The last time a movie won the Best Picture Oscar without the director of that film being nominated was in 1990 when Driving Miss Daisy took home the award. Labeled “the film no one directed,” it bested Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams and My Left Foot in an upset that defied the odds as Oliver Stone’s Vietnam epic was expected to run the table, especially after the veteran filmmaker had been named Best Director for his efforts.
A similar situation is developing this year as Argo continues to pick up one trophy after another as it rolls through the various other film awards ceremonies that occur before the Academy Awards. Having already been named Best Drama by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Golden Globes, it was named Best Film by the Producer’s Guild and earned the Best Ensemble acting award from the Screen Actor’s Guild, both of which were given over the weekend. And all of this coming after filmmaker Ben Affleck was snubbed by the Academy, being overlooked in the Best Director category.
The circumstances surrounding this year’s awards and those in 1990 are quite different. While there were only five nominees for Best Picture then, there are nine films up for the award this year. Whether that works in anyone’s favor is anyone’s guess but I would say it hurts the film’s chances as a wider slate of movies to choose from dictates that the votes will be more spread out. Also, it should be noted that Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi all have very loyal followings and they too could benefit from a watered down voting pool.
However, if Argo has one thing on its side, it's sentiment. The general feeling is that a great injustice was done toward Affleck and that the members of the Academy are going to take this situation in hand and right the wrong. It should be noted that while directors nominate directors and they then also vote for the winner of the award, every member of the Academy gets to vote for the Best Picture award. So even though it appears that Affleck has not yet earned the esteem of his colleagues, he has more than won over a large number of Academy members.
And too, Hollywood loves a comeback story and Affleck has that going for him in spades. Having stormed the town after winning the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting, he stumbled badly on screen and in his private life, getting caught up in the media storm concerning his romantic relationship with Jennifer Lopez. Since then, he’s laid low, proven himself to be a talented director and seems happy in his marriage and with his career. He’s paid his penance and nothing would prove to him more that he’s back in the fold than to collect the Best Picture Oscar for Argo as one of its producers, along with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Tune in on Feb. 24 to see if the comeback kid can pull off one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.