In my view, there's a strong case to be made for Boyhood for picture. The Richard Linklater indie, which took 12 years to construct, is easily the best film of the 2010s thus far. For one, the movie had a compelling and heartwarming narrative - one with a strong emotional appeal, particularly for those of us who grew up in the same generational time period. The main character, Mason, was extremely likable, easy to identify with, and wonderfully complex but simple all at once. The journey Linklater took us on through his life was as fascinating as it was all too real, given the fact Mason's childhood experiences, in so many ways, resemble those of millions of Americans.
Second, the film was masterfully directed and devised. It is essentially a collection of 12 short films, created over the course of more than a course of a decade, which binds together in such a smooth, flawless manner that a viewer could be forgiven for not realizing the story behind its making. The fact that Linklater and the actors involved could pull off this unique stint is a testament to the talent behind the film.
Third, speaking of which, the acting was impeccably skillful. The performances of Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, as Mason's divorced parents, are especially impressive. Hawke and Arquette brilliantly capture the complicated but caring nature of their characters, who are so deftly presented as flawed but fundamentally decent individuals. As many critics have pointed out, their performances show us that the film tells us as much about the importance of parenthood as it does about the lessons of boyhood.
Fourth, the movie majestically weaves together the personal, intimate, and formative experiences of Mason with the cultural, social, and political elements of the years that define Mason's upbringing. Ranging from the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections to the Harry Potter books to EMacs, the film excellently incorporates such historical events - no small feat given that the relevant scenes were shot in real time as these phenomenon were happening. The combination of this with Mason's own growing pains and important interactions with family and friends make his story both very identifiable to us while also incredibly unique: his story becomes our story, one that is easily recognizable, but very distinct.
Perhaps I am biased because I saw this film with two other guys - my best friends Zac and Jack - and we all grew up in the same time period as Mason and shared some similar experiences growing up. It's fair to say I am also biased because Mason and his family are Democrats and his dad in the film is exposed as a huge Beatles fan. I like to think though that my biases in this case are outweighed by the film's genuine creativity and excellence -- and many critics seem to agree. Let's hope the Oscar voters agree too.