At First: Ben Affleck is back with a gritty and amusing true-life adventure.
But Then: Eh, maybe some of his other movies are better.
Notable Competition: Fellow historical dramas Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty felt like contenders, as did the technical mastery of Life of Pi, which is what actually won Best Director.
Strength of Backlash (1-10): 3. There was some pushback against the decidedly middlebrow caper-gone-serious story, but it didn’t seem like the movement coalesced around a single alternative to get righteously angry about.
Degree of Deserving (1-10): 7. If anything, the culture has been a little soft on Argo. It’s Affleck’s worst movie as a director, Live by Night notwithstanding; perfectly fine, but give me Gone Baby Gone any day of the week and twice on Oscar Sunday. It’s also somewhat less clever than it thinks it is and not that exciting of a caper, even with some goosed suspense sequences. (They feel halfhearted, like Affleck was afraid to really shamelessly milk them but also didn’t want to cut them entirely.)