Argo Best Picture Frontrunner, Lincoln, Life of Pi and Silver Linings in Contention
It’s been a strange road to the 85th annual Academy Awards, this
Sunday’s telecast and presentation one of the more unusual the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has ever encountered. By attempting to move up the nomination deadline to presage influence by various critics organization, artists guilds and other awards shows (namely the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs), the Academy inadvertently through things into all kinds of disarray, creating an atmosphere of odd uncertainty this year that has many perplexed.
You’d think this uncertainty would be a good thing, but in the case of the 85th Oscars you’d be hard-pressed to find many who think so. The reason can be summed up in one word (or title): Argo. While the movie received a healthy seven nominations including a nod for Best Picture, Ben Affleck was left out of the Best Director race leading many to assume it’s chances for the top award were suddenly D.O.A. But then came a weird sympathetic backlash decrying this perceived ‘snubbing,’ Affleck and Argo going on to win a seemingly never-ending series of awards from critics and artist guilds alike including taking home the BAFTA for Best Picture, the WGA for adapted screenplay and the SAG for best ensemble.
Why is this such a controversy? In this history of the Academy Awards, while other movies have won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination (Driving Miss Daisy being the last to do so), thanks to the fact there are nine nominees in the top category coupled with the fact nomination voting was scheduled so early many in the industry look at the historical stats and are perplexed by what is going on. Argo winning would break the mold in numerous ways and some, not everyone, of course, don’t believe this is a good thing, the prestige of an Oscar sullied and dulled by the way this whole process has worked itself out.
Is that true? Will Argo winning damage the Oscar beyond repair? Personally, I don’t see a gigantic problem. The Academy pushed themselves into a corner thanks to a frantic push to beat all other movie awards to the punch, forcing their members to vote at a frenzied pace without ample time to see all the contenders using a new system (online voting was instituted for the first time) that a number of Academy members didn’t know how to use. Studios didn’t have time to set up screenings or get screeners to everyone allowing entertainments like Lincoln, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook, considered rightly or wrongly more audience-friendly and ‘safe’ than the majority of their competitors, to take home the majority of nominations and be instantly proclaimed frontrunners.
We haven’t gotten into the politicking and mudslinging the presaged much of the voting process, unfairly sullying the reputations of movies like Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Les Misérables and The Master in ways none of the films were entirely able to overcome (all still received a number of nominations yet none are expected to do all that well come Sunday night). But that’s a discussion for another day as the real question remains what does Argo winning mean to the future perception of the Academy Award? On that front I don’t have an answer at this point, but as a longtime cinephile and professional critic I’d be lying if I wasn’t extraordinarily curious to find out.
The following are my predictions for which films will win Oscars this Sunday night. With the unpredictability factor of this year’s ceremony so incredibly high I suggest you copy my guesses – because, for once, that’s exactly what they are, guesses – at your own peril.