Of course, we knew that would happen, given that it’s topped virtually every poll and list of English-speaking critics awards so far. (Those mean Frenchies left it off entirely.) But the ninth annual Indiewire poll, which this year surveyed 220 critics from around the world, turned up a few surprising winners, and the raw data show that a few categories remain too close to call.
The biggest surprise — and, for me at least, an enormously pleasant one — is Ralph Fiennes (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) edging out Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”) for Best Lead Actor, with presumptive Oscar winner Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) finishing a close third. With less than seven percent of the total points separating first place from third, it was the closest 1-2-3 finish in the poll, and a sign that critics, at least, can remember as far back as March when it comes to doling out awards at year’s end. “Grand Budapest” also took Best Screenplay handily over “Boyhood,” besting it by more than 50 percent.
The most decisive victory was “Boyhood’s” Richard Linklater’s for Best Director, effectively lapping “Grand Budapest’s” Wes Anderson with 405 points to his 189. “Boyhood” also took Best Picture (over “Under the Skin”) by more than 50 percent, and Patricia Arquette nailed down Best Supporting Actress by a commanding margin over “Snowpiercer’s” Tilda Swinton and “Listen Up Philip’s” Elisabeth Moss. Since Indiewire allows voters to assign their own categories, Arquette and Moss both received votes in Best Lead Actress, but they ranked 13th and 17th, miles behind winner Marion Cotillard, who despite competing against herself notched victories in both first place (for “Two Days, One Night”) and fifth (for “The Immigrant.”) “Boyhood’s” distributor is pushing Arquette for the lead slot, but the Indiewire voters overwhelmingly saw her part as a supporting role. There’s no such confusion over “Whiplash’s” J.K. Simmons, who beat “Birdman’s” Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor by a margin of nearly 50 percent.
Other big wins: Mica Levi’s score for “Under the Skin,” which just missed doubling the points of its nearest competitor, Alexander Desplat for “Grand Budapest Hotel.” “Grand Budapest” finished a distant second in Best Picture as well, with only two thirds of winner “Boyhood’s” points. “Birdman” glided easily past “Mr. Turner” for Best Cinematographer, and “Boyhood” beat “Whiplash” for Best Editing by a comfortable if less commanding margin.
Squeakers: After Best Actor, the closest race was for Best Documentary, with “CITIZENFOUR” pushing past “Life Itself,” 772 points to 700. Best First Feature was only slightly less tight, as Essie Davis’ “The Babadook” led Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” by only 11 percent. In both cases, points dropped off dramatically after the top 2, with “The Overnighters” and “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” in the third spots.
This is the third year in a row that the winning film —”Boyhood” this year, “12 Years a Slave” in 2013, “Holy Motors” in 2012 — has been on more than half of the total ballots. “Boyhood” didn’t win every category it was eligible for: Linklater finished second and Ethan Hawke third for Screenplay and Supporting Actor, while its score ranked ninth, Ellar Coltrane dropped to 14th for Best Lead Actor, and it scored a lowly 50th in Best Cinematography. But whether or not critics agree “Boyhood” is the best movie of the year, clearly most think it’s one of them.