Seldom has there been as much controversy regarding director’s snubs as this year’s Oscar nominations have generated. Despite the fact that Zero Dark Thirty’s Kathyrn Bigelow already made history by being the first female to earn a Best Director award for The Hurt Locker, her absence from this year’s list spawned a host of columns and commentaries accusing the Academy of rank sexism in omitting her from 2013 consideration.
Yet even that controversy has been mild compared to the reaction for the similar fate suffered by Argo’s Ben Affleck. Before the nominations were announced, he was widely considered a cinch to earn at least a nomination and seen in many quarters as a sure winner.
Making things even stranger has been the run of critics and guild honors Argo keeps sweeping. The laundry list includes Best Picture and Director at the Critics’ Choice Awards and The BAFTA’s (British Academy of Film and Television Awards), plus Best Director trophies at both the Director’s and Producer’s Guild ceremonies.
Ironically, Argo, which comes to DVD Tuesday (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray and standard DVD), has a storyline that incorporates the making of a film within its premise, even though it’s a phony. The movie concept is a cover devised by a CIA specialist as part of a plan to free six American diplomats trapped inside Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.
The specialist (portrayed by Affleck) devises a rescue plan that he masks with a story about making a major sci-fi film on the scale of Star Wars. The cast also includes Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Richard Kind. Affleck’s movie skillfully weaves espionage, drama and geopolitical intrigue into a production that’s reality-based, but takes a few liberties with actual events and personalities.
Like every other contender for Best Picture, Argo is considered a longshot to the formidable favorite Lincoln. But its performance in the other events leading up to the Oscars is making some observers hedge their bets on that supposed Spielberg and company sweep.
Still, win or lose Sunday, Argo has proven the tonic Ben Affleck needed to excise the pains from an overdose of emphasis on his domestic fortunes (which also have greatly turned around since his marriage to Jennifer Garner) and previous forgettable career choices.
Whether you agree with those who have proclaimed Skyfall the best Bond ever (I don’t), there’s little doubt it restores the glory to the character Daniel Craig initially brought it with his first portrayal in Casino Royale.
Sam Mendes brought integrity, urgency and edge to the character that hadn’t been there since Sean Connery’s earliest days, though Pierce Brosnan occasionally hinted at it, and Timothy Dalton might have achieved it with better scripts for The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill.
Skyfall, now available on DVD (MGM/Sony Pictures, Blu-Ray and standard) features a 007 initially ready to end his tenure with MI6. But events conspire to bring him back, and Bond faces his most contemporary foe, someone as skilled at psychological warfare as physical force and schematic design.
The production incorporated some new faces alongside familiar ones, and there was far less sexual jousting and comedic banter and a lot more clinical, tough dialog and action.
Skyfall was both a huge global hit and the franchise spike that ensures there will be more James Bond adventures coming down the line. Its conclusion also ensures a different dynamic, as some familiar cast members exited and new ones joined the series. Craig’s only committed for a couple more Bond films, but if they approach Skyfall’s quality, perhaps he’ll stay aboard longer.
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