In The End, Was It Always ‘Argo’?


winners_2013_oscars_ben_affleck_argo_best_picture_18ilt3u-18ilt51Almost exactly a year ago, I mentioned Ben Affleck’s film Argo as a potential Best Picture winner at the 85th Academy Awards. We had just finished the prior season and with The Artist about to be crowned an Oscar winner, the staff of The Awards Circuit had turned our attention to this potential crop. I wasn’t making any huge claims, but merely saying that it had a shot if things broke the right way. Little did I know what was to come over the course of a year, but we wound up with Argo winning. As fall changed to winter, I wasn’t alone in that line of thinking, but as the calendar changed from 2012 to 2013 and the especially when Affleck was snubbed for Best Director, few stuck with that prediction. The thing is, it was always going to be Argo in the end. We all just over thought things (yes, even I briefly predicted Zero Dark Thirty for a week or two and once even contemplated a Silver Linings Playbook upset) and made the job harder.

As Argo began to sweep the precursors, it crystallized exactly why this was a contender never to count out of the race. It had every going in its favor that a Best Picture winner needs, and almost none of the flaws that wound so many and ultimately eliminated the competition this time around. In a year where it turned out that the consensus pick was always the one to watch out for Argo, managed to unite the most people while turning off the least. Somehow, even the perceived weakness of having Affleck left off of the Best Picture list only served to galvanize supporters. It wasn’t the reason Argo went on to win, but while other contenders wilted and died out in the Best Picture race from just such a snub, this flick managed to thrive.

ben-affleck-george-clooney-win-best-picture-oscar-for-argoSix weeks ago, I wrote a piece while traveling from New York to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival that speculated on the possibility that Argo could make history as it did. I was more or less dismissed, and that’s certainly what the popular consensus would have done, but what’s important to note is that even then the seeds were already planted for Argo to contend or win. I stated the following:

“…if we see Affleck win the prize from the Directors Guild of America and the film itself win with the Producers Guild of America, then all bets are off. Especially if ‘Argo’ is able to score an upset Screen Actors Guild win, or if something like ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ takes home the Best Ensemble prize, then I think the Affleck snub won’t wind up meaning too much. ‘Lincoln’ could still ultimately take home the gold, but to not at least consider ‘Argo’ is quite foolish to me at this current moment.”

I wasn’t going to completely ride the long shot, but I had a feeling and it turns out that it was the right one. Go figure, as that never happens.

In the end, this was the rare year where my personal and professional feelings happened to merge. That’s hardly ever the case, so it’s certainly a nice thing, but as we turn the page to the 2013 contenders I think it’s important to remember this win. Argo is a future case study for not jumping ship. When all was said and done, Lincoln turned out to be appreciated more than loved, Life of Pi was given the most awards but not the big one, and other players like Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty turned out to just be passing fancies for Best Picture. It turned out that Argo was, and likely always was, the one that Oscar wanted.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

  • It’s definitely possible that this was their film all along, and that the only asterisk next to it is due to 350+ directors who failed to nominate Affleck for the Director Oscar. With consensus voting, hindsight makes it clear that it should always have been looked at as a threat to win.

    But the truth is we’ll never know if the win was a foregone conclusion or if it was a trigger effect of love and admiration in the face of Affleck’s director omission. The only two complaints I have on the entire season is that 1) I dislike a split year and always prefer to see Picture and Director go to the same film, and wish Affleck could have been awarded for both fields and 2) It was too good of a year for one film to win that many precursors and end up such a no-brainer for BP. It would have been fun to see Argo take PGA, SLP take SAG, and Lincoln to take DGA, making it a wild and crazy ride to the finish. But, alas, it was a sweep of epic proportions.

    In the end all that matters is that we are left with a great year of films to look back on, and a lot of fun memories dissecting the season as it unfolded. I’m excited for this year to kick off in a couple months.

