Thu. January 31
Why Silver Linings Playbook Could Still Win Best Picture
Since it swept up the most coveted prizes at the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guilds Awards, and the Producers Guild Awards, conventional wisdom has pretty well settled on Argo being the only film able to give Lincoln a run for its money in Oscar’s Best Picture race. Much as I’d love to see Ben Affleck take the stage on February 24th to accept his industry’s highest honor, I still don’t believe it’s going to happen. Here’s why:
Point 1: The Academy hasn’t awarded best picture to a film that didn’t also nab a best director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. To find the divergence again, you have to go back to Grand Hotel in 1932. Simple statistics makes Argo a long shot.
Point 2: It’s too much of a Western Civilization heroism tale. To be fair, the strange and ahistorical Carter apologia that kicked the movie off could save Argo on this front, but it’s pro-U.S. (or at least pro-U.S. intelligence) earnestness puts it at a distinct disadvantage. In recent years the Academy has only looked with favor on Western heroes that are characterized by self-doubt and internal conflict. Too devoted to the cause? Too bad. Just ask Master and Commander, United 93, The Kingdom, Flags of our Fathers, Apollo 13, and Saving Private Ryan. And remember, like Argo, Ryan won Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as the Critic’s Choice Award and Producers Guild Award for Best Film yet came up empty for the top prize on Oscar night.
So that puts the safe money on Lincoln, right? Possibly, except Argo backers are correct that smaller, quirkier films have tended to have an edge over higher-pedigree powerhouses as of late. Last year, the quiet (so quiet it was silent, in fact) black-and-white French film, The Artist, dominated far more popular nominees like The Help, as well as entries by Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. In 2011, the charming stutterer, The King’s Speech, took out Christopher Nolan’s box-office behemoth, Inception. And in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow (who is currently in the process of learning a painful lesson regarding Point 2) trounced the highest-grossing movie of all time, Avatar, with The Hurt Locker.
All of that brings us to . . .
Point 3: The Weinsteins. Nobody knows how to do the Oscar shuffle like the Weinstein Brothers, as evidenced by the notoriously undeserved honors they managed to snag for movies like The Reader, The Cider House Rules, and Shakespeare in Love. One need only look at The Artist and The King’s Speech to see what magic they can work on behalf of a movie with merit.
Don’t misunderstand, while I found Silver Linings Playbook entertaining, in no way do I feel it rises to the all-cylinders-firing entertainment that Argo offered. So do Affleck and his team deserve all the accolades they’ve won from other corners? Absolutely. Is this seeming groundswell of support going to matter come Oscar night? I don’t think so. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.