PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'Argo' F-Yourself, Oscar!

In what many pundits believe is an indictment of the Academy's recent snub of Argo helmer Ben Affleck, the Director's Guild of America has honored the film, and its maker, with its 2013 recognition as the year's best.


Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé
Rated: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-10-12 (General release)
UK date: 2012-11-07 (General release)

In what many pundits believe is an indictment of the Academy's recent snub of Argo helmer Ben Affleck, the Director's Guild of America has honored the film, and its maker, with its 2013 recognition as the year's best. This comes hot on the critical coattails of the film's win at the Producer's Guild Awards, as well as with the Screen Actors. All totaled, the based on a true story thriller about the Iran Hostage Crisis has pulled in a stunning set of accolades. It has a pair of Golden Globes (for Picture and Affleck), several pending international nods, and acknowledgement from at least a dozen critic's groups. While AMPAS has seen fit to bestow seven nominations on the film, the given for its director is nowhere to be found. Instead, Oscar has seen fit to ignore three of the DGA's nominees (Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Tom Hooper) for a telling trio of its own (Michael Haneke, David O. Russell, and Behn Zeitlin).

Again, the Academy wields a diabolical double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's very brave to celebrate such arthouse fare as Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour and Russell's mention remains a leftover from The Silver Linings Playbook's smash debut at Toronto (and some wavering Weinstein clout). Besides, the DGA is not the end all, be all of directing excellence in any given year. In fact Oscar has disagreed eight previous times with the eventual Guild winner (with this year being number nine) since the award's inception in 1948. In the earliest cases, the timing for the trophy was a bit off. For example, Joseph L. Mankiewicz won the very first DGA award for this likable Letter to Three Wives. However, due to its late release, it was not deemed eligible until the next year. John Huston would take home that year's Academy Award for the brilliant Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

It happened again in 1949, when Mankiewicz finally got his little gold statue. That year, the DGA gave All The King's Men's Robert Rossen their revered recognition. Since then, however, it's been a question of snubs and suspect results. In 1968, Carol Reed of Oliver! (Oscar) beat The Lion in Winter's Anthony Harvey (DGA), while in 1972, Francis Ford Coppola saw his work in The Godfather (DGA) bested by Bob Fosse and Cabaret (Oscar). Said disagreements would persist, with Stephen Soderbergh and Traffic winning over Ang Lee and his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 and Roman Polanski topping Rob Marshall in 2002 when the Academy praised The Piano over the ambition musical adaptation of Chicago. But in now three cases, Oscar has made an even more egregious mistake - failing to even nominate the eventual DGA winner.

The first - and perhaps most notorious time - this happened was back in 1985 when Stephen Spielberg's highly touted The Color Purple landed 11 nominations...and none for its DGA winning director. As a matter of fact, the film as a whole was snubbed by Oscar, failing to take home a single trophy. The next time a Director's Guild honoree failed to get the equal AMPAS treatment was in 1995, when Ron Howard failed to earn a slot for his work on Apollo 13. Instead, Braveheart and its creator, Mel Gibson, walked away with Academy glory. The main reason for so few discrepancies is that the voters for both awards are, more or less, the same group. There are some DGA members who are not in the AMPAS clique, and visa versa, but for the most part, the director's determining their own group's yearly outcome are the same ones sending in their Oscar ballots.

So why? Why didn't Affleck get a nod in what was obviously his peer designated time to shine? Well, there will always be some who look at actors turned auteurs and argue that, unlike those who've put in the years and paid their dues, these upstarts don't deserve the industry's top honor. Of course, that didn't stop Kevin Costner, Robert Redford, or Gibson from walking away with Oscar gold. Equally impactful may be the notion that, as a previous winner for Good Will Hunting, the Academy feels that Affleck already has all the acknowledge he needs, AMPAS wise. There's always the possibility that, because of the various voting dynamics, Argo was an also-ran for consideration, with many in the Academy believing that their other five choices were more worthy. Indeed, as effective an argument can be made for Amour, Silver Linings, and Beasts over those avoided - Les Mis, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty.

However, in Argo's case, the snub may be a bit more suspect - and therefore, specious. The film centers around a CIA plot to rescue six American Embassy staff members from Iran. In the late '70s, after the Shah was deposed, the country's radicals overran several US strongholds. While dozens of citizens were captured and held (for a startling 444 days), a few managed to make it to the Canadian consulate. Enter our savvy spies, who developed a Hail Mary plan for bringing them home. The idea? Set up a fake film shoot, get one of their best men to act as an industry liaison, and work with a pair of Tinseltown vets to pull off the ruse. Affleck is the lead agent, enlisting John Goodman and Alan Arkin as his phony producers. Grabbing a crappy sci-fi script entitled Argo, it's off to the Middle East.

Now, there are parts of the film that have been fabricated, and the fracas caused by the Canadians and the supposed national security breach exposed could have something to do with the Affleck slight. There was also a great deal of backlash when the movie became a critical and commercial hit. Nitpickers took the narrative apart while those who thought Goodman's character - Planet of the Apes' Oscar winning make-up artist, John Chambers - didn't get enough play (his story is, indeed, the basis for a whole film in and of itself). Yet it might be the dismissive attitude toward Hollywood that finally dealt the death blow for Argo's chances (it can still win Best Picture, though many are banking on Lincoln to walk away with that prize). Throughout the film, Arkin and Goodman are seen mocking the moviemaking business, using the clever catchphrase "Argo Fuck Yourself" as a universal dismissal.

Maybe it's a combination of everything mentioned before. Perhaps they Academy felt Affleck did better work with such previously efforts as The Town and/or Gone Baby, Gone. There may be a bit of that old "we'll catch him next time" routine, the possibility of given the Oscar to someone new (the three non-DGA choices are all winless in this category) while a couple of considered warhorses (Lee and Spielberg) look on. Whatever the case, it's fodder for another few weeks of relevancy debate. If Argo goes on to win the Best Picture nod without a nomination for its director, it won't be the first time (Driving Miss Daisy did it as recently as 1989). But in a year where anything is possible, it's also clear that Affleck and his film could make some cinematic history. They would join some intriguing company. That they're in this position at all remains the biggest ongoing story of the slowly fading 2012 Awards Season.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.