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Ebert Calls it for Argo

I think it’s too early to call a winner in the 2012 Oscar race, particularly since FOUR key films have not been seen. Those FOUR are Lincoln, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained. All three could feasibly be the Million Dollar Baby of this year, sweeping in late and taking it all. There are a few others, too, that should be considered, Flight and Life of Pi and The Promised Land.

It’s a lot easier to call a race once the other films have been seen. On the other hand, I have to say, I agree with a lot of what Ebert said about Argo. I think it is one of those rare perfect films that give you a satisfying cinematic experience. It’s funny, suspenseful and ultimately moving.  It is filled with great dialogue and performances. It’s, to my mind, perfect.

You’ll also want to read this post by In Contention’s Kris Tapley, Making the Case for Argo as the Zeitgeist Movie – which lays it out pretty well, I think.

Ebert tells it this way:

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture will be Ben Affleck’s tense new thriller “Argo.” How do I know this? Because it is the audience favorite coming out of the top-loaded opening weekend of the Toronto Film Festival. Success at Toronto has an uncanny way of predicting Academy winners; I point you to the Best Pictures of the last five years in a row: “No Country for Old Men,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”

Aside from the Oscar odds, “Argo” is just plain a terrific film. It tells a story as incredible as it is (mostly) true, about how five Americans were smuggled out of Iran after the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A fake Hollywood sci-fi production was created as a cover story. There was a real screenplay, a big ad was taken out in Variety, and the CIA’s top “extraction” expert, Tony Mendez (Affleck) flew in to pose as a location scout. The five Americans, who had been hiding in the Canadian embassy, were given new names, passports and job descriptions.

I have to disagree with him on a couple of points. No Country and The Artist really got their boost in Cannes. Toronto only really solidified their lead. The Hurt Locker broke out in Venice. Slumdog — I’m not so sure if it hit in Telluride or in Toronto. Either way, that last stop to Oscar is an important.

Unless it turns out that the New York Film Fest might intro a strong entry as it did last year with Hugo.

53 Comments on this Post

  1. There’s a storm coming…it’s called Lincoln.

  2. I was about to say the same thing Alboone. Oh Roger, I love you to pieces – and you may be right – but just wait until some of the power hitters start coming out in droves before making start big bold predictions like that. But to each their own.

  3. Reechard Mlmn

    Yeah, Django or Les Mis is winning.

  4. I saw Argo at the Saturday screening at TIFF, and Ben was there to introduce the film. I tell you, the applause after the film rivaled that only to Cloud Atlas, the previous evening. Argo is a very intense, slow-burn, emotional film. Even though most of us know how it ends, we were either too young (or not born yet) to really understand the intricacies of the ordeal. and it playing to a Canadian crowd to, with many of their US brothers and sisters there too… it was fucking brilliant! I can’t wait to see it again. I gave it a 9.5/10!

    Argo @TIFF

  5. Robert Redford
    Clint Eastwood
    Mel Gibson
    Ron Howard
    Clint Eastwood again

    They want to give their top two to Ben Affleck. They gave Oscars to Mel Gibson and Ron Howard for fuck’s sake! The precedent is there.

  6. Maybe Argo will get critical acclaim (now it has 75 % based on 7 reviews) but I do not think it will win BP or BD while there are giants coming.

  7. Nik Grape

    Whoa…a PERFECT movie? I’ve been looking forward to Argo since I heard about the cast and the story, and I’m a big admirer of The Town and Gone Baby Gone. But now I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. Christophe

    I do believe Les Miz has the best chance to win best picture. But I highly doubt Tom Hooper will be named best director again only two years after his win for The King’s Speech.
    That would leave room for the Academy to award the second biggest prize of the evening to the other best movie of the year, that is either Lincoln or Argo. I guess it’ll depend on the qualities of both movies, but also on the reputation of both directors: do they want to officially crown Spielberg king of Hollywood, or would they rather welcome Ben Affleck into the big boys’ club.

  9. Les will sweep Broadway again and deservedly so.

    Oscar? Give me a break.

  10. It’s too early to call it. Too much is out there still. Say there are several “perfect” movies when it’s all said and done. What then?

    Kinda wish some of this had come out last year. Stinky ol’ 2011.

  11. Thor said it best. “You are an old man and a fool”

    Ebert has lost is long ago. His whole theory rests on precedents not an actually assessing what film has a better chance. I dont doubt that Argo is a great film.

    But it has no chance when its surrounded by monsters like The Master, Lincoln, Les Mis, etc.

