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Ben Affleck and the Charm Offensive

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All the films up for Best Picture are formidable challengers in their own right. But only one of these has a secret weapon: a charming, handsome actor-director most people have known for years. The public knows his suave celebrity disposition, the industry knows his reputation as one of the nicest guys in town. Good luck going up against that.

Likeable movie, likable star with an added narrative of having been “snubbed” — it’s easy to see how this wildfire started and why it keeps burning. The one factor that can’t be underestimated, though, is the presence of an actor in the race with a really successful movie. Actors-turned-directors can do serious damage when they’re in the mix because they bring with them a whole career that everyone has seen develop onscreen for years — we grew up together! We feel intimately involved with an actor’s ups and downs, his good times and bad relationships, his successes and failures feel personal. Ben Affleck’s story is a good one because there was a time when he was considered a self-absorbed joke. But he’s come back and reinvented himself as respectable filmmaker, affectionate husband and father, his whole beautiful family photographed daily. He’s made three films but finally hit the jackpot with Argo.

It’s a scrappy success story but an irresistible one. Voters like to think their vote is doing someone some good. Either they’re rewarding impoverished Indian children and the nice plucky director who made that movie, or they’re making Oscar history with Bigelow, or they’re finally rewarding Scorsese or the Coens after years of neglect. If there isn’t an emotional imperative they won’t throw their weight behind something. Somehow, the imperative this year has been to reward Affleck — if not to make amends, at least to show he’s not taken for granted.

We’ll never know if Affleck’s Argo took the lead because of the perceived “snub” or because it was just a movie everyone really liked. We only know that it began in the lead back during Telluride and Toronto but was then overtaken by films like Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln. Even Silver Linings Playbook seem to outshine Argo when it took the audience award at TIFF. But when each of these films got pummeled during the lead-up to the Oscar race — unfairly maligned, I might add — Argo suddenly reemerged victorious. Once it was seen that Affleck had been left off the directors list it put into motion a potent narrative that has swallowed up Oscar 2012.

By the way, the fact that Argo was initially dwarfed by several other bigger movies only drives the narrative even further — the David and Goliath aspect of all that is too juicy to resist. Some might say simply, well, the movie is just that good — it must be if it’s winning everything, even the Scripter. I would say if that was so why didn’t anyone see it sooner? — why didn’t it top the box office over Lincoln? why didn’t it start out as the critics darling like Zero Dark Thirty? And why wasn’t it getting the kinds of audience reactions Les Miserables did early on?

Argo, in effect, became the default choice, the bowl of porridge that was just right — but that all kind of happened after Oscar nomination ballots were already turned in. Given more time before ballots were due, many believe Affleck would have been in there. People en mass don’t deviate much from the general consensus — as you can see by how the race has played out. Affleck would likely have been nominated and the film would have Dances With Wolves all the way through the season, easily taking every award.

But now we’re stuck with the knowledge that Argo wasn’t among the five best-liked films chosen by the director’s branch it only caught its full head of steam once the charm offensive/snub narrative took hold. I recount the sequence of events for the historical record because it matters to me how things went down. None of this means Argo isn’t a deserving winner. If it were me I would prefer one of the films by the five nominated directors to win instead but you can’t have everything. Argo is as good as any movie to win in the past few years. It’s also a movie you can sit anyone down in front of and they will get it if not love it — and that, my friends, is how you define an Oscar best picture winner these days.

Affleck’s charm is his secret weapon. He’s whip smart, appearing sharp on Bill Maher and adept before Congress to protest treatment in the Congo. And on top of that, he seems to have Bill Clinton’s gift for making even the lowest of the low feel like they have a “special relationship” with him; he’s already charmed three of my colleagues — Kris Tapley, Anne Thompson and Scott Feinberg. Thompson tweeted after the BAFTAs, “way to go Ben!” Can you imagine anyone saying “Way to go Steven!” No, no one is on a first name basis with Steven Spielberg that way.

picaffleck

Affleck began the campaign season following in George Clooney’s footsteps, almost down to the letter. But Affleck is more approachable, less aloof than Clooney. Two years ago Clooney was up in Telluride chit-chatting with journalists and calling Oscar bloggers by their first names. They were all huddled up against him on the night they were celebrating The Descendants. He made friends with them and they ushered his movie through the season with ease. Affleck has done the same thing, hanging out and chit-chatting with journalists and bloggers. But unlike Clooney’s suave cordiality, Affleck’s appeal runs warmer — he seems genuinely nice. He even had a special relationship with Q&A host John Horn, since they both shared office space during the filming of Argo at the LA Times building. Everyone feels like they know Ben.

I too was once caught up in the Affleck charm offensive when I spoke briefly with him while he was publicizing The Town. He was so nice but more than that. He quoted Shakesepare in Love for me when I told him the only way my 14-year-old daughter knows him is as Ned in that film. He won me over (although I was already an early fan of his work). I deliberately steered clear of his gravitational pull this year, other than attending two screenings of Argo where he appeared and once again charmed the pants off of both crowds.

No other director this year has this much charisma — and in a competitive season with some very very good films up for Best Picture, the charm offensive has perhaps given Affleck all the edge he needed to tip the scales in a consensus vote. In truth: who can resist him?

