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Spirit Awards Wrap: Will ‘Birdman’/’Boyhood’ Split Repeat at the Oscars?

Spirit Awards Wrap: Will 'Birdman'/'Boyhood' Split Repeat at the Oscars?

The Spirit Awards often presage the Oscars, much to everyone’s dismay. But will they this year? 

Of course Spirit winners Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”) and JK Simmons (“Whiplash”) will repeat Sunday. The final split was Best Feature “Birdman” and Best Director “Boyhood” (Richard Linklater wasn’t able to attend due to “last minute family business,” according to an IFC spokesperson, although he turned up en famille at IFC’s after-party), with Michael Keaton taking Male Lead and Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki winning Cinematography. “We’d be remiss if we don’t take a moment to give a shoutout to Narcissus,” Keaton said of his endless promotional rounds. “I’m sorry, this is bold cinema, this is a game changer.” Meanwhile, AG Inarritu, like Lubezki another likely winner Sunday, is heading back to Canada Monday to be back at work on “The Revenant” at 6 AM on Tuesday. 

But in a hotly contested Best Actor Oscar race, Eddie Redmayne of “The Theory of Everything” or Bradley Cooper of “American Sniper” could steal the Oscar from Keaton. 

The biggest upset of the night started before the official live show when Tom Cross won Best Editing for “Whiplash,” showing the ultimate weakness of “Boyhood.” That category is widely predicted to go to “Boyhood” at the Oscars. “‘Whiplash’ was shot in 19 days,” said Miles Teller. “Which definitely felt like rushing,” said JK Simmons. (It’s inexplicable that Editing and Cinematography were the two categories cut out of the live show.)

Also expected to win at the Oscars is Laura Poitras’ documentary “Citizenfour.” She went political at the Spirits as she brought up journalist Glenn Greenwald, who said that the film isn’t about the assault on privacy but the assault on democracy itself. “Really brave whistleblowers,” like Ellsberg, Manning and Snowden, “deserve not decades in prison but our collective gratitude” he said. “If we don’t know the most important acts that our government is doing, then we don’t have a real democracy.” Expect more from Poitras when she has her global bully pulpit. 

The foreign film Spirit winner could also win the Oscar: Poland’s black and white “Ida.” Director Pawel Pawlikowski said he felt right at home lining up to use the Spirit portable men’s room.

Screenplay (and best first feature) win for “Nightcrawler”‘s Dan Gilroy won’t repeat Oscar night. Original screenplay should go to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Gilroy thanked those in the Spirit Awards tent who have faced the “tsunami of superhero movies” and survived. Ten years ago marked a low point in his career, he recalled, remembering that it felt like he was writing in the sand as the ocean wiped it away. He’ll stick to writing originals though, he told me. He’s been rewarded for zagging away from the conventional and will continue to do so. 

Read: Inside the Spirit Awards 2015 (Winners) 

But the 5500 Film Independent voters, while they have recently awarded Oscar winners (under the $20 million ceiling), from French silent film “The Artist” (which the Weinstein Co. convinced Film Independent to deem eligible for its American setting and financing) to last year’s “12 Years a Slave,” don’t always match up with the Academy, from “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Precious” to “Little Miss Sunshine.” The indies were likely to go for artfully sophisticated “Birdman,” while I’d argue that populist “Boyhood” appeals to a wider range of Academy voters.

And “Boyhood” wasn’t the sort of movie to pick up Guild awards for producing or costumes and the like, hence most of its prizes–except for the crucial BAFTA wins–have been on the (less predictive) critics’ side. Yet again, many are calling on Film Independent to bring down the budget eligibility cap to say, $15 million. With a $22 million negative cost, “Birdman” was technically over. (Needless to say, the distributors are leaning heavily on Film Independent not to make that change. Money still talks. My favorite Spirit Awards moment: “Don’t fly American Airlines, they will lose your luggage,” warned Robert Altman award-winning maverick Paul Thomas Anderson, of one of the show’s sponsors.) 

Still, Film Independent is supposed to be about celebrating rising stars like Gilroy, Ava DuVernay (whose “Selma” did not win anything) and Justin Simien, who took home the Spirit for Best First Screenplay for “Dear White People.” “Now I feel like I belong in the culture,” he said.

Listen: In our final Oscars 2015 podcast, Eric Kohn and I speed around L.A. and talk shop.

This year’s congested Best Picture Oscar race includes eight contenders and a very different range of voters of varying sensibilities. On my way out of the Spirit tent, Oscar campaigners Lisa Taback and Peggy Siegal, who are smart about this stuff, think the Oscars could well split the same way–while agreeing that it could well split just the reverse. Nobody really knows, which is unusual. At Friday night’s foreign film party at LACMA (adjacent to the must-see Hollywood costume exhibit), former Academy executive director Bruce Davis laughed at my lack of confidence in picking several Oscar races and said, “You’ll just have to wait.” 

Read: My final Oscar Predictions. 

One theory going the rounds is that after two PriceWaterhouseCoopers accountants count the first place votes for “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “American Sniper,” “Boyhood” is more likely to be next on the “Sniper” ballots than “Birdman.” Hmmm. 

As for the show itself, the opener starring hosts Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen was sharp and funny, and very SNL40. “We are a little bit indie and a little bit studio,” they sang–and so are the Spirit Awards.

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