Oscar pundits say movies like ARGO with the best picture nomination, but no directing nod are films that were directed themselves.
In the case of ARGO, which premiered Aug. 31, 2012, at the Telluride Film Festival, the director’s branch snub of Ben Affleck remains one of Oscar’s worst insults ever. Looking at ARGO a decade after it hit theatres leaves no doubt that those who insisted at the time that it really was a director’s movie were absolutely right.
ARGO, from Warner Bros. & Smokehouse Pictures, was Oscar’s first best picture winner in seven years to not also win for directing. The last one was CRASH in 2006, but that was very different. Its director, Paul Haggis (RED HOT), got a directing nom but lost. Affleck didn’t even get into the race. That made ARGO the first best picture winner in 23 years not to have had a directing nom. The previous one was DRIVING MISS DAISY, which won in 1990 and had nine noms, but not for director Bruce Beresford (BREAKER MORANT).
DAISY differed from ARGO in that it had lead acting nods for Morgan Freeman & for Jessica Tandy, who won. ARGO didn’t have a lead actress, but it did have a lead actor around whom the entire film revolved — Ben Affleck, who also produced with George Clooney & Grant Heslov. That made ARGO Oscar’s first best picture winner without a directing or lead acting nom since GRAND HOTEL won the best picture in 1932.
ARGO did get seven Academy noms & won for a picture, adapted screenplay & film editing. Media coverage at the time focused on Affleck’s snub from the director’s branch. No one knew why for certain, but a popular theory was that the branch was made up of Hollywood’s top directors, who in those days were an older elite group. Affleck was best known then as an actor although he’d made his directorial debut in 2007 with GONE BABY GONE. Those Oscar branchers were thought to have been offended by the idea that some young actor/director could just walk in and take home a directing Oscar.
Other major awards groups applauded Affleck for best directing, including BAFTA, Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes & Directors Guild of America. Articles at the time explained that the DGA membership, which included TV directors, was broader & younger than the director’s branch.
Despite much speculation, no one knows to this day why the Academy branch didn’t, at least, nominate Affleck. If Affleck was hurt by the directors’ snub, he didn’t say so. He actually joked that it really didn’t bother him since he also hadn’t been nominated by his colleagues in the actor’s branch.