The Oscars have a distinct but fairly recent tradition of the transformation from “handsome actor” to Oscar-winning director. It makes sense, when you remember that the Oscars are controlled by actors and if “one of them” makes it as a director it opens yet more doors for actors. The charm offensive worked when Robert Redford beat Martin Scorsese for Raging Bull, it worked again when Kevin Costner beat Martin Scorsese for Goodfellas, and again when Clint Eastwood beat Martin Scorsese for The Aviator. It kind of worked when Mel Gibson beat Ron Howard (who’s an actor himself, of course, but he lacks the good looks and sex appeal of the others). When you think about it, how in the world could anyone compete with that heat, least of all nerdy Spielberg or stoic, lovely Ang Lee?

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I have only predicted two movies to win this season. Argo and Lincoln. I never wavered from either of them. But after I saw Lincoln, Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty, they blew Argo away to me. All of them are good movies of course but two out of three of them took me places I’d never been, down deep. At that point I figured Argo would be like Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck — it would run parallel to the winner but it wouldn’t BE the winner. That seemed most likely at the beginning and I always figured it would be a threat but once Affleck didn’t make the director list it seemed impossible to overcome such a disadvantage.

It’s hard to make a case for anyone to feel sorry for Steven Spielberg, or Kathryn Bigelow or even Ang Lee because they all have Oscars. All three of their movies are good enough to be called “Best Picture of the Year,” but none of them will win. Affleck’s light is too bright, his film too likable; when The USC Scripter gives their prize to Argo over the combination of Pulitzer Prize winning Doris Kearns Goodwin’s illustrious book and Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Kushner revelatory screenplay (it’s one of the few works this year that can be said about with a straight face) you know there is no stopping this unstoppable force. Chris Terrio being a USC grad might have had something to do with that win but either way, the end result is the end result.

When directors win with a limited body of work behind them — Affleck only has three movies under his belt so far — it is hit and miss as to whether they can recover from an Oscar win, which should really come at the peak of your career. The ones who win early rarely flourish after having climaxed so soon. Sam Mendes never seemed to evolve much artistically after American Beauty. His efforts were interesting but never caught the Academy by storm. Now he’s directed Skyfall, which is a huge hit and worthy of an Oscar nod; but alas, it was not to be. Paul Haggis did not benefit much when Crash won and has anyone ever heard from Bruce Beresford or Hugh Hudson again after Driving Miss Daisy and Chariots of Fire won? Robert Redford has made good movies after Ordinary People but Oscar only really paid attention to Quiz Show, not A River Runs Through it. Kevin Coster became persona non grata, although he’s picking up steam on TV now.

At the end of the day, you have to just be happy for Affleck, who is calling this experience a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone who knows him, or thinks they know him, will be cheering him on from the sidelines. I am not ruling out a standing ovation at the end. He already got two at the Critics Choice awards.  Will there suddenly be a backlash against him? Who knows but he’s certainly already weathered enough slings and arrows in his life. He can handle more.

60 Comments on this Post

  1. Kevin Costner
    Clint Eastwood
    Robert Redford
    Mel Gibson
    Ben Affleck

    One of these is WAY not like the others.

    But that’s ignoring George Clooney.

  2. rufussondheim

    Bruce Beresford may not have directed another great film after Driving Miss Daisy, but he directed Tender Mercies before that so he’s done OK by me.

    As for the rest of the article, well, it reminds me of Leona Naess’s catchy tune from the nineties, Charm Attack. “Watch out, he’ll charm you.” and that by extension reminds me of the even better song, Details of the War by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Check out these lyrics! They are disturbingly good.

    You will pay for your excessive charm
    With a boy who knows less than he thinks
    Drinks up his expensive drinks
    Be careful with the DETAILS OF THE WAR

    Yes, I’ve become so bored with this race that I’m reduced to recalling overlooked songs :(

  3. “Even Silver Linings Playbook seem to outshine Argo when it took the audience award at TIFF. But when each of these films got pummeled during the lead-up to the Oscar race — unfairly maligned, I might add”

    I thought you hated Silver Linings Playbook?

  4. I get tired of people harping on Redford’s Oscar win. He took his goodwill from directing Ordinary People and established the Sundance Film Festival. He “recovered” just fine.

  5. Ben Affleck is not one of my favorite actors but his performance in The Town and in Argo was great.

    Harrison Ford
    John Wayne
    Jack Nicholson
    Matt Damon
    Bruce Willis
    Frank Capra

  6. I guess it wouldn´t do Affleck a favor if too many Academy members envision his acting skills… :-)

  7. Least controversial film + Entertaining + likeable director with snub sob story = Best Picture winner

  8. Wait so saying Bigelow may have been aided by how hot she is and being Cameron’s ex was offensive and sexist but saying Affleck is going to win has mostly to do with his charm isn’t just as ridiculous. It seems like a convenient narrative to choose. Argo has momentum because the subject matter is timely and it fits the lovely Entertainment people/Los Angeles are amazing bit while also going down quite easily.