  12. He may be right, in that Argo is the perfect Oscar movie, but there are enough upcoming films that could also be crafted as such that it’s crazy to make a prediction like that yet.

    Oscar loves those actors that get behind the camera – the guys, anyway – so I think that actually gives Affleck an edge right now.

    Calling it for a sure nomination – yeah – but too early to call a win.

  13. The Master will master the best pic race.

  14. That’s one Best Picture winner I’d be satisfy to see winning. So many great films coming this year. Lincoln, Django Unchained, Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, The Master. Any of those winning, if they can live up to expectations (both last I named definitely did or surpased) would be a pleasure to see getting the award come Oscar night.

  15. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Thor said it best. “You are an old man and a fool”

    If you are referring to Ebert you’d be way off there. Ebert is great, still, at calling Oscar’s Best Picture and was one of the few who saw Crash coming. Moreover, there is nothing “old” or “foolish” about him. He’s nothing less than the best writer on film on the web — period. Meanwhile, all y’all who think The Master is going to WIN? Think again. Yes it’s probably going to be a nominee but unless you imagine going to a family dinner with grandmas and grandpas, kids, teens, aunts, uncles – throw in your boss or your employee, maybe your maid – and imagine all of them voting for The Master. Ain’t gonna happen. If the Academy was THAT kind of Academy Tree of Life would have won last year. It has to have, at the very least, an understandable plot to win. The Master, as genius as it may be, as revered by the critics as it already is, as likely as it is to go down as maybe PTA’s best and will probably make it on Sound and Sound’s list ten years from now it is not Oscar’s cup of tea. Weinstein Co. has Silver Linings Playbook in the race and that is the one to watch.

  16. Sasha,

    Poor Kathryn Bigelow. You totally forgot Zero Dark Thirty.

    As usual, a good article. And my feeling is exactly this: from the seen films, Argo is the frontrunner. And I just don’t see The Master winning.

  17. Ebert is great, still, at calling Oscar’s Best Picture and was one of the few who saw Crash coming.

    He MADE Crash happen. That’s why I don’t want him calling anything. It’s not fair. People just take it for granted that he’s right and con themselves into liking what he does.

    Although if it works for Affleck it won’t be so bad. I’d like Ben to win. I just get the weird feeling I’m not going to love it and I’ll be rooting for something else. I still want everything to be fair. Conundrums.

  18. To Sasha:

    “If the Academy was THAT kind of Academy Tree of Life would have won last year. It has to have, at the very least, an understandable plot to win.”

    Cannot agree more. That kind of AMPAS would have awarded BP to the likes of Citizen Kane, 8 1/2, Cries and Whispers, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Tree of life. It’s not happening and probably will never happen. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I am not sure the Master will make the S&S top 10 list any time soon. It’s just not that good.

  19. You guys are forgetting the biggest even happening this year that will undoubtedly influence the Best Film Race

    The Election….It doesnt matter what film will deserve it most (*cough* The Master *cough*)…Once we near the Election, and then live through the first few months of post-election..It’s gonna be nothing but Lincoln talk. Watch.

  20. Alexander

    Well, the headlines of the day may indeed help Argo in becoming “the film of the moment.” And AMPAS has a tradition of celebrating actor-directors.

  21. emperor has no clothes

    The Master is like Ron Paul of the oscar race, has a cult following that wants it to win, and blindly expects it to win even though it has no chance. On the outside it says some profound things, but if you look deep into it, it all falls apart.. yet it’s so flashy.

  22. manrico1967

    “Ebert is great, still, at calling Oscar’s Best Picture and was one of the few who saw Crash coming”

    I enjoy Ebert’s writing. He is very accessible and entertaining.

    Although he’s been spectacularly wrong before:

    1 star for BLUE VELVET.
    2 stars for THE ELEPHANT MAN
    1.5 stars for ALL THAT JAZZ
    4 stars for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

  23. Big, bold prediction this early in the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s right. Gotta say, though, I have found some of Ebert’s views (especially recently) to be “old man views”. He trashed Kick-Ass and The Raid for their violence and proclaimed that video games can never be art. Those movies are Action films with a capital A. Violence is a part of that genre. It strikes me as a “get off my lawn” stance to drag them through the mud for doing the thing they’re meant to do. And as far as the video game debate, I will only say that he probably should have never said anything in the first place.

    He still is one of the greatest film writers ever, but I can’t deny the feeling that he’s showing his age occasionally these days.

