The Case for Argo – When Popular Directors Are Left off the Academy’s list


Since I spend so much of my time making a case for Lincoln’s much easier paths to victory than Argo’s, let’s talk a little about how Argo became the film to beat all of a sudden. First, let’s look at the structure of the race so far, then I want to take you back to 1985, and then through Driving Miss Daisy, and out back through the changing landscape of the industry.

First, here is a timeline of events.

– Argo is announced as a surprise player in Telluride. Ben Affleck has directed two films before, Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Awards Daily loved both and have been loyal and devoted Affleck followers for years. We were excited to see Argo. It already had positive buzz heading into the race.  A few of us saw it in Telluride and called it the Best Picture frontrunner to beat. Affleck received a standing ovation.

– Silver Linings Playbook wins the Toronto International Film Festival’s audience award, beating Argo.  It then beat Argo at the Hampton’s International Film Festival. But I and Kris Tapley and a few others were holding on to Argo.

– Lincoln played the New York Film Fest. It would go on to dominate the nominations across the board, but to date has not won any award for best film or director.  Pundits circled around not knowing whether to embrace a difficult film or not.  Most settled on something other than Lincoln winning.

– Les Miserables screens in New York. Dave Karger, Kris Tapley and Tom O’Neil, not to mention dozens of other pundits, declare it as the film to beat.  It will sweep the awards, Gold Derby declared.  Silver Linings Playbook was still hovering as the Toronto winner.

– Roger Ebert said Argo would win Best Picture. Everyone teased him for it.

– Argo faded into the background as Zero Dark Thirty announced its presence with authority.  The best reviews of this year and last year, it suddenly zoomed to the top as the film to beat. The New York Film Critics and dozens of other groups named it their top film of the year.  Then controversy — the film took a major tumble. The filmmakers beat back the controversy but there was only much they could do. It was like fire on gasoline.

– Oscar ballots were turned in prematurely for the first time since — well, ever. Before the DGA, PGA or WGA could tell them what to do the Academy went and did what they wanted to do instead.  While Zero Dark Thirty and Django Unchained were late breakers, Les Miserables and Argo were not.  All of these directors were left off the Best Director list when the Academy announced, in their place Benh Zeitlin, Michael Haneke, David O. Russell.

– Heading into the Critics Choice awards, Argo was already surging. This was partly due to all of the Zero Dark Thirty advocates jumping ship, and partly due to many who had embraced Les Miserables now seeing the bad reviews, not having anywhere else to turn. Argo never had much critics support at all until around the BFCAs.  It won there, Picture and Director, but curiously, nothing else. Tony Kushner won Screenplay.  Affleck received two standing ovations and was suddenly the talk of the town.

– Argo wins the Globe, again, curiously, only Picture and Director – -not screenplay or supporting actor or anything else.

– It looked like Argo could keep going with this momentum swing heading into the PGA. The Globes were held on January 13th and PGA ballots didn’t have to be in until January 24th.   SAG ballots were due January 25th and WGA ballots were also due January 25. These are all caught right in the heat of Argo’s most fertile moment.  Argo wins the PGA and the SAG ensemble.   But so far, Chris Terrio has not won any of these major awards, it’s just been Picture, Affleck and SAG ensemble.

– Time to sit and bake — a lot can happen in a couple of weeks. Oscar ballots don’t go out until February 8th.

Now that voters know what the industry choice is, they have the chance to decide whether they agree with that choice or not.    History tells us that Argo was never that well liked by the Academy to begin with, that they simply liked other movies better.  And that reminded me of 1985, the year Steven Spielberg was supposedly snubbed for the Color Purple:

From Damien Bona’s Inside Oscar:

Africa, Purple 11, Spielberg 0

Out of Africa and The Color Purple tied with eleven nominations each, but Spielberg, who had already won a Directors Guild nomination, was not in the Academy’s Director race.  Sydney Pollack was there, as were the directors of the other three Best Picture nominees: Prizzi’s Honor’s John Huston, Witness’ Peter Weir, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman’s Hector Babenco. The fifth nominee was Akira Kurosawa for Ran, which pulled in a total of four nominations. Japan’s official entry for Best Foreign Film didn’t get nominated for anything. The Los Angeles Critics’ favorite, Brazil, it won two nominations for Art Direction and Original Screenplay.

But it was the Spielberg snub, dubbed by the New York Post as “Omission Impossible,” that everybody wanted to talk about. Columnist Kirk Honeycutt chortles, “What wouldn’t you have given to be a fly on the wall over at Spielberg’s headquarters on Wednesday?” But the director knew better than to repeat his humiliation of ten years earlier when cameras caught him getting news the Academy had rejected him for Jaws in favor of Federico Fellini; this time the non-nominee was, as the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner put it, “vacationing on a yacht in some undisclosed waters.”

With no Spielberg around for a response, Warner Bros. jumped into action with a trade paper ad that expressed “sincere appreciation” to the Academy for eleven nominations and then concluded, “At the same time, the company is shocked and dismayed that the movie’s primary creative force — Steven Spielberg — was not recognized.” Aljean Harmetz reported that “a number of people …made the assumption that Spielberg had masterminded the statement,” although Warners denied the accession.  Columnist Martin Grove warned, “It would be best for all concerned that the balloting not take place under a “cloud” and recommended that the Academy “appoint a blue-ribbon panel” to investigate “any organized effort to dissuade voters rom nominating Spielberg.” Academy President Robert Wise said forget it, maintaining that the members of the Directors Branch “voted their artistic and creative feelings.” One member, Henry Jaglom, vented his feelings, telling the Los Angeles Times, “The nominations for Banenco and Kurasawa are great. The whole thing is a sign the Directors Branch is growing up.”


“In the end, it really wasn’t much of a contest after all,” summed up columnist Gregg Kilday, “Pollack’s detour to shake Spielberg’s hand as he made his way to the stage played like a laying of hands, a welcoming gesture suggesting that Spielberg, for enduring the controversy gracefully, had finally earned membership in the club.”