    2011-The Artist (Rise and fall in Hollywood)
    2010-King’s Speech (Actor teaches the King of England to speak during WW2)
    2008-Slumdog Millionaire (Struggling Kid becomes famous on popular TV show)
    2005-Crash (Man Los Angeles is a crazy city with racism, several roles involve entertainment people)
    1998-Shakespeare in Love

  9. Redford has directed far more films than those 2. A River Runs Through It, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Horse Whisperer. And with his contribution to the rise of the Independent film circuit with Sundance, has had a huge impact on the film industry of the past 10 years. Heck I remember reading about Sundance when it first started. Redford would attract a Martin Scorcese who’d sit around a picnic table with up and coming film affitionados listening, advising, and sharing his experiences. Look how far it’s come.

    The fact is Argo is a film that not only played well in the US but also around the world. It was infused with enough humor and drama to be able to attract a more diverse audience, where films like ZDT and Lincoln, while u may find them epic, did not resonate outside of the US, at least not by audiences. It’s the same issue foreign films coming to the US struggle with in terms of appeal here.

    I like Affleck, as u said a lot of his appeal is how his public image has improved, but I think he was always a pretty nice guy. Frankly I think Amour or Life of PI should be the top contenders. Ang Lee did something impossible, turning a non star studded film and lovely story into an inspirational hit. And Hanake is another longtime under appreciated foreign director in the mold of Ingmar Bergman. Those 2 to be honest stand heads and tails above Lincoln, ZDT, and Argo.

  10. Avatar of Sasha Stone

    Redford has directed far more films than those 2. A River Runs Through It, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Horse Whisperer.

    I meant, and have now clarified, through Oscar’s eyes. We know that is no measure of success but still it’s worth noting how they mostly abandoned support, ditto Mendes. So perhaps it’s more a comment on their favoritism than anything.

  11. There won’t be a backlash against Affleck – he’s pretty much established himself as a good director and I look forward to him leaving the Argo-style crowpleaser and going back to films more like The Town and Gone Baby Gone.

    Had he been nominated for BD, he would have taken it in a cakewalk. Now, that’s the only category where nobody knows what the hell is going to happen.

    Argo won’t fare as well. It will be looked on as the lazy choice.

  12. This article is great and reminds me how little the Oscar really matters, in an artistic way. If you want to be famous, run for an Oscar. If you want to be taken seriously, go to Venice, Berlinale or Cannes Film Festival and meet nerdy moviegoers and people with interest of YOUR Work, not your god damn personallity, looks or how nice your family is

    The. End

  13. The J Viewer

    Sasha,

    Thanks for a great read. Some thoughts, too.

    Love your PASSION(!) as always, but it’s good enough just to read something seemingly lighter yet equally solid in that sense from you – sometimes. Cheers.

    I’ll watch any feature films directed by Sam Mendes. Post American Beauty I have missed some of his directorial efforts along the way. That said, he’s not the one to dismiss; to me, he’s always been relevant.

    I am hoping he could find his way back in the high life a la American Beauty and Road to Perdition (I love both films), other than Rev. Road and Skyfall, from now on.

    Note: Argo seems unstoppable indeed. I am personally waiting for the moments to follow suit and make some NGNG-pick jokes in those categories irrelevant at all to the film. A la ARGO to win for *Best Animation through write-ins. LOL [*That’s crazy, I know. XD But Argo is that baaad-ass at this very moment. Good for all Ben fans though.]

    Note 2: I am a hetero-guy. [*no romophobic, though] And I like big butt, I can’t deny. However, I think Redford and Costner (sp), in the main pic here, looked really hot in their prime. Just saying. *signed out for now*

  14. Yes, Ben can.
    Yes, he can.
    Yes, we can.
    ;)

  15. The J Viewer

    “Post American Beauty I have missed some of his directorial efforts along the way.”

    Correction: What I meant to say, Post American Beauty I have missed more or less some of his industrial efforts, as director and/or producer/executive producer, along the way. [*signed out*]

  16. Sasha: Thinking about what you’ve said that there will be no more “great films” crowned BP with the preferential ballot, I agree.

    But on the other hand, you and perhaps also Kris seem to think sometimes that when they really like Argo, then Argo is going to win a bunch of things. Isn’t that sort of contradictory to the first point?

    If Argo is winning because it has the most 2/3s of all the films but is not the one with the most 1s (and I truly honestly believe that to be the case), then it stands to reason that Argo will *NOT* in fact take away Oscars it does not deserve like Screenplay or Editing or what have you. If you think I’m just wishfully thinking – then let me know :).

    But, in seriousness, I think/hope that Argo will not get broad appeal because while you can find no one to hate or criticize Argo, you will find few people saying it was their favorite movie of the year.

    So when they vote weighed in the other categories, I think Argo will suffer. In fact, if you look at the winners in the preferential ballot years – TKS and The Artist, they both won what? 4 and 5 Oscars? Certainly not 3 like Crash but also not a “we really liked this movie by consensus” tally like Slumdog Millionaire.

    So, it could be that in the years of the preferential ballot, the BP winner is going to have fewer Oscars – on average – than past BP winners, simply because BP winners will now be consensus pick but not necessarily “the best” picture for most involved. (Of course, in a preferential ballot year a sweep movie like TLOTR still wins 11 Oscars, because when everyone thinks you’re the best then there is no difference between preferential and weighed).

