Warner Bros via Everett Collection
Last week, we took a look at each of the awards circuits that have announced their winning picks for 2013, calculating just how good an indicator each one might be at predicting the Academy Awards top prize. Unsurprisingly, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle were the most common titles to take awards from venues like the Golden Globes, New York Film Critics Circle, Critics Choice Awards, and others. With the organizations carrying a variety of insight, statistically speaking, into what will be the Oscars' big winner, we named 12 Years our Most Likely to Succeed at the 86th Annual Academy Awards... but that was before today's news. See, this morning gave us the winner of the Director's Guild of America Awards — historically, the best indicator of the Best Picture Oscar with a 90% consistency over the past 10 years and an 81% consistency overall — and it is third party candidate Gravity.
Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster has snagged the DGA, putting it in the company of Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, and many other features that went on to win Best Picture. In fact, the last movie to take the DGA but lose out on the top Oscar would be Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, a rarity as well for winning the Best Director Oscar but not Best Picture. Averaged with the precognitive capabilities of the Producers Guild of America (middling) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (dismal) — in which Gravity tied as winner with 12 Years and Her, respectively — the space-set thriller is about even with Steve McQueen's slavery epic in its chances to take home the Oscar.
Of course, math can only take you so far (despite what they tried to drill into your heads in grade school). The separating factor, come Academy season, will be that indefinable quality that makes something an "Oscar movie." Not necessarily the best movie, but the one most palatable to the Academy's appetite. Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are both terrific films, but the latter has a few points on its side. Although they might share the DGA with Gravity, movies like Argo, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Baby, et al have far more in common with 12 Years a Slave: they're tales of history, adversity, injustice, human ugliness and human perseverence. Stories very much grounded on this Earth... something that Gravity, quite literally, might not be considered (at least by some).
But we applaud the DGA for recognizing Cuaron's movie, and its other deserving winners (with special notice for the finales of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock). Peruse the winners list below!
The Directors Guild of America Awards
Feature FilmWinner: GravityNominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street
DocumentaryWinner: Cutie and the BoxerNominees: The Act of Killing, The Crash Wheel, The Square, Stories We Tell
Dramatic SeriesWinner: Breaking Bad: "Felina"Nominees: Breaking Bad: "Blood Money," Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere," Homeland: "The Star," House of Cards: "Chapter 1"
Comedy SeriesWinner: 30 Rock: "Hogcock!/Last Lunch"Nominees: The Big Bang Theory: "The Hofstadter Insufficiency," The Big Bang Theory: "The Love Spell Potential," Modern Family: "My Hero," Modern Family: "The Old Man & the Tree"
TV Movie/MiniseriesWinner: Behind the CandelabraNominees: Killing Kennedy, Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Phil Spector, The Sound of Music Live!
Variety/Talk/News/Sports ProgrammingWinner: Saturday Night Live: "Justin Timberlake"Nominees: The Colbert Report: "#10004," The Daily Show: "#19018," Jimmy Kimmel Live: "#13-1810," Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: "#799"
Variety/Talk/News/Sports SpecialWinner: The 67th Annual Tony AwardsNominees: 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, The 55th Annual Grammy Awards, The 85th Annual Academy Awards, Louis C.K.: Oh My God
Reality ProgramsWinner: 72 Hours: "The Lost Coast"Nominees: The Amazing Race: "Beards in the Wind," The Biggest Loser: "1501," The Hero: "Teamwork," Top Chef: "Glacial Gourmand"
Children's ProgramsWinner: An Apology to ElephantsNominees: A.N.T. Farm, Jinxed, Swindle, Teen Beach Movie
CommercialsWinner: Martin de Thurah (The Man Who Couldn’t Slow Down, Hennessy VS/Human Race, Acura MDX 2014)Nominees: Fredrik Bond (Voyage, Heineken; From The Future, Johnny Walker), John X. Carey (Real Beauty Sketches, Dove), Matthijs van Heijningen (Perfect Day, Sony Playstation; #Forty Eight, Verizon), Noam Murro (Basketball, Guinness; Kids, DIRECTV; Mask, Volkswagen)
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With each outing in his evolving filmmaking career actor-turned-director Ben Affleck has amped up the scope. Gone Baby Gone was a character drama woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The Town saw Affleck dabble in action pulling off bank heists many compared to the expertise of Heat. In Argo the director pulls off his most daring effort melding one part caper comedy and two parts edge-of-your-seat political thriller into an exhilarating theatrical experience.
At the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 anti-Shah militants stormed the U.S. embassy and captured 52 American hostages. Six managed to escape the raid finding refuge in the Canadian ambassador's home. Within hours the militants began a search for the missing Americans sifting through shredded paperwork for even the smallest bit of evidence. Under pressure by the ticking clock the CIA worked quickly to formulate a plan to covertly rescue the six embassy workers. Despite a lengthy list of possibilities only Tony Mendez (Affleck) had a plan just enticing enough to unsuspecting Iranian officials to work: the CIA would fake a Hollywood movie shoot.
