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“Argo’s” winning political strategy

The biggest headline of Oscar nomination morning wasn't the 12 nominations garnered by "Lincoln." It was the one nomination that didn't happen: Ben Affleck's anticipated best director nomination for "Argo" didn't materialize, likely at the expense of two unexpected nominees (Benh Zeitlin for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Michael Haneke for "Amour"). This would seem to have doomed "Argo's" chances in the nine-film best picture race, where it was nominated; the last time a film won best picture without a nomination for its director was in 1989, when "Driving Miss Daisy" triumphed after surprising nominees Woody Allen and Kenneth Branagh crashed the best director party. Since then, a film without a best director nod has rarely even been taken seriously as a contender to win it all.

But everything is poised to change for "Argo." The precursor awards for Affleck and his film have been rolling in and building momentum for his Oscar campaign: The actor-turned-director picked up trophies for directing from the Critics' Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the Directors Guild of America, and the UK's BAFTA Awards. As voting ends today, "Argo" is perceived to be in the lead: the aggregate Oscar prognosticators at Movie City News's authoritative Gurus O' Gold have overwhelmingly declared "Argo" the film to beat for best picture.

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