As the Oscars came to a close on Sunday, another underdog won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That underdog was Ben Affleck’s Argo, much to the surprise of everyone with their personal Oscar ballots at home. The buildup to it winning was intense as it went up against the favorite critic’s favorite, Lincoln, due to power combo of Daniel Day-Lewis and director Steven Spielberg. Spelling an even worse fate of Argo‘s chances was Ben Affleck’s directing snub by the Academy which is usually an indicater the film stands a chance next to the other nominees. Argo overcame the odds and won the big award, showing that even the underdog film can come out on top. Personally, following up Rocky with another underdog is quite welcomed. Argo joins the collective few underdogs that beat the major competitors, except this one was one of the true standouts. The other underdogs beat fantastic films that are still remembered today. The underdogs will start to fade over time with the exception of Rocky, which spawned a franchise. I barely remembered Chicago won the Best Picture award beating out Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and the terrific work by Roman Polanski in The Pianist. Give it five years and I will still remember this one.
2012’s Argo is about CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) heading to Iran to help six Canadians escapees from the US Embassy during the height of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In order to do so, Mendez hatches a plan after inspiration from watching Battle of the Planet of the Apes on television to create a cover for them as a film crew scouting locations for the science fiction film, Argo. I have already said my peace about the film in my top 12 films of 2012 in a brief paragraph, so this is the expansion and forgoing the Film A Week format to describe it (read Eternal Sunshine for full disclosure).
Also, if you love short reviews, then this week is your week.
Argo is a fantastic film and knows how to handle its subject matter at hand with tension, humorous moments, fantastic dialogue and performances. Alan Arkin gives his all as deadpan snarker producer Lester Siegel alongside John Goodman as famous makeup artist John Chambers. These two perform well as the typical Hollywood duo and foils to Affleck’s agent character. Ben Affleck is good, but not great compared to his role in The Town, which is my favorite of Affleck’s roles to date. Bryan Crnston is also amazing, but no matter what the hell he is in, he ends up succeeding just for being Walter White. The dialogue between the hostages is whip smart due in part to the script Chris Terrio and the performances on that front are pitch perfect.
Affleck’s direction is something to note. Despite all the claim he was robbed of an Oscar, Affleck is not on his A game here. The direction is a bit too similar to the style of Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) and does not Affleck to show off his style seen in his two previous efforts. I personally would have love to seen the man get a nomination. Yet, he still earned an Oscar for producing in the form of Best Picture, so I believe that accounts for something because now he has two Oscars. One for Argo, one for sitting behind Matt Damon as he wrote Good Will Hunting.
Now, with all that out of the way, the controversy of the film. The airport chase ending apparently did not happen and they did get out of the country easy, rendering the tension at the end pointless. The hostages were in two different houses and allowed to roam around. Tony Mendez was of Mexican decent and not a white man (Note: Mendez is of Italian and Irish decent as well, so Affleck works). Even the nation of Iran got offended for the historical inaccuracies, the depiction of their people and not showing the other side of the confrontation. To all this I say, it’s simple entertainment and not everything is going to be accurate. Sometimes reality needs to be bended in order to get its point across and create a experience or grab the audience attention. One of the films that prides itself on accuracy is Lincoln and was found to have one flaw discovered by a senator. Lincoln was not considered any less great though as film can be as accurate or inaccurate as want to be and people will still love it.
As for Iran wanting the other side of the story, as a fan of cinema, I would love to see filmmakers in their country tackle that side. I am not one to be prejudice of one’s race or nationality based on the political air between our countries and the negative depiction of Middle Easterns in the media. I have meet people of Middle Eastern decent who are fantastic, wonderful and no less different than Americans. Just because we frown upon the antics of their leaders does not mean we should treat and shame their people as lower than us. I would love to see the Islamic Revolution and the Crisis from their perspective to better understand the situation as this is one of the topics I would give anything to learn more about.
On the Oscars side of things, did this film deserve Best Picture? I was happy it won and the underdog succeeded, but to me, Beasts of the Southern Wild was the best film of 2012 I saw. I mostly knew Argo or Lincoln would take the golden boy home judging by the way the Academy votes. The Academy usually goes for films that appeal to an older generation or focus on a strong issue with few exceptions. Sadly, Beasts was not a top contender, but should have won the award just to prove the staying power of originality, the artform, and the craft that goes behind into making true cinema. Argo is a true film, but one that is in the same league of The Hurt Locker which I loved. It is something we have seen before and has been done better. I will remember this film as a great thriller, but it did not deserve the Oscar.
Well, that was not that short, but more of a review without giving too much away and displaying my true feelings on the film. Argo is a great intense thriller with stellar performance and a tight script, but probably did not deserve the award. Nothing no one can change now.
Next week, Film A Week once again takes on the sub-genre of science fiction: time travel. What happens when Jack the Ripper takes a hold of a time machine built by legendary author H.G. Wells? It ends up in the world of late 70’s San Francisco where Wells must stop the Ripper from killing women. Starring the two best British actors to roam the earth and Carla Clayton from Back to the Future Part III, it is 1979’s Time After Time.
Film A Week Week 9: Time After Time (1979)
Friday, March 8th/Saturday, March 9th
Stinger of the Week