Tom O’Neil to other Oscar bloggers: ‘Argo’ isn’t ‘Apollo 13’

Attention other Oscar bloggers: While discussing historic precedents that may (or may not) apply to the Oscar smackdown between “Argo” and “Lincoln,” you’re forgetting to account for a key difference between this year’s derby and 1995.

Everywhere, Oscarologists are reminding us that “Apollo 13” won PGA, SAG Ensemble (just like “Argo”) and DGA back in those days, then lost Best Picture to “Braveheart,” but they’re not recalling the derby correctly.

Over at HitFix, for example, Greg Ellwood declares “‘Braveheart’ easily took best picture as well as best director honors.” Not true. On the eve of the Oscars, “Braveheart” wasn’t even being considered seriously by Oscar pundits. All Los Angeles Times writers were betting on lift-off by “Apollo 13,” but Kenneth Turan warned, “There’s no counting out the most determined of porkers, ‘Babe.’ Its backers are the most passionate.”

The possibility that “Braveheart” could pull off an upset wasn’t even mentioned. The reason: it hadn’t won a single Best Picture prize earlier that derby. “Sense and Sensibility” and “Babe” took the two top Globes. “Sense and Sensibility” won National Board of Review and Broadcast Film Critics. “Babe” won National Society of Film Critics. “Leaving Las Vegas” snatched laurels from the New York and L.A. film critics. The only hints that “Braveheart” might be a serious contender: Mel Gibson won Best Director at the Globes and “Braveheart” won the ACE Eddie.

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While rooting for “Lincoln” at Awards Daily, Sasha Stone says about this year’s derby, “It is all very much playing out the way ‘Apollo 13’ played out, and if Ben Affleck now wins the DGA, as all of my pundit pals are predicting, it will match ‘Apollo 13’ almost exactly (‘Apollo 13’ did not win the Globe for Director, Mel Gibson did).”

Conclusion: Watch out – all this “Argo” buzz may not be real.

Of all of the recent Oscar articles I’ve read making parallels between “Argo” and “Apollo 13” – and I’ve canvassed the web over the past few days – not one has correctly explained why “Apollo 13” lost. That’s relevant because the same factor doesn’t exist today and, if you take that into account, then this year’s “Apollo 13” – “Argo” – may indeed be cleared for take-off.

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

“Braveheart” pulled off a sneaky win because Oscar-watchers weren’t paying attention to what was showing up in academy members’ mailboxes. “Braveheart” was the first major Oscar contender ever to send out screeners to voters.

Nowadays, of course, all contenders send screeners. Academy members received more than 50 this year. So it’s an equal playing field that way.

Memo to Sasha: Yes, “Lincoln” can still win. I’m not discounting that. But it doesn’t have the same secret ambush advantage that “Braveheart” had.

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20 thoughts on “Tom O’Neil to other Oscar bloggers: ‘Argo’ isn’t ‘Apollo 13’

  1. Tom, correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t those Braveheart screeners sent out before the Oscar nominations? That’s why it bagged the most Oscar nominations (10) that year. So basically, Braveheart won the Academy’s favor by the time the nominations were even announced. Then afterwards, the PGA, SAG and DGA rewarded Apollo 13, but the Academy had already made up its mind by then. This is why the Lincoln/Argo parallel is relevant, because the Academy may have already made up its mind about Lincoln. The Argo precursor wins may turn out to just be consolation/pity prizes to make up for the Oscar director snub.

  2. IMO, if anything Apollo 13 was the anomaly because it DID manage to win two lesser Oscars (Film Editing and Sound, now Sound Mixing). The Color Purple, the only other film ever to win DGA without a Best Director nom, went 0-for-11 at the Oscars. This only proves what I’ve been saying: Argo CANNOT win Best Picture!

  3. I should retract this: “The Argo precursor wins may turn out to just be consolation/pity prizes to make up for the Oscar director snub”, because the guilds could genuinely think Argo is the best film of the year, it’s just that at the end of the day, it may not matter because the Academy has its own tastes.

    Also, sure the directors branch is only about 300 of the Academy membership, but think of it as 300 members who (on average) will not be putting Argo at the top 5 of their Best Picture preferential ballot. That’s significant.

  4. I know everyone thinks the alternative to “Argo” is “Lincoln” – but what about “Life of Pi”? It has the highest box office (domestically and internationally combined) and it clearly is getting support from members in the industry – Russell Crowe, just to name a few. “Lincoln” hasn’t won anything! Not a single major prize and everyone thinks it’s the alternative. Wake up people, if there is an alternative – “Life of Pi” is sneaking in there.

  5. This is gonna be one of those “everyone gets an Oscar” years. Lincoln will get direction and actor. Silver Linings, actress. Les Mis, best supporting actress. ØD30 will probably get a screenplay award. And picture will go to Argo. They love doing this when there is no Titanic to contend with. It makes them feel good and fair. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that any film will win more than 5 awards.

  6. Argo winning the SAG award was interesting to me because for me personally I felt like it hurt it’s Oscar chances. I don’ think it deserved to win the ensemble award, I think some academy members guilt of snubbing him for director has been eased and they don’t feel “obligated” to vote for him. And as Tom has said multiple times before the academy is made up of older men. I much like The Kings Speech vs. The Social Network the Academy will be more geared towards Lincoln. I think I’ll keep my vote for Linocln.

