The opinions expressed in this post do not represent the views of MoviefiedNYC, they are Sue’s views, as she said to us (the editors), if you don’t like what I have to say “…ArrrrrGo Fuck Yourself!”
Now that the Oscars are over, and everyone seems to have agreed that Argo was the best film of 2012, let me put forth an alternative argument. I think the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
Argo met some very specific criteria in my household. First, it’s a Date-night film. The Venn diagram that describes the intersection of movies that my husband and I rate as theater-worthy is centered largely on the category of historical thriller. We both love history, I avoid violence and he avoids romance. Argo had plenty of Oscar buzz from the beginning. Oh, yeah, baby–Saturday night, we were definitely seeing some Argo and then having some Chinese food.
So when the film underwhelmed me, I comforted myself with fond memory of a nice night out with the husband. But then, the whole awards season began, and with every article I read about how Ben Affleck was robbed, I had to reflect on my specific objections. Argo rested in my mind as a likable but average film that I would have soon forgotten as I moved on, but then suddenly I found myself formulating my criticisms in my mind.
Much of history is—without needless embellishment, really interesting, if you know how to tell the story. For example, I found Apollo 13, a real nail-biter of a thriller. Ron Howard was able to portray the tension of the flawed manned space mission by telling the story of what went on in the small space capsule and the NASA control room, with only minor Hollywood embellishments—“Failure is not an option” is made up dialogue—there were some characters that were composites of several real people, and the communication blackout was a few minutes shorter than portrayed in the film. Almost everyone who has watched this movie knows the outcome: they make it back alive, and that’s a historical fact. Nonetheless, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, rooting for the characters, cheering when they landed safely, and cheering at some great historical storytelling.
Like many people, I had never heard the story of the Americans trapped at the Canadian embassy during the Iranian hostage crisis. For obvious reasons, it was not heavily publicized at the time, and I was a young kid who mainly knew of the crisis through Walter Cronkite’s nightly news signoff “And that’s the way it is—345 days that the Americans have been hostages in Iran.” I was looking forward to seeing this event from a fresh perspective, that and the storyline of a fake Hollywood movie being created to sneak the Americans out of Iran, sounded outrageous yet intriguing to me.
And, intriguing it was—for a while. The scenes of the embassy being taken over and the small group of Americans trying to escape were compelling. In the beginning, the characters were set up pretty well. But as the movie continued, I wished I could know more about them, however, the focus quickly switched to Ben Affleck’s character, the CIA agent Tony Mendez, and his plotline of getting the fake movie production set up in the United States. It was an interesting idea, but again, it didn’t seem well fleshed out. Just as we were getting to know some of the details of the fake movie, we switched to the political battles of the CIA over the impossibility of getting the ludicrous plan approved. That was interesting, though also glossed over. There was also the obligatory side story of Affleck’s character’s strained relationship with his son, so clichéd that you could see the end scene coming almost as soon as the son was introduced.
But hey, most of the story was unique and compelling, and there was a lot of story to tell, so for the moment, I was still with the film. Then, Argo took a turn towards typical Hollywood embellishment—and it never looked back. I began to check out when Mendez, who is preparing to take the Americans out, is informed that the mission is off, but he decided to forge ahead. , The viewer sees that there is a crisis because the plane tickets have been canceled. There follows a fabricated crisis: we see the tickets being restored, the airline attendant checking and re-checking and “whew”, just in time, everything is okay. Then there was the laughable obstacle of the fake movie producers trying to get back to the fake movie office in time to take the call from Iran to verify the authenticity of the (fake) movie for Iranian officials. At that point, the film was losing me rapidly.
But the exact moment when I found myself done with Argo occurred when the Iranian police realized that they had been had, and they tried to run to the plane to arrest the Americans so they started bashing on a locked door. Seriously? If this situation had been really what happened, they would have called the control tower, the plane wouldn’t have taken off, and all of the Americans would have been arrested—end of movie. What a bummer. Instead, we had to get the obligatory action of a car chasing the plane down the runway. I was really pissed off at this entire scene. I went home and read what actually happened. After the Americans got on the plane, there was some tension. The plane had mechanical difficulties and takeoff was delayed, but no one on board knew why they were being delayed, so it is not hard to imagine that the American passengers were scared to death of being caught. They might, in their heads, have been imagining the crazy scene that Mr. Affleck portrayed. Portraying the story of their real fear based on the actual story at that moment would have been challenging to show on film. But that would have been a story I would like to have seen. That would have been a film worthy of an Oscar and no one would have been robbed.
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