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Academy Awards behind-the-scenes chatter: Will ‘Argo’ or ‘Lincoln’ win? (+video)

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Everyone assumed Mr. Affleck would be a shoo-in for Best Director, says Stephen Brown, a marketing professional in Atlanta. “He made an outstanding movie, plus he overcame a challenging decade of paparazzi and bad-movie-fueled malaise,” he says via e-mail. Hollywood generally loves to reward talent it discovered when young, he says, pointing to Affleck’s 1998 Oscar for “Good Will Hunting.”

The industry particularly likes the comeback story, Mr. Brown says, adding that in this case, because of the shoo-in assumption and the subsequent snub, many academy voters are seeing a Best Picture Oscar for “Argo.”

But voters do not like to be told what to do, says University of Nebraska film professor Wheeler Winston Dixon, who has many former students in Hollywood. Efforts to sway votes have become particularly aggressive – a phenomenon that seriously ratcheted up in 1999 when producer Harvey Weinstein reportedly shelled out more than $15 million in support of “Shakespeare in Love.”

The academy has since cracked down on splashy spending, banning swanky screening soirees for the roughly 5,800 academy members who vote.

Voting for this year’s Oscars closed Tuesday night. Steven Spielberg, director of “Lincoln,” was reported to have sent handwritten notes to voters, while a commemorative DVD of “Argo” was delivered to academy members.

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