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Poll: Can Annette Bening pull off an Oscar upset?

February 11, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Kids are all right 1

Last night I was flabbergasted when an Academy member told me who he's picking for lead actress: Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right"). He's not just any voter. He's a member of the producers' branch who almost always goes with the winner. He has backed all of the underdogs who ended up winning in recent years -– "Crash," Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton -– so, at this point, I've learned to take his ballot very seriously when he tattles ahead of time. But, come on! Could he possibly be right again when most pundits say Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") will prevail?

Well, not all pundits are picking Portman. Some savvy naysayers include Peter Travers (Rolling Stone). And Bening does have some big advantages. She plays gay, which helped Sean Penn ("Milk") and Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia") to win in the past. She's overdue (three past losses) and she's the ultimate industry insider -– she's a member of the Academy's Board of Governors.

Furthermore, Bening has been campaigning vigorously in the home stretch. Read our Awards Tracker report detailing her stops along the derby track.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what else this Oscar voter is checking off on his ballot, here goes: "The King's Speech" (best picture), David Fincher (director), Colin Firth (lead actor), Christian Bale (supporting actor), Melissa Leo (supporting actress).

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Focus Features