An Award-Worthy Awards Season opinion

Fifteen years from now, Ben Affleck will direct a movie about the 2013 film awards season. A gripping drama with plenty of twists, turns, and surprises, it might even star Daniel Day-Lewis, in his seventh Oscar-winning role.

It might seem that Argo was the inevitable rampaging monster of the 85th Academy Awards, and the multitude of awards celebrations before that, but, although it most certainly has been a rampaging monster, its success has been far from inevitable.

Several months ago, Argo was the favourite to win best picture and associated prizes (director, script, etc.) that tend to go hand-in-hand with that. But it soon seemed that the movie, a conservative but solid, easily recommendable film with quality on all levels, from script to design to directing to acting, had peaked too soon. It was joined by Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Les Misérables amongst the bookies favourites and, in that group, Argo was gradually pushed down and down until many considered it out of the running. Lincoln took over as the firm favourite, for film, director, script, and acting prizes. It started to look like it could be another one of those years where one film dominates.

But then something peculiar happened. Argo started winning. And winning big. Ben Affleck, who (rather embarrassingly, as it turned out) hadn’t even been nominated for Best Director by The Academy, picked up a prestigious gong from the Directors Guild of America and the film won emphatically at the likes of the American Film Institute Awards, BAFTAs and Golden Globes. And, partly because there is a large crossover of voters for all of these institutions, it picked up the Big Daddy at the Oscars, too.

It is quite interesting how badly Lincoln did at the end of the day, in fact. Not only did it miss out on Best Film at the Oscars, it also failed to win Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, two quite major awards that, although they were tight races, it was favourite to win.

Daniel Day-Lewis did win his third Best Actor statuette (as was predicted over a year ago), and he deserved it, and, as for the rest of the winners, there is very little, if anything, to grumble about. Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress, Django Unchained for Best Original Screenplay, Chritoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor (although in a category where several others would also have been worthy winners)… this is a fine celebration of what’s good in big glitzy films (and we have to remember this is about big films – these awards don’t really reflect absolute quality across the board). The Best Director award acknowledged a better directed film than Lincoln (Life of Pi) and given one of the major keys to Argo’s success is its script (and one of the problems with the dry Lincoln), its winning of Best Adapted Screenplay was another minor last-minute surprise that helped the pinnacle of the awards season turn out even better than expected.

25th Feb 2013