The bad news: With final ballots due by 5 p.m. on February 21 and the ceremony following less than a week later, time is running out for Oscar campaigners to sway susceptible AMPAS voters. The good news: In what's largely considered a mediocre year at the movies, that's still plenty of time for a savvy player to affect the outcome of many of the hotly contested, big-ticket categories. And so, as a service to anyone with access to a waffling Academy member and a desire to influence any of the major races, we've compiled these helpful talking points on all of the biggest nominees. With a well-timed phone call or a few seemingly off-the-cuff remarks over cocktails, you, too, can launch your own last-minute whisper campaign!
- "There was supposed to be sound, they just forgot. Sloppy work, you can't reward that."
- "I just overheard Harvey Weinstein bragging, 'I've got all these gullible, unsophisticated motherfuckers to vote for a stuttering king and a mute French dancer. I can sell anything! Next year, I think I'll do 'blind ASL teacher.'"
- "Harvey Weinstein killed my mother. She wouldn't vote for Shakespeare in Love. He'll stop at nothing."
- "Eh, too mimey."
- "Clooney's charming and everything, but we're supposed to sympathize with an old-money hundred-milllionaire in a Hawaiian shirt who screams at his comatose wife? Kind of 1-percenter misogynist, if you ask me."
- "Shaggy carries this movie."
- "Shaggy is in this movie."
- "Hawaii, really? Put it in the Florida Panhandle or Appalachia and then we'll talk."
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- "Too soon. I'm not sure the country's quite ready to Hanks up 9/11."
- "When you see a cute, precocious kid like that, it's pretty much impossible not to think he's talking to secretly dead people. Waiting for that reveal that never comes is really distracting."
- "I don't know how you don't do this one in 3-D. Why not use all the modern storytelling tools in your arsenal?"
- "Granted, some of the performances were great. Really, really great. But there's more to a Best Picture than just 'great performances.'"
- "Oprah didn't feel the script was strong enough to produce it herself, so she had her interior decorator do it."
- "As a white person, I'm not entirely comfortable with being depicted as having solved racism in the South. There are some guilt issues there we should maybe all work through together."
- "That shit pie wasn't even locally sourced. I don't care what they tell you, they shipped it in from a Du-par's in Tarzana."
- "There's 'minor Scorsese' and then there's a 3-D movie about a French kid trying to put a rusty robot back together while being chased around a train station by a gimpy Borat."
- "I kept waiting for the scene where Ben Kingsley blows out Sacha Baron Cohen's brains to 'Gimme Shelter,' but it never came. Disappointing."
- "I found it kind of hard to appreciate the moving homage to cinematic history while vomiting my guts out from 3-D-induced vertigo."
Midnight in Paris
- "Woody Allen's greatest success made $2 million less than Water for Elephants."
- "Owen Wilson is the least convincing Woody Allen stand-in since Ed Burns in everything Ed Burns has ever done."
- "How do you put Ernest Hemingway in a movie and leave out the messy shotgun ending? Too sanitized to be taken seriously."
- "Woody's really lost his fastball since Curse of the Jade Scorpion."
- "A Cy Young winner, an MVP at shortstop, a team that averaged 100-plus wins for three years, and this is supposed to be an underdog story?"
- "They didn't win anything. Why do I care?"
- "Sure, it was OK. But I really wanted to see the Soderbergh version. He would've killed it."
- "I liked it better last year, when it was still about a visionary asshole genius who fucked over all of his friends and copied MySpace because he couldn't get laid."
The Tree of Life
- "I took so many drugs and I still have no idea what it was supposed to be 'about.' Like, I took ALL THE DRUGS, and nothing."
- "I kept saying, 'Where did the dinosaurs go?' That's the movie I want to see, where Brad Pitt raises a pack of velociraptors in his backyard. Make that movie, that's a Best Picture."
- "Terrence Malick dared me to vote for it. He said if he wins, his next movie's going to be 15 hours of some kids rolling down grassy hills with tons of lens flare."
- "You have to consider any Spielberg film that makes less than $200 million domestic an artistic misfire. Money always follows quality."
- "The merchandising tie-ins were just too crass. And the Grimace figurine won't even stay on the damn horse. Ruined my Happy Meal."
- "It was beautifully shot and awe-inspiring to look at, in the 23 minutes I wasn't asleep."
- "I'm so mad at Spielberg for the 500 'more like bore horse' or 'more like whore horse' jokes I had to read on Twitter for a week that there's no way I could vote for it."
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
- "Seriously, though. Who?"
George Clooney, The Descendants
- "Haven't we given him enough? At some point it's just greedy."
- "I'm friends with Stacy Keibler. And she says his penis is bigger than Michael Fassbender's, so."
- "We wouldn't want his post-Oscar hangover to interfere with his incredible humanitarian work in Somalia, would we?"
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
- "Roberto Benigni."
- "It's true, he's a very fine dancer. He wins the Tony, hands down."
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- "This is his first nomination in how many years of being an actor? That tells you something."
- "In good conscience, how can we reward this and not Commissioner Gordon?"
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
- "If we handed out statues for playing a version of yourself, we'd have to retroactively give one to Mark Wahlberg for every movie he's ever done."
