Walkey Talk: Boyhood vs. Birdman

Posted by: Michael Walkey  //  February 22, 2015 @ 10:02am

Filed under: Movie Reviews  Walkey Talk

Life lessons can occur anywhere. Epiphanies happen anytime. And in the most unusual places. Like riding on a bus for example...

"Why is Boyhood considered good? Nothing happens. It's about the boring mundane things that happen in a person's ordinary life. I go to the movies to escape my boring routine life. If I wanted reality, I'd look out the window. I go to the movies to escape reality."

That may be true, strange old man sitting next to me who feels the need to force his opinion on someone he just met 30 seconds ago. But here's my argument:

That's the genius of Boyhood. To make the extraordinary out of the ordinary. Making something out of nothing is the very definition of magic. Boyhood is movie magic. A movie that celebrates the journey and not the destination. It says one does not have to be a sniper, or a jazz drumming phenom, or a Broadway actor, or a World War 2 Code Breaker, or the father of modern physics, or the leader of the Civil Rights Movement to be considered interesting enough to make a movie about.

Life itself, is special enough.

We are conditioned to think that life is full of big, dramatic turning points that forever alter our life paths. But it's never as concrete as it appears in literature or dramatic films. In real life, the experiences we accumulate and the people we encounter absorb into the person we become... whether we know it or not. Everyone and everything has an impact, big or small. More often than not, it's a collection of the smaller details that work its way over time in moulding the people we become. And that includes strangers we meet while riding public transportation.

Now if only the guy sitting next to me on the bus hadn't gotten off at his stop before I had enough time to explain all this! Regardless, I'm walking next time.

I'll always connect with movies on an emotional level. I can admire craft, but I'm partial to ones that I can relate to on some kind of personal level. A film that usually gets my highest grade would be one that marries the two. Showing ambition in its technical ability while affecting my emotions.

And yet, the odds-on favourite this year to win Best Picture is not Boyhood, but Birdman. As beautiful a film as Boyhood is in its quiet simplicity, Birdman is equally beautiful but for different reasons. Birdman is a little bit of Black Swan laced with Hunter S. Thompson. It's like jazz music or modern architecture: formless and abstract at times. It breaks conventions and elicits feelings inside of you without literal explanations. Don't think about it too much, just enjoy and admire.

Determining which one is better is merely a matter of personal taste.

Both are idiosyncratic visions that represent two essences of film: Boyhood illustrates film's ability to represent reality whereas Birdman uses the medium to distort it.

Regardless of who comes out on top this year, I couldn't be happier to have these two specific films be the most celebrated and talked about films of the year.

Boyhood or Birdman? Like two prize fighters duking it out back and forth, this year's Oscar race has been one of the best in a long time. Nothing bores me to death more than a blockbuster that sweeps through critic lists and award shows until the final trophy that is handed out on Oscar night is such a foregone conclusion, there's no need to even watch: see Forrest Gump, Titanic, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. At last we checked, Birdman is apparently the favourite to win this year's Best Picture, but if Boyhood sneaks out with the win, it wouldn't be that much of a shocker.

Boyhood won the first few rounds, being hailed by numerous critics and winning the Golden Globe's Best Drama. Then Birdman countered with top prizes from the Actor's Guild, Director's Guild, and Producer's Guild. Then in a last ditch effort, Boyhood swung hard and picked up the BAFTA (aka the British Oscars) for Best Film.

Then how do I know Birdman is the odds-on favourite? Let me explain...

It doesn't matter how many awards a film wins prior to the Oscars, what matters is which ones. Birdman has won the important ones. When in doubt, always ask yourself, "Who's picking the winners?" The Academy Awards are voted by the over 5000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are people who work in the industry: actors, directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, etc. Critics are NOT members of the Academy, and neither is any member of the Hollywood Foreign Press – who hands out the Golden Globes, nor the people who pick BAFTAs. Therefore, the awards that Birdman has already won were picked by the same people who will be voting in this year's Academy Awards. The same cannot be said for Boyhood.

Also, Birdman is a film that celebrates the art and craft of acting as it taps into the mind of an artist and shows, warts and all, the eccentric, poignant, violent, humorous, touching, crazy, and creative process that actors go through. Actors love this film. And which profession makes up the largest number of Academy members? Actors.

All of a sudden, this year's Oscar race looks less interesting than I first thought.

So as I sit there tonight with my head expecting Birdman to walk away the big winner, my fingers will be crossed as my heart will be rooting for Boyhood.

That's okay. If Boyhood doesn't win, at least I can take solace in seeing The Lego Movie pick up Best Animated Feature.

... oh wait a minute!

Tags: Birdman, Boyhood, Oscars, Academy Awards, The Lego Movie, 87th Academy Awards

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