Will ‘Argo’ win ONLY Best Picture at Oscars?

After its big wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, “Argo” is in a good place to win Best Picture, despite the snub for director Ben Affleck. Our experts have it ranked #2 behind Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

Affleck won Best Director at both the Critics Choice and Globes. He well could beat Spielberg at DGA. The last film to win Best Picture without a director nod was “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) and “Argo” supporters are pointing to that as the precedent for it prevailing.

Yet everyone seems to be ignoring an even bigger question: how many Oscars can “Argo” actually win?

In every other category in which it contends, our experts are predicting another nominee to win. So you have to stop and wonder: can “Argo” be the first film since 1935 to win Best Picture without winning anything else?

-ADDPREDICTION:85:4:Click to predict Best Picture Oscar:ADDPREDICTION-

In the early days of Oscar, it was a common occurrence for a film to win only Best Picture. The earliest example of this is in the second year of the Academy Awards when Best Picture champ “The Broadway Melody” lost its bids for Best Director (Harry Beaumont) and Best Actress (Bessie Love) to Frank Lloyd (“The Divine Lady”) and Mary Pickford (“Coquette”) respectively.

“Grand Hotel” (1932) holds the distinction of being the only film to win Best Picture without receiving a single nomination in any other category.

“Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) received eight nominations, including three for Best Actor (Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone), as well as Best Director (Frank Lloyd), Screenplay (Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings, Carey Wilson), Editing (Margaret Booth), and Score (Nat W. Finston). Yet on Oscar night, it took the big prize but nothing else, losing Actor, Director, Screenplay, and Score to Victor McLaglen, John Ford, Dudley Nichols, and Max Steiner for “The Informer” while Ralph Dawson won the cutting prize for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Times have changed since then. When choosing Best Picture, voters tend to support that film throughout the categories, whether it’s grand total be eleven wins (“Ben-Hur” (1959), “Titanic” (1997), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)), or just three (“The Godfather” (1972), “Rocky” (1976), “Crash” (2005)).

The last time a Best Picture winner won just one other award was Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1952. That was considered an upset even back then (it’s other win was for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story). Since then, three wins are as low as voters were willing to go when selecting a Best Picture winner.

“Argo” is contending in six other categories: Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin), Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio), Editing (William Goldenberg), Score (Alexandre Desplat), Sound Editing (Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn), and South Mixing (John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Jose Antonio Garcia). In every one of these races, there are one or two contenders ahead of the “Argo” nominees. 

In the case of Arkin, he’s in fifth place for Supporting Actor, behind Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”), Robert DeNiro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”). Hoffman won the Critic’s Choice, Waltz won the Golden Globe, and SAG could go either to Jones or De Niro. Arkin previously won this category for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006), but while he’s consistently shown up in the precursors, he’s yet to win anything. All that could change with either BAFTA or SAG.

Terrio is currently ranked #2 for Adapted Screenplay, behind Tony Kushner (“Lincoln”) who has won the lion’s share of precursor prizes. David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) could also give Terrio a run for his money if voters see fit to reward him here instead of in Best Director. The award looks like Kushner’s to lose; the WGA will be telling.

Goldenberg is in competition with himself for Editing, with nominations for “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (shared with Dylan Tichenor). Currently, “Argo” is ranked #2 behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” but that could change is voters want to give the film one other award. Either way, it seems likely that Gibson will win this year.

Desplat has had four previous bids: (“The Queen” (2006), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009), and “The King’s Speech” (2010). He’s currently ranked third for Score behind five-time champ John Williams (“Lincoln”) and first-time nominee Mychael Danna (“Life of Pi”). Like Arkin, Desplat has shown up frequently in the precursors but has gone home empty handed each time.

For Sound Editing, “Argo” is ranked #4 behind “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Skyfall,” and “Life of Pi,” while for Sound Mixing, it’s last behind “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Skyfall,” and “Lincoln.” Voters tend to go with either action films or musicals in both Sound categories, making it hard for “Argo” to win.

If “Argo” suddenly becomes the favorite to win Best Picture, will that love carry over into other categories?

It seems unlikely that voters would give “Argo” the top prize without anything else. Yet in one of the most unpredictable Oscar seasons in recent memory, that could prove to be the biggest surprise of all.

12 thoughts on “Will ‘Argo’ win ONLY Best Picture at Oscars?

  1. Argo won’t even win Best Picture. The Globe & BFCA ballots were in before the nominations; they don’t count. If you raise a stink over a Best Director snub, Oscar will respond by ignoring almost ALL the noms you DID get — look at The Color Purple (0 for 11), The Prince of Tides (0 for 7), and Apollo 13 (2 for 9, only editing & sound). The only modern-day exception, Driving Miss Daisy (4 for 9), won because its driving forces (no pun intended), Jessica Tandy & Alfred Uhry, had NOTHING to do with director Bruce Beresford so it was easy to ignore him. Only THREE films have EVER won Best Picture without a Best Director nom: Wings, Grand Hotel, and Driving Miss Daisy. There’s NO way Argo will join them.

