Contender Countdown: ‘Argo’ vs. ‘Lincoln’ to the bitter end?

Well the Oscar pundits have spoken again and – surprise – it appears a number of our peers are jumping on the “Argo” bandwagon.  

The latest Gurus of Gold roundup finds nine first place votes for “Argo” and just two for “Lincoln.” Both Movie City News’ David Poland and Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone aren’t bowing to the media peer pressure (for the moment at least).  It’s also worth noting that three Gurus weren’t counted this week although Anne Thompson confirms she voted “Argo” even if her votes didn’t make the publishing deadline (boo).  Needless to say, the momentum has swung back toward Ben Affleck’s guild favorite even if it is without a pesky best directing nomination.

Of course, nothing’s changed, really.  History is still not on “Argo’s” side.  Only three films have ever won best picture without a directing nomination over the previous 84 Academy Awards. For those playing at home, that means an “Argo” like win hasn’t happened 81 times.  Clearly, no one in Vegas or politics would take those odds.  Instead, “Lincoln,” with the most nominations (12), at least one nomination from each branch (except Visual Effects) and living legend Steven Spielberg behind it would “seem” to be the safer bet.  Most recently, “Apollo 13,” which wasn’t awarded a best director nod either, demonstrated you can duplicate “Argo’s” DGA, PGA and SAG ensemble wins and still lose the big prize (enter “Braveheart”). The pro-“Argo” contingent and even those with a horse in the race not working for Disney or DreamWorks will tell you “Lincoln” isn’t beloved like “Braveheart” was and it’s respected like “Hugo,” “Babel” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (all films with best director nominations by the way).  “Argo,” on the other hand, is loved by the Academy membership and the industry and that should pull it through.  Or will it?

Could we all be in for a big surprise Oscar Sunday?  Could “Life of Pi” shock and win it all?  Fox thinks it has a chance, that’s for sure.  In any event, this is one year where there will be a lot of tension building up to the opening of the best picture envelope at the end of the show.  With that in mind, here’s a look at the current Contender Countdown.

Feb. 7, 2013

1. Argo
Everyone wants to hop on the bandwagon. Where were you guys in December?

2. Lincoln
Is history really on its side?
3. Life of Pi
Could end the night with four Oscars. Will best director be one of them?

4. Silver Linings Playbook
Full court press to land Robert De Niro his third Academy Award.  Can’t wait to see the reaction on Tommy Lee Jones’ face if that happens.

5. Zero Dark Thirty
Has Washington, D.C. politics ever affected a best picture campaign as much as it has for “Zero Dark Thirty”? Hastag sad.

6. Les Miserables
Having trouble understanding why Anne Hathaway has become the center of the media’s snarky wit over the past few weeks. Recent slam dunk winners such as Jennifer Hudson, Monique, Christopher Plummer or Christian Bale never had to put up with this.
7. Django Unchained

Weinstein and Sony Pictures wouldn’t mind Tarantino landing another best original screenplay Oscar, but are secretly wondering if they can hit $400 million worldwide.

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Clearly the winner of the “We’re just so happy to be recognized” award this season.

9. Amour
Emmanuelle Riva and Michael Haneke have excellent chances to win in the best actress and best original screenplay categories, but picture? The longest shot of all.