Ben Affleck’s spy drama “Argo” is seemingly the front-runner for the coveted Best Picture award at this Sunday’s Academy Awards, but I’ve been skeptical of its “front-runner” status the entire time. Maybe it’s because I don’t believe “Argo” should be the Best Picture winner. It’s a very good film with a nice story and good performances, but I don’t think it’s really anything all too special or award-worthy and I don’t believe it’s a better film than fellow nominees “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”
I understand why “Argo” has been given front-runner status, because it’s basically sweeping all of the other major awards winning the top prizes at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as other acclaimed honors. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the film “upset” at the Oscars and I’m not sure I’d even go as far as predicting the film to win the Best Picture award.
Because the nominations could be somewhat showing the Academy’s hand. It has been more than two decades since a film won the Best Picture award and failed to receive a Best Director nomination for its director. In 1989 “Driving Miss Daisy” took home the night’s biggest honor without a nomination going to its director Bruce Beresford, who had been previously nominated for 1983’s “Tender Mercies,” but lost the award that year to James L. Brooks for “Terms of Endearment.” The only other time in the Academy’s 84 year history that a Best Picture winner failed to have its director nominated for Best Director was in 1931-32 when “Grand Hotel” won Best Picture and didn’t receive a nomination for director Edmund Goulding, but this was during an era in which the Academy only nominated three directors per year. In fact, most of the time the winner of Best Director will go on to see his or her film claim the Best Picture honor. It has been almost a full decade since a Best Director Oscar winner did not have his or her film go on to claim Best Picture. The last time this happened was in 2005 when Ang Lee won Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crash,” directed by nominee Paul Haggis, went on to win Best Picture.
This year Affleck was not nominated for the Best Director prize. It’s not out of the question that his film will go on to win Best Picture, after all, it has happened twice before in the great history of these awards, but based on history, trends and sheer numbers I’m not so sure “Argo” should be considered the lock that many critics and moviegoers seem to think it is and as I previously said I’m not sure it should even be considered the “favorite” or “front-runner.”
Based on history and total number of nominations this year it might seem that Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” should be the real favorites this year. Both of those film’s directors were nominated for the Best Director prize and both films received more overall nominations. “Lincoln” received the most nominations this year with 12, only two less than the all-time record of 14 nominations held by “Ben-Hur” (1959) and “Titanic” (1997). Having the most nominations is not always a lock to win Best Picture, though, as Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” had the most nominations last year with 11 and fell to Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist.” “Silver Linings Playbook” may only have one more nomination than “Argo” this year, but the film is nominated in basically every major category – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. “Argo” is only nominated in three of those big categories (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor) and Alan Arkin’s Best Supporting Actor nomination is considered by many to truly be a reach and possibly a career achievement nomination for the former winner of this category for “Little Miss Sunshine.” “Silver Linings Playbook” is the first film in over 30 years, since Warren Beatty’s “Reds” in 1981 to receive a nomination in each of the four acting categories, which is a great feat, but might not necessarily mean much seeing as how “Reds” lost the Best Picture prize that year to Hugh Hudson’s “Chariots of Fire,” despite Beatty taking home the Best Director statue.
All of this would seem to state that the award for Best Picture this year is still very wide open as we head into the weekend of the awards ceremony. But, I think it does prove that “Argo” maybe isn’t the huge favorite that everybody believes it to be and that you might not want to sleep on “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards telecast on ABC should be a blast. You can see it locally on KATV Conway Corp. Channel 7 at 7:30 p.m.