— LOS ANGELES (AP) — A few weeks ago, the Oscar race looked wide open. The stately, historical "Lincoln" seemed like the safe and likely choice, with the provocative "Zero Dark Thirty" and the quirky and inspiring "Silver Linings Playbook" very much in the mix for the Academy Award for best picture.
But now, an "Argo" juggernaut — an "Argo"-naut, if you will — seems to be rolling along and gathering momentum as we head toward Hollywood's top prize.
The international thriller from director Ben Affleck, who also stars as a CIA operative orchestrating a daring rescue during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, received the top honor of best ensemble cast in a movie at Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards, their equivalent of the best-picture Oscar. It's a decent indicator of eventual Academy Awards success, with the two matching up about half the time.
The film, which also stars John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Hollywood veterans who help stage a fake movie as a cover, has received nearly unanimous critical raves and has proven to be a box-office favorite, as well, grossing nearly $190 million worldwide.
But "Argo" also won the Producers Guild of America Award on Saturday night, which is an excellent Oscar predictor, and it earned best picture and director statues from the Golden Globes two weeks earlier. The Directors Guild of America Awards next Saturday will help crystallize the situation even further.
The one tricky thing at work here: Affleck surprisingly didn't receive an Academy Award nomination in the director category, which most often goes hand in hand with best picture. (There are nine best-picture nominees but only five slots for directors.) Only once in modern times has a film won best picture without a directing nomination: 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy." The other two times came in the show's early years, at the first Oscars in 1929 with "Wings" and for 1932's "Grand Hotel."