[21 January 2013]
Associate Features Editor
I think I find myself in the minority of all issues Ben Affleck. First, I was a fan of the actor. Yes, from Good Will Hunting on I enjoyed Affleck the Actor in such films as Armageddon, Dogma, The Sum of All Fears, and even the much maligned Jersey Girl.
I joined the consensus for a few years when he broke through as a director. Gone Baby Gone, his first effort, is based on my favorite novel and is now one of my favorite films. The Town is incredibly entertaining and is oft-quoted around my home (“I’m putting this whole town in my reahview.”).
Yet I can’t get completely on board with Argo. People are saying it’s his best film, and while I can’t argue it’s well-made, I can poke a few holes in its bubble of perfection. The major issue—we know the ending and nothing is done to make us forget it. In fact, Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio go to great lengths to outline the step-by-step process of the film’s final 20 minutes before we get into them.
But I digress. Like it or not, Argo has been destined for an awards run since its release was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews and big box office totals. I doubt anyone expected a run as strange as this one, though.
First, Argo earned seven Oscar nominations. That’s a perfectly respectable total for a Best Picture contender, but there were a few key categories missing from the list. Affleck was a long shot for Best Actor, but he was all but assured a Best Director nod.
Then he didn’t get it, and—as is common practice every year—people flipped out. After having his popular second feature The Town snubbed from the Best Picture race in 2010, Ben Affleck was again bitch-slapped by the Academy—this time even harder considering his DGA & Golden Globe nominations as well as his National Board of Review win early in the Oscar race.
The same day the nominations were announced, Ben Affleck got all gussied up to attend the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. It’s a good thing he did—he was the surprise winner for Best Director. It then happened again at the Golden Globes a few days later. To make things even more complicated, Argo won Best Picture from both groups despite being a heavy underdog to Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln.
Affleck jokingly started his Critics’ Choice acceptance speech with, “I’d like to thank the Academy…” but should he have been more sincere? Did his Oscar snub actually help him win other awards?
Short answer: no. While conspiracy theorists may argue otherwise, votes for both shows were due before the Academy’s nominations were released, making it impossible for either of the groups’ members to choose Affleck or Argo in an effort to make up for his Oscar snub. These weren’t pity votes. Each award was a sincere recognition for Affleck’s achievements behind the camera.
That being said, Argo should consider itself a top contender for the most coveted Oscar after winning the Golden Globe for Best Drama. Well, not so fast. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (who put on the Golden Globes) does not share many if any of its members with the Academy, and neither does the Broadcast Film Critics Association (who hand out the Critics’ Choice Awards). These specific groups may have fallen for Affleck and his historical thriller. The Academy did not.
The attention paid to Argo will certainly help win over a few undecided voters, but they would need many, many more bandwagon jumpers to have a shot at winning Best Picture. Lest we forget, Affleck couldn’t even persuade enough voters to nominate him. Now, we’re talking about choosing his movie to win.
One intriguing notion is reinforced by Argo’s strong showing, though—this Oscar race is more open than many believed after Lincoln earned 12 nominations. Yes, I still believe Steven Spielberg’s baby will dominate come February 24, but the diversity among winners at the precursor awards indicates an opportunity for underdogs to upset.
With the right marketing, campaigning, and luck, we could end up with a few surprises on Oscar night—even if Argo isn’t one of them.