How ‘Argo’ Looks More Like ‘Hotel’ than ‘Daisy’


Argo_GrandHotelAs Ben Affleck’s Argo builds momentum, some of which many of us didn’t expect, it’s looking more and more likely that the film could be crowned the winner on Oscar night.  While many of us are talking about the film being the film since Driving Miss Daisy (1989) to win the top award without a Directing nomination attached.  I’m taking it a step further.  Argo could be the first film since Grand Hotel (1932) to win Best Picture along with no other Oscar.  What makes Grand Hotel a true anomaly is Edmund Golding’s film was only nominated for Best Picture with no acting, directing, screenplay, or editing.  A clean sweep so to speak.  Argo could be heading for an Oscar win for Best Motion Picture and that’s all.

With seven nominations to Argo’s credit, Best Picture seems assured but what else can the film win outside of that category?  Its two other likeliest wins would be probably Film Editing and Original Score.  The former is perhaps the main reason for the film’s narrative success.  William Goldenberg cut the film to perfection and in the last thirty minutes, the film opens in a way that leaves you at the edge of your seat.    Its big competition would be Goldenberg’s other co-edited work on Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty with Dylan Tichenor and the impressive work of Tim Squyres on Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which pulled in eleven nominations.  Many, and fairly I might add, assume Life of Pi will do very well in the tech categories.  Film Editing has been a category that has rewarded popular, blockbuster films like The Matrix (1999), The Social Network (2010), and last year’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).  This throws a wrench in the works for Michael Kahn and Lincoln.  While the film garnered twelve nominations, the most of any film, Editing might be an achievement some may not see necessary in rewarding.

Alexandre-DesplatMychael Danna, composer for Life of Pi, has been an overlooked composer for years after delivering the best score of 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine, an achievement that went unnoticed.  He was also left off in 2005 for Bennett Miller’s Capote, an orchestration that stood as one of the best compositions of the year.  As he finally lands his first two nominations for Score and the song “Pi’s Lullaby,” Danna has momentum built from his expected win at the Golden Globes.  Alexandre Desplat’s music in Argo is very impressive but in a year where his work was everywhere, they stood with the Best Picture nominee as his representation.  Desplat’s competition seems to be Danna but John Williams is very close behind after winning Best Score with the Critics Choice Movie Awards.  There’s been talk that this would be Williams final score and after a career that includes five Oscar wins, they may want to throw him one more for his exit.

Besides the aforementioned Grand Hotel, the fewest wins for a Best Picture winner have been Paul Haggis’ Crash (2006) and John G. Avildsen’s Rocky (1976) with three each in recent memory.  Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) also won one Oscar respectively for Best Picture.

Argo is also the eighth film in history to win all the big guild prizes, Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Screen Actors Guild.  In the previous seven cases, all films went on to win Best Picture with the exception of Ron Howard and Apollo 13 which lacked a Directing nomination and lost to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.  Argo’s other nominations include Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  The only other possible win out those would be a huge upset over Tony Kushner in Adapted, but again, rather unlikely.  Argo may be about to make history, but not the way we think it is.

Some other notes of history that could be made this year:

  • If Argo were to sweep its seven Oscars, it would tie with Shakespeare in Love as the most awarded Best Picture winner without a Directing win.
  • If Lincoln wins, it’s the first biopic since Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2001) to win Best Picture.
  • If and when Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, the Weinsteins would have five consecutive Best Picture nominees that have at least one acting win on Oscar night.
  • If Silver Linings Playbook would win Best Picture, it would be the first romantic comedy to win Best Picture since Shakespeare in Love (1999).
  • If Life of Pi or Lincoln were to sweep many of their categories but lose to Argo in Picture, in particular eight wins or more, they would become the most rewarded films to not win Best Picture.
  • If Sam Mendes’ Skyfall won all five of its nominated categories, it would tie with The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) as the most Oscar wins without a Best Picture nominee.
  • Either Emmanuelle Riva or Quvenzhane Wallis could become the oldest or youngest winners in the Best Actress category.  Riva turns 86 on Oscar day.
  • Possibilities for previous winners winning their third Oscar (or more) is higher than ever: Daniel Day-Lewis (2 wins), Denzel Washington (2 wins), Robert DeNiro (2 wins), Sally Field (2 wins), Steven Spielberg (2 wins), Robert Richardson (2 wins), Colleen Atwood (3 wins), Michael Kahn (3 wins), and John Williams (5 wins).


