The DGA Best Director award going last night to Argo‘s Ben Affleck makes it a 99% certainty that Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln won’t win the Best Picture Oscar. Now that we know the score, I’d like to openly ask all the Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby prognosticators who stuck with Lincoln all through December and especially January a simple question: why? What tea leaves told you that there was enough serious passion out there to push this well written, ploddingly paced, passionately performed grandfather clock of a movie into the winner’s circle?
We now know that the passion was never there, not really. And yet for weeks Team Lincoln told us over and over again “it’s the likeliest winner, what other film has the stature?, it has to happen, it’s Spielberg’s best in years, it’s too good a film, it’s about a legendary U.S. President, it’s made well over $100 million” and so on. Even after those Argo wins at the BFCA, Golden Globes and the PGA and especially after Bill Clinton‘s Lincoln plug at the Golden Globes suggested to some of us that the hand had been overplayed, a lot of people still held fast. Why? What vibrations from what insect antennae told you to stick? I’m honestly curious.
Yes, I had Lincoln down as my own Best Picture prediction for a while but I did so with resignation and depression. From the beginning I saw Lincoln as a lazy default choice. It was just sitting there like a lump of mashed potatoes. I couldn’t wait to dump it after sensing a change in the wind.
My pet theory: The downfall of Zero Dark Thirty sealed Lincoln‘s fate. If ZD30 hadn’t been torpedoed by the Stalinists and had held on the strength it had in early December with all the critics awards, it would have taken a lot of support away from Argo, which after all is a more congenial and entertaining version of the same basic story (i.e., a brilliant CIA maverick bucks the bureaucratic tide in order to push through a secret, risky-seeming CIA operation in the Middle East that involves hoodwinking Islamic militants and which ends in delicious success). The Argo and ZD30 votes might have split the faction that is now voting entirely for Argo, and Lincoln might have inched ahead and become the favorite…maybe.