That was the Academy then.  They were well known for deciding to go a different way from the Directors Guild, with these famous “snubs”:

Vertigo: Alfred Hitchcock
Five Easy Pieces: Bob Rafelson
The Conversation: Francis Ford Coppola
Serpico: Sidney Lumet
Jaws: Steven Spielberg
Taxi Driver: Martin Scorsese
Manhattan: Woody Allen
The Right Stuff: Philip Kaufman
The Big Chill: Lawrence Kasdan
Stand By Me: Rob Reiner
Broadcast News: Jim Brooks
When Harry Met Sally: Rob Reiner
A Few Good Men: Rob Reiner
The Age of Innocence: Martin Scorsese
The Shawshank Redemption -Frank Darabont:<—!!!
Sense and Sensibility: Ang Lee
Apollo 13: Ron Howard
As Good as it Gets: Jim Brooks
Jerry Maguire: Cameron Crowe
The Green Mile: Frank Darabont
Almost Famous: Cameron Crowe
Moulin Rouge: Baz Luhrmann
The Two Towers: Peter Jackson
Dreamgirls: Bill Condon
Little Miss Sunshine: Faris & Dayton
Into the Wild: Sean Penn
Christopher Nolan: Inception
David Fincher: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Ben Affleck: Argo
Kathryn Bigelow: Zero Dark Thirty
Tom Hooper: Les Miserables
Paul Thomas Anderson: The Master
Quentin Tarantino: Django Unchained

So you see, the Oscars don’t take to rewarding films with their directors missing, no matter who they are. All of the times I thought about As Good as it Gets or Moulin Rouge winning I should have known that they were missing that crucial nod.

But what might make Argo different?  It will have to be the movie and not the Affleck hype.  If they really just genuinely like it above all others it has a chance to defy what seems like impossible history.   We’ve a ways to go yet but there is no denying how many people love Argo.  It wouldn’t be winning everything in sight otherwise.

It won a preferential and a weighted ballot.  It won over the 4,000 some odd in the PGA and the 100,000 some odd in SAG.  That tells me that people can’t agree on any movie in the race EXCEPT Argo. It’s a movie no one hates and a lot of people love.  It’s a crowdpleaser.  It’s produced by George Clooney and is directed by and stars Ben Affleck. It is a movie about Hollywood and America doing the right thing.

Ben Affleck is the one person voters seem to be rooting for — he IS the little director that could.  But I don’t think that can give him the Oscar win.  It has to be about the movie.  And if it is, game over.   One thing’s for sure – the press won’t let the story go — for one thing, Affleck is a movie star so he makes for great copy.  What do you think, does Argo have the stuff to be the winner this year and defy all odds?

Oscar Flashback – The Freak Years

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The State of the Race: The Winners Circle


  1. Mark F.
    January 31, 2013

    Yes, it can win. I think it has a 51% chance, Lincoln has a 41% chance, and something else has a 10% chance.

  2. lily
    January 31, 2013

    i agree that it would have to be about the movie. and it’s odd because the nominations indicated that they seemed to like a number of other movies better. maybe the academy would be in disagreement with the guilds this year. i don’t see them getting pushed into feeling sorry for ben affleck either, esp if they didn’t even like argo as much as two or three other films.

  3. Sasha Stone
    January 31, 2013

    I’m going to go with Lincoln at 60% and Argo at 20% something at 10%

  4. Robert A.
    January 31, 2013

    Did anyone see the Oscar number-crunching that Huffington Post did? They claimed they crunched the stats on every Oscar nominee of the past 30 years to produce a scientific metric for predicting the odds that each 2012 Oscar nominee has of winning.

    They gave Argo a 68.6% chance of winning BP, Lincoln a 30.4% chance, and all the other BP nominees a .4% chance or less.

    Take with a huge grain of salt. Oscar voting isn’t science.

  5. daveinprogress
    January 31, 2013

    This is a great read, Sasha, like a state of the race. It really helped latecomers to the race this year (i didn’t surface until december). Timing and perception are such key factors in this age of spin and 24/7 media cycles. The essential ingredients for the Best Pciture prize will be 1. the timing of votes being cast and which movies and people are the most visible or least controversial/problematic and 2 that preferential vote – where individual films end up down the list.

    As others have said, this is an extraordinary year in a few ways. The sheer number of great films, as you have tracked in your summary of how the season began to unfold. The shift in the Academy’s dates, and the director’s category that has spawned such a soap operatic consequence. Also with this only being the 4th year since the 1940′s that the preferential vote is in play – the bets are off in terms of how it will all end up. It still feels like anybody’s to win. Even with DGA and BAFTA to come, they could still be red herrings for Oscar pundits. DGA could only complicate the analysis, and BAFTA – well, they did award Fincher and not Hooper, and have made some very different choices in Best Film and Acting categories, regardless of how many poms are also in AMPAS, it may not help either. Anybody got a torchlight?

  6. Roberto
    January 31, 2013

    Likeliest scenario (I would not like it):

    Argo (3 wins): picture, adapted screenplay, editing
    Lincoln (3 wins): director, actor, score
    Life of Pi (3 wins): art direction, cinematography, visual effects
    Les Miserables (2 wins): sound mixing, supporting actress
    Skyfall (2 wins): song, sound editing
    Silver Linings Playbook (2 wins): supporting actor, actress
    Amour (2 wins): original screenplay, foreign language film
    The Hobbit (1 win): makeup
    Anna Karenina (1 win): costumes

    Second scenario (the one I wish for):

    Lincoln (6 wins): picture, director, actor, supporting actor, screenplay adaptation, score
    Life of Pi (4 wins): art direction, cinematography, visual effects, sound editing
    Les Miserables (2 wins): sound mixing, supporting actress
    Amour (2 wins): Original screenplay, foreign language film
    Silver Linings Playbook (1 win): actress
    Anna Karenina, Argo, Skyfall, The Hobbit (1 win)

  7. Sasha Stone
    January 31, 2013

    Robert A whatever they’re basing it on they’re missing a HUGE ASS STAT without a director nomination – throws the whole thing out of whack.