DIRECTOR Ang Lee – Life of Pi
LEAD ACTOR Daniel Day-Lewis
LEAD ACTRESS Jennifer Lawrence
MAKEUP The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Searching for Sugar Man
DOCUMENTARY SHORT Monday’s at Racine

Discuss yours.

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Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He’s also an active member of New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.

  • Guy Lodge

    “If Lincoln wins, it’s the first biopic since Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2001) to win Best Picture.”

    Why not The King’s Speech? I mean, it plays fast and loose with certain facts, but don’t they all?

    • Clayton Davis

      Yeah, I would say “The King’s Speech” but it just doesn’t feel as “biopic” as Lincoln and A Beautiful Mind.

      • Henry Z.

        No – “The King’s Speech” is still a biopic.

    • jmlatinsir

      good point.

  • Eric

    Ehh…. It’s more like the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Gable and Laughton than Grand Hotel. Grand Hotel was a freak year with one nomination and one win that just happened to be Best Picture. Most likely, that sort of situation will never happen again. It better not happen again – if it does, I might faint on the spot.

    Good for Argo is that I prefer Mutiny over Grand Hotel (though I’m not jumping on this Argo ship despite liking the movie quite a bit, I’m a Lincoln partisan objectively and personally). And if Argo really does lose everything – which I think it just might – I don’t *want* it to win Best Picture. I know people want to see history in the making, but I think it would just look and seem and sound odd to me.

    Think the actors can line up behind Ang Lee for Life of Pi for Best Director? I’m not so sure, but I guess we’ll see. It’s been a terribly divisive year… with Argo fans, Lincoln partisans like me, Les Miserables fangirls (and fanboys), and SLP and Life of Pi fans all strongly wanting our films to win it all. Many people are going home very disappointed this year, no matter what the result.

  • Sergio

    It seems more like Rebeca with it´s 2 wins: best picture and another technical one. In the case of Rebaca best cinematography, and in the case of Argo editing.

  • Josh P.

    I would be really upset of “Argo” were to beat “Lincoln” for Best Adapted Screenplay. I have a lot of admiration for Chris Terrio’s script, but for me, nothing comes close to the accomplishment of Tony Kushner this year, adapted or original. He so deserves that based on merit alone, while an “Argo” win, I feel, would be riding on the coattails of a Best Picture win.

    While “Argo” wouldn’t be my first choice (it would fall behind “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln”), it would make a fine Best Picture winner. It’s a movie that’s difficult to hate, and I enjoy watching it. If it’s going to win the top award, then I would really only see Editing as the other award. Maybe screenplay (hope not), maybe score, but those would be upsets.

    • Frederick Helmer

      “Beasts of the Southern Wild” deserves that win! It totally is far more original and poetic than Tony Kushner’s “Lincoln”.

      • Massimo


  • Jeremy DC

    Ever since Affleck got the standing ovation at the critics choice awards, my best picture pick was sealed. I like Argo but I really don’t want it to win. It’s annoying that a great best picture lineup is going to be decided by people thinking it’s a wonderful story to award Affleck for picture because he was snubbed for director. Anyway, I think they’ll give Argo film editing as well.

