Oscars: 12 Reasons ‘Boyhood’ Is the Frontrunner for Best Picture


In the race for best picture of the year, the first three prizes were a draw between “Boyhood” (New York Film Critics Circle), “Birdman” (Gotham Awards) and “A Most Violent Year” (National Board of Review). But these scattered results only play to the advantage of “Boyhood,” Richard Linklater’s paean to growing up that was 12 years in the making. Here are 12 reasons why “Boyhood” will probably be the best picture winner at the Academy Awards next February.

(1) The Early Frontrunner Theory
In Oscar seasons with no late-breaking favorite, the early frontrunner wins by default (see 2006’s “The Departed,” 2009’s “The Hurt Locker” and 2012’s “Argo”). “It’s a s—ty year for the Oscars, like it was a s—ty year at the box office,” says a member of the Academy, talking about this year’s race. The fact that “Unbroken,” “Selma” and “The Imitation Game” are all opening at around the same time, to some acclaim but without the kind of universal support that made “Million Dollar Baby” the 2004 champ, will help “Boyhood.”

(2) The Reviews Were Great
The critics and Oscars don’t always line up, but strong reviews can help sway voters. “Boyhood” opened in July to a 99-percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and a perfect score on Metacritic. No other best picture nominee will be able to top that.

(3) The Weighted Ballot

Since the Oscars expanded the best picture race to up to 10 nominees in 2010, the ballots in this category are now counted differently — based on a plurality, not a majority. Voters are asked to rank their choices, so if a single movie doesn’t get 50 percent of the vote, they can throw out the last-place finisher and keep tabulating until one picture crosses that threshold. As a result, the most-liked film (“Argo”) wins over movies that are more divisive (like “Birdman”). “Boyhood” has widespread fans. The ballots that don’t rank it as No. 1 will probably list it as No. 2 or No. 3.

(4) The Best Behind-the-Scenes Story
When it comes to Oscar voting, the narrative of the making of the best-picture winner can be as important as the movie itself. Richard Linklater toiled for 12 years, making a single movie on a shoestring budget. It’s fun to hear stories about how he and his cast — Ellar Coltrane (who was 6 when he landed the role), Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette — shot the Obama scenes, for example, while Obama was still running for president, knowing full well they were capturing a moment of history in a capsule. Which brings us to…

(5) The Most Likeable on the Campaign Trail
In a year with so many biopics, some of the Oscar lunches have been sounding like history class. But not the “Boyhood” actors, who really come across as lovable family members as a result of spending so much time together. And their affection for each other is contagious. On Monday afternoon, at a Peggy Siegal gathering on the Upper East Side, Patricia Arquette was more excited about Richard Linklater’s award from the New York Film Critics Circle than her own prize for best supporting actress.

(6) Richard Linklater Will Win Best Director
Even though Oscar nominations haven’t been announced yet, the closest thing to a sure bet is that Richard Linklater will win the Oscar for best director for “Boyhood.” In the last 10 years, best picture and best director have gone to the same film seven times — two exceptions, strangely, involved Ang Lee (for 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain” and 2012’s “Life of Pi”); and last winter there was a split between Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) and “12 Years a Slave.” Nevertheless, a Linklater win in director boosts the odds of a “Boyhood” sweep on Oscar night.

(7) It Was an Indie Box Office Hit
One of the concerns about “Boyhood’s” early Oscar odds was if the movie could make enough money. It has — $24 million for IFC isn’t astronomical, but it’s better than the grosses of “The Hurt Locker” ($17 million domestically). This is going to be another year in which indie films dominate the best picture race, so it makes sense for a limited release to win the best picture prize.

(8) “The Imitation Game” Might Suffer from Deja Vu
Perhaps the biggest obstacle in “Boyhood’s” path is the Alan Turing drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, backed by the Weinstein Co. It’s never wise to underestimate Harvey. But “The Imitation Game” might be a little too on-the-nose for a best picture victory. It feels so similar in tone to “The King’s Speech,” Academy voters might feel like they’ve already been down that road before.

(9) Tearjerker Factor
If a movie makes you cry, it triumphs at the Oscars.

(10) Relatability
The universality of the film’s themes won’t be lost on Oscar voters. At the event this week, Patricia Arquette explained: “Having been the daughter of a mother who is already gone, you can no longer apologize for taking it for granted.” And Ethan Hawke said that the positive reception for the film is proof that “we must like our life more than we let on.”

(11) It Deserves to Win

New York Times critic Manohla Dargis was correct in calling “Boyhood” a “masterpiece.” And on second viewing, “Boyhood” plays just as powerfully, thanks to the nuances in storytelling and performances.

(12) Even Joyce Carol Oates Loves “Boyhood.”
There have been a handful of celebrity moderators at this year’s Q&A’s (George Stephanopoulos did “Unbroken,” and Anderson Cooper will be stumping for “American Sniper”). And IFC tirelessly retweeted all the well-known names who tweeted that they loved the movie. But perhaps the greatest coup of awards season was getting the celebrated novelist to moderate a lunch with the cast. “I think we all thought we were looking at real life,” Oates said. “It was startling to learn it was written.”