- "Snacking is not acting."
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
- "Hilary Swank pulled off the same trick with just a flannel shirt and a haircut. Now that's acting."
- "This was way too strong a year for butlers. Close was great, but she doesn't quite command the screen like Mr. Carson."
Viola Davis, The Help
- "Viola and Meryl are practically best friends. I can't imagine she'd want to take an award away from her best friend. She's was too classy for that."
- "I'm sure she was great, but my eye was constantly drawn to Emma Stone's frizzy hair. I kept missing all the 'big moments.'"
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
- "The movie doesn't necessarily sensationalize violence against women, but it doesn't NOT sensationalize violence against women, you know?"
- "If you've seen the Swedish version, you know that Mara's vengeful dildo work was clearly inferior to Noomi Rapace's."
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
- "I didn't realize HBO movies were eligible for the Oscar. I guess Julianne Moore is winning for Sarah Palin next year, too."
- "It really is enough of an honor just to be nominated for the 17th time, she'd be the first one to tell you that."
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
- "I don't think she would've beaten out Megan Hilty for the role, either."
- "She's already been nominated three times. We don't want it to seem too easy and stunt her artistic growth."
Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
- "I'm pretty sure Kenneth Branagh wasn't in this movie?"
- "Do you think he maybe Norbitted himself a little by directing Thor? I'm not going to make that argument, but someone could make that argument."
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
- "Explain something to me: Jonah Hill decides to lose all that weight after he plays an executive who played baseball and football at Harvard? OK."
- "His chemistry with Brad Pitt was amazing, but they couldn't touch Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic. Wrong year for him."
Nick Nolte, Warrior
- "I mean, yeah, pretty grizzled, but was it the most grizzled he could be? This was like medium grizzle at best."
- "He was in Arthur. And I'm not going to bring up the Zookeeper voice-over. I could, but I'm not going to."
- "Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill had hotter chemistry." (NOTE: **Can't be deployed in same whisper campaign as Jonah Hill Whisper No. 2.**)
- "If we're going to do the 'career achievement' thing, maybe we wait another year or two. We don't want him to feel like he doesn't still have good work left in him."
- "It's totally unfair of me to hold this against him, but doesn't it feel like Morgan Freeman passed on this role? This category's way too strong to vote for a second choice."
- "This is Plummer's year to get a makeup award. Tough break for Max, but that's how the system works."
- "Harvey told me he didn't promise her anything this time, so I can't burn this vote on her."
- "She's beautiful, no doubt. And very talented. We'll be seeing more of her. But that dog took my breath away! That's the story of the Supporting Acting categories, if you ask me."
- "I have this rule: If Bryce Dallas Howard is in the same movie and I can't tell you apart, I can't vote for you. Blame the casting people, fine, but that's how it is."
- "I wanted to get drawn into the performance, I really did. But GOD, every time those enormous stunt-knockers bounced into the frame, it pulled me right out."
- "A fearless, hilarious performance. But wasn't it even MORE fearless to be the one who pooped in the middle of a busy street, instead of the relative safety of a bridal shop sink? Something to think about."
- "I feel like rewarding Melissa McCarthy is somehow penalizing Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne for being too thin. There's this reverse-sizeism thing happening, and it makes me uncomfortable."
- "Oh, so now we're nominating everyone in a movie who does the cross-dressing thing? Got it."
- "The Academy's not quite ready for a cross-dressing sweep. Maybe soon, but not this year. We have more work to do."
- "This is Viola Davis' year. The movie's not strong enough to sweep the acting awards."
- "Look, if there's going to be a pie full of human excrement in the scene, you've GOT to underplay it a little. You can't go big there, you just can't. Let the pie do the work."
- "He was so successful recreating the magic of the silent era that he just reminded me how wonderful modern moviemaking is. So that's one in Scorsese's column, I think."
- "This is just a rumor, so don't hold me to it, but I've heard he directed silent propaganda films in Vichy France. Allegedly Harvey Weinstein bought them all up and had them destroyed. He's only 44? Look, I heard what I heard."
- "I don't want to call it 'Oscar cheating' by casting George Clooney, but you have to admit, it's sort of taking the easy way out there."
- "We should probably hold our votes for Nebraska. It's going to be in black and white, that feels like a slam dunk for the award in a year or two. If anything, there are too many colors in this one."
- "Didn't we just give him a 'lifetime achievement' Oscar for The Departed? I know it's our fault for doing it prematurely, but you can't win two of those. We had no idea a film this awardsy was still coming."
- "After the Woody Allen movie, I was a little too 'Paris-ed out' to fully appreciate this one. There's only so much intoxicating romance a place can handle in a single movie year."
- "He's not going to show up, so why bother?"
- "He's got Original Screenplay locked up. That's pretty good by itself."
- "He's not going to show up, so why bother?"
- "Ugh, if he wins and bothers to show up, he's going to give one of those SUPER BORING speeches about how art isn't a competition and he wants to share it with every person who's ever picked up a camera and tried to make something. [PANTOMIME BLOWING YOUR BRAIN OUT] No way, I'm not sitting through that magnanimous integrity bullshit."
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life