    • Joey Magidson

      Hindsight is a beautiful thing Mark, and we’re in agreement here…

      • I’ve always said that if I could be a superhero, the power I’d want most is hindsight.

        • Joey Magidson

          I like that, though X-Ray vision wouldn’t hurt either…

  • Joey Magidson

    Before anyone says it, I’m 100% not trying to brag. This is just something that’s been on my mind all throughout the end of Oscar season…

    • Credit given where credit is due my friend. You were always Argo’s biggest supporter this year. I, like most, had Lincoln as the winner at this point last year, and kept it there until the DGA went Affleck’s way. That’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with a film in my Best Pic #1 spot without switching.

      • Joey Magidson

        Much obliged, and I fully expect to be way off for the next decade to make up for it…

      • Joey Magidson

        And credit to you as well for besting me in the predictions this year overall…

        • Thanks. And damn Robert for pushing me to #2. lol

          • Joey Magidson

            I’m fine with 3rd place, especially this year.

            Next year, maybe we all should take a break at some point and come back with fresh eyes. It certainly helped Robert…

  • Jeremy DC

    The morning the nominations were announced I was one of those that thought well, I guess Argo won’t win best picture. Then just 12 or so hours later when Ben Affleck and Argo won at the Critics Choice, I saw the way the room erupted in support for him and I knew right then and there the best picture race was more than likely over.

    • Joey Magidson

      You’re definitely not alone there…

  • GL

    Could be…I think George Clooney smartly said that both BFCA and Globe wins were prior to Oscar snubs. Meaning that ballots were turned before Oscar nominations. What I think though is more important to notice is if the snub impacted the guilds choice. I actually think that that was the case especially for WGA and eventual Kushner loss.

    • Joey Magidson

      The Guilds were undoubtedly the most important booster for Argo locking up the win in the end…

  • John Rivera

    it had me guessing till the end I thought it was going to be Lincoln because of Michelle Obama or Life Of Pi with Ang Lee winning director

    • Joey Magidson

      There were definitely tense moments…

  • Katelyn

    To me a best picture vote is like answering the question “what’s your favorite movie?” For the latter, my answer depends on the critieria – are you asking me what I think the best movie I’ve ever seen is (Schindler’s List) or are you asking me which movie I enjoy watching the most/over and over again (Forrest Gump). Maybe for some people those two movies are the same, but for me they are not. I think Best Picture voting might be the same way. Some years there is an epic standout; a movie that stands as best above everything else. Other years there are many great movies, but not one standout…a year like this year. When that’s the case, at the end of the day, I think you vote for the movie you liked best. Argo may not be as artful as Lincoln or as gritty as Zero Dark Thirty, but it’s a movie you can watch over and over again. Lincoln is great, but it’s long and sometimes boring. I loved Zero Dark Thirty, but it’s heavy material. At the end of the day Argo is a movie people like watching more than the others and I think that’s why it was always destined to win in a year like this, director snub or not. And to be honest I think the director snub always had more to do with the 350+ directors not wanting to include the guy who was in Gigli in their circle, than it did the amount of love the Academy overall had for the movie.

    • Joey Magidson

      By and large, I’m with you on these points…

  • Jessie Makowski

    Pretty crazy to see how early you had Argo!

    • Joey Magidson

      A hunch that wound up paying off…

      • Jessie Makowski

        And you deserve some serious credit!

        • Joey Magidson

          We all do on the staff for having such a great year covering the race…

  • JamDenTel

    Going in, I thought it would be Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty. Even up until last night, I figured an upset wasn’t impossible. But last night, aside from the Ang Lee win, played out about as I expected.

    Also, the Globes, BAFTAs, and Oscars all gave Django the exact same pair of awards. Does that strike anyone else as odd?

    • Joey Magidson

      Not especially weird, just proof that Harvey Weinstein knew where to campaign the film to make sure it got something regardless of how Silver Linings Playbook wound up doing…

  • Kim

    Good for you being ahead of the curve

    • Joey Magidson

      Appreciate that…