Oscars 2013: ‘Argo’ generates most heat, but can ‘Lincoln’ catch it?

With the Oscars finally upon us Sunday, it’s do-or-die for the movies ranked in the L.A. Times Data Desk’s HeatMeter, which tallies points at events throughout the season to gauge the overall traction of people and films. With Ben Affleck’s “Argo” piling up the wins, it’s taken the lead in the overall film race (which incorporates all wins for a movie, and for everyone from directors to actors to cinematographers).

A best picture win could well cement “Argo’s” place at the top of the heap. But Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is hot on its tail - and could make up serious ground if Spielberg wins director, a category in which “Argo” is not nominated. There’s a tight battle for third place too, as “Zero Dark Thirty” is facing stiff competition from “Silver Linings Playbook,” which makes Sunday’s lead actress announcement (it’s a category in which both movies have nominees) a make-or-break moment. Here are the point totals for the top 10 movies in the overall film category heading into Sunday.

— Steven Zeitchik, Doug Smith and Oliver Gettell

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Overall Rankings:

1. “Argo” 448

2. “Lincoln” 410

3. “Zero Dark Thirty” 303

4. “Silver Linings Playbook” 292

5. “Les Misérables” 237

6. “Amour” 196

7. “Django Unchained” 196

8. “The Master” 184

9. “Searching for Sugar Man” 124

10. “Life of Pi” 97

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Today’s Categories: Spielberg’s own hot zone


When the Academy Awards kick off on Sunday, Steven Spielberg will be seeking his third Oscar statuette in the director category. In a prolific career that dates to the 1970s - his first nomination was in 1978 for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” - Spielberg has landed on Oscar’s director shortlist seven times. With “Lincoln” receiving all sorts of accolades, we ask which year has been his best as a director, looking at the honors he has received in this guise (they also include the Directors Guild and the Golden Globes). And it turns out that even though this has been a solid year for the icon, it won’t be the best. Even if Spielberg nabs the director prize Sunday, he won’t accumulate as many points as he did in either 1994 (“Schindler’s List”) or 1999 (“Saving Private Ryan”). Here, in descending order, are Spielberg’s HeatMeter director scores in some of his landmark years.

1. “Saving Private Ryan” (1999) 275

2. “Schindler’s List” (1994) 246

3. “E.T.” (1983) 101

4. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1978) 66

5. “Lincoln” (2013) 48 [would jump to 128 with a win Sunday]

6. “Munich” (2006) 48

A volatile writing scenario

With an assortment of heavyweights, the screenplay categories, original and adapted, are two of the most unpredictable of the Oscars - made more so by “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” stealing WGA awards on Sunday. The wins put them either at the top of the overall HeatMeter scores (“Argo”) or in a very close second (“Zero Dark”).

Here are the tallies as of now:

Original screenplay

1. “Django Unchained” 68

2. “Zero Dark Thirty” 65

3. “Flight” 12

4. “Moonrise Kingdom” 12

5. “Amour” 7.5

Adapted screenplay

1. “Argo” 91

2. “Lincoln” 50

3. “Silver Linings Playbook” 37

4. “Life of Pi” 12

5. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” 7.5

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*Scoring Key

The best way to accumulate heat is via the Oscars, with a nomination or a win worth more than a nomination or a win at any other award event. Contenders get more for a win than a nomination. Today’s scores are based on the following:

New York Film Critics Circle: 35 points for a win

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.: 35 points for a win, 17.5 points for runners-up; points split for a tie

Golden Globes: 12 points for best picture drama nomination and 60 for a win, 8 points for best picture comedy/musical nomination and 40 for a win

Screen Actors Guild: 12 points for a nomination and 60 for a win; cast award counts toward best-film tally

Producers Guild of America: 6 points for a nomination and 60 for a win