I wish I had better news for you, “Boyhood” fans, but it looks like “Birdman” will win best picture at the Oscars this weekend. But it’ll be close.
The Oscars, distributed by a group of movie industry members known collectively as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), largely fits within a framework of other industry awards. And although nearly every critics group in the country has given their top prize to “Boyhood,” the industry’s awards up till now have pointed to “Birdman.” It’s won the top prizes from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild, the three industry unions that tend to point to the Oscar’s best picture winner the most.
But “Boyhood” has two aces up its sleeve: One, it won best picture and best director at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, the British version of the Oscars, which also has a significant crossover in membership. And two, “Birdman” isn’t nominated for best editing, the category in which the winner frequently matches with the best picture winner. No movie has won best picture without a best editing nomination since “Ordinary People” 34 years ago.
But rules are meant to be broken — “Argo” was only the fourth movie to win best picture without a best director nomination. And so “Birdman” will win and “Boyhood” will join the long list of masterpieces that did not win an Oscar for best picture. And that’s okay.
In close races like this one, there could be a split between the best picture and best director winner, which usually go to the same movie. Last year, for example, Alfonso Cuaron won the best director award for “Gravity,” while “12 Years a Slave” won best picture. The same could happen here, but I don’t think it will. “Birdman’s” stylistic flourish puts the director front and center. It’s a movie about show business, which AMPAS loves, and it’s about a director and actor. It makes a statement about directing itself, and I don’t think that will go unnoticed. Alejandro G. Inarritu will win, following Cuaron, his BFF.
Will Michael Keaton win for best actor? His character in “Birdman” is about acting, and AMPAS enjoys giving its vanity mirror awards. But Eddie Redmayne has won most precursor awards, so he’ll win here. Keaton has a good shot, though — he’s won his fair share of awards, and he’s been game on the campaign circuit. Bradley Cooper also has a good shot at winning for “American Sniper.” It got an unexpectedly large amount of nominations, indicating support in the Academy, and burned up the box office.
Where else will “Birdman” win? Certainly for cinematography, the flashiest, most compelling component of the movie. Emmanuel Lubezki won for his seamless, incredibly long and beautiful shots last year for “Gravity,” and he outdid himself with “Birdman.”
For best actress, expect Julianne Moore to win for “Still Alice.” As with Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything,” it’s an extraordinary performance in an otherwise unremarkable movie, but Moore’s done better than everyone else at the precursors, and she still hasn’t won a best actress Oscar despite four previous nominations.
Best original screenplay is a tight race between “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” “Boyhood’s” screenplay is a titanic accomplishment, but as with Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, votes might mistakenly think the movie is improvised rather than carefully thought out. AMPAS loves stories in old European settings, but they love stories about show business even more, so I’d give the edge to “Birdman.”
There are two categories in which “Boyhood” is in the lead. Patricia Arquette is a standout in the movie as Mason’s mother, and an Oscar should cap a very long and successful awards season for her. Editing 12 years of footage is a massive accomplishment, and “Boyhood” will likely win the contest for that category, especially in “Birdman’s” absence.
Some pundits think “Whiplash” will win the editing contest for its fast-paced formalist shape. It might, but far more certain is a win for J.K. Simmons as best supporting actor. Like Arquette, he’s swept virtually all precursors for his category, and he gets extra points for starring in “The Rewrite.”
Expect “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to do well in the crafts categories. Remarkably, it received the most nominations (at nine, tied with “Birdman”), despite being released in March. The production design and costumes are immaculate and essential to establishing the movie’s fully imagined world, so expect wins there. It stands a good shot for best score, too, but “Theory of Everything” stands out more on that front. And how long did it take you to realize that old woman was Tilda Swinton? It should have no problem winning makeup and hairstyling as well.
Along with a good shot for Bradley Cooper for best actor, “American Sniper” will probably win both sound categories, where war movies tend to do well, and where it’s always a good bet to pick the movie that’s also nominated for best picture. In sound mixing, though, “Whiplash” is a potential spoiler.
Even though “The Imitation Game” has eight nominations, the only place in which it’s likely to win is for best adapted screenplay, which is unfortunate, because it’s about the life of a fascinating person — Alan Turing — and completely misrepresents him while simultaneously demonstrating the most boring parts of his life. “Whiplash” has been well received in this category as well, and hopefully it’ll win.
Best picture: “Birdman”
Best director: Alejandro G. Inarritu, “Birdman”
Best actor: Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”
Best actress: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Best supporting actress: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Best adapted screenplay: “The Imitation Game”
Best original screenplay: “Birdman”
Best animated feature: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
Best foreign film: “Ida”
Best documentary feature: “Citizenfour”
Best editing: “Boyhood”
Best cinematography: “Birdman”
Best costume design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Best makeup and hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Best production design: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Best score: “The Theory of Everything”
Best original song: “Selma”
Best sound editing: “American Sniper”
Best sound mixing: “American Sniper”
Best visual effects: “Guardians of the Galaxy”