Crowning off an industry awards running of the table, from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards the night director Ben Affleck was passed over for a Best Director Oscar nomination through a guild circuit that brought high profile recognition from the likes of producers, directors, actors and writers, Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Argo” has been named Best Picture of 2012 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“I know what you’re thinking. The three sexiest producers alive,” said producer Grant Heslov said between co-producers George Clooney and Ben Affleck on the stage of the Dolby Theatre, able to accept a prize as producer despite being left off the directors’ line-up. “I want to acknowledge my partner in crime and my great friend George Clooney. Everybody should be so lucky to have a partner as talented, as humorous and with so much integrity. On behalf of George and myself, I want to thank you, Ben. You directed a hell of a film.”
The Oscar caps off a journey that seemed to peak a number of times since the film’s world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September. Other contenders such as “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Les Misérables,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty” came and flirted with the frontrunner position throughout the season, but Affleck’s well-liked thriller held on every step of the way.
Affleck’s interest in the material stemmed from his early college years toiling away at Occidental College in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of northeast Los Angeles as a Middle Eastern Studies major, he told HitFix in December.
“I’m also interested in the complexity of the idea that everybody has their reason, their side of the story,” he said at the time. “Palestine and Israel, that’s a place where you have two people with really diametrically opposed points of view. And yet both firmly believe they”re not just right but righteous. And that dynamic, I think, is at the root of drama.”
The film weathered its share of controversy throughout the year, as many of the season’s contenders felt embattled from without along the way. When it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, there was an outcry over the film’s perceived flippant attitude toward the Canadian government’s part in the CIA operation it details. It also came under fire for dramatic license taken with the real life events.
But in the end, the Academy, indeed, the film industry, had settled on its favorite: a heroic tale where Hollywood gets to share in the glory.
“I want to acknowledge Steven Spielberg, who I think is a genius,” Affleck said this evening. “I want to thank Canada, I want to thank our friends in Iran living under terrible circumstances right now…And I just want to say I was here 15 year ago or something, and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all, I was just a kid. I never thought I’d be back here. So many people extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it. I want to thank them for teaching me you have to work harder than you ever thought you would. You’re gonna get knocked down, but you’ve got to get back up.”
“Argo” walked away with two other Oscars, for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.