'Boyhood,' 'Whiplash' on the Sundance-to-Oscar path.

Byline: Lindsey Bahr

PARK CITY, Utah -- An Academy Award nomination is an incomparable stamp of approval for any film -- and for an indie feature coming out of the Sundance Film Festival, in some cases, it's a downright miracle.

The festival, which kicked off this week in Park City, Utah, has had a scattered record with the Oscars, but its track record for the night's top award -- best picture -- has been steadily improving over the past few years.

This year, "Whiplash'' and "Boyhood'' -- both Sundance premieres -- are among the eight best picture nominees. "Boyhood'' is considered a favorite to win.

Coming on the heels of previous best picture nominations for Sundance films such as "Precious,'' "Beasts of the Southern Wild'' and "Winter's Bone'' over the past few years, the festival has become a breeding ground for awards candidates. In 2014, for example, Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash'' was programmed as the opening night film.

Erik Davis, a contributing editor at movie ticketing site Fandango, believes it's a ripple effect.

"Because filmmakers, studios, producers are seeing a lot of Oscar movies begin to come out of Sundance, I think they're looking at Sundance as a strategy to put the movies that they feel have a chance in the Sundance lineup,'' said Davis.

Davis said he's seen the quality of the films steadily increase in the decade since he began attending.

"In all the years I've been going to Sundance, I've never seen an opening night film as strong as 'Whiplash.' I feel like the festival was kind of making a statement but at the same time taking a risk by programming such a strong film right at the start of the festival,'' he said.

"Whiplash'' in some ways is the ultimate Oscars Cinderella story. What started as a short at the 2013 festival and premiered in feature form at the 2014 festival without a distributor lined up 12 months later gets singled out by the Academy as one of the best pictures of the year.

Producer Bob Tourtellotte ("Meth...

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