I can't say Argo is the most overrated Oscar Best Picture nominee I've ever seen. Because I've seen the Paul Haggis version of Crash. But the fact that Argo has ended up on so many top ten lists of 2012 movies around the world is puzzling to say the least. It's not exactly a bad movie. It's an involving story, it creates some effective tension and performances by John Goodman and Alan Arkin are endearing, even if they're playing stock characters. Arkin's producer character is like a far less distinct version of Dustin Hoffman's character in Wag the Dog.
The movie's like a disposable episode of a television series. Not even an above average episode, but like one that links two episodes without being entirely boring and without rocking the boat. My questioning of the film's accolades began with the first fifteen minutes, which features a series of stiff, West Wing "walk and talks", one of them ending with the predictable moment where one of the characters stops walking so we can get a close up of him reacting to a statement while the other guy is walking away. This is intercut with the U.S. embassy in Tehran being overrun by Iranian stereotypes. In fact, for a movie that largely takes place in Iran, it's notable that there's not a single full-fledged Iranian character. They're portrayed like the Nazis in the Indiana Jones movies.
Which may have been intentional, as is most of the rewriting of the true story at the end to create a chase sequence. The whole time, I was thinking things like, "How can they be finding a photo of this guy at the same time he's at the airport?" "Why the hell would they be chasing a jumbo jet with police cars when they can simply ground the plane with air traffic control?" The Iranians are simultaneously sleuths and berserkers, it seems. In real life, the embassy staffers smuggled out of the country by Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck in the movie) had no trouble at the airport.
Mendez's idea was to pose as a film producer and extract the staffers during the Iranian hostage crisis by creating the fiction that they were a Canadian film crew. To this end, Mendez contacted makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman in the movie). So the distinctly Hollywood feel to the movie's story may have been an attempt at honouring the nature of the art form. What it results in is something that feels cheap.
I think the movie's enjoying a perfect storm of favourable Hollywood politics and left wing politics. Here's a movie that might help Jimmy Carter's (truly undeserved) rep for being weak during the hostage crisis compared to Reagan and the movie sucks Hollywood's dick by showing how a loveable producer and make up artist--as well as the whole Hollywood machine--were part of saving people's lives. And the movie's directed by its star, Ben Affleck, another thing Hollywood likes. It's all pretty sickeningly transparent, and I say that as someone who likes Hollywood, who is a liberal, and even as someone who doesn't hate Ben Affleck.
The word is that either Argo or Lincoln will win to-morrow. I haven't seen Lincoln, but Steven Spielberg has disappointed me in pretty consistently schmaltzy ways since Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I'm afraid Lincoln'll be another War Horse and gods know I don't want to suffer through that again. My money's on Argo. Lincoln's nominated for so much, I bet they'll figure Spielberg's due will be given with wins in the other categories, notably director, for which Argo's not nominated.
The only other best picture nominees I've seen are Life of Pi and Django Unchained and I plan on watching Amour to-night. Django Unchained was my favourite movie of the year, but I'd be perfectly happy with Life of Pi winning. Of course I know there's not a chance in hell.
Twitter Sonnet #480
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