Ben Affleck has never won a Directors Guild of America Award. In fact, Affleck had never even been nominated for the DGA Award until this year. Yet, the Argo director is the clear favorite to win the 2013 DGA Award simply because he failed to be shortlisted for the Academy Awards — one of the most surprising "snubs" in Oscar history. (Photo: Argo director Ben Affleck.)
True, Kathryn Bigelow was also "snubbed" for Zero Dark Thirty, but Bigelow's political thriller has been enmeshed in some nasty controversy regarding the film's depiction of torture and its role in the U.S. government's hunt for Osama bin Laden. Argo, on the other hand, is just an audience-friendly political thriller about the rescue of U.S. personnel held in Iran during the hostage crisis in the late '70s. That's probably why Argo, not Zero Dark Thirty (or Steven Spielberg's Lincoln), has won top awards at the populist awards shows — the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes — in addition to the Producers Guild Award. (Note: Ben Affleck co-produced Argo, alongside George Clooney and Grant Heslov.)
Also worth mentioning is that Kathryn Bigelow has already won a DGA Award: for The Hurt Locker in early 2010. She made history then as the first woman to top the DGA Awards shortlist, and many probably think that's enough for the time being. (See also: "DGA Awards: Focus on Kathryn Bigelow's Gender.")
And finally, DGA voters like to honor well-known talent bypassed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Directors Branch: Steven Spielberg, "snubbed" for The Color Purple in early 1986, and Ron Howard, "snubbed" for Apollo 13 in early 1996, both won DGA Awards. (See also: "The DGA Awards vs. the Academy Awards.")
Put all that together and that's why Ben Affleck and his movie are the most likely candidates to take home the DGA Awards later tonight. (See also: "Small, Foreign, Controversial Movies Have Better Luck at Academy Awards.")
If Ben Affleck wins the DGA Award…
If Ben Affleck does win the 2013 DGA Award, it'll mark the first time in a decade — since Rob Marshall's victory for Chicago — that the DGA Award and the Academy Awards will go their separate ways. It'll also mark only the third time in the history of the DGA Awards, following Spielberg and Howard, that a director "snubbed" by the Academy won the DGA's top prize.
For the record, the other 2013 DGA Award nominees are the aforementioned Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Ang Lee for Life of Pi, and Tom Hooper for Les Misérables. Replacing Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Tom Hooper at the Academy Awards were David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Michael Haneke for Amour, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild.
Other DGA Awards 2013 predictions
The documentary field is tricky, but I'm betting on U.S. critics' and Producers Guild of America favorite Malik Bendjelloul for Searching for Sugar Man. Jay Roach, the guy who brought you Meet the Fockers, also brought you Game Change, the likely DGA Award for Best TV Movie or Miniseries.
A handful of other movie directors are in the running for the DGA's television awards: Adventureland's Gregg Mottola for The Newsroom, Looper's Rian Johnson for Breaking Bad, and Tiny Furniture's Lena Durham for Girls. Although they're all possibilities, I'm betting on Bryan Cranston for Modern Family in the Comedy Series category and Michael Cuesta for Homeland in the Drama Series category.
Argo director Ben Affleck photo: Warner Bros.