  8. steve50
    January 31, 2013

    OOPS! Lily beat me to it:
    Yes, it will have to be the movie and not the Affleck hype that solidifies this thing. If Affleck doesn’t win the DGA and Spielberg does, that would indicate that Argo’s rally is spent and Lincoln is in the lead. If neither win the DGA – chaos, especially if the winner is either Bigelow or Lee. Even the subsequent guild prizes won’t be able to sort it out if that happens and sites like Gold Derby and Gurus will probably implode.

    The WGA is turning into a must win, especially for adapted screenplay. It is a much bigger player this year than in years past simply because there is no clear leader at the moment and all but one of the key nominees are in that one against each other.

    Saturday can’t get here fast enough because that will kick off two and a half weeks where things will either gel or unravel for the frontrunners. Marketing will have to be ready and geared-up to take immediate advantage of the most recent results to get some appearence of momentum while the ballots are still in the hands of the voters.

    Warners knows this. Harvey W certainly has a plan hidden in the bushes. Disney better take a quick read of the Weinstein Oscar Lining Playbook and start doing a better job. And could somebody please, please wake up the corporates counting money at Fox and tell them if they don’t show a little interest, somebody may put them each in a little boat with a tiger.

  9. Big G
    January 31, 2013

    Hope this doesn’t send a chill down Sasha’s spine, but the last time a film won Best Picture without a Director nom (Driving Miss Daisy),the Best Actor winner was . . . Daniel Day-Lewis.

  10. Sasha Stone
    January 31, 2013

    The WGA is turning into a must win

    And the WGA ballot deadline was right around the same time as the PGA and SAG so there’s a good chance it will have caught the wave. I’m not entirely convinced Argo could win even under those circumstances but if it wins the DGA and WGA and Eddie I have no choice but to predict it to win.

  11. Sasha Stone
    January 31, 2013

    Thanks Dave! But I don’t think the shift in dates is going to matter to the Academy. To them, these ARE their picks. It’s only the rest of the industry that got in a twist about it.

  12. SallyinChicago
    January 31, 2013

    I’m not as astute as you guys about the “race” to the Oscar, my history bin is empty….but it was mentioned that Actors (SAG) tend to vote for Actors who direct.
    Now, do you feel in the future the academy should nominate the same # of movies as directors? Or would that make a difference? maybe there should be a rule that if the movie is nom’d the director automatically gets nom’d? No?

  13. daveinprogress
    January 31, 2013

    They have such an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. As do us movie-goers. And as for the oscar obsevers, we need to be careful what we wish for. An interesting and unpredictable race it is. :)

    I am experiencing a reconnected enthusiasm, nay love for the big screen. ‘Black Swan’ enthralled me; ‘Hugo’ moved and inspired me’ ‘Pi’ had me completely gobsmacked, and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ made me marvel in the ability of storytellers to captivate me; after 30 years of seeing films in cinemas – i am in awe of filmmakers like these and others in their ability to undertake difficult subject matter and do it with such vision, skill and make me forget that I am watching make believe!

  14. SallyinChicago
    January 31, 2013

    One last thing….BOTSW has reopened in the theatres….anybody else?

  15. daveinprogress
    January 31, 2013

    Sally, yes, here too in Sydney along with Argo.

  16. Unlikely hood
    January 31, 2013

    When it comes to precedents, as a Lincoln fan, I take the most heartening from M$B and 2004. Seemed like The Aviator and Sideways won everything in sight for quite a while. But you somehow knew the Academy was gonna go for Clint – even though he already had a BP/BD night years before. Old master director? Sentimental story? Crusty older friend likely to win Best Supporting Actor? All check.

    Absolutely no one was predicting Argo 3 weeks ago. We were in the throes of SLP-fear. Considering the Oscars are more than 3 weeks away, I’m keeping my powder dry.

  17. Mark F.
    January 31, 2013

    My math didn’t add up

    Argo 51%
    Lincoln 39%
    Others 10%

  18. Robert A.
    January 31, 2013

    “When it comes to precedents, as a Lincoln fan, I take the most heartening from M$B and 2004. Seemed like The Aviator and Sideways won everything in sight for quite a while. But you somehow knew the Academy was gonna go for Clint – even though he already had a BP/BD night years before.”

    True, but then again, the major high-profile prizes up to this point in the 2004 race were a little more spread out and scattered than they are (so far) in this year’s race. And Clint Eastwood did win the Globe director prize in 2004.

    BFCA: PIC- Sideways. DIRECTOR-Scorcese.
    GLOBES: PIC – Aviator and Sideways. DIRECTOR-Clint Eastwood.
    PGA: Aviator
    SAG ENSEMBLE: Sideways.

    BFCA: PIC- Argo. DIRECTOR-Ben Affleck.
    GLOBES: PIC – Argo and SLP. DIRECTOR-Ben Affleck.
    PGA: Argo

    Plus, M$B won a little more BP/Director recognition from the critics than Lincoln has. I haven’t done the research to back myself up, but I’m pretty sure that M$B won National Society of Film Critics BP in 2004. Except for one or two small outlier critic awards, Lincoln has won nothing in terms of BP or director. That’s what seems odd to me. And M$B was such a late entry, there was a little bit of a sense that its momentum would build later in the season. But Lincoln isn’t in the same circumstance. It was a November release and expected from the beginning to be the big winner, and it just keeps not winning in picture/director competitions.

    Of course, that could all change this weekend. Bring on the DGA! (I’m starting to feel NERVOUS about the DGA, y’all, and it’s only TH night).

  19. Jerry Grant
    January 31, 2013

    My gut tells me Argo.
    But my brain tells me: Best Director-Lincoln, Best Screenplay-Lincoln (yes, I insist this must happen), Best Actor-Lincoln, Best Supp. Actor-Lincoln.
    Are these two things compatible? Yes, it’s happened before (Pianist), roughly. But how strange strange strange and, IMO, sad sad sad

  20. Jerry Grant
    January 31, 2013

    Argo- 50%
    Lincoln- 40%
    something else- 10%

  21. Scott
    January 31, 2013

    Argo can win pretty easily without having a corresponding director nomination if it’s the movie they like best. It isn’t that hard to consider when you allow that the Academy has voted a director/picture split several times in the past.

    One can appreciate the direction of one film the most but love another movie more.

