Big BAFTA Best Film Win Sends 'Argo' Into Oscars With Huge Momentum

Actual betting on the Oscars is outlawed in the U.S.. But it is permissible in England – and afterBAFTA today’s British Academy Awards show which just wrapped in London, people would be wise to put some pounds on Argo‘s Best Picture Oscar chances. In what is becoming a familiar sight every weekend, Ben Affleck once again was in the winner’s circle at BAFTA, and along with Best Film he also took Best Director, a prize for which he is famously not nominated at the Oscars even though his movie has 7 nominations – just as it did at BAFTA. So add another strong precursor award to the Argo stockpile that now includes PGA, DGA, SAG, Golden Globes, Critics Choice Movie Awards. Last night, it also added an honor for Chris Terrio’s adaptation at the USC Scripter Awards. (Terrio wasn’t there to accept; instead he was in London for the BAFTAs where he lost to David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook – the only award that film picked up.)

Related: BAFTA Winners: ‘Argo’, Ben Affleck, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emmanuelle Riva

So how reliable is BAFTA as an Oscar predictor? Pretty good in recent years, although spotty sometimes in acting categories. But the two organizations  have several hundred of the same members, and last year BAFTA and Oscar matched in everyone of the top 6 categories plus almost all the below-the-line victors as well. (They differed on the 2 screenplay winners, though). BAFTA and Oscar also paired on the same Best Film/Picture winner for the past 5 years straight. (In 2007 the home-grown British production Atonement won over eventual Academy winner, No Country For Old Men, although the Coen Brothers triumphed for Director with both organizations.)

2007 was also when French star Marion Cotillard began her late season run taking Best Actress for La Vie En Rose over favored local Julie Christie for BAFTA and Oscar. Now, with French star Emmanuelle Riva’s win as BAFTA’s Best Actress today, can Amour‘s 85-year-old pull off the same triple play over American favorites Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain? Riva is favored to win the French Oscar equivalent Cesar, and then just 48 hours later will be in Hollywood for the Academy Awards which fall on the same day as her 86th birthday.  She did not attend BAFTA, and, according to our Deadline reporters on the scene, there were audible gasps in the audience and among the media when she won. I have a feeling this award is a good omen for her mounting Oscar chances. Were she to win, she would be the oldest ever in any acting category. That sounds like a scenario Academy voters might love.

BAFTAComing into the BAFTAs, Lincoln had the most nominations with 10, just as that film leads the Oscar nominees with 12. It had been widely expected to pick up some of these important precursor awards. But other than consistent Best Actor honors for star Daniel Day-Lewis (he won again at BAFTA and seems a cinch for Oscar), it has been virtually blanked this season. London also failed to give a Directing nod to Steven Spielberg. But Affleck got it, the opposite of what happened in Oscar’s directing category. In one of the more surprising twists of the season, Lincoln now has become an underdog – despite having the most nominations and the biggest box office of any of the 9 Best Picture nominees, usually good indicators. Disney/DreamWorks has launched a late massive TV blitz in LA, home to most of the Oscar voters, to coincide with final balloting and drum up some much needed momentum. However, Spielberg could still be the Best Director winner at the Oscars although Life Of Pi’s Ang Lee and Silver Linings Playbook’s David O. Russell are particularly tough competition. Can a sympathy factor suddenly come into play for Spielberg and his passion project? There are still 9 days left to vote.

Similarly the BAFTA results were not good news for Zero Dark Thirty which went 0 for 5. KathrynBAFTA Bigelow and Mark Boal had great success here 3 years ago with The Hurt Locker but not this time in the final vote. And Life Of Pi was expected to do better than winning 2 categories – Cinematography and Special Effects – out of 9 nominations. Instead the British tended to reward their own: 4 wins for Les Miserables including sure-thing Supporting Actress Anne Hathaway as well as Skyfall which beat Les Mis for Outstanding British Film and became the first Bond pic ever to win in that category. Skyfall also took Music Score for long overdue Thomas Newman.

Word before today’s ceremony was that Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained would be very popular with the Brits even though it didn’t make it into the Best Picture running (most likely due to its very late December release date). The film’s winning Original Screenplay for Tarantino and Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz could bode well for its Oscar chances in those two categories as well, especially from what I have been hearing in some recent conversations with Academy voters.

