Editor’s note: This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!
By Ruth of FlixChatter
ARGO for Best Picture
Granted I have only seen four of the nine Best Picture nominations, but even if I had seen all of them, my gut says I probably would still be rooting for Argo for best picture. It was easily one of my top 10 favorite films of 2012, and one I don’t mind seeing again when it’s available to rent.
This is the second time I participate in an Oscar Best Picture write-up, and the first film I championed did end up getting the trophy! It’s interesting to point out that both are based on a true story, and as I said in the final thoughts of The King’s Speech review, a film doesn’t have to be dark, brain-twisting or nightmarish to be engaging. Certainly the subject matter of ARGO is dark and that first scene where a bunch of Iranian protesters stormed the US embassy in Tehran is down right tense, terrifying even. Yet the film itself is not bleak nor depressing, in fact the story is quite uplifting as ordinary people became unlikely heroes in extraordinary circumstance.
For those who haven’t seen the film, ARGO is a dramatization of the “Canadian Caper” based on an article published in 2007, in which Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), a CIA operative, led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. I talked to a few people at work who were old enough to watch that event unfold through television or newspaper, and they still remembered it. It’s one of those events that left a mark in our memory, much like how 9/11 was to the younger generations. As for me, I had just started reading about it prior to seeing the film, yet even though I already knew the ending, it didn’t lessen the experience of watching the film.
I love stories about regular folks rising above difficult circumstances and surviving against all odds, and Argo delivers such a story brilliantly. Kudos to Chris Terrio for his taut script and of course Affleck for his astute direction, and the film also benefits from such a strong cast, both the not-so-well-known actors playing the six diplomats, as well as great character actors such as Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s supervisor, plus John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the makeup artist and Hollywood producer, respectively. Goodman and Arkin stole scenes as they brought the much-needed comic relief as the main players who created the fake movie. Certainly it was a big risk for both of them, there was nobody in this whole ordeal who did not make a personal sacrifice in order to develop this plan so the diplomats can go under the disguise of the film’s cast and crew.
One of the most gripping moments of the film happened when the group, led by Mendez, scout for filming locations at a bazaar. When the crowd turned hostile, I truly feared for the group’s safety. The entire scene at the airport was also incredibly tense, it kept on mounting during the runway chase when their cover was blown, up until the 747 leaves Iranian airspace. Now, I read that the two incidents did not happen, and Affleck has been criticized for having such an exaggerated Hollywood ending. Be that as it may, to me that’s part of the creative license of a filmmaker in bringing a true story to light. I’m even willing to forgive Affleck who perhaps is the weakest link in terms of his performance in this ensemble, and the fact that Mendez is Mexican, I think his role should’ve been played by a Hispanic actor. Despite that minor quibble though, overall the film certainly holds up as a solid historical drama.
I’m glad the Directors Guild of America (DGA) awarded Ben Affleck with Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award for his third directorial effort, defying the academy for not even nominating him for Best Director! To me that’s a huge snub as I think this is perhaps Affleck’s best work yet. Affleck was pretty humble on his DGA speech, “I don’t think that this makes me a real director, but I think it means I’m on my way,” (per Deadline). I already thought that Affleck is one solid director even after Gone Baby Gone, but now that he’s done three more-than-decent films, he’s certainly not a one-hit-wonder. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) also honored the cast members with an award for Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture. Both kudos are well-deserved and holds the key in what makes ARGO such a solid film that has the ‘complete package’ of being well-written, well-directed, and well-acted piece. Props also to Alexandre Desplat, who was nominated for The King’s Speech in 2010, did a great job in creating a stirring score that’s atmospheric and culturally-relevant. The Mission track is by far my favorite.