  7. Maybe “Argo” isn’t “Apollo 13″ but the only movie which has won Best Picture without Best Director nomination,”Driving Miss Daisy”(,”Grand Hotel” was so long ago that I don’t count on it) didn’t have nominations for DGA,Golden Globe,actually not a single nomination for best director(only 3rd place on New York Film Critics).It was movie without great directorial achievement,so I think that “Argo” as a movie which always wins both picture and direction awards can’t win Best Picture Oscar without Best Director nomination.

  8. I hope Argo takes the big prize if only just to have some fun watching Awards Daily explode just like it dud when The King’s Speech won Best Picture over The Sicial Network. Two years later and they still bitching about it.

  9. Yes, Argo ain’t Apollo 13. Apollo 13 is a GREAT movie. Argo is merely a good one. Apollo 13 deserved the BP oscar in 1995 out of those nominated, Argo does not. Same goes for Driving Miss Daisy which is also much better than Argo.
    That being said, yes, you’re right tom. It’s in a stronger position that “13” was. It’s probably (and sadly) gonna win.

  10. You made a great job at pointing that out! I was even re-reading magazines from the 1995-96 race and I knew there was something wrong about the comparison. Great job!

  11. Another reason “Braveheart” pulled off that stunt may have been a tie between “Babe” and “Apollo 13”. Non of the two made the cut and “Braveheart” passed by with waving flags.

  12. You’re killing me, Bill. Again you announce that “Argo” is not as good as “Apollo 13” and that it shouldn’t win Best Picture, but you don’t say what movie in 2012 SHOULD win. Come on, if you state a film shouldn’t win, you can at least share your opinion of what film bested it this year. Is “Lincoln” better ? “Life of Pi”? I don’t mean to harp on you, but you are so adamently against “Argo” and I’m just curious what film you are rooting for come Feb. 24.

    Also, I’m surprised no one is talking about “Silver Linings Playbook”. That was the big winner at Toronto this year with the People’s Choice Award, and the last films to win Academy Best Pic also won in Toronto. So, if we’re watching trends, SLP has to be the favorite still, right? I don’t think this whole “Apollo 13” link holds much water at all, I’m pretty sure “Lincoln” is the frontrunner, and “Argo” remains a heavy underdog, despite the recent wins. Too bad, as personally I think “Argo” *is* the best film of 2012, but I felt teh same about “The Social Network” so whatever.

  13. Kyle: sorry if I seem a bit repetitive. I just find it very disappointing. I haven’t said which BP nominee I want to win because I haven’t seen them all. I’ve seen 6: Amour, Argo, Django, Les Mis, Life of Pi and ZD30. All of those except for Les Mis are better than Argo. Right there you see why I’m disappointed. So far the best is definitely Amour, but I haven’t seen Lincoln, Beasts or SLP, that’s why I haven’t said what movie of the BP nominees should win.

    But… the best picture of the year IMHO, as usual, wasn’t even nominated. And that is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. I could write a dissertation about it right now, but I won’t. It is, in my opinion, the best movie I’ve seen this year (so far).

    What do you think should win of the BP nominees and of the whole year?

  14. So what other oscars is Argo going to win besides best picture? Remember Driving Miss Daisy received the most Oscars that year (Picture, Actress, Adapted, Makeup).

    Million Dollar Baby was the first BP winner to not at least tie for the most Oscars won at the ceremony since the 70’s and that movie won Director and 2 Acting trophies.

  15. The CRITICAL difference between Apollo 13 and Argo is that Argo is obliquely about HOLLYWOOD….about the heroes in Hollywood metaphorically riding to the rescue and saving the hostages …it ‘s a movie that strokes the egos of the narcissistic , self centered folks in Tinseltown …”It’s all about US !”

  16. I’m still holding out for a silver linings playbook sweep. Brave heart was simply a great and emotional movie– something that Lincoln lacks. Better argo than Lincoln, but the most satisfying nd most notional charged is silver linings playbook.

  17. Lots of pundits are also incorrectly saying that a lot of the Argo love is down to sympathy for Affleck not getting a director nom, forgetting that he won directorial plaudits at the Globes and Critics Choice when they had voted before nominations were announced. Whatever way you look at, whatever the ballot type, the Argo love seems real.

  18. Appreciated, Bill. I have not seen “Amour” yet, nor “Beasts of the Southern Wild” “Silver Lingins Playbook” or “Life of Pi”, but I’m seeing “Pi” Sunday before the Super Bowl activities get in full swing. I am very anxious to see “Amour”, it sounds great. Personally, I really do love “Argo”, and am hoping it wins, so that is part of why I kept zeroing in on your posts that seemed so against it. I love that kind of film, though. Political thrillers are up my alley, and ones that are based on true events are that much more interesting to me. It reminded me a lot of “All the President’s Men” in how well it conveyed the social and political atmosphere of the time, and how it recreated true events with exceptional tension, considering we know the ending going in. Probably not a coincidence that ZD30 is my second favorite thus far. Django and Les Mis were both good, but not entirely what I was hoping for in either case.

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