'Birdman' by a beak?

Byline: Richard Duckett

It took flight, but then suddenly ... That's the Oscars for you -- hopes for a statuette can go up and down, take hold or fly away.

Are we talking "Birdman'' or "Boyhood''? Could be both.

The race between the two movies for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards on Feb. 22 is generally regarded as one of the closest and most interesting in years.

"Boyhood,'' Richard Linklater's labor of love amazingly filmed over the course of 12 years and depicting a boy, Mason, experiencing the joys and troubles of childhood, was the early favorite and won the Golden Globe for Motion Picture -- Drama.

Then something happened. "Birdman'' started winning (or should that be winging) awards, several of them considered excellent Oscar barometers such as the Producers Guild Award, the Directors Guild Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award. Also, word on the street is that "Birdman,'' a spectacular satire starring Michael Keaton as an actor who once played a superhero (Birdman) trying to re-establish himself as a serious actor by mounting his own dramatic production on Broadway, is more entertaining than "Boyhood.'' But that doesn't mean it is love's labor's lost for Linklater, for "Boyhood'' has a subtle power that will linger. Late in the game the BAFTA award from Britain went to "Boyhood,'' arresting some of the development of "Birdman'' as the favorite.

But speaking of word on the street -- and let's mention box office, as well -- what about "American Sniper,'' which has broken all kinds of money-making records? The remaining nominees ("The Grand Budapest Hotel,'' "The Imitation Game,'' "Whiplash,'' "Selma,'' "Theory of Everything'') all had great things going for them, reflecting that 2014 was a strong year for movies.

However, none of this means the best film will win the Oscar for Best Picture. Buzz and a good studio PR department with a big budget ("Birdman'' recently had a full two-page ad in the New York Times) can count for a lot.

Similarly, the following predictions do not represent an artistic assessment of the most deserving candidates in the various categories being considered, but rather a current reading of the tea leaves. (And what's that sound like an express train seemingly getting closer and closer? "The Imitation Game''?)

With that in mind, please pass the envelope(s).

Best Supporting Actress

I should have perhaps mentioned earlier that there are some categories that are forgone conclusions because one person has...

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