I shouldn’t be writing this, but I’m fed up. I’m fed up with Argo sweeping every major award this season. More than being fed up, I’m frustrated. I simply do […]
I shouldn’t be writing this, but I’m fed up. I’m fed up with Argo sweeping every major award this season. More than being fed up, I’m frustrated. I simply do not understand how so many people can call Argo the best movie of 2012. Are people even voting for it because they believe that? Or are there other factors at play? All signs point to the latter, which is complete bullshit. Once again, merit loses to emotion and groupthink. The awards blogs (yes I read them, I’m that big a nerd) will give you any number of reasons that Ben Affleck and his film have swept up in the past month or so, and I find all of them despicable, even more so because they’re actually plausible given what I understand about the inner workings of Hollywood. Let’s just say there are some things I wish I didn’t know.
With the Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, devoted fans of films other than Argo are losing hope that their favorite movies of 2012 have any chance of winning the major awards. I count myself among those people.
Before I get into why Argo should not win Best Picture (or Adapted Screenplay), let me offer up this MASSIVE DISCLAIMER before anyone gets the wrong idea: This post is not bashing Argo as a movie. I like Argo. I really like it. It’s a fantastic film from top to bottom. I gave it an 8/10 on IMDb. I’ve seen it twice and wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to others. I’m glad it did really well at the box office ($127.4 million and counting domestically as I write this). I’m a huge fan of Ben Affleck’s budding directorial career. As I’ve said numerous times, after just 3 films, I believe he’s already one of the best actor-directors working today, right up there with Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and his own pal George Clooney. I’m from Boston. I love me some Ben Affleck. Are we clear?
THAT SAID, [in my fervent opinion] Argo was NOT the best film of 2012. Ben Affleck did NOT do the best directing job of 2012. It does NOT have the best adapted screenplay of 2012. It does NOT have the best ensemble cast of 2012. It does NOT deserve ANY individual acting awards or nominations. I haven’t finished my own annual nominations, but at BEST, I see Argo as the 4th or 5th best movie of 2012. It will probably be one of my Best Picture nominees, but that’s not set in stone just yet. Of the 3 films Ben Affleck has directed, I put it second, a good ways behind The Town, which is easily his best work as director so far.
So why, if it’s clearly not the best movie of the year, is it winning EVERY top award from the most prestigious guilds and critics groups in Hollywood? There are a bunch of theories, the most popular one being that people were pissed off that Ben Affleck was snubbed by the directors branch of the Academy in the Best Director category. I can understand being annoyed by that, but that snub alone shouldn’t mean you give your precious Best Picture vote to the film he directed. That just doesn’t make any sense.
But if this is true, why didn’t Zero Dark Thirty get a Best Picture boost when Kathryn Bigelow was similarly ROBBED of a directing nomination? Well, apparently the Hollywood elites don’t feel quite so guilty about leaving her out, for two reasons: 1) she just won Best Director & Best Picture 3 years ago for The Hurt Locker, and 2) Zero Dark Thirty features 2-3 scenes of graphic (yet realistic!) torture, which is basically the worst thing you can show a card-carrying liberal (in case you hadn’t heard, the vast majority of Hollywood are left-wingers). So Bigelow’s having had recent Oscar success and her film honestly depicting what actually happened in the real world apparently made some Oscar voters queasy, thus Zero Dark Thirty lost all of its awards momentum the moment Bigelow wasn’t nominated for Director (if you were following the race, ZDT was the frontrunner prior to Argo pulling off the surprise win at the Golden Globes). As it stands now, Zero Dark Thirty has zero chance of winning Best Picture come Oscar night. Zero. None. Zilch. Isn’t happening.
Zero Dark Thirty is better than Argo.
Other popular theories are more simplistic; Affleck is an extremely likable guy, and he’s extremely popular within the industry. They see rewarding Argo as a sort of pat-on-the-back for his making such a huge career comeback. Logical, I suppose, but fucking stupid. That’s not what the Oscars are for. Also, Affleck and the film’s producers (George Clooney and Grant Heslov), along with all the Warner Bros. studio flackies, are reportedly actively campaigning Academy members. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re actually asking people to vote for their movie, but it does mean they show up at dinners and rich-guy parties hosted by Hollywood insiders, where they gladhand the shit out of everybody in attendance, which I guess keeps Affleck and his film fresh in people’s minds as they go to vote. This is how I understand Oscar campaigning works. Pretty sleazy, if you ask me.
Hold on, I’m not done telling you why Argo is overrated.
While Argo features several good performances and a really good ensemble, there are no standout, nomination-worthy individual performances. I’m sorry, but the Alan Arkin Supporting Actor nomination is a joke- he’s in the film for about 10 minutes, and I’m convinced he was only nominated because he plays a wise-cracking Hollywood hot shot, typically a LOCK for a nomination, since Hollywood loves nothing more than celebrating itself. On the other hand, Lincoln has 3 superlative performances worthy of nominating (and winning- Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field); Silver Linings Playbook also has 3 (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro– though none of them deserve to win); Les Misérables has 2 (Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway). Yet despite these facts, Argo won the Screen Actors Guild ensemble award (their equivalent to Best Picture). WHY?!
Even though Ben Affleck can’t win Best Director, it still pisses me off that he won almost all of the other directing awards, including from the Directors Guild, who should fucking know very good directing from great directing (i.e. Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee). Affleck’s direction of Argo is solid, but it isn’t anything special. He’s not taking any big chances here. It’s the definition of by-the-numbers filmmaking. He took the script and shot it, basically. Not that Affleck is a visionary director (he isn’t- not yet anyway), but he’s got more in him than this. He made much more interesting decisions with The Town, yet these idiots didn’t nominate that film for its script, for Director or Picture. Go fuckin figure. Maybe shooting in Boston is what brings out the best in him. I’m not gonna say anybody could have directed Argo, but a lot of people could have, and I can list at least 5 people who would have done it better (Spielberg, Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, or Paul Greengrass to name a few).
