Sunday, February 24, 2013


Argo received seven Oscar nominations. In addition to Best pic, for which it won the Golden Globe, is Best editing,  and Best supporting actor in Alan Arkin as film producer Lester Siegel.  [Ben Affleck won the Golden Globe for Best Director, not nominated for an Oscar, and stars in the film as Antonio Mendez, CIA extractor]. Lincoln was nominated for twelve, Life of Pi, eleven.  A big fan of Anne Hathaway, but not musicals, I did not see Les Mis, and, living in the hinterlands, I did not yet get the opportunity to see Amour, but this year Argo is my favorite nominated movie among many really good films.. Like Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln it depicts a story based on actual events (so the ending, as it was in Titanic, is known) but due to exquisite editing (William Goldenberg deserves the Oscar) and playing a bit fast and loose with some facts (exciting screenplay by Chris Terrio), Argo is surprisingly suspenseful ( much more, to me, than Zero Dark Thirty), unexpectedly humorous (thanks to Arkin and John Goodman as make-up artist John Chambers) and more engrossing than the other two, true stories.

The daring plot to rescue six Americans who escaped the overtaking of the US Embassy in Iran on November 4, 1979, where 52 hostages were held for 444 days until their release was successfully negotiated by Jimmy Carter without loss of life, is thrilling, and unbelievable. Only in Hollywood could such a plot to pretend to make a movie (Argo) succeed in extracting from a hostile land six Americans hiding out in the Canadian ambassador’s residence. Except it did. The “Canadian caper” remained classified for 18 years. These six foreign service workers  were skeptical about Mendez’s escape plan, till one recognizes that Mendez has put his own life on the line as well.

Argo has everything we could desire in entertainment: suspense, valor, triumph, humor, and, if we forget the USA’s involvement in the coup d’etat that usurped authority from the Parliamentarily elected Iranian Prime Minister and gave it to the Shah for its own gain, we are proud to be Americans on the day Cora and Mark Lijek, Kathy and Joe Stafford, Lee Schatz, and Robert Anders made it home.

I found this film moving, but I was most moved by the final scene in which Mendez, one of the true heroes of this true story -- who is separated from his wife at the time of the Canadian caper-- reads a goodnight story to his son in bed, and the camera alights on the shelf where sits the story board Mendez kept for his son from the script Argo which would never be made. The story board of the fake film depicts the hero, in a space age hover craft escaping across the desert with a small boy beneath his arm.

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