Hollywood gave its top honor to Ben Affleck’s “Argo” at a song-and-dance-filled Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, completing a remarkable turnaround for a film that was once a long-shot contender.
But in a break from recent years Oscar voters also found a way to take care of a wide variety of movies, especially “Life of Pi,” which won four trophies, including the best director honor for Ang Lee. “Les Misérables” joined “Argo” in taking home three awards, and “Django Unchained” was honored with two, including one for Quentin Tarantino for best original screenplay.
“I want to thank Canada,” Mr. Affleck said in a rapid-fire speech, a reference to that country’s heroics in saving the diplomats who were the subject of his movie. Michelle Obama, wearing a silver gown and appearing via satellite from the White House, helped Jack Nicholson present the award.
Only a decade ago Mr. Affleck would have been a punch line at the Academy Awards, having taking an unfortunate career turn through flops like “Gigli” and “Reindeer Games.” But he has turned out several highly praised films in recent years, gaining prestige along the way. His ascent culminated with “Argo,” a tale of a cinematic cover for an escape from revolutionary Iran.
Still, Mr. Affleck was not nominated by the Academy for his directing, making “Argo” the first film to win best picture without an accompanying nomination for its director since 1990, when “Driving Miss Daisy” won the best-picture Oscar. When Mr. Affleck failed to receive a nomination for directing that helped rally support for “Argo,” which picked up a rash of honors on the awards circuit. On Sunday it also won Oscars for best adapted screenplay (for Chris Terrio) and best editing (for William Goldenberg).
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