  22. RA
    January 31, 2013

    I think it’s clear: Argo has a lot of history to overcome. Sasha got it right, I strongly believe Academy members will not vote for Argo unless they truly believe it is the best film accomplishment this year (okay, I really don’t know about that). I would like to think the Academy isn’t stupid and wouldn’t be intimidated to go against pffft critics and pffft journalists. Against PGA and SAG though… well… since we THINK they overlap by a large margin… it would be a case of repeating support for Argo. Ugh! I just hate to think bona fide Academy members are genuinely voting for Argo. That is just a depressing thought. But one must hope: I’m sure there are members in the Academy who are actually FOR REAL about rewarding the best in film. Therefore, I’m sure they would take into consideration all of this Argo mess and place Argo as #9 on their preferential ballots to prevent the naive Academy members from allowing Argo to win (of course, if they don’t believe Argo is the best this year). Wow! I am sounding like a total douche/hater for Argo right now. Dont get me wrong, it’s a good film. But for real… Argo???? That’s literally going against BP quality!!! It is not in the top 3 nominated films this year. It doesn’t have a BD nom. It isn’t genuinely expected to win in the categories it’s nominated for. History overwhelmingly tells us the Academy votes for the film that has the most nominations and is expected to win the most awards in other categories for BP (duh, that would be a best picture). There are only two films that fit those qualifications this year: Lincoln and Life of Pi. Lincoln has the obvious advantage since it is nominated more in the important categories. However, what I believe will decide this years BP winner is the BD category. Will it be Spielberg or Lee? The DGA this Saturday will VERY STRONGLY influence the Oscars this year. Only if they vote for either Spielberg or Lee. If it’s Affleck they vote for… well… it’s still hard for me to believe Argo will win BP. At the end, if it does… if congratulations! But that would be a very strange and unacademy-like win. Anyways… DGA… yes… if Spielberg wins… you can bet Lincoln for BP… if Lee wins… you can bet Life of Pi wins.

  23. January 31, 2013


    Argo reopened here in LA just now. Arclight also reopened The Master in 70mm for a limited run. As far as I know all the Oscar players are playing in at least 1 or 2 theaters here in town.

  24. Lars
    January 31, 2013

    I hope the Academy members will be in a rebellious mood and say “F*ck you” to the critics and guild awards, and vote for what they feel is the best (kinda like their nominations)…

  25. January 31, 2013

    I’m getting sick of folks trashing Argo all of a sudden cause they don’t like its frontrunner status. Sasha, I’m not talking about you, though. Just some highly emotional people I’ve come across both here and elsewhere. One thing’s for sure, though. Now I know how you felt about the people who loved to tear down Lincoln.

  26. RA
    January 31, 2013

    Chris Price, I’m sorry if I offend or upset you in any way. That is definitely not my intention. There is no way anybody can say Argo is a bad film. I’m just simply agreeing with what the editor and many others are noticing. Looking at the noms and expected wins… it isn’t very Academy-like to favor Argo to win BP. If it does win, I won’t be complaining. I would very much congratulate Argo.

  27. Sam
    January 31, 2013

    Lots of discussion about how rare it is for a film to win best pic without a director nom, fourth most nominations, etc…
    But how rare is it for a film to lose best picture after winning:
    pic and director at BFCA
    pic and director at the Globes
    SAG Ensemble

    Out of curiosity, when was the last instance a film won all these precursors and did not take home best picture at the Oscars? What about if DGA is added to that list?

  28. Ameer
    January 31, 2013

    - Ryan

  29. Robert A.
    January 31, 2013

    “But how rare is it for a film to lose best picture after winning:
    pic and director at BFCA
    pic and director at the Globes
    SAG Ensemble

    Out of curiosity, when was the last instance a film won all these precursors and did not take home best picture at the Oscars? What about if DGA is added to that list?”

    I know the answer to this because I mentioned it in a post a couple days ago.

    It’s never happened that a movie has won all of those and then hasn’t won BP at the Oscars.

    BUT, SAG Ensemble didn’t start until 1995, so it’s a stat that has “only” 18 years behind it. In that time, only four movies have won BFCA BP/Globe BP/PGA/SAG Ensemble: American Beauty, Chicago, The Return of the King, and Slumdog Millionaire. All went on to win BP at the Oscars. (Also note, however, that they also all had Best Director nods for the Oscars).

  30. steve50
    January 31, 2013

    Ameer – I never go after some of the things that irk me on here, but have to say I find your remarks unusually pointed, personal and cruel.

    You say that, “Looking forward to another article of disappointment Feb 25th.” Surely you have mmore to look forward to than that.

    Normally, I’d ignore that sort of thing, but I have to ask you – what the fuck do you see in Life of Pi that makes it your personal choice? You certainly don’t seem to have the temperment to appreciate it on the most basic level.

  31. Mohammed
    January 31, 2013

    It surprises me that white-washing of history hasn’t garnered more controversy. The man was ” a recovering racist” ( as who wanted to send african americans to new plantations in Haiti, Panama and British Honduras, working with the brits. EVEN AFTER THE EMANCIPATION!!!

    I can only think of one reason that controversy hasn’t sunk it: Most americans have bought into the story of Lincoln being this “saintly” president who wanted nothing but free the slaves( even though the the idea wasn’t even his, not even a priority for him).

    Spielberg can count himself lucky.

  32. January 31, 2013

    steve50, Thank you.

  33. Scott I.
    January 31, 2013

    Well I got one prediction right this year: that Ameer’s comments would disappear when I clicked refresh.

  34. January 31, 2013


  35. Ben Fan
    January 31, 2013

    First of all, this is the best article you have had in weeks on the State of the Race. If you were New York-based, you’d probably be on the Charlie Rose show by now.

    Save for the headline, bravo. (A more fair headline would read, “When Good Directors Are Left off the Academy’s list” instead of “Popular” which yet again could be seen as an attempt to diminish Mr. Affleck.)

    “History tells us that Argo was never that well liked by the Academy to begin with, that they simply liked other movies better.”

    This “history” you are referring to is simply the number of nominations it got.

