Wow, we’ve got a year, a rarity, when Best Picture is actually a nail-biter. It’s between Boyhood, which won all the critics awards, and Birdman, which won all of the guilds. We’ve also got an example of a year when you can actually sense the shift in momentum. For a few months, as Boyhood was wracking up critics awards, it seemed like the film to beat. But I think Birdman will win.
Why? Remember, there are no critics in the Academy. No film has swept the guild awards (PGA, SAG, and DGA) and not won Best Picture since Apollo 13. And Birdman, like The Artist and Argo, is about the movie business. I’ve heard people that I know who have hated the film, and it’s understandable, since there are no sympathetic characters–it’s a calvacade of narcissists. Well, that pretty much describes Hollywood.
The only catch about Birdman is that it did not get a Best Editing nomination. No film has won Best Picture without it since Ordinary People. But Birdman has a caveat–the film appears to be one long take. That it is not would suggest to me that the editing is quite brilliant, but since it appears to have no edits, maybe that’s why the Editing Branch (which should no better) left it out.
Boyhood amazed everyone with its back-story–filmed in patches over 12 years to show the natural aging of its characters. Richard Linklater has gotten many kudos for his dedication to such a project. But over time, the whispering has become, “Are we voting for the film or the gimmick?” Perhaps industry insiders are looking more at the film than the process. I think it’s a worthy winner but not as strong as many of the other nominees.
Could Linklater win director and Birdman Best Picture? A distinct possibility. It used to be that Picture and Director went to the same film, and a split was a rarity. That is no longer the case. Since the turn of the century, it has happened five times in 14 years, so it is no longer an outlier. But I think Birdman’s director, Alejandro G. Innaritu, will win, simply because he won the DGA, the most reliable predictor of this award.
If there is a dark horse, it might be The Grand Budapest Hotel, which looks to win several “below the line” awards. The Academy has never shown much attention to it’s director, Wes Anderson, before, but it sure embraced him this time. I think Anderson’s best chance is in the Best Original Screenplay category.
What of American Sniper, which has made more money than all of the other films combined? It’s political controversy, plus the fact that director Clint Eastwood was not nominated, would seem to spell doom for it.
The other nominees are along for the ride. The Imitation Game would seem to be a contender–it’s nominated for Best Director (Morten Tyldum) and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Best Actor–but it has gotten no love from any precursor. Perhaps whisper campaigns about historical inaccuracy hurt it. That may have also hurt Selma, which somehow got a Best Picture nomination but nothing else except Best Song. Whiplash is nominate for Best Adapted Screenplay (which I think it will win) but no Best Director, the same for The Theory of Everything.
Lastly, there’s Bennett Miller, who got a Best Director nomination despite the film, Foxcatcher, not getting a nomination. That hasn’t happened since the Academy expanded the number of Best Picture nominees to ten (and now five to ten). Needless to say, Miller doesn’t need to write a speech.