Oscars may prompt more Hollywood introspection than usual

Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:10am EST
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - To the outside world, Hollywood might ooze effortless glamour, but just about anyone who makes movies will say the process is a long grind, and a continual blow to the ego and bank account.

That might explain why two films that embody the inherent struggle of show business - "Birdman" and "Boyhood" - are top contenders for best picture at Sunday's 87th Academy Awards.

Even if "Birdman" has the slightest edge, the race is one of the hardest to predict in years, experts say, adding welcome suspense to Hollywood's annual climax, the largest televised event in the United States outside of the sports world.

And there's room for a dark horse to come in and win the top honor from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, made up of 6,100 people who toil in the industry.

The strength of "Birdman" lies not only in its nine Oscar nominations, a near sweep of awards from Hollywood's guilds and cinematic derring-do, but also in a story the appeals to the Academy's largest voting bloc: actors.

Director Alejando G. Inarritu presents a washed up, former superhero actor trying to make a comeback, portrayed by Michael Keaton, whose own career sagged after his "Batman" heydey.

"The message of the movie is even though you are unemployed and you haven't gotten all the success you deserve, you are still an amazing, terrific person," said Tim Gray, awards editor at Variety.

"I think everybody in the Academy can relate to that because that's the state of normalcy for the film industry, that you spend a lot of time unemployed," he added.   Continued...

A worker hangs lights next to an Oscar statue outside the Dolby Theatre. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson