With the Best Picture Oscar nearly in the bag for Birdman, this morning I wrote the usual Oscarologists a question many didn’t want to hear. Who has attempted an honest, warts-and-all, what-really-happened explanation about why so many Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby-ites predicted a Boyhood Best Picture victory for so many months? Me: “Some of you have to ask yourself and your Boyhood brethren, ‘Were we just smelling our own asses the whole time or was there something out there that seriously conveyed that Boyhood was a winning horse?”
This morning Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil and I discuss the current state of Oscar-releated mea culpas and second thoughts in the wake of the Birdman surge.
Only three responded to my letter — Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil (with whom I recorded a 25-minute discussion” about an hour ago) Variety critic Scott Foundas and an entertainment journalist who asked for anonymity.
But first, an excerpt from an “oh, fuck it, fine…Birdman wins!” piece posted this morning by Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, a longtime Boyhood ally who is basically ascribing the popularity of Birdman to old-boy industry narcissism, which is an idea advanced earlier this month by Grantland‘s Mark Harris.
Stone: “Somehow, Birdman became the little movie that could that industry voters liked and Boyhood became the MEAN OLD FRONTRUNNER easily taken down as multitudes of men chanted quietly, to each other, ‘If you take out the 12 years thing it isn’t anything special.’ [But] to my mind, if you take out the camera trickery in Birdman you essentially have a very good stage play. Back in the 1980s that wouldn’t have been thought of as cinema but in 2015, it’s the closest thing show people have to seeing the selves they recognize and like.”
Foundas: “My own modest money, in a race I don’t really care about, is still on Boyhood for the win, with Inarritu winning best director (and not original screenplay, which seems the prime place to award the overdue Wes Anderson). Feels like last year at this time we were having more or less this same exact conversation, except Birdman was called Gravity and Boyhood was called 12 Years a Slave. Ironically, the literally translated title of Boyhood in Romania is 12 Years a Boy.”
Anonymous guy: “My perception is that Birdman only really turned the corner in the post-Oscar nominations phase. Thinking back to December or early January, things looked to me much more open and the strong word-of-mouth and simple staying power of Boyhood is what made it seem the likelier winner. Birdman at that point still felt polarizing. I can’t explain the sudden move toward it, except that it has something to do with the recent Artist/Argo move toward stories about Hollywood. I keep thinking about what Mark Harris said, that Boyhood is the kind of art the characters in Birdman wish they could create.” Wells interjection: Please!
Deadline‘s Pete Hammond: “With all the Guild results now in except for Costume Designers, does [this] mean Birdman is a sure thing for Oscar? No — this is still too tight a race and voting has been coming in extremely late this year. Oddly, when talking to members — some even casting their ballots as we speak — I don’t get a unanimous verdict on anything. Whiplash, in fact, remains the mentioned movie with those I talk to. One Academy member said, ‘It would be AMAZING if Whiplash wins. There will be many stroke victims in the audience’. This member voted for it across the board. And despite the guilds, that pair of triple BAFTA wins for both Boyhood and Whiplash carry significant weight.”
HE belief/suspicion: Boyhood-supporting journalists genuinely believed Richard Linklater‘s film was the richer, fuller, deeper achievement, and for months and months they stuck with their pony because they decided to stick with it. Period. They claimed or at least implied they were reading industry tea leaves, but in fact they were more or less doing what I do — picking a favorite based on personal aesthetic criteria.
Again, the O’Neil/Wells mp3.