The Hype Cycle – ‘Birdman’ comes out soaring

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In an Oscar column in the New York Times several weeks back, A.O. Scott noticed that the Academy loves to champion three different types of narrative: those that affirm the industry’s political values and virtues, those that represent popular success, and those that feel like “auto-cinephilia”. “Three of the last five Best Picture winners were about showmanship: two of them (The Artist and Argo) about movies and the other (The King’s Speech) about a different kind of performer overcoming obstacles.”

The 2014 film that fits into that last category is conveniently the movie that has pulled surprise victories with the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild, and now this weekend with the Director’s Guild. And if it finally lost on Oscar Sunday, it would, as Kris Tapley first pointed out, join Apollo 13 as the only films to win all three guilds without winning Best Picture.

“Yes, Birdman is for real,” Pete Hammond wrote on Sunday. “If there was any lingering doubt that industry awards voters are dead serious about honoring a movie that is about a lot of things but especially about themselves, the DGA’s top honor erased those questions.”

So that’s it, yes? Pack up your things, bet on Birdman, we’re done here, two weeks ahead of time.

Pretty much, but not quite. On Sunday, Boyhood pulled off one final, much needed victory with the BAFTAs, or the British Film Awards, by winning Best Film ahead of Birdman and the more British-y titles The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Brits have matched with the Academy dating back to the 2009 awards season, and in that time, SAG has gone to a different film three of the last five years, and the DGA split in the last two. What’s more, the possibility of another Director/Picture split, just like last year, remains a possibility, but Alejandro G. Inarritu’s victory suggests otherwise.

The truth is, as it always has been, is that these stats are meaningless; anything could happen. But as Pete Hammond pointed out again, the recent race 2015 is most starting to resemble is actually 2011, when The Social Network swept every critic award until The King’s Speech claimed all the subsequent industry prizes (the only difference: The King’s Speech feels and awful lot like The Imitation Game, whereas Birdman feels like Black Swan). The Oscars may not play out according to statistics, but “narratives” always have a lot of weight.

And yet 23 other categories still hang in the balance. We’ll be back before the Oscars with predictions in all of them, but here are some of the contenders creating buzz this week.

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1. Eddie Redmayne

With a win at the BAFTAs and SAG for Best Actor, Michael Keaton is less of a lock than he seemed a few weeks ago. And no, he’s not in trouble with the Norbit-effect just because Jupiter Ascending was a marvelous fiasco.

2. Best Original Song Nominees

Tegan and Sara and The Lonely Island have made it official! After reporting last week that four of the five nominees were in the bag for Oscar ceremony performances, Andy Samberg and company and the Canadian indie rockers have completed the set. Meanwhile, the Glen Campbell song nominated for an Oscar, “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” won a Grammy Sunday evening. This is a contest yet.

3. Best Animated Feature category

The LEGO Movie has continued to prove itself the universal frontrunner in the awards race, but lest we forget, it was not nominated for an Oscar, and after a win at the BAFTAs, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller let the American Academy know it. How to Train Your Dragon 2 won the Golden Globe and the Annie Award, so it seems like the plausible winner, but Peter Knegt points out that only one animated sequel, Toy Story 3, has ever won Best Animated Feature.

4. All the Oscar Films

I’ll leave you with this, a touching supercut reminder that this year in movies, and yes the prestige pictures too, amounted to a great one.

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