Ben Affleck suffered one of the biggest snubs of the Oscar season six weeks ago when his name wasn't among the five nominees for Best Director, but as the witching hour approached during Sunday night's Academy Awards show, he was vindicated.
"Argo," which Affleck directed and starred in, tells the true(-ish) story of a spy who smuggled six Americans out of Tehran during the Iran Hostage Crisis. A commercial and critical hit, the film and its director seemed destined for Academy Awards triumph, until one of them got derailed.
Affleck's exclusion was such a surprise that even Oscars host Seth MacFarlane made a crack about it at the top of the show.
"('Argo') is so top secret, that the director is unknown to the Academy," quipped MacFarlane.
"Argo" picked up an early award for editing, and later Chris Terrio took the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and suddenly the film's chances for the top prize were coming into focus. With no film taking multiple awards in the major categories, Best Picture was there for the taking.
Making the Best Picture win all the more historic was that it was presented by Jack Nicholson, with an assist from first lady Michelle Obama live via satellite from the White House.
Affleck stood to the side when he first got on stage, as his co-producer Grant Heslov stepped forward to address the audience.
"The reason I wanted to speak before Ben, is because Ben is a producer on the film and he's also our director and I thought it would be awkward for Ben to thank himself. But it's not awkward for me," Heslov said. "So on behalf of George (Clooney, another producer on the film) and myself, I want to thank you, Ben. You directed a hell of a film. Couldn’t be more proud of the film, couldn’t be more proud of Ben."
Though Affleck remained humble in accepting the award, the snub was clearly on his mind.
"I want to thank all the people who extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it--I couldn't get them a job. I want to thank them and I want to thank what they taught me which is that you have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can't hold grudges, it's hard, but you can't hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, cuz it's gonna happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up."
The Best Picture win for "Argo" puts the film in rarefied company, as it is now one of only four to take the top prize at the Oscars without its director even getting a nomination. "Argo" joins "Wings" in 1928, "Grand Hotel in 1932 and "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1989 in making Oscar history. Meanwhile, Affleck joins the ranks of William Wellman, Edmund Goulding and Bruce Beresford as men who were the driving force of the year's best film, but not somehow among the five best directors.