Every year during Oscar voting I make a point of checking in with a member of the producers' branch who sometimes tips me off about potential upsets. He's the perfect academy demo – a smartcracker industry vet in his early 60s, who voted for "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain" for Best Picture and Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") over Viola Davis ("The Help") for Best Actress when most prognostictors were saying "Brokeback" and Davis would win.
Demo Man is not always right. He's a fanatical Republican whose political beliefs are often reflected in his picks. He wouldn't vote, for example, for Sean Penn ("Milk") because he's a "Commie," but everybody knew Penn would win anyway that year.
Here's how Demo Man is voting this year. Be prepared for a few surprises:
Best Picture: "American Hustle"
Best Director: Alexander Payne ("Nebraska") or David O. Russell ("American Hustle") -- he wasn't 100% sure
Best Actor: Christian Bale ("American Hustle")
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine")
Supporting Actor -- hasn't made up his mind yet
Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lawrence ("American Hustle")
Now no one on the planet, not even Christian Bale's mom, thinks Bale is going to win Best Actor, but what's interesting about Demo Man's picks this year is how strongly he likes "American Hustle." Yes, that may be another one of his flukes, a random one this time, but it makes me wonder if Lupita Nyongo is really such a shoo-in to win Supporting, as our Experts' believe, or even – egads – if "Hustle" could break through for Best Picture.
Over the past few days I've heard no other votes for "Hustle" for Best Picture, a few votes for "Slave," one for "Philomena" and one for "Gravity" from academy voters. In the race for Best Actor, I now count two votes for Leo, three for McConaughey, one for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Everybody's voting for Cate Blanchett. I count three votes for Lawrence, two for Nyongo. In the supporting actor race, a few members said they're voting for Leto, but several others, like Demo Man, didn't know who they're picking.