As far back as last summer's Toronto Film Festival, you could've reasonably argued that Ben Affleck's Argo would win Best Picture and Silver Linings Playbook's Jennifer Lawrence would win Best Actress.
Here's why, plus other lessons learned from the 85th Annual Academy Awards:
1. You Can't Beat a Film That People Really, Really Like: Sure, people liked Lincoln, Life of Pi and all the other films that didn't win Best Picture. But of all the contenders, only Argo, with its underdog back story and Hollywood-as-hero screenplay, got the second really—as in, people really, really liked it. Incidentally, or not, it was the only Best Picture nominee to score an A-plus in opening-weekend CinemaScore polling.
2. You Can't Beat People Who People Really, Really Like: Especially when they're in films that people really, really... Well, you get the idea. Lawrence is a kick, plus she was in crowd-pleaser Silver Linings Playbook. Quentin Tarantino is a human energy drink, plus he wrote the love it-hate-it-can't-ignore-it Django Unchained. Just try and top that combo.
3. Controversy, Schmontroversy: Zero Dark Thirty didn't go one-for-five at the Oscars because of the torture outcry; it went one-for-five because it plays cold up against the warm-blooded likes of Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained. (And, also, let it be noted: There's nothing wrong with going one-for-five.)
4. Old Guys Like Girls , er, Twentysomethings: The same people who keep the Lena Dunham series on HBO are the same people who vote for the Oscars—men over the age of 50. So, really, even if Lawrence wasn't such a kick, and her film wasn't such a crowd-pleaser, you'd have to figure the 22-year-old had the demographic edge over the 35-year-old Jessica Chastain and the 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva.
5. Remember The Facts of Life: When Tootie beat out Natalie for the lead in Eastland's production of South Pacific, Natalie complained that if Tootie hadn't auditioned then she, Natalie, would've gotten the part. Tootie reminded Natalie that a dozen girls auditioned, and noted that Natalie had no idea if she was No 2.
All of which brings us to Steven Spielberg's "upset" loss in Best Director to Ang Lee. It was only an upset because of the assumption that, in Affleck's absence, Spielberg was next in line. But because the two big pre-Oscar contests, the Directors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs, were dominated by Affleck, it was impossible to know if Spielberg was, indeed, No. 2. As Tootie might've pointedly said, "Maybe he was No. 5." (And let it be further noted, there's nothing wrong with being No. 5.)
On a semi-related Facts of Life note, two of Argo's three Best Picture-winning producers, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, appeared on the 1980s sitcom.
6. It's Better to Lose When You Know You're Going to Lose: On Oscar night seven years ago, Lee was the most-crestfallen Oscar-winner there ever was. He'd won Best Director, yes, but his film, Brokeback Mountain, unexpectedly lost Best Picture to Crash. Fast-forward to Sunday, and Lee was again a Best Director winner who saw his film, Life of Pi, go down to defeat for Best Picture. But this time, Lee was happy. "This time," Lee told reporters backstage, "we expected it."
7. History Doesn't Always Look Historical When It's Happening: One day, movie buffs are going to look back in awe and reverence at Daniel Day-Lewis' three Best Actor Oscars. But on Sunday, Day-Lewis was just a mild-mannered, soft-spoken guy who left his record-setting statuette for Lincoln on the podium floor while he chatted with the backstage press. Of his future ambitions, he merely said, "I need to lay down for a couple of years."