Sunday, February 3, 2013

Was Ben Affleck really snubbed?


No matter what happens in this year's Oscar race, this will be one of those years that we look back on and analyze 10 years from now. The big story so far has been the overwhelming support for Ben Affleck and Argo following Affleck's "snub" for Best Director. With Affleck now adding the DGA prize to its LONG list of awards, I'm starting to wonder if his "snub" really means much in the bigger picture.
First of all, we naturally tend to group Best Picture and Best Director without realizing that they are nominated by completely different groups! Every category apart from Best Picture is only voted on by members within their branch (directors nominate directors, actors nominate actors etc.). When it comes time for the awards themselves, the voting for all the categories opens up to all the members. So when it comes down to it, we can't really say "they obviously didn't like Argo that much, since it didn't even get nominated for Best Director". The simple fact of the matter is, it was the directors that snubbed Affleck, not the Academy as a whole. Looking at the lineup, can you really blame them?
To become a member of the Academy's directing branch, I am certain you have to be a fairly talented, knowledgeable director. Considering the high quality of films and the range of unique auteur work on display, Affleck doesn't really cut it does he? Benh Zeitlin's film is wholly original and shows a clear director's vision, while Amour is displaying Michael Haneke's trademark "cold stare" approach. Ang Lee's Life of Pi is an obvious directing triumph and David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook is very much representative of his type of off-kilter ensemble films. Spielberg's direction isn't necessarily showing his unique style, but Lincoln had so many other kinds going for it (biggest Box Office, Lincoln's legacy etc.) that it was a no-brainer.
Compare these films to Argo and you realize it really isn't a "director's" film. Even during its big release back in October I pointed out in my review that the film works so well because of the screenplay rather than the direction. I am sure the director's branch felt the same way. They probably liked the film too(as evidenced by it winning the DGA!), but they didn't feel the need to praise the directing. Just last year we had a good example of the high-mindedness of the directing branch. We all know Tree of Life was nowhere near being in the Top 5 for Best Picture (that Best Cinematography loss revealed a lot), but it wound up with a Best Director nod. Add in all the other branches and you would certainly get a different Best Director lineup. The measly 6% that nominate Best Director surely doesn't represent the general taste of the Academy.
Now, stats and history indicate a rarity of Picture-Director splits, which should give hope to films like Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, but therein lies our other conundrum. With Argo winning EVERY Best Picture and Best Director so far, how do we even know which film is nipping at its heels? With that in mind, I think it's going to be hard to gather troops around a single film to take down Argo for Best Picture. Come Oscar night, I feel confident (at the moment) to say that Argo will join Wings, Grand Hotel and Driving Miss Daisy as the only films to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination.

11 comments:

  1. It was sort of refreshing to read that it was the directors in that group who didn't nominate Ben and not the Academy. You made a valid point about each other movie having it's own voice, but I'm still kind of peeved that Haneke got best director for Amour. His other movies were worthy of that statue, but not that. Great post.

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    1. I thought Haneke did a good job directing Amour, so I can't complain. I'm not too familiar with his other work though (I've only seen The White Ribbon, which I'm not a fan of) so I can't compare.

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  2. Yeah, I'm with you. It is seen as a snub mainly because he was the predicted winner by so many (including the Globes and the BFCA) but I still think Argo is taking top honors, and you can't really complain about AMPAS ballot.

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    1. I agree, the Best Director lineup that we ended up with is actually very strong.

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  3. Yes. Argo' story and screenplay was more powerful, doesn't need director' touch to it. But the same can be applied to Life Of Pi - CG, Lincoln - The Legacy of Lincoln and Spielberg, Amour- Two great lead actors.

    Ravi
    www.filmbulb.blogspot.com

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    1. I highly disagree about Life of Pi, Ang Lee is the star of that film. Such a hypervisual film required a good director to pull it off. Especially when the story was one that people thought would be impossible to adapt.

      Yes, Amour has great acting but the cold tone that makes the film so bleak is all due to Haneke. Another director would either force more sentimentality or make it lighter.

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    2. Hi, I am from the same place where the Life Of Pi is set, Tamil Nadu, India. The movie is set in 1970's and seeing a kid who has philosophical thinking at that time is rare. I felt it ( actors\sets ) didn't reflect 70's India.

      Ravi
      www.filmbulb.blogspot.com

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    3. Fair enough.

      Even if it's rare, that doesn't mean it's impossible. He's only telling the story of 1 person and the audience realizes that Pi is certainly unique. Pi's omni-spirituality would be strange in any country, in any time period!

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    4. Yes, it's not impossible.

      I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild yesterday, considering it as a fantasy it was a neat and crisply ( 90 mins ) made.

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  4. Yeah, I agree with you here. When I saw Argo, I didn't necessarily think of it as a "director's film." I was surprised Affleck didn't get the nom, but I don't think it's the tell all end all of this year's race. Still though, I hope Argo nabs Best Picture. I think that'd be great.

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  5. Yep, Argo still has a lot going for it. Even though Beasts of the Southern Wild would be my #1 of the nominees, I would be fine with Argo winning. I think it's a respectable choice.

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