There's nothing in Argo or Affleck's portrayal of Mendez that would tell you the technical operations officer has the imagination to conjure his master plan — Affleck perhaps to differentiate himself from the past plays his character with so much restraint he looks dead in the eyes — but when the Hollywood hijinks swing into full motion so does Argo. Mendez hooks up with Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to convince all of Hollywood that their sci-fi blockbuster "Argo " is readying for production. With enough promotional material concept art and press coverage Mendez and his team can convince the Iranian government they're a legit operation. A location scout in Tehran will be their method of extracting the bunkered down escapees.
Without an interesting lead to draw us in Affleck lets his eclectic ensemble do the heavy lifting. For the most part it works. Argo is basically two movies — Goodman and Arkin lead the Ocean's 11-esque half and Affleck takes the reigns when its time to get the six — another who's who of character actors including Tate Donovan Clea Duvall Scoot McNairy and Rory Cochrane — through the terrifying security of the Iranian airport. Arkin steals the show as a fast talking Hollywood type complete with year-winning catchphrase ("ArGo f**k yourself!) while McNairy adds a little more humanity to the spy mission when his character butts heads with Mendez. The split lessens the impact of each section but the tension in the escape is so high so taut that there's never a moment to check out.
Reality is on Affleck's side his camera floating through crowds of protestors and the streets of Tehran — a warscape where anything can happen. Each angle he chooses heightens the terror which starts to close in on the covert escape as they drift further and further from their homebase. Argo is a complete package with the '70s production design knowing when to play goofy (the fake movie's wild sci-fi designs) and when to remind us that problems took eight more steps to fix then they do today. Alexandre Desplat's score finds balance in haunting melodies and energetic pulses.
Part of Argo's charm is just how unreal the entire operation really was. To see the men and women involved go through with a plan they know could result in death. It's a suspenseful adventure and while there's not much in the way of character to cling to the visceral experience tends to be enough.
Most of the independent movie theater owners in Quebec are refusing to book Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones, Variety reports, because distributor 20th Century Fox is making demands that the owners consider unreasonable. Fox wants 70 percent of box office receipts for the first three weeks, rather than the usual first week, and is insisting the film stay in each theater's biggest hall for 12 weeks. Clones also comes out two weeks before the release of the French-language hit Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, which would force theaters to relegate this high-profile sequel to smaller theaters. Clones will open Thursday on only 86 screens across the province, but on almost none of the 363 independent screens.
Hollywood darling Gwyneth Paltrow has won strong praise for her performance at the British premiere of Proof Wednesday night, Sky News reports. Paltrow plays the daughter of a mad mathematical genius in her West End debut. Valentine Low of London's Evening Standard described the Oscar winner's performance as virtually flawless.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda Hobbes on the HBO hit series Sex and the City, received a summons for allegedly blocking the sidewalk outside City Hall in New York on Tuesday while protesting budget cuts to schools, The Associated Press reports. Nixon and 11 other protestors were charged with disorderly conduct and will have to appear in court at a later date.
Worried about becoming the object of a media feeding frenzy, German model Claudia Schiffer and her boyfriend, film producer Matthew Vaughn, are keeping their wedding plans a secret. About the only thing known is that a Church of England official told Reuters that the couple had been granted a special license to marry in the eastern English county of Suffolk.
Arson has been ruled out as the cause of a fire that destroyed the summer home of Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton in Cape Cod, Mass., Launch.com reports. Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the blaze that gutted the house and a nearby barn that was near--but not part of--Hamilton's property.
Tina Wesson, the winner of Survivor: The Australian Outback, is lending her support to the Arthritis Foundation in hopes of helping the organization raise up to $250,000 and awareness for rheumatoid arthritis--a disease she has herself. One dollar will be donated for each person who registers through the Survive and Succeed campaign Web site.
R&B singer Tyrese is in talks to star in the sequel to last summer's hit The Fast and the Furious alongside Paul Walker.
Josh Hartnett has been cast in the action/adventure film Wish You Were Here, about four friends who try to smuggle a fortune out of Morocco, Variety reports. No director is attached to the project yet.
Sexy Beast star Ben Kingsley is in negotiations to star in Suspect Zero as an avenging former FBI agent dedicated to hunting down serial killers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film, which will be directed by E. Alias Merhige, goes into production in New Mexico in August.
Fox has decided to cancel the James Cameron sci-fi action series Dark Angel, Daily Variety reports. The network cited low ratings as the reason behind the cancellation. The show, which stars Jessica Alba, never transcended its cult status and ranked 125th among primetime series.
Fox dropped John Wayne Bobbitt from its scheduled Celebrity Boxing bout against Joey Buttafuoco after Bobbitt was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife, the AP reports. Bobbitt, who came to fame when his ex-wife cut off his penis in 1993, was replaced by former World Wrestling Federation star Joanie "Chyna" Laurer for the match.
The Osbourne Family Album will be released on June 11 by Epic Records and will feature a track by youngest daughter Kelly, a cover of Madonna's 1986 hit "Papa Don't Preach." The album will also feature Pat Boone's version of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and John Lennon's "Imagine," Reuters reports.
This year's Black Entertainment Television Awards will honor boxer Muhammad Ali and R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire on June 25. Ali will receive BET's Humanitarian Award while Earth, Wind & Fire will get a Lifetime Achievement Award, the AP reports.
Actor-turned-publicist Ray Stricklyn died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a battle with chronic emphysema, the AP reports. He was 73. Stricklyn, who represented stars like Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor, starred in several feature films, including The Catered Affair and Ten North Frederick.