By Jeff Labrecque
February 12, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST
Matt Lankes
  • Movie

The Academy Awards are just days away—which means it’s time to buckle down and really get to know this year’s Best Picture contenders. Today’s deep-dive: Richard Linklater’s years-in-the-making opus about the everyday trials and tribulations of growing up, Boyhood.

Name: Boyhood

Tweetable description: A poetic study in time seen through the eyes of a boy—played by the same child actor as he grew and matured over 12 years of filming.

Movie Math: Boyhood = (Seven Up! + The 400 Blows) x Before Midnight trilogy

Release date: Limited release: July 11; wide release: Aug. 15

DVD release date: Jan. 6

Run time: 2 hrs., 46 mins.

Box office: First weekend (wide): $2.0 million; total domestic: $25.1 million (through Feb. 11)

Rotten Tomatoes scores: 98 percent, though its Metacritic score is even more impressive: an even 100

What Chris Nashawaty said: “The movie’s magic trick is that every 12 months or so Linklater gathered the same actors for a few days to check in on their characters’ lives, ultimately weaving an intimate and affecting coming-of-age tapestry of a young Texas kid named Mason (Ellar Coltrane). Like Michael Apted in his Seven Up! documentary series, Linklater makes you feel as if you’re watching a photograph as it develops in the darkroom. It’s only at the end that you realize you’ve just seen a child slowly come into focus as a young man. … By the end of Boyhood, it’s clear how lucky Linklater was to find Coltrane. And vice versa. There’s an unfakable curiosity and vulnerability behind the young actor’s dreamy, half-mast eyes. He makes you not only care about Mason but ache for him, and pray that everything will turn out okay… even after Linklater’s camera stops rolling.” A

Best Line: “What’s the point? I mean, I sure as shit don’t know. Neither does anybody else, okay? We’re all just winging it, you know? The good news is you’re feeling stuff. And you’ve got to hold on to that.” —Mason Sr. (Hawke) to his teenage son (Coltrane)

Worst Line: “You know how everyone’s always saying, ‘Seize the moment’? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around—you know, like the moment seizes us.” —Nicole, Mason’s pretty college classmate, stomping all over Dead Poet’s Society call to arms

Number of Oscar nods: Six, tying with American Sniper for the fourth most nominations. It’s one of the front-runners for Best Picture and practically a lock for Patricia Arquette in Best Supporting Actress. It’s also up for Best Director (Linklater), Best Supporting Actor (Hawke), Best Original Screenplay (Linklater), and Best Editing (Sandra Adair). 

Boyhood‘s Oscar history: Linklater has two previous nominations, for co-writing the screenplays for Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Hawke shared those screenwriting nominations with his Before series director, and he also was honored with a nod for his supporting role in Training Day.  

What it’s won thus far: Boyhood won Best Picture honors at the Golden Globes (Drama), BAFTA, and AFI—in addition to a slew of critics prizes. (No surprise there, since Boyhood is the most rapturously reviewed film of the year.) The Globes and BAFTA also honored Linklater for Best Director. Arquette has swept the major Supporting Actress awards, including victories at the Globes, BAFTA, and SAG.

Why it should win: For all its superficial simplicity—a boy grows up—Boyhood was an incredibly ambitious undertaking: gambling on a 6-year-old actor and then reuniting every year for 12 years to flush out his story. But that feat could’ve been just a clever gimmick if Linklater and his team hadn’t woven together something beautiful and profound about the weight of time on us all. “Some Grow Up and Some Age” was one of the film’s alternate titles, and that better reflects the vast scope of the film. Boyhood might primarily be about Mason, but it’s also the story of a loving but struggling single mother, a father still coming to terms with what that title means, and a willful girl whose own time-lapse maturation is worth its own study. There has never been a film like Boyhood, and along with the Before trilogy, Linklater has masterfully crafted personal and universal stories that feature Time as an essential character.

Why it shouldn’t win: The New York Times, whose critics adored Boyhood, kneecapped the film just as the final Oscar voting began, dismissing the 12-year odyssey as a “one-trick pony” that gracelessly stood on the shoulders of Michael Apted’s Seven Up! documentary series. The charge didn’t seem to generate much traction, and the same day it was published online, Boyhood regained some Best Picture momentum with a victory at the BAFTAs. If it does lose out to Birdman, which seems to be its strongest competition, it might be because actors—who represent the largest voting bloc of the Academy—opted for the more actor-y performances in a film that’s all about actors. 

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