Will ‘Argo’ surprise ‘Lincoln’ at the Oscars?

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If there’s one thing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves more than a tried and tested Hollywood legend like “Lincoln” director Steven Spielberg, it’s a young upstart like “Argo” actor/director Ben Affleck.

Despite being only two of the total nine Best Picture nominees at the 85th annual Academy Awards, “Lincoln” and “Argo” are considered by most to be the two front runners in the category. However, while Spielberg’s film seemed like a shoe-in for Best Picture just a few weeks ago, the film that was once the favourite coming into awards season is looking like less and less of a sure thing. But why is that?

Well, Affleck’s “Argo” has been cleaning up this awards season. The true-to-life political thriller about the harrowing effort to rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran has so far won the top prizes at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Producers Guild Awards, and, over the weekend, the Directors Guild Awards.

See also: Ben Affleck cleans up at the Directors Guild Awards

While the Globes aren’t as much of a predictor for the Oscar glory as they used to be, the various Guild award shows are a pretty good indicator as to where things may be headed. The reason? The Golden Globes are picked by journalists from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, whereas the Oscars are determined by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – most of whom are also members of the various Tinsel Town guilds. The chances are slim that those assorted guild/Academy members would switch their votes between awards shows.

That Affleck and his film have done so well in the lead up to the Oscars puts “Argo” in a very good position come Feb. 24, but there's one small catch: while "Argo" is nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, Affleck himself didn't make the cut in the Best Director category. That award is pretty much a lock for Spielberg at this point.

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Though critics and audiences love “Lincoln,” the three-time Oscar-winning Spielberg is very much the old dog in the Best Picture race -- he'll probably get Best Director, but could his veteran status actually hurt "Lincoln's" Best Picture chances? Always on the look out for what's new and fresh, it's very possible that Hollywood will anoint "Argo" the best movie of the year simply because it's from a relative newcomer. Affleck has proven himself a very capable filmmaker over the past several years, with films like “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” and now “Argo” all receiving critical acclaim and award nominations. While no one will argue that Spielberg is the superior filmmaker at this point (he's got the Best Director nomination to prove that this year), there's no question that Affleck is a hot commodity in Hollywood these days. Our money is on the Academy awarding Spielberg the prestigious Best Director prize and Affleck's film Best Picture -- something that would help cement him as the next big thing.

This will be the "Argo" director's first trip to the big show as a nominee (as the film's producer) since he and friend Matt Damon won the Best Original Screenplay award for "Good Will Hunting" way back in 1997. "Argo's" pre-Oscar hot streak makes a Best Picture upset a very real possibility this year, but if that happens, the real upset may be that Affleck wasn't even considered for the Best Director category. If you directed the best movie of the year, why aren't you the best filmmaker, too?