Gold Standard writer Glenn Whipp has been sweeping through all 24 Oscar categories this week, assessing the races, predicting the winners and helping you prevail in your Oscar pools.
He's looked at the shorts, the sound categories, the visual crafts races, the Adele-rific song and score scene, screenplays and film editing and the animation, documentary and foreign-language feature contests. Now: best picture and director.
And the winner is … “Argo.” 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. Having won nearly everything else, there’s every reason to believe that “Argo” will emerge victorious here.
Unless … the academy decides that “Lincoln,” with its leading 12 nominations, is a worthier, weightier choice. It sure felt that way six weeks ago, didn't it?
Michael Haneke, “Amour”
Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”
Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
And the winner is … Spielberg. Perceived "snubs" aside, the directors branch did a nice job of nominating five distinctive filmmaking voices, even including a guy like Russell who's adept at creating chaotic comedy. (The academy does have a sense of humor. Who knew?) The absence of Affleck, though, does complicate the task at hand, since he won just about every precursor award leading up to the Oscars.
Ruling out first-time director Zeitlin and Haneke (no foreign-language film director has ever won this Oscar) leaves a trio of brand-name directors. Lee has supplanted early favorite Spielberg in the minds of many pundits, who reason that, in the absence of well-known actors, his filmmaking was the true star of "Pi." Russell has his supporters too, with some suspecting that the academy's actors branch will be inclined to reward a director whose movie won four acting nominations.
But we're stubbornly sticking with Spielberg, believing that enough voters will appreciate his subtle directorial work in "Lincoln." No, it's not what you expect from Uncle Stevie. But isn't displaying that kind of versatility enough reason to give him a third Oscar?
Unless … it's Lee, which would likely again be for a movie that didn't win best picture. (Lee won for "Brokeback Mountain," which, you might remember, lost the best picture race to "Crash.")