The Tables Are Being Set: Reaction to the PGAs & SAG Awards

It was interesting going into this awards season, mainly because we had no freakin’ clue who was going to win.  But it’s been a huge shock that Argo, the Ben Affleck driven film that came out in October has taken over the driver’s seat.  After all the Oscar films were released, at its highest, I would place Argo fifth or sixth, behind stronger, more artistic works of film.  Taking nothing away from Argo and it’s achievement, I personally feel there are better films out there.  But witnessing this Oscar game for years now, it’s never about the best film of the year.

But consider that title: best film of the year.  It’s such a subjective statement.  No one can tell you which film is better than the other.  We can state our opinions and list countless reasons why, but in the end of the day, it is your opinion that matters most.  But we always look at the Academy as this perfected system of voters who truly understand and appreciate the arts and the cinema.  To some degree they do.  But we must understand, most of these voters barely have time to watch all these films (hence the DVD screeners).  And they could care less about history, precedents, and all this other nonsense that comes with the politics of the Oscar race.

But that doesn’t mean the politics don’t dominate the Academy Awards.  The Academy claims that they are announcing their choices of the best work that’s come out in film for that year, but in reality, they vote the way that they please.  Rather it being a popularity contest, or voting for a film that’s least controversial.  Whichever the case may be, this political vote has clearly taken center stage this year with the way the awards season has been played out so far.  We must remember, the Academy does not set the trends, they only use the trends to vote in a particular way.  If there’s anyone to blame for this huge mess of a year, it’s the critics and the guilds.  Argo is the least controversial film of the year, BY FAR.  Where it was heading one month ago, Zero Dark Thirty was in control, winning awards left and right and being placed as the favorite, even before a nationwide release.

Then came the article about the possibility of the film being pro-torture.  And then all hell broke loose.  The Republicans were bitching around like they always do, labeling the film as a “pro-Obama” campaign, and the Democrats were bitching because it was an act against humanity, and it showcased this idea that torture does work.  Anyone who’s seen the film fully is aware that the torture, though visible and strongly present, is not what’s at center stage.  What Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal attempted was to provide a scenario where our morals and ethics are thrown out the window, and that we’ve become so disciplined with reaching our goal of finding Osama Bin Laden that we’ve somehow replaced our touch with humanity with a touch of violence.

And to some degree, it’s obviously true.  But artwork is through the eye of the beholder, and if an interpretation is misconceived by many, the responsibility falls squarely on the artist.  But in essence, ZDT was too much to vote for.  That’s why if you look at the timeline of the awards season, ZDT just stopped winning.  It wasn’t this slow transition off stage, but more of a yank of a hook.  A similar polarizing film that has been, for some crazy reason, too difficult to vote for is Lincoln.  Some people just plain out hate the film.  And I can somewhat understand why, seeing the film is all about people talking.  And like one tweeter stated, we can also say that about the Social Network.  It’s just a lot more relevant in today’s society.

This statement couldn’t be any truer.  Yes, Lincoln is a history buff’s wet dream, but we have fascinating people discussing fascinating themes during a fascinating (yet horrendous) era in the United States.  This is where artwork must transform the viewer from seeing this film as entertainment, but more for its importance.  This is the difference between the average movie-goer and the die hards, theart is just as important as the entertainment.  But Lincoln is not universally loved or adored, and the Oscars don’t want to piss anyone off, they just want to have a good night.

This is the perfect storm for Argo.  All this controversy, all this chaos about torture, racism, religion and politics has created this ideal circumstance for Argo to take over the race.  When Argo won the PGA, it made complete sense, considering two of the three producers credited include Ben Affleck and George Clooney.  I would vote for them as President and Vice President for goodness sakes.  Their charm and personality is essential for this long and grueling race.  But what shocked me was the big Screen Actors win last Sunday night.  Though the entire cast of Argo was great, but to say it was better than Silver Linings or Lincoln (considering Lincoln made history by winning the Actor for both Male and Supporting Male) is preposterous.  You don’t give two of the four main awards to the same cast, and then not reward the entire cast’s work.  Both Lincoln and Silver Linings had nominations in three out of the four categories.  Argo had none.  For it to win Best Ensemble (which is a very important factor for Best Picture) shows the current state of Hollywood and the voters throughout.  Argo is the hot pick.  Argo is the safe pick.  No one will get angry or hate us for voting Argo.  In that sense, it’s essentially the won that will win come Oscar night.

Now I’m not completely willing to throw the entire race away because we still have the DGA, WGA, BAFTA and Eddie.  And this is not the first time a film dominated some of the guilds and eventually lost (Apollo 13 and Little Miss Sunshine).  And Argo still has to overcome plenty of history  for it to win Best Picture, including the fact that Ben Affleck’s name won’t even be recognized in the Directors’ category.  And if you’re an avid follower, you know how important winning Director in terms of your chances for Best Picture.  So this is how I see things possibly playing out.

For Lincoln to win Best Picture:
1.  It must win WGA for Adapted Screenplay
2.  Must win Adapted Screenplay at Oscars
3.  Must win DGA (Steven Spielberg)
4.  Must win Best Director at Oscars

This is the only way Lincoln will win, and only because it had a late comeback and was too hot to ignore.  And Argo couldn’t overcome the Director snub.

For Silver Linings Playbook to win Best Picture (and yes, I still do consider it a contender because it’s the first film to receive four acting nominations and was nominated for Director when the DGA ignored it):
1.  Must win Director (David O. Russell) at Oscars
2.  Must win at least two out of four acting categories at Oscars (De Niro, Weaver, Lawrence and Cooper)

For Argo to win Best Picture:
1.  It must win DGA for Ben Affleck
2.  Must win Editing at Oscars
3.  Steven Spielberg cannot win Best Director at Oscars

It’s very clear that Argo has the easiest route compared to the other films.  And I’m not ignoring other films like Life of Pi (I would go crazy if Life of Pi won, in a good way), but these are the three films that are left standing in the Best Picture race.

It’s funny.  When Ben Affleck was not nominated for Best Director on nomination morning, we all proclaimed that Argo was officially out of the running.  It couldn’t win.  It just can’t.  But as we’re approximately one month away from the big night, it’s clear that Ben Affleck not receiving that all important Director nomination did more for Argo than anything else.  Who would’ve thought?!

Best Picture Race (as of 1/29/13)

1.  Argo
2.  Lincoln
3.  Silver Linings Playbook
4.  Life of Pi
5.  Amour
6.  Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Alternate: NO ONE.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Alternate:  Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Alternate: Robert DeNiro, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Alternate: NO ONE.

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Alternate: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Alternate: Chris Terrio, Argo (If Argo wins WGA, it is officially front-runner)

Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln (only because Affleck is not nominated)
Alternate: Honestly, if anyone else won it would not shock me.  But I’ll go with Ang Lee, Life of Pi



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