    Another point: You mentioned in your podcast that you thought Lincoln or SLP would only win Best Director if they were going to give it BP (am I getting that right?). I’m not sure I agree necessarily. Suppose you have only three movies and three ballots. Lincoln, SLP, Argo. One guy really likes SLP so he votes SLP Picture/Director. Argo is second on his BP ballot (everyone likes Argo!) and Lincoln is third. The other guy really likes Argo so he votes Argo for Picture but can’t reward Ben, so he has to go with someone else. Suppose SLP for Director. The last guy likes Lincoln a lot, so he votes Lincoln picture/director.

    I realize that in that scenario you can’t resolve Best Picture, so just assume a fourth voter votes Argo and Argo wins, but SLP can win Director. Why? Because the Argo #1 BP voters have to pick a director and can’t pick Affleck.

    So, I could see Russell or Spielberg winning without their movies winning. Just by the way the ballot will work.

  17. There’s somebody we forgot in this discussion.

    Another handsome actor who won an Oscar for directing?

    Warren Beatty in 1981 for “Reds”.

    Definitely helped that he, too, was the star of this film and had been snubbed previously by AMPAS (for 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde” (as actor and producer) and 1978’s Heaven Can Wait (as actor, director and producer).

    If Henry Fonda had not made “On Golden Pond” in 1981, I think Warren Beatty would have won Best Actor that year as well for “Reds”.

  18. Film Fatale

    Fabinho, would you mind enlightening us as to why ARGO is the best picture in your eyes? Every other post it seems like you are going on about how great it is and “lord Ben” or something like that…

    Argo is a slick, entertaining caper movie and nothing more. It has no depth, subtext or well-rounded characters (if so, please help us to see this). It is a version of a real-life incident that is not even close to the truth. It is a fake epic in a sense because it doesn’t have a soul — even Tony Mendez’ story isn’t fleshed out enough to be moving at the end. It’s a nicely made movie and nowhere near the level of Gone Baby Gone. And for a movie about the Middle East, it has surprisingly little to say or any broader context, like Zero Dark Thirty does.

    In short, virtually no one thinks ARGO is the true best picture of the year except for you. The rest of us see it as a “safe” choice that is going to go down as a default because the other movies are all handicapped (ZD30, Lincoln, Pi, etc.)

  19. Film Fatale

    And that picture of Affleck, Clooney and Heslov is nauseating — are they on Mount Rushmore now???? How pretentious.

  20. True, Film Fatale – Affleck even has the Lincoln beard and warty thing happening. Hey – maybe that’s confusing the Academy and they think he’s really Lincoln and that’s why they’ll vote for him!

  21. I want to explain why I would not like to see Argo winning. It is a great movie, but I think it does not deserve the main award because of its competition and what, I think, makes it smaller compared with others and also light is the escape sequence:

    Affleck and hostages are escaping and in the same range of time there are suspicious guys, and it turns out that these guys have a “Variety magazine” (come on, do these guys follow western culture?), and they manage to get a phone number to call those producers in Hollywood, who turn out to be outside their office but somehow manage to answer the phone in the last ring and in the meantime the iranian intelligence achieves to reveal the pictures of the hostages and to send a fax to the airport but the hostages now are in the plane so that the bad guy has enough time to see the fax and send an army to stop the plane. This is the part of the film and screenplay that makes it to lose seriousness.

    The other part I do not like is to see the reaction of not including Affleck in the list of nominees in a very crowded best director race, kind of the end of the world, as if this is the monumental first time. Director omission has happened plenty of times and to legends like Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese, Ang Lee, etc.; so that I do not understand how fans are elevating Ben Affleck to the ranks of the Orson Wells of modern times.

  22. rufussondheim

    I’ve written at length about the character of Tony Mendez and what the film has to say about the Middle East. You’ve either missed it or ignored it.

    I don’t think Argo is the best of the year (it’s #3 on my Oscar Ballot) but all of this revisionist history that Argo is just a nice film that everyone likes is kind of crap. And it’s certainly better than last year’s winner, The Artist.

    http://criticstop10.com/

    Seriously, go look at this website. Note that Argo is #4 overall with the only nominated film ranked higher is Zero Dark Thirty. And it beat Lincoln overall with more mentions and more #1 placements.

    Argo is a perfectly fine film. I don’t think it will go down as an alltime classic, but it certainly won’t be listed in the travesties either.

  23. Pulitzer Prize winning Doris Kearns Goodwin’s illustrious book and Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Kushner revelatory screenplay

    Prizes for past work means nothing for present work. (Also I found Angels in America dull and cloying, like….) Remember, Billy Bob rightfully beat Arthur Miller in the same category.

    I get tired of people harping on Redford’s Oscar win. He took his goodwill from directing Ordinary People and established the Sundance Film Festival. He “recovered” just fine.

    Excellent point. And also, Ordinary People was the rightful best picture. Raging Bull is a fantastically overrated movie. OP is subtly written, intensely moving, and a beautiful work of art.

  24. “Some might say simply, well, the movie is just that good — it must be if it’s winning everything, even the Scripter. I would say if that was so why didn’t anyone see it sooner? — why didn’t it top the box office over Lincoln?”

    – I’ll be glad when this race is over so we can stop placing so much emphasis on box office numbers (something this site has done the opposite of in the past, and rightfully so). And not everyone was just giving it to Affleck. Some venues felt he genuinely deserved it. The BFCA had already chosen their winners BEFORE the Oscars snubbed him.

