Oscars in Hollywood cliffhanger over Best Picture, Director

Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:55am EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sunday's Oscar ceremony is set for a cliffhanger ending after a topsy-turvy awards season that has left the two top prizes - Best Picture and Best Director - too close to call.

With just days to go before the movie industry's highest honors are handed out on February 24, awards watchers are keyed up for one of the most exciting nights in recent Academy Awards history.

Despite entering the Oscar race with a leading 12 nominations in January, the front-runner Best Picture status of Steven Spielberg's presidential drama "Lincoln" has been undermined by a slew of awards picked up Ben Affleck's Iran hostage thriller "Argo."

But an "Argo" win despite Affleck's omission from the Best Director shortlist would defy the conventional wisdom that says the Oscar for Best Film usually brings a trophy for its director.

"Argo" would be the first movie to take home the statuette for Best Picture without its director winning even a nomination since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990.

"Everything is kind of haywire, so those of us in the (awards prediction) business are all left scratching our heads and saying what does it mean?" said Matt Atchity, editor in chief of movie review website Rotten Tomatoes.

After beating "Lincoln" at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, directors, producers and writers guilds, "Argo" now has the edge in the Best Picture race.

"Even if 'Argo' wins for Best Picture, which is kind of a foregone conclusion at this point, it still feels exciting because 'Argo' has managed to keep this underdog status even though it has been winning every award," Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango.com told Reuters.   Continued...

Ben Affleck in a scene from the film "Argo." REUTERS/Claire Folger/Warner Bros Entertainment