HFPA’s Germany correspondent Helen Hoehne pointed to Ben Affleck as one of “only a few people who have established themselves in Hollywood as directors, writers, and actors,” assuredly coming into his own with this sweeping seriocomic epic, “almost hard to believe it’s a true story.” One test of an historical thriller is the extent to which auds get completely caught up in its suspense even though they know exactly how it will all turn out. “Argo,” seamlessly scripted by Chris Terrio, passes that test.

Having pushed the envelope of hysterical historical re-enactment in “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino tears up that envelope and tosses it into the fire with his luridly comic, graphic-novel take on antebellum slaveholder atrocities. Its excesses are causing the expected amount of outrage, but HFPA members say they’ve been deliberately and thoughtfully composed by a masterful cinematic temperament.

HFPA Brazil correspondent Ana Maria Bahiana is a believer in the pic’s metaphysics: “Pure cinema — a seamless narrative (note how the water is an important visual element from the beginning of the film), essentially visual (discounting the narrative, this is almost a silent film in its economical dialogue) and perfect use of 3D” (translated from Portuguese by Variety).

A quintessentially American story and hero, spun by Tony Kushner. The drama “finds Steven Spielberg in his ‘Amistad’ mode,” Bahiana wrote, “reflecting on the history of the North American nation, especially one of its fundamental flaws: the scourge of slavery and its long, painful tentacles today. … Spielberg illuminates and makes human what could be a dry discourse on political procedures in the young American nation.”

Yet another American epic, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s follow-up to “The Hurt Locker” proved no less committed to scrupulous authenticity than “Lincoln” and “Argo,” and no less cynical about means and ends than “Django Unchained.” Wrote HFPA member Theo Kingma, the pic “showed us more about the ultimate raid and manhunt than the CIA ever presented to the general public itself.” Pic is being embraced both by those who question the tradition of torture in intelligence gathering, and those who celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death at any cost.

Stepping stone to awards glory | Globes honor returning TV series but makes room for the new
And the nominees are…
Best Picture – Comedy/Musical | Best Picture – Drama | Actor | Actress | Animated
Cecile B. Demille Award: Jodie Foster