  • JamDenTel

    My predictions/next most likely

    Picture: Argo/Lincoln
    Director: Ang Lee/Michael Haneke
    Original Screenplay: Django Unchained/Amour
    Adapted Screenplay: Argo/Lincoln
    Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis/…Hugh Jackman?
    Actress: Jessica Chastain/Jennifer Lawrence
    Supp. Actor: Christoph Waltz/Tommy Lee Jones
    Supp. Actress: Anne Hathaway/Sally Field
    Production Design: Anna Karenina/Life of Pi
    Cinematography: Life of Pi/Skyfall
    Costume Design: Anna Karenina/Mirror Mirror
    Makeup: The Hobbit/Les Miserables
    Score: Lincoln/Argo
    Song: Skyfall/Pi’s Lullaby
    Editing: Argo/Life of Pi
    Sound Mixing: Skyfall/Life of Pi
    Sound Editing: Same
    Foreign Film: Amour//A Royal Affair

  • Joey Magidson

    I can see up to 5 wins for Argo (Picture, Adapted, Editing, and both Sound categories), but the more likely answer is between 2 and 3. Can’t envision it only winning 1 with Best Picture as the lone win, but I could be wrong. I’m just pleased one of my early predictions might turn out right this time around…

  • moviewatcher

    Wait… doesn’t Emmanuelle Riva turn 85 on oscar night (the 85th annal academy awards)? I did the math and I think I got it right…

    • UBourgeois

      She was born in 1927, so she’s currently 85

      • moviewatcher

        Let’s hope she was born late at night so that the “she’s 85 on the 85th oscars” still applies, lol.

    • Guillaume Roy

      I hope she’ll win for her birthday. I think that she gave the best performance of the year for an actress in a leading role. I don’t know if it is very different when you don’t understand what she says and that you need to read the subtitles (because I speak french). But the viewer cannot appreciate the acting as if he was just watching and not reading the substitles: it can disadvantage her.

  • Anthony Chester

    All I can think about is the position we were all in last years when again we thought the oscars would be dispersed amongst various deserving winners. And then come Oscar night Hugo dominates in categories we didn’t tip it for and basically we have two films win 5 Oscars each, The Artist and Hugo.

    We leads me to think the Academy prefers to vote in film blocks over the deserving individual. The other thing that comes to mind is how it isn’t common for the film that wins BP to not have the most wins on the night. So here’s my rediculous thinking.

    If Argo is going to be BP my gut tells me it meeds to win the most. Therefore:
    Argo will take 4 (Picture, Film Editing, Score and Screenplay),
    Lincoln will take 3 (Director, Actor, Supporting Actor),
    Life of Pi will take 3 (Cinematography, Production Design, Visual Effects),
    Skyfall will take 3 (Song, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing)
    and each of their other favs pick up individuals.
    Django will take 1 (screenplay),
    Silver Linings will take 1 (Actress),
    Les Miserables will take 1 (Supp Actress),
    Amour will take 1 (Foreign Language).

    The only alternative I see is Lincoln and Argo switching Screenplay and Supporting Actor.

    Its a silly list I know, but my gut tells me put aside all individual logic and just vote in blocks.

  • JamDenTel

    Also, yeah, Mutiny on the Bounty totally won just the one Oscar.

  • Frederick Helmer

    Dude….Argo has Film Editing locked. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    • Clayton Davis

      I don’t think anything is locked this year. It could easily lose if it ends up a Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook night. Hell, even Zero Dark Thirty can win.

  • John Calhoun

    “Argo could be the first film since Grand Hotel (1932) to win Best Picture along with no other Oscar.”

    Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935 won Best Picture and no other Oscar.

    “Besides the aforementioned Grand Hotel, the fewest wins for a Best Picture winner have been Paul Haggis’ Crash (2006) and John G. Avildsen’s Rocky (1976) with three each.”

    You Can’t Take It With You (1938): 2
    Rebecca (1940): 2
    Casablanca (1943): 3
    Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947): 3
    All the King’s Men (1949): 3
    The Greatest Show on Earth (1952): 2
    Midnight Cowboy (1969): 3

    “It’s two other likeliest wins…”
    “It’s big competition…”

    “Its” used as a possessive does not have an apostrophe. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.”

    Check your facts! Use proper English! It’s the least you owe your readers.

    • Clayton Davis

      I don’t pretend to be the pristine and most elegant writer. I miss some things here and there.

      I corrected the mistakes. Thanks for pointing out.

  • Clayton, interesting piece. I would really like to know your opinion on the following:
    Argo just missed the direction nod, and everything else was more or less expected. Had it been nominated for direction, would you be predicting only Picture and Direction win for Argo?