    “And why wasn’t it getting the kinds of audience reactions Les Miserables did early on?”

    – This is kind of irrelevant. How many Best Picture winners from the past ten years have gotten huge responses? I’ll give you The Artist, Slumdog, Return of the King and Chicago. But what about the other six: King’s Speech, Hurt Locker, Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby? Not every good movie produces the kind of huge reaction as Les Mis. Hell, Lincoln didn’t get this either.

    “If it were me I would prefer one of the films by the five nominated directors to win instead but you can’t have everything.”

    – As someone asked before, were Lincoln to win the BAFTA for Best Film, would you still have this opinion?

    “Can you imagine anyone saying “Way to go Steven!” No, no one is on a first name basis with Steven Spielberg that way.”

    – Probably because they respect the hell out of him and revere him. I doubt anyone is on a first-name basis with Meryl Streep or Christopher Plummer either, and for the same reason.

    “When you think about it, how in the world could anyone compete with that heat, least of all nerdy Spielberg or stoic, lovely Ang Lee?”

    – Again, I’ll be happy when the winners have been announced and we can stop acting like we think people hate Spielberg or find him, lol, “nerdy.” He is perhaps the most respected living director in the industry. I love the hell out of him myself, but that doesn’t mean he should win just because of who he is. Since you bring up Lee, I would say he actually does deserve it. What he did with Pi was nothing short of miraculous.

  25. “I get tired of people harping on

    Redford’s Oscar win.”

    I completely agree.

    Redford is a great filmmaker.
    Ordinary People is a powerful and brilliant movie. Moore, Sutterland and Hirsch are terrific and Hutton is a little giant. He gives on of greatest performances on screen ever. Great screenplay, amazing lines, great score.
    It’s a great movie.
    I know, Raging Bull is brilliant too, but for me, it was a amazing fucking race, like in 1950, All About Eve x Sunset Blvd., 1951, A Streetcar Naned Desire x A Place in the Sun, 1972 The Godfather x Cabaret and 1974 The Godfather – Part II x Chinatown.
    And Redford make jewls like Quiz Show (really terrific), A River Runs…, The Horse Whisperer. For me, he’s an author. And I like very much (just me, matbe) Lions for Lambs (Garfield after Boy A showing all his power) and The Company You Keep).

    And about the others…
    Dances whit Wolves in just ok, but I really like Costner (fucking Waterworld). He’ s great in Eastwood’s A Perfect World (great movie too).
    By the way, do I need to say anything about Mr. Eastwood’s career after Bird?

    Well, Warren Beatty is my idol and one of greats… Pne of the most interesting carrers since 60’s.
    He’s a real legend!

    So, the only freak aberration and mistake is Mel Gibson and his peace of shit calked Braveheart.

  26. Film Fatale

    Rufus, I haven’t “missed” or “ignored” what you’ve written about Argo but frankly, you’re not on my list of writers that normally read so why would I have seen it? And is it possible that perhaps I, and many others, don’t agree with you?

    I NEVER said Argo winning would be a “travesty” and I admitted that it is a perfectly well-made movie. I really don’t see where we disagree.

    However, Argo is far from a classic, far from deep, far from having subtext other than a sledgehammer theme of “GO USA” and a connect-the-dots dad comes home to son finale.

    Not complex, not all that interesting, well-made enough to be gripping and exciting. Period.

  27. Rufus, why don’t you use Metacritic and MSN top 10s where Lincoln is higher than Argo. criticstop10.com uses many foreign critic lists and Lincoln released overseas after those lists conducted. Just reminded you.

  28. Robert A.

    “I don’t think Argo is the best of the year (it’s #3 on my Oscar Ballot) but all of this revisionist history that Argo is just a nice film that everyone likes is kind of crap.”

    I agree, Rufus. I even have Argo at #3 on my Oscar ballot (well, maybe 4…I keep jumping back and forth between 3 and 4). “Argo is a nice little caper film and nothing more” has become the meme that people have latched onto as a way to box it into a category that can be easily dismissed. No amount of your reasonable analysis of the film will change the appeal of that simplistic meme, it seems, but I did want you to know that I read your analysis of Argo and thought it was pretty spot-on.

  29. Jerry Grant

    Robert Redford is a great filmmaker. Quiz Show. A River Runs through It. Nuff said.

    As for “Argo,” it’s an excellent film, and a perfectly worthy film to win the big prize, especially when seen in the context of other blah Best Picture winners, such as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Crash,” and “The Artist”. True, it’s only my #6 for the year. But let’s remember what an excellent and varied year this was. When I saw “Lincoln,” I knew it was my #1, but I also felt that was a mark against its likelihood to win the big prize–it’s too smart, too slow for many. I knew people that just found it “blah”. Sad. But so many of my favorite films are that way. I’ll be so glad if it wins Best Actor, Screenplay, and/or Director–and if all three, wow. And this is the year of “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Django Unchained” and “The Life of Pi” and “The Master” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”–wow, that’s a varied feast for all of us. All extremely accomplished and–dare I say–significant films. Let’s not forget it! In my opinion, the best year for films in about a decade.

