E: Well, they said it. Director snub and statistics be damned! Director branch of the Academy, go Argo-eff yourself. We’ve finally got a best picture front runner.
Holy crap was this a boring telecast. I mean, really, this was snoozeville to the extreme. Lacking the booze of the Golden Globes (and even worse, the fabulous hosts of the Golden Globes) and the gravitas of the Oscars, this year’s SAG broadcast was one of the most joyless award shows I’ve seen in years. Thanks in part to a preponderance of bland and lifeless speeches (I am talking to you, brilliantly talented Julianne Moore, with that pathetic physical list of people to thank), the evening absolutely dragged. What a parade of gorgeous presenters being stiff and boring, saddled with the blandest dialog a room full of monkeys could produce. While of course deserving, the TV choices were largely expected (Claire Danes, Alec Baldwin, Modern Family, Bryan Cranston, Tina Fey) as were the wins for Anne Hathaway and Daniel Day-Lewis. At least DDL made the room laugh when he recalled that President Lincoln had been murdered by an actor, as Tina Fey did when she reminisced about the days when Amy Poehler was pregnant with Lena Dunham; that’s more than most accomplished. Even the fashion seemed mostly safe and insipid.
That said, there were a few unexpected moments. First off, Downton Abbey! Hurrah! What a wonderful thing. Even if I’m too scared to keep watching the current season because of the horrific spoilers I’ve heard from across the pond, it was truly the best moment of my night, listening to Phyllis Logan (housekeeper Mrs. Hughes) thank Rebecca Eaton of Boston’s own WGBH and generally be thrilled and charming. Love it. (We’ll just gloss over Lady Mary’s side boob and pretend it didn’t happen, okay?) Nothing against the other nominees, but what a joy to see PBS win something like this!
Then, something actually relevant to the Oscars. Supporting Actor is still a complete toss up. You can add Tommy Lee Jones to the mix after Christoph Waltz took the Globe and Philip Seymour Hoffman the Critics Choice. That’s crazy but also really cool. Does that mean it’ll be DeNiro or Arkin at Oscar, just to round out the category?
We may have an actual frontrunner in Best Actress with Jennifer Lawrence besting Jessica Chastain and yukking it up with one of the only interesting speeches of the night. This is they way to thank people; don’t just list off their names, say something honestly meaningful about each one and how they contributed to your project! Of course, starting off clutching your mouth in shock, then clutching your family, and then walking to the stage clutching your heart? Pretty endearing, as was calling the statuette “this naked guy” and Harvey Weinstein a rascal.
But the most peculiar trend of the night follows up the Producers Guild win from earlier – Argo is now bafflingly, clearly the front runner runner for best picture, even without a nomination for the clearly popular director Ben Affleck. His rousing speech thanking all actors everywhere probably isn’t going to do him any harm in the Oscar voting, what with the largest block of Academy voters being actors. Momentum plays a huge role in these industry glad-fests, and Argo indisputably has the momentum. Perhaps all we’re going to be talking about is who will end up taking the director statuette in Affleck’s stead come February 24th; maybe best picture is sewn up.
A personal note: I was thrilled to see Argo, because true stories are what you might call one of my “bulletproof kinks.” Give me Apollo 13 or Lorenzo’s Oil any day; they just inspire me, leave me in awe of the human spirit, in a more profound way than fiction does. That said, once I saw it last fall I was disappointed, principally because the 2 dimensional characters feel like chess pieces in the story rather than true movers of it. I admire the way the pieces fit together, but I want more, especially when I know the outcome in advance. And I just can’t help thinking that if Ben Affleck had received his expected nomination, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now. I can’t help thinking that Lincoln or Les Miz or Silver Linings Playbook would be a more worthy and satisfying winner. Are we really going to anoint something as the best movie of the year because Hollywood is collectively peeved on Ben Affleck’s behalf? But hey, it’s not up to me, and never has been. And it is truly a fascination to watch this season take shape. What a decidedly weird Oscar year it is!