Oscars Best Picture battle: From ‘Boyhood’ to ‘Birdman’ … and back?

Boy oh “Boyhood,” for the past few days I’ve been trying to search for clarity in the Oscars race for Best Picture.

Boyhood” started as the early frontrunner winning the critics’ awards. Then “Birdman” took flight claiming the top prize from PGA, SAG and DGA and scoring at a slew of other guilds as well. Important gongs for the challenger, because these groups represent many branches of the academy. But then “Boyhood” rallied at the BAFTAs, which could be telling as there is a sizable British contigent among Oscar voters. 

In one corner, a film that shows the struggles and joys of a boy embarking on a journey to the beginning adulthood. In the other, a film about a man at the end of a career reflecting on the life he’s left behind. It’s a boy taking on a man; both trying to find meaning and hope at opposite ends of their lives. It’s a showdown perfect for a Hollywood that has a propensity to not just celebrate youth but also a good comeback story.

And it’s a showdown that has our Experts divided: 17 predict “Birdman” while a dozen are going with “Boyhood.” So which will win? 

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in 24 categories

The problem with a close race like this is you can find precursors to justify either taking the top prize and you can find records or stats to argue against either prevailing. But the facts are these — no record is unbreakable and no precursor is a lock.

At the end of the day, I’m banking on “Boyhood” and here’s why:

1. In a close race, I always go with the more sentimental film as with recent champs “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) and “The King’s Speech” (2010). Oscar voters love their heart strings tugged and “Boyhood” does that as we watch these children grow up. “Birdman,” while brilliant (and it is brilliant!), is a cynical film with less likable characters. Two such dour films without happy endings that have prevailed in recent years have been “No Country for Old Men,” which was largely competing against similar fare in 2007, and 2006’s “The Departed,” which had a criminally overdue Martin Scorsese at the helm.

2. Being filmed over the course of 12 years gives “Boyhood” a hook that makes it feel special. Much as being a black and white silent film helped “The Artist” stand out in the crowd.

See Oscar rankings when Experts’ predictions are combined

3. And “Boyhood” is more likely to benefit from the preferential ballot. In such a close race it is unlikely any film will receive enough votes initially, which means the least popular nominee’s ballots will be redistributed. “Boyhood” has broaded appeal and even if it does not have quite as many #1 votes as “Birdman,” it is more likely to be people’s second or third choice.

Make your Oscars picks now — click here — or scroll down to predict the Best Picture winner using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Best predictions will win $1,000 prize. And 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 this 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 Indie Spirits, Razzies, “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and more.

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