  24. !!!!!! etonline.com has a quick look at DDL as Lincoln!!!!!!!!!

    it starts at the 7 minute mark!

    http://www.etonline.com/full_episode/111836_Daily_Full_Episode/index.html#

  25. Mikhail Shurygin

    Stand Up Guys TRAILER. Veterans deliver!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ImVPQOh7Q

  26. filmboymichael

    Absolutley agree with you regarding The Hurt Locker – It did not do that well in Toronto. At all. I remember the year well – my friend who worked the fest was talking about it and saying how it was one of the easiest films to get into.

  27. Bryce Forestieri

    LOL Sorry for the caps but, ANYONE WHO THINKS THE MASTER HAS MORE CHANCES THAN ARGO HAS LOST THE FUCKING PLOT, AND IS A STUPID IDIOT. seriously, The Master? Best Picture winner? Have ya’ll read the reviews? I’d love it, but let’s not be naive here.

  28. @mecid

    Day-Lewis looks amazing. It seems only etonline has this footage.

  29. Dan Ashcroft

    LINCOLN is the sort of movie which would have been a serious Best Picture contender in the 1980s when the vogue was epic historical biopics (REDS, GANDHI, AMADEUS, OUT OF AFRICA, THE LAST EMPEROR). But the Academy has moved on and – judging by the last 5 Best Picture winners – prefers more idiosyncratic movies. THE MASTER would fit the bill. CLOUD ATLAS too – it’s had mixed reviews but judging by the number of people who viewed the trailer on You Tube (2.8 million) it has enormous audience potential.
    The Best Actor race could be interesting. Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Bill Murray as Roosevelt in HYDE PARK ON HUDSON. The headlines will be ‘Lincoln v FDR for Best Actor’.
    Remember, last year at this time no one was tipping THE ARTIST for Best Picture – its roll didn’t start until the critics awards in December. Impossible to say what will win Best Picture at the moment – though the early money is on THE MASTER.

  30. @Dan Ashcroft

    How about The King”s Speech?

  31. rufussondheim

    The Artist was on everyone’s short list last year at this time. Along with The Descendants. Tree of Life and The Help were seen as likely nominees as well but had minimal chance of winning.

    Go ahead, Dan Ashcroft, look it up.

    Les Miz, people. I’m telling ya’. You’d be a fool to think it didn’t have a huge chance of winning.

  32. Ebert admits that he may very well have “jumped the gun” with his prediction down in the comments section.

  33. “The Hurt Locker broke out in Venice”

    Ha, nice way to rewrite history. You mean put on a shelf and forgotten for a year? Ready to go straight to dvd until they realise they could just dump it in 20 theatres in the summer?

  34. Sasha says Ebert is the best writer on film, unequivocally?

    I’ve been reading/watching Roger for 30 years. His post-loss of speech blog writing is some of the best he’s ever done, and he covers a wide range of topics.

    But I think if you ask most serious film critics who the best film writer on the Internet is, you’d hear David Bordwell’s name more than any other.

    Bordwell doesn’t review films on a weekly basis, instead breakIng down current and older works to examine techniques and aesthetics in composition, blocking, editing, etc. His stuff may appear academic at times (no coincidence that his book Film Art written with Kristen Thompson has been a film studies staple text for over 20 years), but his language is clear and his ideas often illuminating.

    Don’t speak as if you’re the final word on something that you’re only coming at from a mainstream perspective.

  35. Just spent 45 minutes trying to figure out Google+ Hangout Awesome Good Job and still don’t know what it is or how it works. Lincoln will have to wait.

  36. Tero Heikkinen

    Yes, my theory is that Argo can not win. History has proven that films will not win Best Picture if the title’s last four letters are Argo. Ask the Coens.

  37. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    The Master is like Ron Paul of the oscar race, has a cult following that wants it to win, and blindly expects it to win even though it has no chance. On the outside it says some profound things, but if you look deep into it, it all falls apart.. yet it’s so flashy.

    Having just seen it I can be more qualified to judge its chances. I think Joaquin Phoenix is winning. It will be nominated for many many Oscars. I expected it to be a lot more obtuse than it was, thus, I can’t say anymore with certainty that it has NO chance. It has a chance. It’s just not a crowdpleaser, particularly. It’s a masterpiece, there is no question. It leaves There Will Be Blood in the dust. But the notion that “it all falls apart if you look deeply into it” couldn’t be less true. It is very deep – much to chew on. It’s a great, great film.

  38. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    I am not sure the Master will make the S&S top 10 list any time soon. It’s just not that good.

    I think it will. Then again, what do I know from what critics like. I really don’t. But I think this is film is easily that good. Just my opinion.

