Yesterday, we led with "Lincoln" being taken to task for its factual infidelities; today, it's the turn of "Argo." Critical screeds against the Best Picture frontrunner are always a dime a dozen at this point in the season -- frankly, a defence of Ben Affleck's film would make for fresher reading right now -- but Andrew O'Hehir's Salon piece on why "Argo" doesn't deserve the Oscar is as cogently argued as any: "I’m less concerned with the veracity of individual details than with the fact that 'Argo' uses its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological. It’s a totalizing fiction whose turning points are narrow escapes and individual derring-do designed to foreground Affleck and his star power." Personally, I don't think Affleck's star power is all that selfishly showcased -- but hey, I like the film. [Salon]
The epic journey of Ben Affleck's "Argo" began at the Telluride Film Festival in September. After a couple of years of pandering a bit by accepting Toronto-bound Oscar bait in the form of films like "Black Swan," "The Descendants" and "127 Hours," and then bizarrely bemoaning the surge in awards coverage they yielded, the festival's directors pulled back over the last two years, retreating to their former identity of carefully curating selections from international festivals. But they nevertheless left room for one "Sneak Preview" on the line-up this time around, and that film was "Argo."
The film blew the roof off at its first screening there for patrons of the festival and attending press. A burst of applause hit at the film's oft-discussed airport climax and the stage was set for an Oscar thoroughbred to find its way through the season. But there were still six whole months in the season left to go. And no one wants to be a frontrunner too early for too long.
Soon enough, another film would join the conversation, as David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and delighted audiences there. But "Argo" still had plenty to offer as it had its "official" premiere at the fest, duking it out with Russell's film for the coveted Audience Award.
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
Best Film Editing is the technical category most closely linked to Best Picture: the slate is routinely dominated by Best Picture contenders, and it's an oft-repeated stat that no film has won the top prize without an editing nod since "Ordinary People" 32 years ago. That's no random Oscar voodoo. Editing is a narrative-determining craft -- it's often said the editor functions as another screenwriter -- so it stands to reason that the Academy's favorite films figure most into this category. A bad film can be beautifully shot or scored, but it's rarely beautifully edited.
Last year, however, the voters threw away the category's unofficial rulebook by handing the win to David Fincher's thriller "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" -- while a film not nominated for Best Picture has taken the prize on occasion, it was the first film since "Bullitt" in 1968 to win this category and no other. This year, however, promises a less surprising result, in a category ruled by Best Picture frontrunners, and featuring just one first-time nominee.
The nominees are...
"The Impossible" remains, to my mind, one of this season's biggest lost contenders. With a more focused campaign and an earlier release date, this visceral true-life survival story set against the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami could, I think, have gone over in a big way with Academy voters, reaping a lot more than a lone Best Actress nod for Naomi Watts. Anyway, spilt milk.
As it stands, the Spanish production's biggest night of the season was always set to be its home country's Goya Awards. Even there, however, the local box-office smash wound up ceding top honors to "Blancanieves," Pablo Berger's artful silent take on the Snow White story (yep, another one). The film, which I was charmed by at last year's London Film Festival, was Spain's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but didn't make the Academy's shortlist.
In these final days of voting, the last thing you want is headlines like "The Oscar for Best Fabrication," yet the already ailing "Lincoln" got saddled with that in a Maureen Dowd op-ed that was the weekend's most talked-about Oscar piece. Seems this story of a Connecticut congressman taking issue with some artistic license taken by Tony Kushner, essentially switching the 13th Amendment vote of the state's House members, won't go away. Kushner, who had the error pointed out to him at an early stage by one of the film's historical advisors, continues to defend his position, saying, "History doesn’t always organize itself according to the rules of drama." Congressman Joe Courtney continues to push for the error to be amended in the film before it is integrated into school syllabi across the country. What do you think? [New York Times]
With the costumers set to declare on Tuesday, the Motion Picture Sound Editors' 60th annual Golden Reel Awards, announced this evening, were the penultimate industry kudos in advance of next weekend's Oscar showdown. And it was "Life of Pi" that came out the big winner, taking two awards on the night. But 007 had some plans of his own.
Hey, you know that film "Argo?" It won another award. That's right, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has handed the film the prize for Best Adapted Screenplay over heavyweights such as "Lincoln" and "Silver Linings Playbook," and surely no one is shocked by this turn of events, right? I know everyone has been holding out expectation that respect for Tony Kushner might carry him and his brilliant work on through to a win there and at the Oscars, but that's just not been the tone of the season.
Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey has worked with Joe Wright since a 25-year old Wright made the 1998 short film “The End.” Since then the British filmmaker has become one of his generation’s most notable directors and McGarvey has been along for the ride every step of the way.
Tom Hooper's musical adaptation "Les Misérables" picked up its first industry award win of the season (save the SAG prize to Anne Hathaway) tonight. It won the prize for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for live action motion pictures at the 49th annual Cinema Audio Society Awards. Production mixer Simon Hayes, re-recording mixers Andy Nelson and Mark Peterson, scoring mixer Jonathan Allen, ADR mixer Robert Edwards and foley mixer Pete Smith all shared in the prize, though it's just Hayes, Nelson and Paterson who are included in the film's Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing.
Which, speaking of the golden guy, this Best Picture-nominated musical would appear to have the prize all but sewn up now. After winning Best Sound at last weekend's BAFTA Awards and now this, the writing is just on the wall. I had a really good feeling about "Skyfall" at the Oscars, and it could still surprise in both sound categories there, honestly, but the fact is the Academy at large springs for a musical when there's one available: "Chicago," "Ray," "Dreamgirls," etc. And a Best Picture-nominated musical is all the more tempting.
It's been reiterated for months now that "Argo" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are the two films that are well-liked across the board in the Academy and the industry at large. Well, tonight, both films have triumphed at the America Cinema Editors's ACE Eddie Awards in the dramatic and comedic categories.