But the real news is once again, a win for Warner Bros. Argo. And the question now becomes just how well will it do on Oscar night. Its strongest category in terms of the odds is, oddly, Best Picture. It probably can be considered a front runner to take Editing as well for William Goldenberg just as it did at BAFTA. Affleck would have been a cinch for Director but, thanks to the Academy’s Directing branch, he’s not nominated. As for both Sound categories, Argo is nominated but Les Miserables and Life Of Pi, and perhaps even Skyfall, seem frontrunners. Alan Arkin has yet to pick up any Supporting wins and Alexandre Desplat’s music score has major competition from Life Of Pi, Skyfall and 5-time winner John Williams’ Lincoln. The Adapted Screenplay faces tough competition as well from Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. Certainly Argo is not out of the running in any of these races and the momentum building could push it into the winners circle in many of them. But it appears the Academy is on course to spread the wealth even more than usual this year. And if it goes like BAFTA, then Argo could end up winning Best Picture and only two Oscars total. The last time a film won Best Picture and only one other Oscar was 1952, the year the show was first televised. That’s when The Greatest Show On Earth took Best Picture at the end of the telecast after winning only the now-defunct Oscar category of Best Motion Picture Story.

It’s an interesting scenario to contemplate as the race moves across the pond with just two weeks to go in what has turned out to be a fascinating year in the annals of the Academy Awards.

  1. While I appreciate the comeback story of Ben Affleck, this is getting ridiculous. Argo was a very good film, but casting himself in the lead almost destroyed this picture. His performance was wooden and uninteresting and it effected the entire film. I feel like these are all sympathy wins because he got shut out of the Best Director category at the Oscars.

    1. He was playing a disciplined CIA agent who specializes in ex-filtration. If you expected theatrically or overt emotionalism then you weren’t paying attention.

  2. Then why isn’t Katherine Bigelow getting sympathy wins everywhere? Zero dark 30 was a better film and a more impressive directing feat. This is all so weird and silly.

  3. Can someone please explain what heinous offense Ben Affleck committed against the Academy? It’s fairly obvious that he should, at least, have been nominated.

    Thanks.

    1. He didn’t commit a heinous offense, he just directed an entertaining, though not very enlightening, film in a workmanlike manner. A lot of the things people are calling his directing choices are actually things that were in the script. And, let’s face it, he did not, as a director, coax a great performance from his leading man.

    2. Thank you. I am tired of this Hollyweird sympathy game for Ben Affleck. Affleck is not a visionary filmmaker, and Argo was entertaining – not brilliant. It is bad enough people overrate Ben’s acting style, but now the filmmaking community is overrating his directing style. All of this foolishness is mind blowing.

  4. Argo was a fun to watch film. Pretty good, until the end, when the bad guys almost catch the airplane on the runway but miss it by 0.000001 seconds. That was like a cheesy 1940s B movie ending. The whole film was paint-by-numbers.

    A friend of mine said: “Why didn’t the Iranians just walk to the tower and call the plane back? It WAS still in Iranian airspace?” Good question.

    Zero Dark Thirty is so much of a better film than Argo in every way. Oh, and Affleck was the worst part of Argo. And I’m going to leave it to you to decide whether I mean acting or directing.

    1. You say ZD30 is so much better as if that’s a given and objective thing. It’s nothing of that sort.

      Had a man directed ZD30 it would not even be in the conversation. It would not even have raised eyebrows had the Academy not felt the need to award the film that changed Cinema that year.

      No one who follows the Oscar would believe that it’s about that awarding the best ( very, very, very, very seldom). Last years best film, screenplay, and acting didn’t get more than 2 nominations, and won ONE Oscar. That film being A SEPARATION. That film has 99% on RT and 95% on Metacritic, but it was Iranian, so it couldn’t win.

    2. Yes, ZERO DARK THIRTY, a film with the tagline “the greatest manhunt in history” that runs 2 hours and 45 minutes. Because we all know that a well-made manhunt film will approach 3 hours. You certainly wouldn’t expect, say, a manhunt film to be thrilling and fast-moving and 2 hours or less.

    3. I think you’re not giving Argo enough credit. If it’s such a “paint by numbers” movie, then why aren’t we getting 10 thrillers like this every year? Because not everyone can pull this format off successfully.