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  1. GarryB says:

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  2. Michael Jones says:

    Emotion is great. It is great to be emotionally attached to a film. I think it is great if someone loves Boyhood. It’s great if you are touched! But reality is also important. Any honest person knows deep down that Boyhood has poor writing, poor cinematography, so-so acting overall, rushed direction (not Linklater’s fault), A gigantic editing accomplishment. But barely any Boyhood fan acknowledges the real problems with Boyhood, Sick Drunk Fathers beating up women, paranoid control freak Father scene, DRUNK driving endangering children. Political PANDERING – disparaging remarks about Presidents – Poor, poor taste. NOT BEST PICTURE material. I hope everyone gets something positive out of the flick, but please don’t push this Best Picture idea. Being emotionally touched by some parts of a movie doesn’t miraculously or magically change all the sub-par issues into gold. It boils down to WRITING – it always does. Emotion doesn’t reinvent reality. Is there anyone out there who was touched by ‘Boyhood’ who can honestly address the real issues and stop the brainwashed talking points?

  3. Not to rain on the Indie parade but the only thing I get is that it’ll be another year of nobody cares and everybody will forget who the winner was within 48 hours of the ceremony.

  4. Kobe says:

    Boyhood = 80s Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 90s Ang Lee. Linklater “grows up”, at last?

  5. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Ok, here is the big falsity. A.I. the original within development Stanley Kubrick was “Film Aging” a boy. His untimely demise killed that idea. Somewhere is a few years of footage. I make this statement because a dozen friends argued that this process was a first on Boyhood. They are right in a completed film but wrong that nobody had tried this difficult process before. jv

  6. Henry James says:

    Boyhood is one of the worst movies I saw in 2014. How could this film win the Oscar for Best Picture?

  7. randy marsh says:

    You are right Boyhood will win, but only becouse it was done for 12 years not. But Birdman should win, not this crap! (It feels like watching a Disney channal movie!) The only one from Boyhood that deserves an award is Patricia Arquette. Well at least Birdman will probably win best actor, best cinematography and best ORIGINAL screenplay.

    • Dale Hopson says:

      Oh, best cinematography will go to “Mr Turner”. Maybe “Birdman” will win for editing. Now can anyone EXPLAIN the ending to “Birdman” to me?????

  8. khalidrafi says:

    1 reason it shouldn’t: Birdman. How can they pick Boyhood over Birdman? Powerhouse performances from Keaton and Norton, An amazing screenplay, flawless direction from Alejandro

    • Ralph W. says:

      Birdman is the most over-hyped, pretentious, nauseating film I’ve seen. VERY over-rated.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      I agree whole heartingly but will The Academy? The New York Critics Awards saw a problem with the film. Its damn near so untraditional, its almost annoying and that Soundtrack is really bad! Its the Thespian Actors Film of the year by far but its also a extremely “niche” market film as well. Will it overcome these pitfalls in the eyes of Hollywood and will FOX Searchlight dump millions into a awards campaign for the film? So far Boyhood is getting all the early hype. jv

  9. Goodbyenoway says:

    Sorry, I don’t see it as a landmark, I see it as a stunt. There’s nothing new here. It’s like a series of 12 shorts. Well done, yes, but nothing special.

  10. danieloraw says:

    A bit like your comment really.

  11. Goodbyenoway says:

    Boyhood is stunt filmmaking. 12 years? In the golden age thru could make a classic in 8 weeks of filming. Only in a year as crappy as this could Boyhood be considered.

    Oh, and Million Dollar Baby didnt win Best Picture in 2008. Do you do basic fact checking?

    • Jason Choi says:

      That comparison was a bit of a stretch. Boyhood tried something new for a feature film that would be considered as a landmark. And the result paid off, no?

  12. Christian says:

    The films must be very weak this year if Boyhood is the frontrunner. Pity because even some of the more flawed films of last year’s crop were enjoyable. Boyhood was meandering, pointless and played waaaaaay too long for a story with absolutely nothing to say.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      Everyone needs to go out and find “IDA” from Poland. Ask your Arthouse please. This incredible Film shot in 35mm Black and White in a traditional Full frame is simply one of the most moving, deep hearted, sensitive and enduring dramas you will ever see. Just the kind of Movie Oscar loves and yes, a Foreign Nomination can Win Best Picture.

    • Ali Rich says:

      “absolutely nothing to say”. Most people thought it said everything that needed to be said. It meandered like life does, nothing phony, nothing trite. Just truth.

      • I Saw It; It Was Meh says:

        Wasn’t it Hitchcock who said movies were like life…only with the boring parts cut out? BOYHOOD meanders all over the place; it tells us nothing new or revealing about the American Family. Arquette was rather good, though.

    • Jason Choi says:

      You really missed the point, heh? No movie can come close to a powerful movie like Boyhood (Birdman comes to a close, though).

  13. “…Patricia Arquette was more exciting about Richard Linklater’s award from the New York Film Critics Circle than her own prize for best supporting actress.”

    Think that should be “excited.”

  14. loolooeasy says:

    I hope you’re right. It was a great film and deserves to win. Linklater should win also.

  15. well, 2006 had no early frontrunners and it was a very open race until the very end with Babel winning the globe and LMS taking PGA and SAG. And wasn’t Lincoln the early frontrunner in 2012? Argo didn’t become a thing after Affleck’s snub in direction

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