Contender Countdown: The tough Best Picture call between 'Boyhood' and 'Birdman'

Posted by · 11:30 pm · February 12th, 2015

Well, we've got another barn burner on our hands people. Final voting for the 87th Academy Awards is well underway and this year's Best Picture race is far from settled. Or is it? Excuse me, feeling deja vu. I believe we went through something similar to this last year.

In one corner, we have indie darling “Boyhood,” Richard Linklater's 12-year achievement which has won most of the major critics' honors and took home the BAFTA award for Best Film last Sunday night. In the other corner is Alejandro González Iñárritu's “Birdman,” another critically-acclaimed drama which has taken home the three key guild honors: the Producers Guild Award, the Directors Guild Award and the Best Ensemble honor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

If you were to play the analytics game, the easy pick would be “Birdman.” No film has won all three guild honors and lost the Oscar for Best Picture since “Apollo 13” in 1996. And, as HitFix's own Kris Tapley has dully noted, that was a time when voting stretched into March (the telecast was on March 27 that year), giving more time for voters to ponder their favorites than the much shorter balloting period today. It also was a year where “Apollo 13's” helmer, Ron Howard, wasn't nominated for Best Director, a nomination seen as a “must” for a Best Picture win until “Argo” upset the apple cart.

For a more contemporary example of how this race could play out, we may only have to turn back the clock to last year. While “12 Years a Slave” dominated most of the critics' groups honors, it didn't dominate the guilds. “American Hustle” won for ensemble, “Gravity” and “12 Years” somehow tied for the PGA and then “Gravity's” Alonso Cuarón took the Directors Guild honor. With too much anecdotal evidence of Academy members saying they didn't even watch “12 Years,” many pundits, including both myself and Tapley, picked “Gravity” to win. And, after dominating most of the night, it lost. Something suggests that history may be repeating itself.  

Academy members have watched “Boyhood.” They have supported it through the guild nomination process and the Oscars nomination process. When they sit down and cast their votes, something suggests they are going to remember the critical adoration the film has received (a very rare 100 grade on Metacritic) and the fact that it took Linklater over a decade to make it. As Charles Barkley would likely say, “Analytics are crap. 'Boyhood's' gonna win.”

Unless it doesn't.

Here's your penultimate Contender Countdown for the 2015 Oscar season.

February 13, 2015

1. “Boyhood”
See “12 Years a Slave” last year.

2. “Birdman”
See “Gravity” last year.

3. “American Sniper”
The movie is clearly a public “phenomenon,” but is there enough Academy momentum to win it all? We're not so sure…

4. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Could still shock thanks to the preferential ballot (and it would be a major one), but the win here will be if Wes Anderson takes home the Original Screenplay Oscar.

5. “The Imitation Game”
Has the Alan Turing drama gone from potential Best Picture winner to this year's “Up in the Air?” It's possible…

6. “Selma”
$50 million is within reach at the domestic box office, but there has to be a bitter taste in the mouths of producers Plan B and director Avu DuVernay regarding what can only be described as a disappointing awards campaign.

7. “The Theory of Everything”
Won't leave the Dolby Theater empty handed. The question is whether Eddie Redmayne takes home the Best Actor Oscar or not.

8. “Whiplash”
The underdog that did it on screeners and industry word of mouth. Could still end up with four Oscars by the end of the night, though (Sound Mixing, Editing, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay).  

Who do you think is going to win Best Picture? Vote in our poll and share your thoughts below.

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