The Oscar Case For and Against Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

"Boyhood" Los Angeles Special Screening - Arrivals
Believe it or not, we’re only about 72 hours away now away from the Academy Award ceremony folks. Like I said earlier this week, by now we all know that it’s basically a final sprint to the finish between Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. As such, this week I decided to look at the Oscar cases for and against both films, finishing up today with Boyhood. The movie also has taken a rather unique road to the finish line, so it’s an interesting case that can be made for Linklater’s work, no matter what the outcome on Sunday night is. Come with me once more now as we wrap up this final series and look at what’s working for and against a big Oscar night for Boyhood this weekend.

I don’t think any of you are in the dark about the trek that Boyhood has been on to date, but to quickly re-iterate the highlights, it debut to universal acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, instantly establishing itself as an awards contender. Some folks doubted if it could pull off nominations in Best Picture and Best Director, but Best Original Screenplay seemed like a lock for a way to honor Linklater, while supporting players Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke became heavy contenders (even lead Ellar Coltrane and supporting player Lorelei Linklater found themselves with buzz). It opened early in the year to more praise and solid business, keeping itself in the mix all the way until the fall and winter, where it started racking up precursor awards. Boyhood became the go to critics choice in Picture and Director, while Arquette became the all but unbeatable frontrunner in Supporting Actress. For a while it looked like Linklater could win three Academy Awards (Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay), especially after picking up those first two at the Golden Globes. Then, the guilds chimed in and he lost all three, the first two (PGA and DGA) going to Iñárritu and Birdman, while The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness beat him at the WGA ceremony. Now, Boyhood finds itself possibly behind in the big categories, with only days to spare and voting having closed.

Working in favor of the film is the early love that I’m sure voters haven’t forgotten about. There’s also a surefire win for Boyhood with Arquette in Supporting Actress, so it’s not like Academy members are going to be ignoring it completely. Especially if Oscar voters are aware of how many pundits think it’s such a close race, they could very well split their ballot and find a way to honor the directors of all three top tier contenders (Birdman, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel). They could give one Picture, one Director, and one Original Screenplay, more or less sending everyone home happy, especially since it would likely turn into one of multiple wins for each flick. That’s perhaps pie in the sky, but Boyhood isn’t going to get shut out, that’s for sure.

Going against the movie, however, we have those pesky guilds. Historically, when the critical favorite is cakewalking to Best Picture/Best Director and then runs up agains the guilds and doesn’t even take one, that means we have a loser on our hands. Even losing just one or two can change the nature of the game. Just think back to The King’s Speech doing that exact thing to The Social Network. There’s also Avatar falling to The Hurt Locker, and other examples as well. Boyhood also doesn’t quite have the across the board support that Birdman seems to have (it might not even have the same support as The Grand Budapest Hotel, even though it’s more likely to win in Picture and Director), which hurts. The acting branch especially could tip the scales to Birdman. Had Boyhood managed to win either DGA or PGA (hell, even SAG would have helped), I would have seen the split as a pretty likely outcome. Now? Not so much. I’m still considering it, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like Iñárritu’s Birdman is going to beat Linklater’s Boyhood in the two big categories on Sunday night.

Overall, my heart wants to say that Boyhood should still win either Picture or Director, but my head says that it would be an upset now. Oscar night could still go any number of ways, but the least likely outcome now is Linklater and Boyhood emerging victorious in Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. Even just two of them seems to be a long shot, though hardly beyond the realm of consideration. Birdman just seems like a safer bet now. You’ll see what I ultimately decide when I publish my final Academy Award predictions tomorrow, but it’s super tight, regardless. The Oscar race this year has been one for the ages, no doubt about that. No matter the outcome, we as film fans have won, trust me there…

Stay tuned for my final predictions tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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