    4. Argo was entertaining but WILDLY inaccurate. The gro of six got through the airport with nary an incident. And the Canadiens played a significant role.

  5. I still think Argo has no chance for best picture. It will pick up best adapted screenplay as its big award but no best director nomination means no best picture win. Lincoln or silver linings Playbook will probably win.

    1. A number of films have won Best Picture w/o winning Director. One or two have won with the director not nominated at all. I beleive DRIVING MISS DAISY and maybe CHICAGO, too.

      1. Yes there are films that won best picture without best director but only one film won in 80 years won best picture without a best director nomination and that was in 1989. After controversity, they only gave best picture awards to those with best director nominees.

    2. I know I will probably be lapidated, figuratively speaking, but I just watched Silver Linings Playbook and I have been wondering why on earth was this film considered Oscar-worthy by the Academy. I found it a pleasant romantic dramatic comedy (oxymoron) but nothing more. I think Weinstein should have concentrated his efforts on The Master, aesthetically very beautiful, very well acted by everyone and filled with pathos. Probably Weinstein was misled by the general popular appeal, but I thought that Academy Awards should primarily acknowledge the artistic valour of a film. Therefore, I am hoping Life of Pi or Amour = Best film. Of course, I do not even contemplate anyone but Emmannuelle Riva winning the Best Actress Award, considering the complexity of the role.

  6. Argo won’t win best picture. The snub for best director means the oscars wont take argo seriously because giving Argo best picture after the snub will only cause the academy award to come under fire for lack of direction.

  7. After wins by King’s Speech and The Artist, a win by Argo will continue the Oscars marched towards being irrelevant

  8. Argo….
    This getting stupid.
    On what planet is Argo a greater, bolder achievement than Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild?
    Oh yeah, Hollywood.
    Clooney makes Weinstein seem like an amateur because there has to be a logical explanation for this rather conventional film overshadowing true auteurs efforts like Spielberg, Lee, Bigelow etc…

  9. I knew Argo was going to win, neither Ben or George would have attended BAFTA otherwise. With Argo winning every single award even though it’s clearly not the best picture of the year, the fix is on. At least the academy got one thing right it gave it’s 5 Director nominations to Directors who made great movies this year. Argo was very entertaining but it reminded me of an enjoyable popcorn movie kinda like Die Hard 3.

  10. No, no Best Director nomination for Ben Affleck practically guarantees “Argo” is Best Picture. The Academy has been completely embarrassed by its very small Directors Branch. If voters could write-in Affleck for Best Director he would win that, too.

  11. The real story at BAFTA was the totally classless reaction caught on camera by David O Russell when Emmanuelle Riva won. He looked so disgusted and shocked you would have thought Lindsay Lohan won. Never saw such a sore loser at one of these things. JLaw looked pretty stone faced too leading me to believe that SNL skit trash talking her nominees may have been written by her after all.

    And oh yeah, if its based on performance it should be Riva’s hands down but we all know it rarely is based on that. JLaw is the IT girl! You know like Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Reese Withserpoon, and Renee Zellweger once were. None of which have been nominated again since winning their Oscars.

  12. I digress with the assertion that Affleck would have won a director’s Oscar if nominated.

    No, this is the cutomary Hollywood domino theory of jumping off a cliff if a person has been omitted from a nominated category and the PR machines drumming up the unintended slight to its advantage.

    At best, an average and entertaining film, “Argo” will now receive the highest accolade for chiefly garnering the most sympathy. But more offensive is the film’s obvious implication that Hollywood saved the day for the hostages.

    Yep, another false display of self-effacement by the industry. Meanwhile “Zero Dark Thirty” with its heart and soul in the right place gets shafted.

  13. ARGO poised to win Best Picture seems like a joke. Way for Hollywood to pat themselves on the back for rewarding a good movie about them saving the day in Iran. And its VERY inaccurate from not giving the Canadians credit to Ben Affleck playing a Latino to the tattered Hollywood sign. And don’t even get me started on that lame climax as the Iranian police chase the plane down the runway. I want Lincoln to win, but I think at this point Les Miserables or Silver Linings sounds like a more suitable Best Picture winner then ARGO.

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