( Claire Folger / Warner Bros. Pictures )
BEST PICTURE: In a year packed with so many fine movies, it's still puzzling how nearly every group bestowing awards has fallen in line (and apparently in love) with Ben Affleck's period rescue thriller. One rival carped that Affleck's exclusion from the academy's director class gave "Argo" a huge publicity/sympathy bump. But at this point, with honors from all the guilds -- producers, directors, actors and writers -- as well as the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Awards, it's pretty clear that the only group that didn't fall for "Argo" were the voters in the academy's directors branch.
FILM EDITING: William Goldenberg's work on "Argo" masterfully cuts between multiple stories and tones, maximizing tension at every turn. BAFTA and the American Cinema Editors already rewarded him, as did the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., with its first-ever editing award. Even though Goldenberg has another nomination here for "Zero Dark Thirty" (the first double-dip for editing since Walter Murch was feted for both "Ghost" and "The Godfather Part III" in 1991), expect the academy to concentrate its votes on the likely best picture winner.
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Chris Terrio's screenplay deftly incorporated the lighter Hollywood elements into the movie's thrilling rescue story. Nothing felt forced. And Ben Affleck will be the first to tell you that he simply shot Terrio's script and tried not to mess it up.
That said, it feels almost inconceivable that early-favorite Kushner won't prevail. Outside of Daniel Day-Lewis' lead turn as "Lincoln's" title character, Kushner's deeply researched writing was the most celebrated element of the movie. His screenplay brought the president and his times to life in a way that, aside from the beef of a certain Connecticut congressman, felt truly illuminating. But it likely can't withstand "Argo's" current momentum, which included a win for Terrio last weekend at the Writers Guild Awards.