All the Best Picture contenders feel soft on this or that level. I’ve been hearing for a long while that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman is a stone knockout and possibly the most home-runnish of the pack, but mainstreamers sometimes resist brilliance because…I don’t know, they don’t find it reassuring or something. People are weird. Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken — sure, okay, but it has to be about something more than “my God, he survived…what strength, what never-say-die spirit!” I’m sorry but that sounds like a Gregorian chant or a church hymn of some kind. Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar seems soft because Nolan makes brilliant-but-cold films as a rule. J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year seems soft because a 1980s New York-centric Sidney Lumet crime film doesn’t feel Best Picture-ish, or at least “Best Picture-ish” by the standards of the softies who want love, comfort and reflections of their own struggles, longings and fears. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice…too diffuse, too stoned, too late ’60s, too Lewbowski-like?

I know this is embarassing, scattershot bullshit. Somebody stop me. Naah, too late.

Ava Duvernay‘s Selma…quite possibly but there are 250 ways to screw up a movie about the ’60s civil rights movement, and if DuVernay thought of 175 of them before she began shooting she’s a genius. However expertly it unfolds, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl will probably register as too cold and ruthless for a Best Picture contender. Jean Marc Vallee‘s Wild…maybe but what can happen during a long hike except perseverance and the kindness of strangers? James Marsh‘s Theory of Everything — this year’s A Beautiful Mind. Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Children — a little bit of Ron Howard‘s Parenthood mixed in with a sprinkling of Little Children.

The odds favor Birdman ecstasy in Telluride and Toronto, followed by Mark Harris saying “it’s only September, for God’s sake.”