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.

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“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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