To me, Argo‘s blue chip features are its editing (William Goldenberg), production design and costume design, but even in those last two categories it may not be top 5 of 2012. I will be nominating it for editing, and I won’t be devastated if it takes the Oscar for editing, but if and when Argo wins Adapted Screenplay and Picture (thankfully, it CAN’T win Director), that sound you hear will be me repeatedly ramming my skull through my walls. The problem, though, is that Best Film Editing often goes to the eventual Best Picture winner, so if Argo takes editing, I’m gonna assume that means everything else is falling into place for it as well, which means…skull ramming.
In fact, if Argo does win all the big awards, I’m going to Jim Harbaugh:
The final war crime I’ll address is the seeming inevitability that Chris Terrio will win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Again, I’ll reiterate. Argo is a fine film, and it features a damned good script, perhaps the second-best adapted screenplay of the year. However, this year, the gap between #1 and #2 [in my opinion] in the Adapted Screenplay category is as wide as the Burj Khalifa is tall. It drives me nuts that Tony Kushner‘s brilliant, intricate, literate screenplay for Lincoln– which took him half a decade to research and write- is probably going to lose. And why, because Argo has got a bunch of zingy one-liners? I seriously believe (and I’m not the only one) that if the Hollywood aspect of Argo‘s story- with movie producers playing an integral role in real world events- were not a factor, Argo may not have even been nominated for the top awards.
I also believe if Argo wins Best Picture, the Academy as a whole will immediately begin regretting not fighting back against this tidal wave of momentum the movie is enjoying. They’ll regret being such sentimental pushovers. Did we really just give Argo all these awards just because we fucked up and didn’t nominate Affleck for Best Director? That seems kinda stupid. Well yeah, it is! They’ll regret giving it Best Picture, much like they probably regret giving Crash Best Picture in 2005, although this wouldn’t be quite as egregious. On a personal note, if Argo wins, this will make it 9 straight years where I’ve disagreed with the Oscars’ Best Picture winner, which is really disheartening as a movie fan and as someone who respects the Oscars. The only good news is that the Academy members are voting after these other awards have been handed out, so maybe- just maybe, they’ll decide that enough is enough and the buck stops on Oscar night, and cast their votes to a more worthy film. If for no other reason, do it to make the night interesting for god’s sake. Of the available options, I humbly suggest Lincoln. Or Zero Dark Thirty. Shit, I think I might rather see Life of Pi win, too.
The final conundrum is the preferential balloting system that gets films nominated in the first place. In other words, people who are passionate about Silver Linings Playbook (mostly the actors branch of the Academy) are not gonna vote for Lincoln. If they know their film isn’t gonna win, they’re gonna vote for the least harmful alternative, and for many voters, that’s Argo. Nobody hates Argo. Some people hate Lincoln. Some people hate Zero Dark Thirty. Some people hate Silver Linings Playbook. So instead of voting their hearts for a film they believe can’t win (the people who support Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Amour or Beasts of the Southern Wild, for example), they’re gonna make sure a movie they at least like does win. I swear I’m not making this stuff up.
And now, pictures of Ben Affleck’s Beard and Argo winning EVERYTHING:
P.S. Remember when Grant Heslov was just That Guy in Congo? Now he’s an award-winning writer/producer. Who knew?
See, even if you didn’t care before, now you’re sick of it winning, too. AREN’T YOU?!?!
Why do I care about this at all, let alone enough to give it almost 2,500 of its own blog post? That’s easy. As someone who dreams of getting into filmmaking, the Oscars are supposed to be the pinnacle in recognition from your peers. I won’t feign modesty or indifference; I would love to win an Oscar one day. My goal is to make films that are not only loved by audiences, but also good enough to be considered for Oscars. I’d love to win multiple Oscars in one night (for writing, producing and directing). I’ve imagined that walk to the podium in my head thousands of times. I’ve imagined thanking my mom (who I’ve already guaranteed would be my date to my first Oscar ceremony) onstage for all the world to hear, looking out at her tears of pride, and giving her a huge hug of joy when I got back to my seat. That would be the greatest moment of my life. I have a playlist on my iPod called “And the Oscar goes to…” that I listen to when I need an inspirational boost. The Oscars are important to me. It’s the TV event I look forward to most every year (yes, even more so than the Super Bowl- even a Super Bowl the Patriots are playing in). After I’ve watched the Oscars, I come away creatively reenergized. I want to write, I want to be productive, I want to BE BETTER. Regardless of the results, it’s inspiring seeing other people win and have that experience.
Obviously, they don’t get it right 100% of the time, and I accept that, but certain errors stick out more than others, and this is an error that’s been repeated pretty much every weekend since the New Year at each different awards ceremony. And yes, it’s ludicrous that pieces of art are competing for prizes, but this is Hollywood tradition. Has been for 85 years now. And so long as the awards are called “Best” Picture, “Best” Director, “Best” Adapted Screenplay, etc. instead of Trendiest Picture of the Moment, I’m gonna cling to the silly notion that the BEST nominee ought to win in each category. Crazy, I know. And if a single person is voting for Argo for Best Picture because Affleck was snubbed a Best Director nomination or for ANY OTHER REASON other than they actually believe it’s the best movie of 2012…that is offensive to me.
If you’re interested in following any of this awards season craziness now or going forward, there are three sites I follow religiously each year: Awards Daily, Gold Derby, and Deadline’s awards coverage. Of course, there are several other good ones, but there are only 24 hours in a day, people.
Enjoy the Oscars this Sunday, and know that yours truly will be rooting, against all hope, for Lincoln.