The Oscar race has nowhere near begun. But if you’re hunting around for a frontrunner, look no further than Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. 12 years in the making, with a 99 score on Metacritic – that has to be among the highest of all time on the site, behind mostly classics. Even Slant Magazine and Stephanie Zacharek loved the movie. That means not just Boyhood wowing critics, but it will fit snugly in the wheelhouse of your average Academy voter and/or industry voter. Boyhood appeals to both men and women but for men it probably takes on a slightly deeper layer being that it’s called “boyhood” and is about the childhood of mostly a young boy. So “boyhood” could really be the name that describes Hollywood overall – industry voters, critics, audiences, production companies, investors, etc. They aim right at: boys.

But by all accounts Boyhood is much more than that — but the much more might not help it win. The rest of it very well could. Helping it along is Richard Linklater’s up to now uncelebrated career, which includes all three Sunsrise/Sunset/Midnight movies with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Dazed and Confused, which launched Matthew McConaughey’s career, an entire legacy of being a filmmaker 100% true to his art, never selling out and always reaching for authentic stories that matter. His has been a rich, if mostly unnoticed by awards groups, career. The push to get recognition for Before Midnight will help catapult Boyhood into the majors. The best thing it has going for it is that some are skeptical about its Oscar chances. That makes it a fly under the radar type of contender, one that has come early enough in the year to skate right by potential controversy, is tried and true with critics – Manohla Dargis saw it three times and plans to see it again.

This, and many other reasons, makes we here at AwardsDaily confident in our placing of Boyhood as your current frontrunner to win. On the other hand, merely uttering this sentence puts it at a distinct advantage if anyone is actually reading this site. But such is the name of the game in Oscar watching. You calls ‘em as you sees ‘em or else someone else will beat you to the punch.

Those wanting to say “it’s not an Oscar movie” should save their breath. This is one you kind of see coming from a mile away. It sets the bar fairly high. Other films released this year will have to meet it and match it. Who knows where it’s going from here. Telluride has not yet launched, nor Toronto, but what we do know about the Oscar race is that Sundance movies don’t generally launch a winner. The winner does have to be seen some time before the end of October, beginning of November to be in line to win. Million Dollar Baby was the last Best Picture contender to come out relatively late in the season and win. When Oscar changed the date, pushing it back one month, it through everything in flux. Two things would dramatically change. 1) the public would effectively be selected out of the Best Picture race. It would not longer matter what they thought or how much money they spent. The race is decided long before films even hit theaters much of the time. 2) Late comers have too hard a time scrambling out from under a potential controversy (Zero Dark Thirty) or just don’t have enough time to gain enough momentum to beat back a consensus favorite. In other words, with such a short time for voting, you inevitably see uniformity between the Producers Guild, Directors Guild and Oscar, with only a tiny bit of wiggle room.

Last year, for instance, there were three strong contenders barreling towards the Dolby: 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle. They divided up between the guilds, with 12 Years and Gravity sharing the PGA, Gravity taking the DGA, American Hustle taking the SAG and eventually 12 Years and Gravity splitting Picture and Director at the Oscars. Both of those were seen very early. Gravity at Venice and 12 Years at Telluride. Hustle was a late-comer and actually benefitted from that but love for it seemed fleeting. The other films had more time for reflection and rallying of votes. And thus, Boyhood is in the prime spot to gather steam as the season moves forward.