  39. Profile photo of Sasha Stone

    Poor Kathryn Bigelow. You totally forgot Zero Dark Thirty.

    Why do I keep doing THAT????

  40. rufussondheim

    This is completely off-topic but I had to chime in somewhere that I finally got the nerve to watch Hunger. Man, there’s a lot of stuff in that film that works, but I found it so unsettling at times it was hard to maintain focus. But it’s a major work, no doubt, flaws and all.

  41. Jake G!!!

    The Dark Knight Rises is way better than Argo. Its an awesome crime story with epic action, where Argo is just a crime story. I really dont understand peoples thinking. TDKR for BP, TDKR for BP!!!!! And you guys are probably tired of me talkin about TDKR, im sorry but i just love it so much.

  42. Argo will win. Having just watched the trailer for Lincoln, I have to say I’m underwhelmed. What was it with the FADE TO BLACK after almost every secne ???? It realy bugged me.

  43. @rufussondheim: FINALLY! Hunger!

    “It’s a masterpiece, there is no question. It leaves There Will Be Blood in the dust.”

    OK, now I’m dying to see it – thanks Sasha.

  44. Oh yippee! Thank you Ebert you are my hero!

    I think Argo is a masterpiece, and if you combine it with the most exciting movie experience of my life…rushing at TIFF well my affection for the film is massive. I swear when I got the ticket I probably looked like a crazy person but Argo was my number 1 film to see at the festival and all the showings were sold out. So when I got in I ran down the Elgin hallway, next was seeing Ben Affleck and he was so nice and seemed like a normal guy..and then the movie itself where the audience was electric we were so engaged…we laughed a lot and the tension in the last sequence of the film was just wow, and then there was the spontaneous, massive applause during the film…after we rushed out of the movie to get in line for the master and right next to us was the Argo press conference! Then during a restroom break, I finally was able to have a moment to collect myself and I was so happy I cried and I was shaking like a leaf. I’m not religous at all but I was thanking God for what just happened, what an experience!

  45. rufussondheim

    My main issue with the film is the lack of context it provides. Now I understand the film was a British production meant for British audiences, and that clearly affected what McQueen included and excluded. And I had just turned 13 when this was big news in the US and I only have the vaguest memory. So I spent most of the movie trying to make sense of how the events I was seeing fit into a larger puzzle of which I had no pieces.

    First thing after the film I went to Wikipedia and found those pieces and in hindsight the film has gotten better.

    But evenso, I still find fault with the context that McQueen provides us. His scripts before and after the film are pretty shallow compared to the stuff we were expected to know during the course of the film. For example, if I undestood the “UDA” tattoed on the one guy’s hand than I would probably know all the pre- and post- scripts. Maybe those scripts were added for an American audience. I don’t know.

    But either way, there are scenes of brilliance that don’t need context. My favorite scene was the guard cleaning the spilt urine in the prison hallway. Damn, that showed exactly why Sands needed to up the ante, and it did it in such a painful and brilliant way. And placing it after the extended conversation with the priest gave it a stirring emphasis that would not have been there earlier.

    Fuck, this film was great.

  46. Unlikely hood

    I know it wont win, but since this chat has every other BP likely-nom, 50 comments in, just want to say a quick word for The Hobbit.

  47. Poor Kathryn Bigelow. You totally forgot Zero Dark Thirty.

    Why do I keep doing THAT????

    Because you’re a secret Republican who hates womens. It’s so secret you don’t even know.

    @Tero That’s a good one.

  48. Dan Ashcroft

    @mecid
    THE KING’S SPEECH isn’t really a conventional biopic – it only concentrates on one aspect of one part of George VIth’s life and it ends just as the most important part of his life begins (leadership of Britain and the Empire during WW2). It’s also a relatively small-scale film rather than an epic. It’s not reallt the same thing as REDS, GANDHI or THE LAST EMPEROR.

    @rufussondheim
    True, THE ARTIST was on a lot of peoples lists as one of the best films of the year last year at this time, but it wasn’t really being talked about as a potential winner of Best Picture.

  49. Hunger is a brilliant film. I got goosebumps within the first few minutes when I saw it in the cinema upon release.

    I think the pre- and post-scripts might have been added for an international audience. I can’t remember them, and I’m Northern Irish, so I doubt they needed them for 99% of the NI audience.

  50. The Hobbit gets one mention so far? Really? Even The Two Towers got a Best Picture nomination when there were five nominees when they knew they weren’t going to award it Best Picture. If the film is on par with the LotR then no way does it miss out.

  51. rufussondheim

    Thanks, Paddy, for the confirmation on those scripts.

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