As a movie junkie, I have a great sense of movie history. I can talk about D.W. Griffiths, how Hollywood is holding up the national economy (and controls all popular culture), Melvin Van Peebles and “block booking” all day. Unfortunately as a junkie, I have to involve myself in the muck of all the greatness to better understand it — therefore, I am a sucker for awards shows. I know they’re self-congratulatory — most of them boring and can be downright infuriating when the envelopes are open. So when Ben Affleck walked away from the 2013 Golden Globes last weekend, I swallowed a bittersweet pill. It was not hard to feel gratification for him in such glaring FAIL.
Affleck has now joined the list of the annual Academy Award “Snub List” — and one of the more memorable ones. The former better-half of Bennifer Version 1.0 has settled in nicely as one of the premier American filmmakers with three straight hits; “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” and political film-within-a-film “Argo.” Despite the lack of accurate (and Canadian) point of view, Affleck’s world is a truly gripping thriller made with a quiet hand and was definitely one of the better films of the year. Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony made a direct statement of independence against the event’s bigger brother — letting the Academy know loud and clear about their boneheaded decision to exclude him from their list of nominated directors days before.
This is not the first time the Academy Awards inspired head-scratching behavior. I am sure some of you did a double-take when romantic-comedy “Shakespeare in Love” walked away with Best Picture over the more-powerful “Saving Private Ryan.” How many of you spit out the beverage of your choice when “Ordinary People’s” melodramatics beat out “Raging Bull’s” raw brutality? My favorite is “Citizen Kane” being nearly shut out completely and pushed over in favor of “How Green Was My Valley” — damn you William Randolph Hearst. Still, if you wanted to end Orson Welles’ career, “The Maltese Falcon” did not have to suffer for it.
This year promises to be one of the more political awards seasons in quite a while, giving Academy voters different options to comment on America in the wake of Obama’s re-election. Up against “Argo’s” take on foreign policy is an urgent drama about the hunting down of Osama bin Laden, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” (who was also not nominated for Best Director despite winning in 2009); another which draws parallels between this presidency and the 16th, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; and even a fiction which grapples cathartically with the issue Lincoln fought to address, Quentin Tarantino’s slavery-revenge Western “Django Unchained.” The “O” is for Obama in 2013 (Along with “Argo” and “Zero” — “Lincoln” is a push.)
Bookies may have to lengthen those “Lincoln” odds just a bit since “Argo”s hopes of the Best Picture Oscar no longer look dead in the water. Only three times in Academy history has a widow nominee (without a director nod) won the main prize — “Wings” (1929), “Grand Hotel” (1932) and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989). “Argo” could easily join them, though — it’s the first serious contender since the category was expanded to include up to 10 nominees. Those who love “The Dark Knight Rises” are angry reading those words.
Of course — as a movie junkie, I will be looking at dresses, examining speeches and shaking my head in awe that reminds me of the time Al Pacino’s performance in “Scent of a Woman” beat out Denzel Washington’s larger-than-life “Malcolm X.” It will be a great party.
… Speaking of “Bennifer,” one word for Jennifer Lopez: “Ilovemywife."