Affleck's 'Argo' wins Directors Guild top honor
05:00 AM, Feb 04, 2013
The Argo juggernaut churns on.
Argo director Ben Affleck won top film honors from the Directors Guild of America Saturday night for his CIA thriller about the Iran hostage crisis, giving his film vital momentum heading into the Feb. 24 Academy Awards.
Argo, once considered a possible spoiler for the best-picture plans of the sweeping Lincoln and Les Miserables, has emerged as a front-runner. The film has won virtually every major film award since Affleck was snubbed for a best-director nomination when the Oscars nominees were announced Jan. 10.
Backstage at the Directors Guild honors Saturday, Affleck said he didn’t take the snub from the academy personally.
“I’m thrilled and honored that the academy nominated me as a producer of the movie,” Affleck said. “I know our movie, we’re a little bit underdog and a little bit the little engine that could, and you take me out of it maybe helps. … It’s just about that picture. I feel like it’s OK, I’m really lucky, I’m in a good place.”
Oddsmakers were less charitable to the academy.
“The Oscar race is turning into a classic Hollywood revenge drama,” says Tom O’Neill, author of Movie Awards and chief forecaster for awards site Goldderby.com.
He says Saturday’s win proves “what fools Oscar voters were to snub him in the best-director category. How can a movie possibly be the greatest film of the year if it doesn’t have great direction? Go ahead, Oscar voters, explain that to your grandkids, who’ll try to make sense of this derby someday.”
He says that Argo “now looks like a good bet to win best picture at the Oscars.”
But he notes: In 1996, Apollo 13 won top honors from the Directors Guild, Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild, only to lose to Braveheart for best picture.
“Things don’t always go according to script in Hollywood,” he says. “Especially at the Oscars.”
Affleck’s Oscar snub may have earned him some favor among awards voters as an underdog favorite. And Affleck’s modest acceptance speeches have helped win fans.
“I don’t think that this makes me a real director, but I think it means I’m on my way,” says Affleck, who won for just his third film behind the camera.
The Directors Guild honors continued Hollywood’s strange awards season. The guild’s prize for best director typically is a final blessing for the film that goes on to win best picture and director at the Oscars.
Argo is up for seven Oscars, including best picture and best supporting actor for Alan Arkin.
With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg’s Civil War saga Lincoln initially looked like the Oscar favorite over such other films including Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty. Only three films have won best picture without being nominated for best director in 84 years, most recently 1989’s best-picture champ Driving Miss Daisy, which failed to earn a directing nomination for Bruce Beresford.
Many of the same film professionals who vote in guild awards also cast ballots for the Oscars, so the early wins for Argo are a strong sign that the film has the inside track for best picture.
Malik Bendjelloul won the guild’s documentary award for Searching for Sugar Man, his study of the fate of critically acclaimed but obscure 1970s singer-songwriter Rodriquez. The film also is nominated for best documentary at the Oscars.
Jay Roach won the guild trophy for TV movies and miniseries for Game Change, his drama starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in her 2008 vice-presidential run.
Roach said that he watched John McCain rush to choose Palin as his running mate, potentially putting her second in line for the presidency.
“I said, ‘We gotta talk about this,’ ” Roach joked.
On the television front, Rian Johnson won the drama series award for an episode of Breaking Bad, while Lena Dunham took the trophy for directing the pilot to her HBO series Girls.
Among other TV winners:
Reality program: Brian Smith, Master Chef.
Musical variety: Glenn Weiss, The 66th Annual Tony Awards.
Daytime serial: Jill Mitwell, One Life to Live.
Children’s program: Paul Hoen, Let It Shine.
Despite his snub as best director, Affleck can still walk home with an Oscar. Best picture trophies go to a film’s producers, and he produced the movie with pals George Clooney and Grant Heslov.
It would be his second statuette. He and Matt Damon jump-started their careers with 1997’s Good Will Hunting, for which they shared a screenplay Oscar.
(Contributing: The Associated Press)