When Argo wins Best Picture it will be the weakest Best Picture winner since 1932’s Grand Hotel.
Life of Pi – 11
Les Mis, Silver Linings-8
Argo – 7 + no director
With no director nomination and at that nominations rank Argo is on the level of Grand Hotel in terms of strength. Best Picture strength is measured by nominations rank and having a best director nomination. It is up to you to decide the film’s worth. I am talking stats.
That’s 80 years since we had a winner with fewer nominations and no director nomination win. Emmanuelle Riva was five the last time that happened. Call it a fluke of timing, blame the DGA for not announcing before ballots got turned in, fume at the directors in the Academy for leaving Ben Affleck off their list but no matter, the context will eventually evaporate and we will be left with the stat.
There are two kinds of film fans. Those who zero in on the director and those who don’t. Me, I’m someone who zeroes in on the director. I have always been that way, as a film fan and as a wanna-be filmmaker once upon a time (#humblefail). I grew up studying films through the director – Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, etc. Therefore, it always bugs me when a film wins without its director. Brokeback Mountain and Ang Lee should have won, or Crash and Paul Haggis. Shakespeare in Love and whatever that guy’s name was or Saving Private Ryan and Steven Spielberg. I’m just funny that way. Only kidding about John Madden!
Best Picture winners without their directors in recent times don’t fare well in memory — The Godfather and Shakespeare in Love being exceptions in my book — and they don’t serve the whole point of the structure of the Oscars. To me personally. Then again, actors seem to rule these choices more than any other group and in the case of a split, I like to imagine, the actors pull rank.
When this happens on Sunday it will wipe clean the director stat we have all become too comfortable with. The Social Network’s loss to the King’s Speech proved, beyond any doubt, that the critics have zero impact on the industry. This year, Argo’s win will prove the Academy’s directors, once the gods of Hollywood, have zero impact on the industry. In short, the industry rules. I’ve been blogging as the PGA and SAG have grown in prominence and now they are an impenetrable wall. The guilds birth the baby; The Oscars lap up their afterbirth.
Why is this, well, when the guild said yes to Apollo 13 (The Color Purple came out at a time when there wasn’t a PGA or a SAG) against the Academy’s designation of Ron Howard’s omission, the Academy said nope. But this year, they’re expected to say yes – part of that is due to Argo’s unstoppable momentum, which caught fire after (and only after) Zero Dark Thirty’s demise. That, with Affleck’s snub, plus Argo being a likable movie helped voters choose one out of a handful of exceptional films this year. The critics were set to rally around Zero Dark Thirty but they fled their consensus pick and began to embrace Argo. With the critics and the guilds, Argo now, even without the crucial director stat, will win Best Picture.
That means, Academy history, for the most part, has been tossed. Every known stat, tossed. You will say, well what about Driving Miss Daisy? And I will say, Bruce Beresford, the lucky bastard, wasn’t nominated for a Globe or a DGA. Moreover, Daisy had the most nominations and had made the most money. That movie this year is Lincoln.
Nominations wise, Argo is either 4th or 5th in line, depending on how you choose to count it. If you simply count the numbers of nominations without making two films that got the same number a separate count (like Les Miserables being number 3, and Silver Linings being 4 even though they both have 8 nominations) Argo is 4th. If you count all of the films as placeholders, Argo comes in at fifth. Either way, every film that’s won in either of those rankings has had a director nomination.
Here is how our math wonk Marshall Flores describes it, ”
Just to clarify about ranking – the ranking system I use (dense ranking) doesn’t introduce gaps as a result of ties – which is why Argo is 4th under that system in nominees behind Les Mis and SLP, which tie for third. In the typical competitive ranking system, there are gaps, so Les Mis and SLP still tie for third, but since there are 2 films tied for 3rd for place, we skip over 4th place and jump to Argo, which is then 5th.
That’s the big stat that this year will be breaking – and in so doing we now have to conclude two things about Oscars with a preferential ballot. 1) the guilds rule, but especially the PGA and the DGA. 2) having no director nomination means little to nothing anymore.
Other stats I know of this year:
Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest nominee and Quvenzhane Wallis is the youngest.
Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg are now the most nominated producers in Academy history, Kennedy is the most nominated without a win.
Jennifer Lawrence would be the 3rd youngest winner, behind Marlee Matlin (21) and Janet Gaynor (22).
Emmanuelle Riva would be the oldest, beating Jessica Tandy who was 80 at the time of her win.
Daniel Day-Lewis, should he win, will become the first actor in Academy history to win three best actor Oscars.
Steven Spielberg, should he win, will become only the fourth director in Academy history to win more than two directing Oscars, joining William Wyler, Frank Capra and John Ford, who holds the record with four.
Zero Dark Thirty is the only film this year with a female in the lead role. Jessica Chastain is the only leading actress who doesn’t exist as a partner to a male lead.
Kathryn Bigelow joins a list of “snubbed” female best directors, like Penny Marshall (Awakenings) and Barbra Streisand (Prince of Tides and Yentyl, although the latter wasn’t nominated for BP – it might have been if they allowed for more than five).
Ang Lee‘s appearance in the Best Director race always results in a picture/director mix-up. For Sense and Sensibility, you had Ron Howard, Apollo 13 and Braveheart, for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon you had Gladiator and Steven Soderbergh for Traffic, for Brokeback Mountain you had Crash and now, you have Argo and Ben Affleck and … fill in the blank?
90% of participants in our forums currently have predicted David O. Russell to win Best Director. If that happens, he will break the stat that’s been in place since the beginning of the DGA, in 1949, that no director without a DGA nomination has ever won Best Director.
If Lincoln or Life of Pi win Picture and Director on Sunday it will become the first film to win without a previous Globe or DGA, Eddie or WGA win.
Basically, if any film wins on Sunday they will have to make history to do so. That in itself is a pretty wild stat.
Know of any others?