    “The nominations for Banenco and Kurasawa are great. The whole thing is a sign the Directors Branch is growing up.”

    Were these “signs” evident when Bigelow’s vision was snubbed? By the way, this was the bigger story that day. Affleck barely at all made as many headlines that day. The media circus was Bigelow all the way.

    In fact, this idea that Affleck is riding a wave would’ve been just as true for her, too, if she was collecting all the Best Picture accolades right now. The same exact story.

    “One thing’s for sure – the press won’t let the story go — for one thing, Affleck is a movie star so he makes for great copy.”

    Yes, your blogging behind would know!

    “What do you think, does Argo have the stuff to be the winner this year and defy all odds?”

    You have made it clear so many times that you actually don’t care to hear about anything but Lincoln… But this is a step in the right direction, Sasha. Way to strike a tone befitting a major publication. Seriously.

  36. Hal
    January 31, 2013

    Not a strong case for Argo

  37. JamDenTel
    January 31, 2013

    What was up with that Kaufman snub? That’s he never been nominated is bad enough, but The Right Stuff got 8 noms and won 4–including Editing and Score. And Kaufman’s direction was great–and yet Mike Nichols gets a nomination for Silkwood, which…I can’t imagine anyone still thinks that was a better directing effort.

  38. January 31, 2013

    First of all, let’s be careful about “popular directors”.
    What does it means?
    When you say about popular directors, people will say James Cameron, Martin Scorcese, maybe Woody Allen (in an excentric way) and… more than anyone… Steven Spielberg!!!!!
    Affleck isn’t a popular director, he did 2 excellent previous movies and now he finally received all honors (except for our so loved and so stupid Academy) for Argo.
    He isn’t a mistake like Mel Gibson or a good director for one hit film Kevin Costner – and I really like Kevin, he was a here in my childwood.
    Affleck is on the same team like Redford, Beatty and Eastwood, It’s so certain as the Sun rising in the East… :) If tale is old as time… oops… hehehe… I say, time will show who doubts, he’s in that team!
    For this year, Argo should win, deserves win and will win Best Picture, Adapted Sceenplay, Editing, Sound and maybe all his noms… if Hoffman is not going to win, I’m certanly whit Arkin.
    The film deserves more… but, for a while, it’s what we’ll see.

  39. Pierre de Plume
    January 31, 2013

    But I don’t think the shift in dates is going to matter to the Academy.

    Yes, I agree, Sasha. But I do think that timing really is the factor that has thrown this year’s race into a tizzy — that is, timing not from the Academy’s point of view but from everyone else’s, which affects what the pundits conclude and what they write about. And I think it’s timing that will decide whether the Argo wave can last long enough to assure it a best picture win.

    Now that Argo/Affleck have had a surge, there’s plenty of time for Academy voters to study their ballots and reflect on the options available to them. And there just aren’t that many options – nominations-wise, when it comes to Argo’s winning. Looking at Driving Miss Daisy, it had 9 nominations, not counting directing, of course, so there were more potential ways to justify its ultimate victory. And that film had 3 acting nominations (and a win in Tandy) to personalize it and propel it to victory. Even Chariots of Fire had 7 nominations, including one for acting, plus a directing nomination for voters to choose from. Argo’s range of choices is thin, with no directing nod, of course, one supporting acting nod, and no “splendor” quotient (cinematography, art direction, costumes) to draw from. It’s range of foundational support (screenplay/editing/score/sound) is comparatively thin.

    I still think the SAG ensemble win is misleading and represents a SAG way of thinking more than Academy rationale. The majority of SAG voters are relatively inexperienced and don’t get much work compared to those in the Academy’s acting branch. I think they’re more likely to go for an ensemble effort such as Argo, where many of the actors, though good, are less recognizable and sort of more generic than the more established cast of Lincoln. Because of this, I think many SAG voters can more easily project their own aspirations into a film like Argo as opposed to the more A-list Lincoln.

    Percentages? I’m not gonna go there — it’s just too close. Although the DGA will have bearing on the outcome, the more important race to watch is WGA. Meantime there’s enough time for Argo’s underdog patina to wear thin and for Academy voters to begin to view the Spielberg camp as a bit of the underdog — and to realize that, for all its drawbacks (slow to get going, “too talky and professorial,” not tight enough, etc.) Lincoln is the more masterful, Academy-friendly achievement.

    So — unless and until the WGA blows Lincoln out of the water, I’m still giving Lincoln the very slightest of edges in this dog and pony show.

  40. Pierre de Plume
    January 31, 2013

    And although this is off topic, I’m also viewing the best actress race as a Riva thing. Clearly the Academy loves Amour. Riva’s performance is Oscar worthy. JLaw is great, but her chances are hampered by the fact that part of her accomplishment was to elevate her character and the material while Amour, to my way of thinking, provides a better role not to mention a better screenplay than SLP. My only hesitation to call it for Riva is the AMPAS “babe” rule, which seems to dictate that two “old broads” cannot win back to back, and since Streep won last year it’s time for the “babe” (JLaw) to win. Sexist though this may be, that seems to be how it works. That said, I won’t be surprised at all if Riva wins.

  41. Ben Fan
    January 31, 2013

    Pierre de Plume:

    Lincoln is an Underdog with Twelve Nominations? With DDL and Spielberg guaranteed to win their Third Oscars?

  42. Juan
    January 31, 2013

    Who else is thinking that the Academy just won’t buy this “poor Ben Affleck got snubbed” thing? It’s pretty much antagonizing the oscars and they sure as hell never liked that. I think the Academy at large see Affleck as a Ron Howard type, makes good blockbuster films not worthy enough YET. Ben will probably win on his first nom out of sympathy, but I don’t think they’ll go all apologetic on him. It will be Lincoln or SLP. The latter most likely actually

  43. Pierre de Plume
    January 31, 2013

    Ben Fan — I’m not painting large strokes here. What I’m talking about is more subtle. I’m saying that, in the wake of the Argo/Affleck “underdog surge,” there’s enough time for voters to reflect upon how things have been going (Spielberg/Lincoln not getting as much awards attention as initially anticipated). I’m suggesting that AMPAS voters may develop second thoughts to the extent that Spielberg & Co. can have its own “mini-wake” of underdog status.