  2. And before you get into how The Artist broke so many molds, remember most of its firsts were even OLDER than Driving Miss Daisy: first silent Best Picture since Wings (1927), first non-widescreen Best Picture since Marty (1955), first 100% B&W Best Picture since The Apartment (1960); even the last *mostly*-B&W Best Picture, Schindler’s List (1993), is pretty close to DMD. Not to mention The Artist led the derby most of the way, unlike Argo.

  3. If Argo had a directors nom, then there would be no debate that it was way out in front. The aberration is that the 371 members of the directors branch left Affleck out, undoubtedly due to changed dates . Otherwise they would have followed the DGA’s lead. There is a lot of love for Argo, and if it’s not going to be placed first on ballots, it’ll be second or third. It looks the winner to me!

  4. I think your article sums up why Argo will not win Best Picture. When trying to figure out what might win Best Picture, I always try to look at what else the film might win and if the total is 3, then it’s a good bet that it could win. I think Silver Linings Playbook will struggle getting more wins than the 50/50 shot that Jennifer Lawrence has on Best Actress. Even though Russell was nominated, no DGA has pretty much meant not winning Best Picture (exceptions are Driving Miss Daisy, An American in Paris, and Hamlet). And no DGA nomination has meant no Oscar in Directing, meaning this race in between Spielberg and Lee. Given that each of their last directing wins were not accompanied with Best Picture wins, it is hard to believe that the Academy would do it to them twice in a row (even though they did it with John Ford 3 times out of 4 …but that was over 50 years ago). Life of Pi will probably do well in the technical categories (like Hugo did last year), but Lincoln feels like it has the wins required for a Best Picture (an unbeatable Best Actor, a leading-by-a-huge-margin Best Screenplay, and an uncontested Best Director).

  5. I’m going to go with “Argo” for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s going to be quite a history-changing year at the Oscars.

  6. And don’t forget, the WGA results can be no influence on the Oscars since their voting takes place just 2 days before Oscar ballots close. To deny Tony Kushner’s brilliant screenplay in order to give “Argo” a major win to justify Best Picture would be a huge travesty!

  7. Pretty much from the day I saw Lincoln, I had this feeling it would do well with nominations during awards season, but it would underperform in actual wins, and that seems to be exactly what’s happening so far. Overall, I think it might just be a bit too dry for most people to love. I think many people will like it, a few will love it, and a few will just pretend to have loved it. Also, I believe the Academy doesn’t go for the super big productions like they used to. It’s been a good decade since a production of Lincoln’s size won (Chicago in 2003 and Return of the King in 2004). They seem to prefer films now with smaller casts, smaller budgets, and smaller box-office returns. I also think they seem to really be going for films that are either very dark in nature or are else the sentimental feel-good film of the year. Lincoln is neither to me. There’s not much darkness to Lincoln, and I really didn’t feel like I left the film with a happy tear in my eye either. I think the Academy wants a super emotional film to win, either to one emotional extreme or the other to revitalize their cold, dead hearts. Amour could have done really well in this category if it wasn’t already winning in the foreign film category. There aren’t very many dark choices for them this year, and as far as feel-good films go, I think we are looking at mostly Argo and Silver Linings Playbook. I believe SLP is more of a contender than people think it is, though I have yet to see it so I can’t say for sure. So right now I’m making the call for Argo as best pic, Ang Lee as best director for the technically superior Life of Pi, and SLP for adapted screenplay. I think Lincoln only walks away with best actor in a “Mad Men at the last Emmys” type of shocker. But maybe this is just what I want to happen, lol. I love a good shake-up. It makes things a lot more fun. Argo additionally gets editing and maybe a music and sound category.

  8. LINCOLN will easily win Best picture , even though it is overly long , rather tedious and dry ; it’s a historical masterpiece that will stand the test of time , even though it’s not very entertaining it’s a history lesson on the most important event in American history and it’s showcased by a brilliant Oscar winning actor who has resurrected a martyred President in an eerie and atmospheric preformance that history teachers will be playing in class for generations to come ;
    It has increasing gravitas due to the fact that America has recently elected a black President and is, politically and socially , a fractured and polarized nation waiting for the soothing balm of a historical masterpiece like Lincoln

  9. Lincoln is going to ”KINGS SPEECH ” it’s way to victory …just compare the eerie similarities between the the race two years ago and now , it’s virtually identical with TKS winning only BA at the globes , only BA at the critics choice and winning only BP and BA at the BAFTAs;…..the Kings Speech won BP , BA and BD at the Oscars and Lincoln will too ……you can bet the farm on it as over at INTRADE where folks bet real money , LINCOLN is at 80% , ARGO at 13% and the rest at around 5%……INTADE is very , very rarely wrong

  10. The problem with ARGO is that it’s never much of a political ”thriller ” a we all know that they got away ….the movie is well crafted and seamlessly put together that manages to capture the 70’s look very well , but you never care much about the escapees and the end of the movie with the airliner being chased down the runway is just pure Hollywood fantasy …..furthermore , no actors in the movie will win an acting award of any kind ; it’s just not a very memorable movie

  11. 2013 Oscar surprised every one “Argo”a is the biggest contender of oscar but it didn’t even nominate in “Best Director” category” What the hell is happened to AMPAS so in my opinion now”Lincoln” or “Silver lining playbook should win the oscar for “Best Picture” because the joy of winning “Best Picture” with out “Best Director” is incomplete

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