Oscar Watch 2013: ‘Argo’ … for the Win?

brent johnson examines Argo‘s Golden Globes victory …

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The 2013 Golden Globes may be remembered for a few things. Bill Clinton’s standing ovation. Jodie Foster’s clever, cunning, touching lifetime-acheivement-award speech. Les Miserables’ dominance over Silver Linings Playbook in the Comedy or Musical categories. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s funny, solid hosting job.

But more than anything, last night belonged to Ben Affleck. And he damn well deserved it.

 

The much-maligned actor turned critically acclaimed filmmaker took home the Best Director prize for Argo — five days after the Academy Awards shockingly didn’t include him among their nominees in the same category. And Affleck’s smart political thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis also scored the Globe for Best Picture (Drama).

For Affleck, it was a nice piece of validation. But what does it do for his film’s Oscar chances? Possibly very little.

Despite the Academy’s directing snub, Argo is still nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. And the Globes victory does give the movie a higher profile and more buzz in the press. Regardless, it has three things working against it:

1. Only once in the last 80 years has a movie won the Oscars’ Best Picture statue without its filmmaker being nominated for Best Director: 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. The director’s branch is one of the Academy’s largest, and if Affleck didn’t have enough support from that branch to earn a directing nomination, it may not have enough support overall.

2. The voters of the Golden Globes — the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — don’t vote for the Oscars. Not one of them. So what they think is not necessarily what the Academy’s members are thinking.

 

3. Over the last 10 years, only one winner of the Globe for Best Picture (Drama) went on to take the Oscars’ top award: Slumdog Millionaire in 2009.

Maybe last night proved the Globes are more in tune with quality than the Oscars these days. Affleck belonged to have his name among the Academy’s Best Director nominees. He’s got a wonderful story: a man who rose to fame as the co-screenwriter and co-star of Good Willing Hunting, who fell from grace with poor acting choices in the early 2000s, and then found new life as a promising director. And along with Silver Linings Playbook, he made one of the year’s top two well-crafted films.

But as has been the case in many years recently, this Oscar race is still shaping up to be a fight between a sweeping drama (Lincoln) and a quirky, arty film (Silver Linings Playbook) — with a CGI spectacle (Life Of Pi) nipping behind. Remember, though: The Academy’s largest voting bloc is the actors’ branch. And they may be drawn to the fact that Argo is anchored by a slew of strong performances, from Best Supporting Actor nominee Alan Arkin to John Goodman to Bryan Cranston to Affleck himself. They may also not take too kindly to the fact that Affleck was snubbed in the directing category and make up for it by throwing their weight behind Argo for Best Picture. Plus, strong support from the actors’ branch is also a big reason why actors-turned-directors have fared so well at the Oscars in years past — from Warren Beatty to Kevin Costner to Clint Eastwood to Mel Gibson.

Maybe Argo has a chance in the end. After all, Hollywood loves a good underdog story.

 

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