  44. The J Viewer
    January 31, 2013

    Thanks for the timeline, Sasha.

    Re Oscar BP, for now I still see Lincoln winning.

    Re DGA prediction (on AD), I am still torn between Lee and Spielberg, and the image of Affleck’s win still lingers on to be honest. . . . (And the deadline is coming.)

    In a sense, it’s been a great Oscar year so far.

  45. Rob
    February 1, 2013

    The numbers I keep focused on are that 369 directors nominated the five and 5,781 members will award the Oscar for best director & picture. it seems with no real consensus candidate this year – that each time a large group of voters 15000 + at the DGA and 100,000+ at the SAGS – Argo seemingly has the least enmity of the voters and thereby keeps getting statuettes. I was quite surprised that SLP with its superb cast was not the winner at the SAGS. but the big question assuming Argo breaks all the cardinal rules and win Best Pic, without Affleck nominated who is the likely recipient of the mixed voter sentiment – logic says Spielberg with the nominations for Haneke and Zeitlan as the awards themselves and Russell’s checkered popularity in Hollywood which leaves only Ang Lee, and all nominations Pi is favored to win are technical. So Spielberg wins by being the great director of a political epic who liberal sentiments reflect that of the voters – and my question is if Spielberg wins the statue from all the voting members he can’t be far away from Lincoln winning best picture as well?

  46. mecid
    February 1, 2013

    here is video Pollack holding Spielberg’s hand when he goes to accept award:

  47. Andrew
    February 1, 2013

    Glad to see the argo coverage.

    Saw ZDT today- a great film, far better than the hurt locker- looks like AMPAS have rewarded Bigelow for the wrong film.

  48. Juan
    February 1, 2013

    - Yes, it has the right stuff to win.
    - It’s impossible to hate the movie.

    But how many oscars could it win?

  49. February 1, 2013

    Pierre – the voice of sagacity as ever.

  50. February 1, 2013

    I find the Bigelow snub far more controversial. Affleck is only considered a snub because he got so much attention by the end of the critics awards (when Zero Dark Thirty was shunned).

    Frankly, as Sasha says, the Academy clearly liked Zeitlin, Haneke & O’Russell’s films better. And can you really argue that Ben Affleck made a better film, better promoted the craft of directing, than Zeitlin and Haneke?

    There’s no reason they should follow the Guilds’ leads. The strongest case for Argo winning is that it is the easiest common denominator. It’s a good film, but hardly a brilliant one.

    My gut says Lincoln will take it. It’s epic, “important”, it’s easy to admire critically (and 11 nominations implies the Academy noticed all it’s attributes) and audiences have taken to it surprisingly well. All it’s missing is the passion factor. But then every other nominee is missing something else. Lincoln seems logical enough. Why second guess just because everyone else seems hot for Argo (human nature, I guess)

  51. Patrick
    February 1, 2013

    The question is: “Would Argo have won if the Oscars were held immediately after they announced the nominations?”. Because if you don’t think so, you have to ask yourself: “How likely are these old white men to change their minds then?”

  52. Mr-Cinema
    February 1, 2013

    This year feels like 1995. Apollo 13 won most of the guilds, including the DGA. But Braveheart ended up with Picture and Director. And we all know A13 lacked a Director nomination. Could be the same here. Lincoln has a better chance of winning the awards that BP winners get: Actor, Supp. Actor, Adapted Screenplay, etc.

    It could also be a weird year like 2000. Traffic takes Supp. Actor, Editing, Director, and Adapted Screenplay. Those elements add up to the Best Picture, right? Apparently not, as Gladiator still won Picture, Actor, and 3 rinky dink tech awards.

    Then we have that crazy year of 2005. Crash takes Picture, Editing, and Original Screenplay. Brokeback Mountain took Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Score. I believe this is the most recent time a BP winner took home less than 4 Oscars.

    This year looks to be another odd year. Argo realistically can win Picture and Editing. Anything else would have to be an upset win. It would have to beat Lincoln for Adapted Screenplay. And maybe throw in Score or something along those lines. Arkin isn’t on anyone’s list of possible winners.

  53. Zooey
    February 1, 2013

    Come on, people! How exactly is Spielberg a LOCK?

    First of all: most of the criticism toward LINCOLN is in terms of the directing. Many people love the acting and the writing but have issues with the directing.

    Second: He’s going for a THIRD Oscar. That’s rare. Of the living great directors Scorsese, Coppola, Allen have won once. Historically, only John Ford has 4, Wyler and Capra have 3 each. For Spielberg who is very popular but not really a beloved figure to join their ranks, he needs precursors. He has NO WINS. NO WINS. The NYFCC liked the actors in LINCOLN, the writing and then Spielberg wasn’t even a factor in director. The runner-up for best picture was ARGO. So going for a third Oscar with no precursors like Spielberg is an uphill battle. Many are predicting De Niro because of the haven’t been nominated in 20 years. But I believe Oscar voters will think: Yes, he’s been making shit for 20 years. I doubt De Niro has a shot and while Spielberg has, I believe he won’t win. He isn’t a LOCK.

    LINCOLN simply doesn’t have passion going for it.

    ARGO will win picture, screenplay (could lose), editing, probably score and maybe even sound. I’d say 3 to 5 Oscars. If Terrio wins the WGA (and he can, he won LAFCA!), it’s over.

  54. Ty Pratt
    February 1, 2013

    One of the most interesting aspects of this season so far for me has been how wrong you Oscar prognosticators have been getting it this year. You all have been throwing out these stats that supposedly tell us how this race should be going, only to once again prove the age old quote from William Goldman has always been right,: Nobody knows anything. The Academy, like the general public has changing tastes every single year, which is why we always get a few suprises and why this year we got a whole boat load of shockers.
    Thnis is also THE year that hopefully reminds people like Sasha and Jeff Wells that when you get too emotionally involved in backing your favorite horse, you end up losing credibility for being unable to detect the real currents of the season. The trick is not minding, remember? I for one, knowing my favorites of the year, The Master, Looper and Django won’t be be walking away with the prizes they deserve, can only sit back and enjoy watching Argo just steamroll Lincoln. I’m happy to see that a movie made to entertain is doing this well, especially over the the biopic made for these awards. If you don’t think that Spielberg wants the Oscar, just watch War Horse and Lincoln back to back. Affleck may not be the most deserving of these accolades, but he’s certainly more deserving than Spielberg, whose last decent “movie” movie was War of the Worlds.

