Oscar 8-Ball: Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’


Last time we checked in on “Argo,” we were north of the border in Toronto, and Harvey Weinstein was shaking Ben Affleck’s hand at a post-premiere party. Might that act of congratulation be repeated at this year’s Governor’s Ball? Time to check in with the Oscar 8-Ball, the magical portal into the minds and hearts and, in the rare, applicable instance, the souls of academy members and how they’ll be voting this awards season.

It is certain: Since its Telluride-Toronto festival two-step, “Argo” has embedded itself in the Oscar conversation as a smart, sophisticated crowd-pleaser, the rare movie able to unite critics and general moviegoers who have never watched, much less heard of, “Three Days of the Condor.” The movie’s too-good-to-be-true (except it really ... sort of ... is), hooray-for-Hollywood angle is icing on the cake. Oscar voters will reward the edgy, historical hostage thriller with a best picture nomination, along with nods for screenwriter Chris Terrio and director Ben Affleck. In fact, at this early point, we like Affleck’s chances for winning. It feels like one of those years when the actor-turned-director bests the established auteurs. Still early, though.

Signs point to yes: Of the three primary supporting actors -- Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston -- it’s the guy with the Oscar who’s winning the most attention. And why not? Playing a past-his-prime schlock producer, Arkin plays the show-biz satire straight, making the one-liners even funnier. He’s a joy to watch every time he shows up on screen.


Outlook not so good: How many below-the-line noms can “Argo” win? Editor William Goldenberg, a two-time nominee, seems a lock for the film’s deft balance of tone and story lines. After that, the prospects are iffier. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, production designer Sharon Seymour and costume designer Jacqueline West are all deserving, but may find their work overshadowed by showier contenders. Affleck’s feathery hair and beard are great and all, but it’s peach fuzz compared to the forests of facial hair seen in “Lincoln.”


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