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You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum…

At the moment, as I predicted in It’s O-S-C-A-R!, Boyhood is far ahead of the pack as the odds-on favorite to take home the Best Picture trophy on February 22. Next in the running with bookmakers are Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, each with nine nominations to Boyhood’s six. Since frontrunner status often gives films an edge in other categories, and two of these are already available on DVD, I’ve decided to focus on them first to see how they stack up against each other. In later posts, I will look more closely at individual categories as I fill out my Oscar Blitz scorecard.

Oddly enough, there is less overlap than one might think in the nominations of these films. Yes, all three are up for Best Picture, Directing, and Original Screenplay, but then things diverge wildly.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the only one nominated for Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, and Original Score. Of those, I’d say Production Design is the most likely, followed by Makeup and Hairstyling (if the Academy chooses Budapest’s hairstyling over Guardians of the Galaxy’s makeup). The others are possibilities but Budapest has serious competition in each of the categories, including composer Alexandre Desplat competing against himself with the score of The Imitation Game. Let’s hope Desplat finally pulls one out this time because he is quickly becoming the Roger Deakins of the Original Score category. Personally, I was bored by Budapest, but it certainly is a very pretty film.

The many looks of The Grand Budapest Hotel

The many looks of The Grand Budapest Hotel

Remarkably, Budapest had no acting nominations, which does not bode well for its chances overall since actors make up the largest voting bloc of the Academy and they gave this film no love at nomination time. Of course, that may just be because anyone and everyone seems to be in it and so it was difficult to single someone out, or maybe, like me, it was hard for people to see any acting under all the quirk. But the film did just win a Golden Globe so maybe people will give it a second look.

In the Film Editing category, Budapest is up against Boyhood’s Sandra Adair where I think it loses easily. In addition to Budapest not being paced well at all, the footage from Boyhood’s unique filming schedule (39 days over twelve years) must have required some heavy lifting on the part of the editor. While I was dreading Boyhood’s lengthy running time (165 minutes), I have to admit I didn’t feel it at all. Furthermore, while editing is one branch of the academy that has not been an exclusive boys club over the years, this year’s lack of female nominees in general may also give Adair an edge with the Academy voters overall. A girl can dream.

The boyhood of Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

The boyhood of Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood

For Cinematography, Boyhood is not in the running, but Birdman is, and there too I think that Budapest comes out on the losing side. Robert Yeoman has worked on some great films (shout out to The Heat!) and I would be happy if he won, but Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Birdman is exceptional. However, Lubezki did just win for Gravity so that might work against him there. [Side note: I’m sure it goes without saying that I want Roger Deakins to take this, but Unbroken did not get much Academy love, so I’m sure he’ll get the shaft yet again.]

In both the supporting acting categories, Birdman and Boyhood are going up against each other. J.K. Simmons, who won the Golden Globe for Whiplash, is heavily favored for Supporting Actor, while Patricia Arquette, who also won a Golden Globe, is heavily favored for her supporting role as the mother in Boyhood. Last night, both also took home the Screen Actors Guild award for these roles. I haven’t seen Whiplash yet, but I think it’s a shame that Ethan Hawke isn’t really in the running here. He does a great job in Boyhood, injecting much needed energy into every scene he’s in. That’s not to say the supporting players from Birdman weren’t also stellar, Edward Norton and Emma Stone are superb in their roles, but they aren’t really the type of roles that get you a little golden man. However, the Birdman crew did take home a SAG award last night for Best Ensemble so I suppose you never know. In any case, Michael Keaton is heavily favored for his leading role in Birdman.

Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane read Harry Potter in Boyhood

Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane read Harry Potter in Boyhood

Michael Keaton is haunted by his alter ego in Birdman

Michael Keaton is haunted by his alter ego in Birdman

Birdman is also up for both sound awards. Of the two, I think it has a better chance at Sound Mixing than Sound Editing. American Sniper and Interstellar are also up for both awards and seem much more likely candidates, with a slight edge going to Interstellar due to the controversy around American Sniper.

For the reasons outlined above, and based on my own viewing, I think either Birdman or Boyhood could take home Best Picture and/or Directing. It is hard to pick between them because they are two very different films. Birdman is a director’s film whose subject matter should appeal to Oscar voters so I think it is a real contender for either award. Birdman is more obviously artsy and intellectual, but it wears that pedigree on its sleeve; Boyhood is a much subtler achievement—although the film seems to just happen, it must have taken incredible planning and thought, especially to establish the many time cues that guide you through the film.

Ultimately, the heartwarming nature of Boyhood may carry the day and it may be that Iñárritu simply takes home Best Original Screenplay as a consolation prize with the other two big awards going to Linklater and Boyhood. Given the nature of the project, I don’t think Boyhood will win for Original Screenplay. And I don’t see Budapest winning over either of these films in any of these categories (unless for some reason Boyhood gets entirely shut out and the “consolation” writing award goes to Wes Anderson, but I really can’t imagine that happening).

While you might think Birdman (or Budapest for that matter) has the edge in the Best Picture race because it has nine nominations to Boyhood‘s six, it is important to note that since the Academy moved up the date of the Oscar ceremony the nomination leader has only won Best Picture a third of the time.* However, none of these movies was released late in the year so maybe that will affect the usual pattern.

In sum, not fully factoring in the other films just yet, I think we’ll likely see Budapest pick up two trophies, Birdman three, and Boyhood four.

All in all, I don’t think there are any undeserved nominations here, nor do I feel like there were any egregious oversights. All three of these films are very personal visions that were well executed. My favorite is probably Birdman, but there was so much to unpack in that film that I really want to see it again before rendering a final verdict. That said, would I be unhappy to see Boyhood sweep? A film that ends in a national park? Are you kidding me? [Note: This does not apply to any past or future projects directed by Terrence Malick.]

Lights! Camera! Action! More lights! Birdman!

Lights! Camera! Action! More lights! Birdman!

You can see a full list of the Oscar nominations here.



*In contrast to the previous two decades, when the nomination leader won the Best Picture award eighteen out of twenty years.

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