  30. alan of montreal

    Affleck’s trajectory kind of reminds me of Robert Downey Jr’s–golden boy when young, crashing due to substance abuse, then resurrecting himself phoenix-like from the ashes of his career. The only thing Downey’s narrative is missing is JLo.

  31. Film Fatale,

    Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me??????????????!!!!!!!!!

    Am I really te only one who think Argo is the Best Movie of the Year?

    Well, say it to several Critics, and to PGA, Golden Globe, BAFTA, SGA and Critics Choice´s voters.
    Can you ask the same to all them?

    But, you´re wrong twice… my #1 is The Master.

    Just one error is not enought for you?

  32. Victor Barreto

    Remember when Hollywood’s most beautiful pair of eyes lost Best Picture to the less than stellar “Oliver!”, when he still hadn’t won Best Actor?

  33. alan of montreal

    Speaking of Redford, the trailer is out for The Company You Keep. Contender for next year? http://www.hsx.com/blog/view.php?id=1502

  34. I wouldn’t say Bruce Beresford won an Oscar with a limited amount of work. And yes, he has made better films since his win as well as before.

  35. ^ wtf did I just say????

  36. Last night I watched the five live action Oscar nominated films. One of the films, a Canadian film called HENRY (absolutely my favorite of the film, though this was admittedly a great lot) is far better than ARGO! Even though it’s only a “short.”

    Nobody can or will ever be able to accuse the Academy of making the right choices! When personality, charisma and politics get in the way good taste and acknowledgement of artistry are lost in the breeze.

  37. Alan,

    I watched The Company You Keep laste september.
    It´s a nice movie. :)

  38. Free said: Spielberg “is perhaps the most respected living director in the industry. I love the hell out of him myself, but that doesn’t mean he should win just because of who he is.”

    EXACTLY! I feel the same way. I’m bothered by the pundits and the critics who exalt Spielberg’s work to the highest levels, and this is part of the problem why he nor his film will win. Sadly, there’s no passion behind them, despite the box office, despite the raves. There’s no narrative to gain momentum. Spielberg said it best in response to his directing snub for Jaws: “EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER, BUT NOBODY LOVES A **WINNER**.” I would absolutely love to have a conversation with Spielberg about the Oscars (and his films of course)–in private so I can get his real opinion). One of my dreams if I ever became acquainted with him.

    In my heart, I would love to see Ang Lee to win Director. I’m prepared though for a shock in this category, as I recognize they are not voting for the greatest directorial achievement and will probably award the #2 film on the preferential ballot. And no, that’s not Lincoln.

    I have a feeling in 1980 Scorsese was still a relative newcomer to Hollywood circles. He received his first nomination for Directing, while Robert Redford had been starring in movies–including a Best Picture winner–for over a decade. The “Charm” Offensive phenomenon shows you that Hollywood doesn’t vote for the best directed work (MOST PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS), they vote for who they want to see win the Oscar, who has goodwill and hasn’t been awarded yet. Scorsese being based in New York and tackling difficult and controversial material did him no favors when it comes to Oscars. But in the end, as a serious director, where would you rather be, an Oscar winning director for a movie that captured the hearts of audiences for an ephemeral moment, now forgotten–OR–a world-renowned auteur with several films considered the greatest ever made that will be studied and viewed for decades upon decades??? The industry appreciation is appealing, yes, and many directors (YES Scorsese, YES David O. Russell, YES Steven Spielberg) changed their early trajectories to get this attention, but in the long run it’s the films that survive not the awards.

  39. Funny enough Sasha u say u fell in love with Affleck while u interviewed him for his movie The Town, I could swear back then the woman who the film was about was YOU!!!! I remember back then I had to research to see who she was because I was so amazed by how much she looked like miss Sasha Stone. I was disappointed when I found out it wasn’t you but seriously you two have an uncanny resemblance :)

  40. rufussondheim

    I use critics top 10 simply because it has the most critics. I haven’t gone through all of them and calculated percentages as to what film was eligible on the lists each site uses. I’m not that anal. But Argo has a nice lead on Lincoln for #1 spots – 44 to 32. So if even 100 of the critics on this site didn’t have a chance to see Lincoln, I doubt Lincoln would catch up, especially since Lincoln reviews are pretty tepid overseas.

    And anyone who uses any of these lists to argue that Lincoln should win over Argo is completely idiotic. If you want to use these lists you should be arguing a Zero Dark Thirty win, which is highest on any poll you take for 2012.

    And, for the record, Zero Dark Thirty would get my vote if I had one.

  41. Antoinette

    Wouldn’t it be funny if Ben Affleck was so charming that when they first pan over the audience during the Oscar ceremony, we see that absolutely no one is wearing pants? :)

  42. Now we’re discussing “Argo”… We just saw “The Campaign”. Yes, that Will Ferrell / Zach Galiafanakis film that no one seems to remember by now.

    I am going to say this… It’s a way better, more sharp, deeper, film than Argo is. Will Ferrell’s performance tops anything seen in “Argo” (even thought they’re all great in that film), and Karen Maruyama’s 3 escene-stealing moments in the film are more Oscar worthy than Alan Arkin’s performance, all together (no offense, Alan).

    If “Argo” has a chance at Picture or Screenplay, “The Campaign” should, too. There, I said it. I needed to vent it out. Please don’t consider it trolling… I seriously admire Ben Affleck, and I think “Argo”‘s only problem is the screenplay, specially in the last third. But it’s more a praise, a heads up to that film, than an “Argo” bash.

