdog, but this time for a larger-than-life performance, which seems 180 degrees from one of my other picks, Gabourey Sidibe. But at the core, both performances investigate the struggle to survive in extreme crisis using their own forms of self-delusion as a coping mechanism.
JORDAN: I'm not as crazy over Bridges as everyone else, and despite the fact that I want Morgan Freeman to be my grandfather, "Invictus" kind of blew. But Colin Firth really stood out for me -- his struggle and grief were palpable.
YOUR PICK FROM BTHESITE.COM POLL: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart" -- 36%
MICHELLE: Tiana (aka: Anika Noni Rose), "The Princess and the Frog." I don't care what anyone says: Tiana deserves a medal (or at least some Purell ) for kissing a mucous-covered frog. 'Nuff said.
CARLIN: Gabourey Sidibe. Her ability to handle such raw material at such a young age and be convincing in the role was more than a sell for me.
KEVIN: As a self-respecting gay man, not supporting Meryl Streep's incredible performance in "Julie and Julia" would be a bigger lie than saying weÃÂve had a mild winter in Charm City. Bon appetit!
KRISTEN: Sidibe's performance in "Precious" stands out as subtle and understated in a pool of overacted Hollywood spectacle. That the best performance was turned in by a young, overweight unknown black woman over any number of overeducated, anorexic white women is just icing on the cake.
JORDAN: Watch Sidibe's performance. Go back another day and watch it again and take in the full measure of it -- the guttural voice, the body language, the woman clearly on a never-steady rope between hopeful and hopeless. And all this in a debut performance. She deserves it.
YOUR PICK FROM BTHESITE.COM POLL: Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious" -- 40%