“Birdman” lands in movie theaters as a formidable Oscar contender with strong support from critics (93% at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (A- Cinemascore), too. Happily, it also received a warm welcome when shown to voters at its official academy screening last week.
According to our Experts’ predictions, “Birdman” will reap 10 nominations: Best Picture, Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), Actor (Michael Keaton), Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design and Music Score. Possibly, visual effects, too.
Currently, it’s ahead to win in two races (Best Actor, Cinematography) and is within striking distance (top three slots) in six more: Director, Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Original Screenplay, Editing and even Best Picture.
Keaton has a commanding lead in the Best Actor contest with the backing of 13 pundits out of 22, probably because his backstory is so compelling. Remember, a contender’s “narrative” is often what delivers the Oscar win. For example, a big part of Matthew McConaughey‘s victory last year had nothing to do with his screen turn in “Dallas Buyers’ Club.” Academy members loved his personal story – going from surfer dude to Serious Actor – marking a career redemption, a happy Hollywood ending achieved after enduring years of public ridicule that peaked in 2008 when Stewie sat down next to McConaughey at a diner on “Family Guy” and growled, “You are just awful. You’re one of the worst actors in the history of film and I think you need to go away! You make me physically sick to my stomach and I wish that you would get a heart attack. You suck donkey ass.” Then Stewie killed him with an arrow to the skull.
No one believes Keaton is a bad actor, but, strangely, he was once widely blamed, even ridiculed, for making the opposite career decision as McConaughey. Instead of sticking with commercial films, Keaton famously walked away from the “Batman” franchise in 1992 after making two installments. He hoped to focus on performing in “serious” films, but failed to snag the hot roles.
Now it’s significant that Keaton is back in a role that fearlessly lampoons his own career horror story. It’s a perfect new Oscar narrative that’s personally compelling to the largest academy branch (1,200 actors out of 6,000 members).
It used to be that films about actors and/or Hollywood fared poorly with Oscar voters, but things have changed. Three years ago “The Artist” won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Best Actor, because it so deftly focused on the film industry under siege by change (the threat of new sound flickers in the 1920s vs. the advent of the internet, 3D and mobile devices today).
Curiously, that’s what “Birdman” does, too. It’s an expose of how one desperate actor struggles to stay relevant after making bad career decisions in the turbulent film biz. Movies of exceptional interest to actors can pull off big wins on Oscar night – as “Shakespeare in Love” proved by upsetting “Saving Private Ryan” for Best Picture in 1998.
Can “Birdman” be next? Our Experts rank it third in the Best Picture race behind “Boyhood” and “Unbroken.” Two Gold Derby Experts say it will prevail (Nicole Sperling of Entertainment Weekly and Jeff Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere). Five others put it in second place: Ed Douglas (Comingsoon), Kevin Polowy (Yahoo), Steve Pond (TheWrap) and Glenn Whipp (L.A. Times). See their predictions here.
Who do you think of “Birdman’s” Oscar prospects? Make your early picks now — click here — they impact Gold Derby’s official racetrack odds that give heart attacks to Hollywood execs and stars, so please join the fun. You can change your predix as often as you wish and we encourage frequent tweaks so we can track the latest momentum in the Oscar derby. Best predictions win $1,000 prize. The 24 Users with the best scores advance to a team to compete against our Experts and Editors next year. See who’s in our current Top 24 and their early Oscar predictions. Meet the guy who won our contest to predict Oscar nominations last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. Register/log in to your account so you can also compete to predict the Golden Globes, Grammys, “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Dancing with the Stars” and more.