Ben Affleck ("Argo") continued his romp through Hollywood's industry awards by winning top laurels from the Directors' Guild of America on Saturday night after earlier victories at the Producers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild (Best Ensemble). He beat four previous DGA champs: Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Tom Hooper ("Les Miserables"), Ang Lee ("Life of Pi") and Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"). (See full list of winners here.)
Now "Argo" seems like the likely winner of Best Picture at the Oscars next even though Affleck isn't nominated by academy members for Best Director. Only once in modern times has a movie managed to win Best Picture without its helmer nommed ("Driving Miss Daisy," 1989), but "Argo" seems like a good candidate to be the next exception. In the 64-year history of the DGA prize, the movie that won Best Director went on to bag the Oscar for Best Picture 50 times.
However, there was one film, historically speaking, that may presage bad news for "Argo." After its helmer Ron Howard wasn't nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, "Apollo 13" (1995) won DGA, PGA and SAG, then lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to "Braveheart."
Mel Gibson's historical war drama had a secret advantage over its rivals that year, though. It was the first major awards contender ever to send out a screener to voters. Nowadays voters get DVDs of all top nominees, so "Argo" faces an even playing field. Also, "Argo's" kudos sweep is more complete. It won Best Drama Picture at the Golden Globes, which "Braveheart" failed to do. "Braveheart" lost to "Sense and Sensibility."
Affleck's triumph over Spielberg at DGA has eery similarities to the Directors Guild contest in 1985. Back then, Spielberg won for "The Color Purple" even though he wasn't nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. That marked the first time such an oddity had ever occurred. Since then, the only other person to repeat the phenom was Ron Howard. "The Color Purple" not only failed to win Best Picture, it also lost all of its 10 other bids, thus tying "The Turning Point's" record for suffering the worst shut-out in Oscar history.
Affleck's victory for "Argo" at DGA had been correctly foreseen by 13 of the 16 leading Oscarologists making at predictions at Gold Derby. The other three had opted for Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"). There are 25 pundits predicting Academy Awards at Gold Derby – 22 bet on "Argo," three on "Lincoln."
However, 17 out of our 25 prophets believe Spielberg will rebound from his DGA defeat by reaping the Oscar for Best Director, not having to fend off a challenge by Affleck.
Oscar voting begins this Friday. Winners will be unveiled on Feb. 24.