  55. mecid
    February 1, 2013

    Ok Zooey, where is complains about direction? From all I have read they say compliments about his restrained direction. TSN had also restrained direction but Fincher won many awards. It isn’t Spielberg’s fault they don’t award him.

    But you are right on one thing: It is his 3rd and this causes many problems. It is called Oscar politics.

  56. rufussondheim
    February 1, 2013

    Yes, I am still hoping that people re-consider Argo and decide not to list it #1 and choose the better film, Zero Dark Thirty.

    I am still hoping that the manufactured controversey will be revealed for what it is, manufactured.

    And whenever I can fit it in, I am going to SPAM this quote from Leon Panetta, who was represented in the film!

    “Some of the detainees who provided useful information about the facilitator/courier’s role had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques were the ‘only timely and effective way’ to obtain such information is a matter of debate and cannot be established definitively.” – Leon Panetta

    Since this quote from Panetta comes from before the film was seen (it was in a private letter to John McCain that was obtained by Time Magazine) I trust it more than anything I’ve seen since. It also completely matches up with the film.

  57. Alice
    February 1, 2013

    Even though we don’t share the same opinions and favorites this year but I just need to say thank you Sasha for making this race more and more delightful with such well written articles. Bravo again!

  58. February 1, 2013

    I can’t make a case for ARGO because with this film my problem was that I never got into it. A lot of people spoke of having been on the edge of their seat the whole time. I don’t know why I missed out on that but I never felt any tension until they were at the airport dealing with the agents there. I was more tense watching last week’s episode of “Deception” which seems to star half the cast of ARGO.

    But having said that, unlike other films in the race that aren’t my favorite this year, I can’t really find fault with ARGO. I can understand why it’s nominated. I didn’t see outstanding flaws of any kind. There aren’t scenes that stood out as disingenuous or any bad acting. The acting was believable throughout. Obviously the costumes and hair and makeup were perfect as you can see in the end credits. So people who like it and wanted to nominate it were more than likely voting their hearts. Not because they’d been manipulated or that it was the movie to vote for.

    I couldn’t really do a case for ARGO but I can’t do one against it either.

    I am still hoping that the manufactured controversy will be revealed for what it is, manufactured.

    And then what? I still haven’t read why ZERO DARK THRITY is a great film. I only read that it is, and that this controversy derailed it. Unlike ARGO I can find fault with it, but I’d like to hear about what makes it great from someone who thinks so.

  59. Antoinette
    February 1, 2013

    I don’t think I’ve typed *THIRTY right all year.

  60. steve50
    February 1, 2013

    The best thing about Argo being the favored child right now is the fact that more voters might be inclined to put it in the number 2 or 3 position, giving their personal favorite the number 1 slot. Being the leader right now with this much time left is not necessarily a good thing.

    It’s a long shot, but I doubt if there are that many voters who think that Argo was a better film than at least one of four of the other nominees. If that happens in a race that is actually closer that it is being perceived, any margin of change will have an effect.

    In about 36 hours the DGA may choose Argo. If it does it will just add another stone in Argo’s favor, but it won’t seal the deal by any means and might end up being its last hurrah.

    If the DGA awards anyone else, given that Affleck is the favorite going in, that will definitely loosen things up.

  61. rufussondheim
    February 1, 2013

    I’ve written at length over various posts why I think ZDT is a great film, Antoinette. But sadly I need to go to work and will be pretty busy and won’t have the necessary time to put something coherent together until next week. I will gladly do so at that time unless someone beats me to the punch.

  62. Pierre de Plume
    February 1, 2013

    the voice of sagacity as ever

    May I point out, Paddy, that sagacity isn’t that far from mendacity!

    One of the most interesting aspects of this season so far for me has been how wrong you Oscar prognosticators have been getting it this year.

    These are wise words from Ty Pratt. All the hoopla this year reminds me of a scene from one of Fellini’s films (can’t remember which one) where a young girl, who claims to have seen “the Madonna,” is being chased through the rain by paparazzi from place to place as she points out the location of where the Holy Mother is residing.

    As Sasha has pointed out, the usually reliable Dave Karger, for example, has been jumping from horse to horse. Another example: pundits seemed to galvanize around SLP for the SAG – until it lost – at which point they’re rallying around Argo. Too many people are too sure – until the wind changes – and there’s plenty of time left for the wind to change at least once more.

  63. Pierre de Plume
    February 1, 2013

    I meant, “wise words.”

  64. February 1, 2013

    Finally saw Argo (and Django Unchained) and basically while I think Django ranks among Tarantino’s best, Argo is a well directed, well acted, crap.

    Manipulative in extreme, full of cheats, impossible coincidences, twisting reality just to go for easy, fake, tension, while shot in your “documentary” style, camera-shake included. It has the job done, for sure, but the awful screenplay becomes distracting in too many key moments (the bazaar scene is invented, the suspense of the booking is laughable, and the chase in the runway is razzie-worthy). I give it *** out of ***** just for Affleck trying and doing a fine, better job than the screenplay promised, and ’cause of an excellent cast (even thought I am really in shock THIS defeated Django Unchained at the SAG ensemble, maybe ’cause Tarantino performance somewhat spoiled his own scene?).

    I now hope Argo doesn’t win awards, it doesn’t deserve them. It’s not a disaster like Crash or A Beautiful Mind, but it would be a head-scratching decission in years to come.

  65. February 1, 2013

    Off topic, my #1 is still “The Impossible” and Almodovar just released the new trailer for “I’m So Excited”…


  66. unlikely hood
    February 1, 2013

    Thanks Robert A!

  67. February 1, 2013

    I don’t pay much attention to Oscar history stats, don’t care really. My gut says Argo will win Best Picture, and become the rare film where its director is snubbed.

