For the last few months, Richard Linklater's micro-budgeted, experimental coming-of-age drama, "Boyhood," has reigned supreme as the least likely best picture front-runner in the history of the Oscars, winning the Golden Globe, multiple critics prizes and a boundless supply of goodwill.
That kingpin status changed this weekend as "Birdman," the dark, dazzling comedy about an actor attempting reinvention, took top honors with the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. Suddenly, that "Boyhood" party at the Chateau Marmont earlier this month, the one with the valet line stretching down Sunset Boulevard for blocks, seems a little less like the coronation it did when Linklater and company were greeting long lines of well-wishers.
Today, pundits are jumping off the "Boyhood" bandwagon, and not without reason. "Birdman's" SAG/PGA victories make it a formidable contender. While only about 500 of the PGA's 6,500 voters also belong to the academy, the guild uses the same preferential balloting system as the Oscars. And since the group shifted to that system, mirroring the academy in 2009, every PGA winner has gone on to win the best picture Oscar.
The fact that actors, who make up one-fifth of the academy's membership, also like "Birdman" obviously bodes well for its chances. And while you could (and some have) dismiss the "Birdman" acclaim as an act of movie industry self-love, the film's themes — battling ego, aspiring to a better self — are universal. "All of us have a Birdman," Alejandro G. Inarritu, the movie's director and co-writer, said at the Producers Guild breakfast Saturday. That's a great hook, reaching beyond neurotic actors to neurotic people in general. Which, in Hollywood, pretty much encompasses everyone.