LOS ANGELES — A few weeks ago, the Oscar race looked wide open. The stately, historical "Lincoln" seemed like the safe and likely choice, with the provocative "Zero Dark Thirty" and the quirky and inspiring "Silver Linings Playbook" very much in the mix for the Academy Award for best picture.

But now, an "Argo" juggernaut – an "Argo"-naut, if you will – seems to be rolling along and gathering momentum as we head toward Hollywood's top prize.

The international thriller from director Ben Affleck, who also stars as a CIA operative orchestrating a daring rescue during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, received the top honor of best ensemble cast in a movie at Sunday night's Screen Actors Guild Awards, their equivalent of the best-picture Oscar. It's a decent indicator of eventual Academy Awards success, with the two matching up about half the time.

The film, which also stars John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Hollywood veterans who help stage a fake movie as a cover, has received nearly unanimous critical raves and has proven to be a box-office favorite, as well, grossing nearly $190 million worldwide.

But "Argo" also won the Producers Guild of America Award on Saturday night, which is an excellent Oscar predictor, and it earned best picture and director statues from the Golden Globes two weeks earlier. The Directors Guild of America Awards next Saturday will help crystallize the situation even further.

The one tricky thing at work here: Affleck surprisingly didn't receive an Academy Award nomination in the director category, which most often goes hand in hand with best picture. (There are nine best-picture nominees but only five slots for directors.) Only once in modern times has a film won best picture without a directing nomination: 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy." The other two times came in the show's early years, at the first Oscars in 1929 with "Wings" and for 1932's "Grand Hotel."

Asked backstage at the SAG Awards what might happen when the Oscar winners are announced Feb. 24, Affleck said: "I don't do handicapping or try to divine what's going to happen down the road with movies.

"I didn't get nominated as a director and I thought, `OK, that's that.' Then I remembered that I was nominated as a producer," said Affleck, who already has an original screenplay Oscar for writing 1997's "Good Will Hunting" with longtime friend Matt Damon. "Nothing may happen but it's a wonderful opportunity to be on the ride and I'm really honored."

Many of the usual suspects throughout the lengthy awards season heard their names called again Sunday night, including Daniel Day-Lewis as best actor for his intense, deeply immersed portrayal of the 16th U.S. president in "Lincoln." Accepting the prize on stage, he gave thanks to several of his colleagues including "The Master" star Joaquin Phoenix (who did not receive a SAG nomination), Leonardo DiCaprio and Liam Neeson.

Backstage, Day-Lewis elaborated for reporters that DiCaprio urged him to stick with Steven Spielberg's project, which was in the works for many years.

"He said, `Don't give up, he's the greatest man of the 19th century,'" Day-Lewis said. "So this is all Leo's fault."

His co-star, Tommy Lee Jones, also won again in the supporting-actor category for his lacerating portrayal of abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens in Spielberg's Civil War epic.

Anne Hathaway, the front-runner for best supporting actress at the Oscars and a winner already at the Golden Globes, won at the SAGs for her performance as the doomed prostitute Fantine in the gritty musical "Les Miserables."

"I'm just thrilled I have dental," Hathaway joked on stage.

But in the already-tight best actress race, Jennifer Lawrence made things a little more interesting in winning for the drama "Silver Linings Playbook." The 22-year-old plays a damaged young widow opposite Bradley Cooper, whose character is fresh out of a mental institution. Jessica Chastain, the winner at the Golden Globes, has been her main competition as a driven CIA operative searching for Osama bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Lawrence said on stage that she got her SAG card at 14 – which was only eight short years ago – for a promo for the MTV reality series "My Super Sweet 16," which she said felt like the best day of her life.

"And now I have this naked statue which means that some of you even voted for me, and that is an indescribable feeling," she said.

On the television side, the popular PBS series "Downton Abbey" bested more established shows like "Mad Men" to win the TV drama cast award in just its first nomination. "Modern Family" won the comedy cast prize for the third straight year.

And Dick Van Dyke received the guild's life-achievement award, an honor he presented last year to his "The Dick Van Dyke Show" co-star, Mary Tyler Moore.

After receiving a lengthy standing ovation from the audience, he asked his fellow actors, "Aren't we lucky that we found a line of work that doesn't require growing up?"