    There’s a second time for everything!

  68. February 1, 2013

    Pierre de Plume’s comments on this thread are brilliant if I may say so!

    My percentages:

    Lincoln 50%
    Argo 40%
    Les Miserables 10%

  69. Question Mark
    February 1, 2013

    Can you really put so much faith in past history and precursors, however, given that this year’s voting dates and voting rules are so different? It’s a whole new ballgame for the Academy this year so who knows how the awards will shake out on Oscar night. To use a tennis analogy, it’d be like looking at 80 years’ worth of statistics about clay-court play to try and predict a tournament that’s being played on grass.

    It would’ve been interested if we’d have had the Internet around for the 1985 Oscars. The only director of a BP nominee that didn’t get a nomination was Spielberg…but he was snubbed in favour of Kurosawa, a living legend getting his first nomination. I think at the time, everyone would’ve been all in favour of Kurosawa finally getting recognized rather than Spielberg if it was a choice just between the two. 1985 was a strong year, however — Pollack, John Huston, Peter Weir and Hector Babenco, who didn’t have the resume of the others but KotSW was an excellent film. Ironically, if I could’ve cut anyone from the field to make room for Spielberg it would’ve been Pollack just because Out Of Africa was one of the most “meh” Best Pictures ever.

    I will say that the suspense on Oscar night could be over pretty quickly if Arkin wins Supporting Actor. If Arkin wins, I think that’ll strongly hint at an Argo victory for Best Picture.

  70. February 1, 2013

    “I will say that the suspense on Oscar night could be over pretty quickly if Arkin wins Supporting Actor. If Arkin wins, I think that’ll strongly hint at an Argo victory for Best Picture.”

    There is only one problem with this.

    The chance of Arkin winning Best Supporting Actor from 0 to 100 is probably 0. He’s pretty much the one of the five who is out of the race. So then I would assume the suspense will go much further then, no?

  71. February 1, 2013

    The voice of wisdom.
    One more time.

  72. February 1, 2013

    I think my memory contradicts the chronology of this post:

    (AD comment I left five days ago:)
    As I recall, the “frontrunner” status went like this:

    Argo (Telluride) > SLP (TIFF) > Argo (box office) >

    Lincoln (it gradually built with festivals and then box office solidified its status) > Les Mis (special screenings for a hot second) > Lincoln > ZD30 (critic awards for a hot second, but it was like “blink and you missed it”) > Lincoln >


    There were nuances, of course, but, generally speaking, it seemed to go:

    Argo > Lincoln > Argo

    Considering all that Argo endured during the time it wasn’t the frontrunner, it’s going to take a lot of momentum to knock it off its perch. And, if Affleck wins DGA …

  73. February 1, 2013

    “Most settled on something other than Lincoln winning.” Gold Derby called Lincoln for a good two months, more or less (with some short falls, only to quickly return again).

    “Silver Linings Playbook was still hovering as the Toronto winner.” If you’re Jeff Wells and maybe Dave Karger and one or two others. By the time Les Misérables hit, SLP was in 4th-place, at best.

    “Roger Ebert said Argo would win Best Picture. Everyone teased him for it.” Chronologically, this is placed in late November/December territory, yet it is well-documented that Ebert called this in early September.

    “Argo wins the Globe, again, curiously, only Picture and Director – -not screenplay or supporting actor or anything else.” Gladiator only won Picture and Score Globes, which is “lesser” than Picture and Director Globes, and went on to get the BP Oscar.

  74. Susyn
    February 2, 2013

    Man, Sasha, before I started to read this, I could have written this because this is EXACTLY what I was thinking. First, I agree with your !!! on Shawshank, then Darabont again with the Green Mile and it was a travesty that Nolan didn’t get a nod for Inception, as well as some of the others, but I won’t talk about that any more because this comment will be longer than I originally intended. :) I was thinking that Argo may be in trouble because Affleck didn’t get nominated. And, does the fact Clooney is a producer hurt or help Argo? And, remember the average age of the Academy voter is 62 (I think – I know it is in the 60′s). There are a lot of factors that go into these award shows and at the end of the day, it is more about politics and less about the best ones winning (think: Helen Hunt for AGAIG). When I walked out of the theatre after I saw Argo, quality-wise, I was thinking it should win Best Pic. And with all the academy and guild screening invites I got for Lincoln, I knew somebody was nervous. Politics can easily get in the way and Lincoln could win – that statement is ironic for several reasons – or Argo could very well be the 2012 version of The Color Purple.

  75. Vu Dinh
    February 2, 2013

    God people, please give the Ben Affleck’s Oscar snub a break, won’t you? I agree that the snub does give Argo a big boost. Sure! But look the fact people. Argo is the best reviewed of the year (96% at RT). It shows that critics love it and audience love it too. I dare you to say the same the rest and please don’t even bother to bring up Lincoln’s theater performance to prove that point. It gets old and it doesn’t mean much…
    Lastly, I quote Tom O’Neil from Gold Derby: “Argo is the best reviewed movie of the year. If it wins, it deserves it. So get over it.” Damn right!

  76. Ben Fan
    February 2, 2013

    Vu Dinh, I said precisely that in bringing up the Golden Tomato award. Another way to look at it is to go to Critics Top 10:

    There you will see a compilation of 791 top ten lists from 2012. Argo is not ranked first by any stretch, but it is higher than Lincoln.

    Over at Metacritic you will see Argo is at least tied with Lincoln:

    Lincoln fans can only bring up the amount of box office it made, and the amount of nominations it got.

    If Bigelow was winning best picture awards, I wonder if Lincoln fans would attribute her success to the “snub” by the Academy? After all, Zero Dark Thirty truly is the best reviewed film of the year.

    My guess is that her “snub” would be a non-issue, and a director such as her is only deserving of such acclaim, blah, blah, blah.

    Really, I think, it would truly show the bias that is happening here: Affleck is too good, too soon into his directing path. Driving Miss Daisy comparisons, my ass.

    Argo is a fine, fine film. The critics know it. The guilds know it. And it made over one hundred million at the box office and counting.

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