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Affleck's 'Argo' wins Directors Guild top honor

LOS ANGELES--Ben Affleck has won the top film honor from the Directors Guild of America for his CIA thriller “Argo,” further sealing its status as best-picture front-runner at the Academy Awards.

Saturday's prize also normally would make Affleck a near shoo-in to win best-director at the Feb. 24 Oscars, since the Directors Guild recipient nearly always goes on to claim the same prize at Hollywood's biggest night.

But Affleck surprisingly missed out on an Oscar directing nomination, along with several other key favorites, including fellow Directors Guild contenders Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables.”

Affleck's Oscar snub has not hurt “Argo” and may even have earned it some favor among awards voters as an underdog favorite. “Argo” has dominated other awards since the Oscar nominations.

“I don't think that this makes me a real director, but I think it means I'm on my way,” said Affleck, who won for just his third film behind the camera.

The Directors Guild honors continued Hollywood's strange awards season, which could culminate with a big Oscar win for Affleck's “Argo.” The guild's prize for best director typically is a final blessing for the film that goes on to win best-picture and director at the Oscars.

Affleck can go only one-for-two at the Oscars, though. While “Argo” is up for best picture, the director's branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences overlooked him for a directing slot.

The guild and Oscar directing lineups usually match up closely, but they have little in common this season, with only Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln” and Ang Lee for “Life of Pi” nominated at both shows.

Along with them and Affleck, the guild nominated Kathryn Bigelow for “Zero Dark Thirty” and Tom Hooper for “Les Miserables.” At the Oscars, Spielberg and Lee are joined in the directing category by Michael Haneke for “Amour,” David O. Russell for “Silver Linings Playbook” and Benh Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Director Norman Jewison, the guild's 2010 lifetime-achievement prize winner, presented Bigelow with her nomination plaque and noted the incongruity of the Oscar best-picture field, which has nine nominees, while there are only five directing slots.

With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's Civil War saga “Lincoln” initially looked like the Oscar favorite over such other potential favorites as “Argo,” “Les Miserables” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” since films generally have little chance of winning best picture if they are not nominated for best director. Only three films have done it in 84 years, most recently 1989's best-picture champ “Driving Miss Daisy,” which failed to earn a directing nomination for Bruce Beresford.

But Affleck's “Argo,” in which he also stars as a CIA operative who hatches a bold plan to rescue six Americans during the hostage crisis in Iran, has swept up all the major awards since the Oscar nominations. “Argo” won best drama and director at the Golden Globes and top film honors from the Screen Actors Guild and the Producers Guild of America.

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Suraj Sharma, right, poses with Ang Lee, and the feature film nomination plaque for “Life of Pi” at the 65th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles, Saturday, Feb. 2.(AP)

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