The way Dan Kois sees it, when a Best Picture winner goes wrong, it can go a little bit wrong (which happens regularly—as he suggests, The King's Speech beating The Kids Are All Right, The Artist beating The Tree of Life, and Argo beating Django Unchained). Or it can go a lot wrong. The latter he calls an "epochal travesty," and until last night, he writes we hadn't seen one since 1995, when Forrest Gump won Best Picture over Pulp Fiction. In these situations, "against all odds, a true masterpiece, a movie for the ages, somehow battles its way through the mediocrity and the politicking and the bullshit and lands a Best Picture nomination," and the Academy "has the chance to reward actual brilliance"—and doesn't. That's what happened last night when Birdman won over Boyhood.
Boyhood "is not just good but revolutionary," Kois writes in Slate, an adjective it deserves due to how it adjusts "the medium’s relationship with time, with storytelling, and with its audience." He doesn't put it mildly: It is "the crowning work of a crucial American filmmaker and a profound statement about the lives we live." On the other hand, Kois sees Birdman as having best been summed up by another critic: It's a movie about "someone who hopes to create something as good as Boyhood." Kois actually has few bones to pick with Birdman as a film, and in many years, he'd probably be happy to see such an unconventional film win. But Boyhood has earned the title "masterpiece," and its loss stings differently. "Ten, 20, 50 years from now, we’ll look back, and slap our heads and say, How did they let this happen?" His full column is worth a read.