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Contact AP Movie Writer Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire

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  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck, center, and the cast of argo accept the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture for “Argo” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Modern Family

    The cast of "Modern Family" poses backstage with the award for ensemble in a comedy series at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Amy Poehler, Neil Patrick Harris

    Amy Poehler, right, and Neil Patrick Harris present the award for outstanding male actor in a drama series at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jared Harris, Daniel Day-Lewis

    Jared Harris, left, and Daniel Day-Lewis pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Julianne Moore

    Julianne Moore smiles backstage with the award for outstanding female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for “Game Change” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Bryan Cranston

    Bryan Cranston accepts the award for outstanding male actor in a drama series for “Breaking Bad” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Dick Van Dyke

    Dick Van Dyke poses backstage with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Jessica Chastain

    Jessica Chastain speaks onstage at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Anne Hathaway

    Actress Anne Hathaway poses backstage with the award for best female actor in a supporting role for “Les Miserables” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Lea Michele, Cory Monteith

    Lea Michele, left, and Cory Monteith arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Justin Timberlake, James Marsden

    Justin Timberlake, left, and James Marsden arrive at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, left, and Daniel Day

    Sacha Baron Cohen, left, and Daniel Day Lewis appear in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • John Krasinski

    John Krasinski arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, Hugh Jackman

    Sacha Baron Cohen, right, and Hugh Jackman pose for a photo in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Damian Lewis, Aaron Paul

    Damian Lewis, left, and Aaron Paul talk together in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Jennifer Lawrence reacts as she is announced the winner of the award for outstanding female actor in a leading role for “Silver Linings Playbook” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

    Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Robert De Niro kiss as she accepts the award for outstanding female actor in a leading role for “Silver Linings Playbook” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro watches as Jennifer Lawrence accepts the award for outstanding female actor in a leading role for “Silver Linings Playbook” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Daniel Day-Lewis

    Daniel Day-Lewis accepts the awards for outstanding male actor in a leading role for “Lincoln” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jessica Chastain, Jesse Tyler Ferguson

    Jessica Chastain, left, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Jon Hamm; Jennifer Westfeldt

    Actors Jon Hamm, left, and Jennifer Westfeldt arrive at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Modern Family

    The cast of "Modern Family" poses backstage with the award for ensemble in a comedy series at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Alec Baldwin

    Alec Baldwin poses backstage with the award for outstanding male actor in a comedy series for “30 Rock” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Naomi Watts, Harvey Weinstein

    Naomi Watts, left, and Harvey Weinstein pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Isla Fisher, Russell Crowe

    Isla Fisher, left, and Russell Crowe pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Tina Fey, James Marsden

    Tina Fey, left, and James Marsden pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Amanda Seyfried, Isla Fisher

    Amanda Seyfried, left, and Isla Fisher pose in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck accepts the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture for “Argo” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Anne Hathaway, Adam Shulman

    Anne Hathaway, center, and Adam Shulman, right, stand in the audience at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

  • Daniel Day-Lewis

    Actor Daniel Day-Lewis poses backstage with the award for best male actor in a leading role at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Phyllis Logan; Michelle Dockery; Allen Leech: Amy Nuttall; Sophie McShera

    Actors, from left, Phyllis Logan, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, Amy Nuttall and Sophie McShera pose backstage with the award for best ensemble in a drama series for “Downton Abbey” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Claire Danes

    Actress Claire Danes poses backstage with the award for best female actor in a drama series at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Argo

    The cast of "Argo" poses backstage with the award for best cast in a motion picture at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Daniel Day-Lewis

    Actor Daniel Day-Lewis poses backstage with the award for best male actor in a leading role at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Ben Affleck

    Actor Ben Affleck poses backstage with the award for best cast in a motion picture for "Argo" at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • US-SCREEN ACTORS GUILD-TROPHY

    Actress Anne Hathaway, winner of Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for 'Les Miserables,' poses in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • US-SCREEN ACTORS GUILD-TROPHY

    Actress Anne Hathaway, winner of Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for 'Les Miserables,' poses in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Julia Stiles

    Julia Stiles arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Melanie Lynskey

    Actress Melanie Lynskey arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Naya Rivera

    Naya Rivera arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Amy Poehler

    Amy Poehler arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Naya Rivera

    Naya Rivera arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Amanda Seyfried

    Amanda Seyfried arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Neil Patrick Harris

    Neil Patrick Harris arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Elisabeth Moss

    Actress Elisabeth Moss arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Neil Patrick Harris

    Neil Patrick Harris arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    Actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

  • Amy Poehler

    Amy Poehler arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

  • Matthew Morrison

    Actor Matthew Morrison, right, and guest arrive at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

  • Daniel Day Lewis

    Daniel Day Lewis arrives at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday Jan. 27, 2013. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)