Admit it: Part of the fun of following the Oscars is the sense of righteous, aggrieved outrage that comes from seeing a movie or performance you think is worthy get snubbed. Sure, we all know that Academy Awards are decided on more than just merit; often, it’s the story behind the story that makes the difference to awards voters. The politics of what wins can be bitter, as they often reflect differences not just over aesthetics but also over larger issues – trends in the industry, innovations in the medium, the mood of the country.
That may be the case this year, with such movies as Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained sparking debates over history, race, torture, and the historical record. Argo may have become the frontrunner, not just because Hollywood loves the story of Ben “Comeback Kid” Affleck, but also because it’s the least politically objectionable film among the nominees. Offering lessons for this year’s race are the most contentious Best Picture competitions of years past. Read on to learn what was at stake in these contests, why the victors won, and whether history still demands a vote recount.
(Watch: Great Performances 2013)