He may not have been nominated for Best Director, but Ben Affleck is an Academy Award winner again anyway. His breathless hostage thriller, "Argo" won Best Picture at the Academy Awards last night, capping an improbable campaign that saw it rise to the front of a very competitive pack of nominees, then crash back down to earth after Affleck was famously snubbed for a Best Director nod, then rise again, winning one critics and guild award after another, and now finally the Oscar.
Though "Argo" was the predicted winner for Best Picture, there were a few Oscar surprises: the night began with Christoph Waltz upsetting favorites Tommy Lee Jones and Robert De Niro for the Best Supporting Actor award for "Django Unchained." A short while later, "Brave" took home Best Animated Feature ahead of more critically acclaimed titles like "Wreck-It Ralph." And "Life of Pi"'s Ang Lee took Best Director from the presumptive front runner, Steven Spielberg. There was even a tie, in the Best Sound Editing category ("Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" shared the award).
Still, the experts had most of the big categories pegged: Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for "Lincoln," Jennifer Lawrence" won Best Actress for "Silver Linings Playbook," and Anne Hathaway won Best Supporting Actress for "Les Miserables." Here are the full list of winners:
Best Picture: "Argo"
Best Director: Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, "Argo"
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"
Best Animated Feature: "Brave"
Best Animated Short: "Paperman"
Best Cinematography: "Life of Pi"
Best Costume Design: "Anna Karenina"
Best Documentary Feature: "Searching For Sugar Man"
Best Documentary Short: "Inocente"
Best Editing: "Argo"
Best Foreign Language Film: "Amour"
Best Live Action Short: "Curfew"
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables"
Best Original Song: "Skyfall"
Best Score: "Life of Pi"
Best Production Design: "Lincoln"
Best Sound Editing: "Zero Dark Thirty," Skyfall" (tie)
Best Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables"
Best Visual Effects: "Life of Pi"
On Friday, I gave you my Oscar picks and the strong advice not to listen to any of them when betting in your own Oscar pool. So how did I do? By my standards, not terribly; 18 out of a total 24 categories chosen correctly. My big blind spot this year: "Django Unchained." I picked against both its wins; Waltz for Best Supporting Actor (I went with Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln") and Quentin Tarantino for Best Original Screenplay (I had Michael Haneke for "Amour"). But at least when Tarantino won his Oscar he graciously thanked himself — for choosing such an outstanding cast to bring his characters to life.
People compare Academy Awards telecasts and hosts: to me, it's less about the schtick than the movies and the acceptance speeches (of which, there were few truly memorable ones this year). Seth MacFarlane was fine — although his habit of laughing at his own schtick did wear me down. More disconcerting were the surprisingly frequent references to "Chicago," which featured prominently during a tribute to great Oscar-winning musicals, and then received a second nod when the cast came out to present several awards (as many noted, this year's Academy Awards producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, were also producers of "Chicago" which meant they were, in essence, honoring themselves). The undeniable highlights of the night were a pair of musical numbers from James Bond films: "Goldfinger," belted out with timeless gusto by Shirley Bassey, and "Skyfall," delivered with equal relish by Adele, who later won a deserved Oscar for Best Original Song.
And now "Argo" joins the likes of such greats as "The Apartment" and "The Godfather" — and such mediocrities as "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Chicago" — as Best Picture winners. And "Zero Dark Thirty" joins the likes of such greats as "Citizen Kane" and "Taxi Driver" as brilliant films that did not win. Which is fine. Sometimes history gives great movies the last laugh.