    Karen Maruyama… hilarious. And that VFX with the baby (you’ll see) is SO real…

  43. comedywontwin

    I don’t know why people are making a big deal of Argo to win a best picture…it’s a good movie, a good contender, goldon globe winner. Why don’t people mention Crash? The worst movie in Oscar library to win best picutre…it wasn’t even nominated for GG…..At least Argo is made with art, real events, nice story…maybe wasn’t perfect like Zero dark thirty as a whole, but it is still not a bad choice if it wins.

  44. This year suggests that if Abraham Lincoln and George Clooney ran for President today, George Clooney would probably win.

  45. All the ‘this charming man/sob story/underdog’ points go so far. The entire Lincoln smear campaign, obviously initiated by this Argo team, leaves me with a sick feeling towards the entire bunch. Smiling, back-batting one second, back-stabbers, ruthlessness in the Oscar war room.

  46. Argo is a mediocre representation of 2012 cinema, terrible since it was such a strong year in film.

    Obviously the film isn’t bad, but it really doesn’t offer anything new and isn’t even close to the top in its genre (political thriller, or just thriller?) Yes, it will join the ranks for the other recent Best Picture winners that were decent movies, but not best the year they came out.

    Really, truly, which films of the nine nominees are better than Argo? I would say Lincoln, Life of Pi, Amour, and Zero Dark Thirty. I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, but it would be equally disappointing if that film won top honors too.

    Luckily, Best Picture has almost always been a blah category for me as the “best” rarely seems to win, so it doesn’t bum me out as much. Worse, it has become very predictable which movie will win ahead of time – the crowd pleaser of the bunch. At least for the last 3 cycles.

    So, in the end, Argo joins The King’s Speech and The Artist as not nearly in the same category as its competition.

    Sasha, could you do a piece on ageism in Hollywood? Young actors (twentysomethings like Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller or DiCaprio back in the day) seem to face a similar roadblock older actresses do…

  47. This is Not a big deal okay. Just 6 members out of 6000 members. I just found it quite interesting.

    Awardscircuit polled 6 academy members.

    Here’s the Result

    Best Picture:

    1st: Silver Linings Playbook- 3 (2 voters placed it at number 2)
    2nd: Argo- 1 (3 voters placed it at 2, 3, 9)
    3rd: Life of Pi- 1 (4, 4, 8,)
    4th: Django Unchained- 1 (6, 2)

    Best Director:

    1st: Russell – 4
    2nd: Ang Lee – 1
    3rd: Haneke – 1

    Best Actor:

    TIE: Day-Lewis – 3
    Cooper – 3

    Best Actress:

    1st: Lawrence – 5
    2nd: Riva – 1

    Best Supporting Actor:

    1st: De Niro – 3
    2nd: Waltz – 2
    3rd: Arkin – 1

    Best Supporting Actress:

    1st: Weaver – 3
    2md: Field – 2
    3rd: Adams – 1

    Best Adapted Screenplay:

    1st: Silver Linings Playbook – 5
    2nd: Beast of the Southern Wild – 1

    Best Original Screenplay:

    Amour- 2
    Django Unchained- 2
    Moonrise Kingdom – 1
    Flight – 1

    Best Film Editing:

    1ST: Silver Linings Playbook – 2
    2ND: Argo – 1
    3RD: Life of Pi- 1

    I just found it interesting but not a big deal guys. There are 6000+ members out of 6. haha. :-)

    Here’s the LA times sneak peek.
    http://graphics.latimes.com/towergraphic-sneak-peek-three-oscar-ballots/

  48. LOL if Jacki Weaver wins, I am done with the Oscars.

  49. The only one of these actor/directors who really deserved to win, is the Clint, and I mean for “Unforgiven.” He had been directing for 21 years at that point and had amassed a large body of work as a director. He has also had a large body of work since, more so than Redford, Costner. The other guys are actors who direct. Eastwood is an actor and a director (and a producer).

  50. The charm is not Affleck. The charm is the topic of the movie Argo. No addresses that it’s Hollywood Goes to foreign affairs. It is the movie industries chance to get remembered in the history books. Trust me.

  51. “LOL if Jacki Weaver wins, I am done with the Oscars.”

    Seriously. Ditto if SLP wins editing over…anything else.

  52. @Jesus: Yeah. . .no.

  53. I see SLP as an above average rom com masquerading as a serious film. Not worthy of any Oscars.

    I hope that Sasha, after the disappointment of Lincoln wears off, you will see that you have been quite unfair to Affleck and Argo, a film I seem to remember you absolutely loved at the time (and saw big things Awards-wise for it).

