2014 has not been a weak year in my personal book. Okay, maybe a little bit weaker compared to the recent past but you can’t be too lamenting about a lineup that includes Birdman, Citizenfour, The Babadook, Wild Tales, A Most Violent Year, Boyhood, Leviathan, Gone Girl, A Most Wanted Man, Nightcrawler, Locke, The Drop, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Edge of Tomorrow, Omar, etc. But in award-season terms it seems “weak” because the lazy Academy default crowd (the people who look to TheWrap‘s Steve Pond to interpret and explain and defend their aesthetic convictions to the outside world) feel that the 2014 season is lacking in Big Commanding Emotional Gushers, and so they’re kind of flailing around and going “yeah, sort of but not quite…I was hoping for more…where’s the Big Gorilla?…I kinda like that film but my friends don’t” and so on.
And so in this weak or somewhat pallid climate it’s entirely possible and perhaps even probable that a soft favorite like Boyhood could take the Best Picture Oscar at the end of the day. And that would be, in a certain sense, delightful. A little movie from IFC Films taking a bow in front of billions. A little Richard Linklater movie that’s not as good, really, as Before Midnight becoming “big” because of its family values essence and the stunt of shooting a kid’s life over a 12-year span, and despite the fact that it feels more like a series of short films than a truly fluid and unified whole, even though it’s obviously unified and flowing in so many impossible-to-ignore-or-deny ways. So it really could be Boyhood, especially given that my personal favorite, Birdman, has been meeting with resistance from women all along the trail. It’s clearly the only breathtaking film in Best Picture contention, but when people decide they’re going to be mule-stubborn about something there’s no stopping them.
Given the general consensus that 2014 is a “weak” year, I’ve been telling myself that if this or that major-leaguer from the last five years had been released this year it would be wiping the floor with the other contenders outside of Birdman and Gone Girl. If Zero Dark Thirty had been released this year and if the “no torture depiction” bullshit from the Stalinist Left had been vigorously pushed back by aggressive counter-marketing it would easily be the 2014 movie to beat….way ahead of everything else. Ditto The Fighter. Ditto The Social Network, Black Swan, Silver Linings Playbook, Moneyball, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and Before Midnight. Others? Thoughts?