E: Looks like there’s a little uncertainty left in this year’s awards race! Here were all were thinking that the BAFTA — Britain’s Academy Awards — would put the nail in Boyhood‘s coffin, would prove it to be 2015’s version of The Social Network, and show us definitively that Birdman had almost inexplicably won the love of every guild and would sweep the Oscars. And what happens? Boyhood, virtually given up for dead, nabs BAFTA’s best director and best picture. Don’t let my brother and his talk of American Sniper‘s box office ascendancy fool you; this is the race right here. And with all the major precursor awards given, there’s no saying which way Oscar’s going to go.
It’s a little less clear why this is so. Boyhood has dominated the critics groups, and that type of movie rarely wins best picture; all season I’ve been looking for the film that would replace it, thinking perhaps epic Selma or cerebral British dramas The Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game. Sure, the whole “filmed over 12 years/labor of love” headline is a compelling one, but is this gentle film really writ large enough for Oscar? On the other hand, Birdman‘s the type of backstage story about the Artistic process and Artistic integrity (and the lack there of) that actors love, but that’s not generally the type of film that wins best picture, either: you tend to get a more popular beast, something more sentimental and accessible that audiences will enjoy like The King’s Speech or A Beautiful Mind. Mostly Oscar-winning films are crowd-pleasers or something that screams Important Cinema, like 12 Years a Slave and Schindler’s List. Birdman just doesn’t fit either bill. Though I can’t explain it’s rise, however, there’s no denying that it’s a top contender for the big prize.
Perhaps, like last year, we’ll see a split between director and film. Two years ago, Ben Affleck’s snub in director guaranteed his film the best picture win but put Ang Lee over the top for the directing prize. Last year, though 12 Years was a shoe-in to win best picture, voters couldn’t resist showing their love for Alfonso Cuaron’s effects marvel Gravity by giving him the direction prize. Perhaps this year Richard Linklater will get rewarded for his lengthy commitment to Boyhood without the film itself taking the big prize; I don’t think we can even be sure once the winning director takes the stage just which picture will triumph. And there’s a lot of fun in that.
BAFTA did give us a little bit of clarity, though. Michael Keaton, veteran though he be, seems destined to make way for fresh faced Eddie Redmayne losing his body to the ravages of ALS. Much as Hollywood loves a good comeback story (and Keaton’s is almost embarrassingly on the nose) they’re just as fond of physical transformations. After taking home the SAG and the BAFTA, Redmayne has to be considered the frontrunner. He may not be a prohibitive favorite like Arquette, Simmons or Moore, but he’s almost as inevitably got his fingers locked around the award. Will it stay a fight until the end? I can’t wait to see.