  54. Alice Johnson

    I am just a life long movie lover. A Grandma of 70 from Texas who was literally raised with Saturday movies being my babysitter. I love all kinds of movies and have a huge collection. I have seen every one of the nominated movies and ‘Argo’ is by far the best of the bunch. An engulfing, engrossing movie that is so beautifully crafted and acted, I loved it the first time and every time I have seen it since. I did not enjoy ‘Les Mis’ at all, a spectacle for sure, but just too much. Actors who essentially cannot sing, singing their way through a movie was too much. ‘Lincoln’ was quite simply a rather dull retelling of history we all know and have heard in one way or another over and over.If Daniel
    Day Lewis had not been in that movie it would not have even been nominated. The performance by him was as his always are, quirky but excellent. ‘Django’ an unusual western for sure, too violent, but of course it would be considering it’s creator, and way too long. ‘Silver Linings’ a very charming and touching film but should not really have even been nominated at all, way too personal. I did like that one a lot but not in the category of excellence with Argo at all. Last of all ‘Life of PI’, a huge story telling session by a film maker whose main goal is to never make the same thing twice. I liked this one least of all and considered leaving before it was even over. Ben Affleck is charming, he is very handsome and these are what he was born with, good for him, BUT he is also an excellent actor who has been under valued. While everyone has made bad movies, his have been dwelled on at the expense of the excellent performances and films he has made. He is very smart, which I hope and believe will see him making many more excellent films. Honestly ‘Gone Baby Gone’ was so good and a first effort by a man who wrote and directed. I was blown away and then ‘The Town’, again written, acted and directed and so very good, really excellent. Every film Ben Affleck has made have been so very good and each one better than the last. He is simply an amazing all around film maker! But as a simple movie lover, fist and foremost I want to be engrossed and entertained, and Ben Affleck does that in spades. The problem here is the Academy has disappointed again as they so often do. I hope they will redeem themselves in part by giving this amazing film the Oscar for Best Film of the year, it certainly was!

  55. alan of montreal

    re: Jacki Weaver – well, remember that Dame Jude won one for doing much less.

  56. @Alice Johnson

    It sounds like you would have only nominated two films. Is that what you meant to say?

  57. Oh, Alice Johnson, you´re a lovely Grandmother!
    You´re sweet and cute. :)

  58. Sasha: Whats your thoughts about the life after Oscar for Ben Affleck? If he wins, is that the beginning of the end for him? From the loved Affleck to the overhyped and awarded Affleck with a bad post Oscar director career? I F

    Or if Affleck does not win, he will make an even better film than Argo and may be seen overdue, next time around?

    IF you take a look at the filmography of Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert Redford after their director win: what kind of career do you see?

    Many questions. Sorry ;)

  59. Avatar of Sasha Stone

    Sasha: Whats your thoughts about the life after Oscar for Ben Affleck? If he wins, is that the beginning of the end for him? From the loved Affleck to the overhyped and awarded Affleck with a bad post Oscar director career? I F

    I don’t know really. It depends on what he does next. One of the problems with awarding a director so fresh out of the gate is that they don’t have a body of work behind them. Sometimes it can turn out okay (Woody Allen) and sometimes not (Paul Haggis, Hugh Hudson, the Rocky guy, Bruce Beresford, etc) — I think this win will eventually (it already is starting to) become an embarrassing one, not because Argo is so bad but because the others are so much better – Zero Dark Thirty’s controversy will eventually evaporate and it will be one of those fucked up things to look back on, ditto Lincoln. So I’d say he’s smart enough to overcome the ensuing backlash and maybe someday he’ll have an unqualified success.

    Or if Affleck does not win, he will make an even better film than Argo and may be seen overdue, next time around?

    He would collect major Oscar cache if that happened. He wouldn’t have to do much to get a win. Remember, this is Steven Spielberg’s career story with Oscar.

    IF you take a look at the filmography of Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert Redford after their director win: what kind of career do you see? An actor (one of them) making “good” with their careers. The Academy is made up of actors mostly so seeing a director win is a big deal but Costner won the DGA, so did Redford so they had directors approval too. Lots of people loved and love their movies even now. Dances with Wolves and Ordinary People were THE movies of their time. The problem with this year is that there were two movies of our time and neither one of them is going to win.

  60. From people I’ve spoken with, here’s why Argo MAY win Best Picture over Lincoln:

    -Both Argo and Lincoln are stories from American history with some liberties taken in their respective narratives

    -The audience KNOWS GOING IN how both these films end – In Argo, they get out of Iran; In Lincoln, the amendment passes and the President eventually meets his fate. No surprises.

    However, the key thing seems to be this (and I’ve not seen any posts about it, anywhere): Most people I know have said Lincoln felt more than a little “sterile.” It’s a beautifully crafted picture in every way…but almost too “crafted.” Everything looks, sounds and feels a little “too perfect.” Now, I understand that that’s a weird “complaint” to have about a film – saying that its combined elements are “too perfect” seems almost petty. But they were ultimately saying that it felt to them like they were getting a brilliant HISTORY LESSON instead of a narrative STORY. Without exception, everyone admired the film, but said they didn’t FEEL anything for the characters, and thus ultimately for the film itself.

    When comparing Lincoln to Argo, the consensus I’m hearing is that while Argo definitely had it’s eye on details as well, it comes across as a little grittier, a little more suspenseful and a little more emotionally engaging. People not only admired the film, but FELT something and got caught up in the story, as opposed to the historical aspect.

    I, personally, like both films and honestly don’t care who wins Best Picture. But if Argo wins, I don’t believe for a second it’s because of “group mentality” or voters following the Guilds or any such nonsense. I think it comes down to viewers needing to FEEL something at this particular moment in our history. A catharsis seems to be necessary, at least in this day and age.

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