Oscars showdown: Will ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Birdman’ split Best Picture and Director?

On her Facebook page, Susan Wloszczyna — one of Gold Derby’s experts — recently posted the following: “Call me a cock-eyed optimist or simply stupid, but I still believe that Boyhood could take best pic and Birdman the directing prize.”

I haven’t known Susan to be either cock-eyed or stupid, and she may get her wish on Feb. 22. She is in good company. At the moment, her Gold Derby panelmates are about evenly split between Birdman” and “Boyhood” for Best Picture while two-thirds of them have Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu winning the directing award.

UPDATED: Experts’ Oscars predictions in all 24 categories

But as I commented below Susan’s post, I think her best case scenario is backwards. If “Boyhood” is to win an Oscar in addition to the one virtually ceded to Patricia Arquette, it will go to Richard Linklater for his direction. There is a lot of passion out there for “Boyhood,” but however you feel about it — and by you, I mean academy voters — the singular achievement of bringing it to the screen is what has to be acknowledged.

Michael Apted’s amazing “Up” series of documentaries, following British school children septenially from ages seven to. . .well, they are now in their mid-50s and he’s still tracking them, is more ambitious in scope. But Apted hasn’t had to get his cast of characters to perform for him and he hasn’t had to mold his footage into a cohesive story. Also, he could lose one or more of his 14 original kids – as he has from time to time — and not have to close down shop. If something had happened to Ellar Coltrane, who ages from five to 18 while playing the title character in “Boyhood,” the current Oscar talk would center around “Birdman,” “American Sniper” and maybe “Whiplash.”

The story of “Boyhood” is not the one told in the movie, but the one surrounding it, the one that has been told and retold more times than the film has been shown. The star of that story, the creative person who conceived it, sold it, and made it happen is Linklater and though he would probably prefer to win Oscars for writing and producing as well as directing — hell, he may! — film people are most likely to see “Boyhood” as a director’s realized dream.

Wloszczyna, like nearly every journalist who weighed in when the picture was released in August, seems to genuinely love “Boyhood” on its merits as a movie. I don’t want to say that their reaction to it was inspired by the then fresh story behind it, but I also wonder if it wasn’t. A 100% rating on Metacritic, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes? You’d think “Boyhood” was the spawn of “Citizen Kane” and “Anna Karenina.”

See Oscar rankings when Experts’ predictions are combined

It is a hell of an accomplishment and, because of its time-lapsed imagery, as mesmerizing to watch as a hypnotist’s broach. But one of the greatest movies ever made, or even the greatest last year, it is not. For me and I believe for most of those academy voters, the hypnosis only partically succeeds, the part where the message is “You will vote for Richard Linklater, you will vote. . .”

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