I must amend my office Oscar pool advice here and now.
My fellow Cyclists love to tease me about my changed electoral maps. Indeed, this triple map is all over our offices on the eighth floor, but I did pick a perfect map. And as Nate Silver wrote in The Signal and the Noise, "If you have reason to think that yesterday's forecast was wrong there's no glory in sticking to it."
And as the economist John Maynard Keynes once said, "When the facts change, I change my mind."
It was easy to get fooled by Lincoln, a film with gravitas made by Hollywood royalty, but it's a film a lot of people didn't really like. Me included. Lincoln will go down as one of those early Oscar frontrunners that ran out of gas because Hollywood has developed a gigantic crush on Ben Affleck. Getting snubbed for Best Director created a groundswell of sympathy for him.
A friend of mine in Hollywood called him the new varsity quarterback of the high school that is Hollywood. That's propelled Argo to dominate awards season so far, winning at the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Golden Globes, and more importantly, at the Producers Guild Awards and last night the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The producers guild has accurately predicted the Oscar winner five years in a row; over the last ten years the producers and SAG have picked the same winner six times and only once has that film not won the Oscar. It's the year of Argo. A great film about America and Hollywood doing important and valuable things in the world.
Lincoln and Django and Zero Dark Thirty are also about America doing historic things--but they also reopen painful scars, while Argo is about an unambiguous triumph for America. In Argo when America wins you can just feel good about it. And the film makes Hollywood look great. And in Argo it's not just American hostages being rescued, it's also the career of Ben Affleck being rescued.
As the Hollywood Reporter wrote, Argo's "an emotionally engaging film with a more emotionally engaging backstory." I can name at least seven films that are better--Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Amour, Holy Motors, Flight, Django, Zero Dark Thirty--but Hollywood loves comeback stories and here's the guy who was in Bennifer and in Gigli, growing into a serious filmmaker.
Argo shows the CIA exfiltrating Americans from Iran and the film itself is evidence of Affleck exfiltrating his career from the road to mediocrity. That's why Argo will win the Oscar.