Yesterday In Contention‘s Kris Tapley assessed the out-of-the-blue Birdman surge and the apparently strong likelihood that Alejandro G. Innaritu‘s film has the Best Picture Oscar in the bag. It’s an astute piece but some assertions/observations need addressing.
Assertion #1: “No one was really expecting this of Birdman, and boom, there it is.” True — I had been urging people to vote for Birdman all along but I wasn’t expecting a PGA or SAG win. I had more or less wilted and accepted the Boyhood-is-all-but-inevitable theology…and then lo and behold!
Assertion #2: “I’ve always sensed some softness in the Boyhood steamroller.” Indeed — it’s been soft all along. I sensed that softness as I watched and absorbed Boyhood at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, but tea-leaf readers kept insisting it had the Best Picture goods, and after a while most of us started to think, “Hmmm, yeah, maybe it does…okay, fine.”
Assertion #3: “[As] we in the media put films on those pedestals by talking about them in terms of being ‘the frontrunner’, any bellyaching [about] a Boyhood fall from grace is rich. People fooled themselves into thinking The Social Network was unstoppable in 2010. To say it for the umpteenth time, critics don’t have a vote here.” How many charter members of the Boyhood-is-all-but-inevitable gang have stood up and said, “Okay, I guess I wasn’t reading enough tea leaves”? Success has a hundred fathers but failure is always an orphan. Which is not to suggest that Boyhood “failed” per se, or that Strategy’s Cynthia Swartz didn’t do an excellent job. It was just out-flanked.
Assertion #4: “So what we have is a compelling race, to say the least. And if Clint Eastwood or Morten Tyldum or Wes Anderson win the DGA…well, bedlam. Oscar ballots don’t go out until Friday, 2.6, the day before the DGA Awards. So that DGA winner could be an influential piece of the puzzle this year. And we could end up with a nail-biter all the way up until the moment the Best Picture envelope seal is cracked. Just like last year.” I don’t think so. I think we had a compelling race until last weekend.