Thursday, March 21, 2013

Argo, $%&* yourself. Love, Canada/UK/New Zealand/Iran.

OK, crude pun intended. It will of course resonate with those who have seen this well-received flick. As with most highly-touted pictures I waited patiently until this was available for rental to take in its greatness. During and after this viewing I engaged in something that I typically do that I'm sure is de rigueur nowadays -that being toggling between IMDB and Wikipedia.  More was written about the international outrage and historical inaccuracies than was about the plot. Pretty perplexing indeed. However, given that dis-proportionality, I find it appropriate to discuss this in a similar manner. First, let's get right to the point. The Academy Award for best picture, the near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes rating, all the hype and hyperbole were well warranted. And then some. Never did I expect a production from the likes of Ben Affleck and George Clooney to have such a measure of outright theatrical excellence. Everything--from the razor-witted dialogue, the environs, the dress, the soundtrack right down to the 'retro-grainy picture resolution' exclaimed 1979/1980--so much so that it made me wax nostalgic more than once.  I remember this era and the events surrounding it quite vividly. You could almost smell leaded gasoline, filter-less Camel cigarette smoke, cheap cologne reeking from leisure suits and Miller beer.  You embark on a tense non-stop ride from Embassy siege to takeoff from Tehran. Any film of this genre that can keep you on edge when you pretty much know the outcome and without excessive blood and gore is special indeed. Bravo.

Now to address the critical 'response' that ensued from covering such a touchy topic on celluloid. First, there was the Canadian knee-jerk. Granted, in retrospect the Canadian involvement was much greater in fact than the story line detailed. But to say that Argo relegated the Ambassador as the 'complicit concierge', a passive party that wished everyone 'good luck' at best was reaching. Even somewhat thoughtful viewers could discern that harboring escapees for months was anything but passive. The implications of which were not just risky but of a grand foreign-relational scale. Then there was the vitriol from British and New Zealand critics. Again, there wasn't a scene showing a 'no room at the inn' response from either Embassy. Just a simple, almost flippant generalization from a harried government official that was meant to foreshadow the plight and near-futility of the situation. Finally, as most would expect, was the Iranian reaction. To say that Argo aggregated an entire ethnic group into a maniacal, savage and radical populace is grasping indeed. In fact, the entire introductory narrative (not to mention a few statements regarding the Shah's wealth, abuse and US support by several on both sides) imply a sentiment that could almost justify the uprising and hatred of the US.  As to the assertion of the film having poor timing---tensions with Iran have been ongoing for years. Come on.

In sum, and most importantly is the glaring fact that this is one of those movies that was 'based on a true story'. No semantics here. 'Based' really does mean based. That is the essence of creative and dramatic license within the realm of the entertainment business. Yes, the moments of peril (and they are replete throughout the movie) are fictitious but suffice it to say that this is not just a movie about Hollywood but one that has its thumbprint of the grandiose therein. It's not a documentary. It's not a personal statement of conviction (to the extent of say a Spielberg).

It's a fiction. Based on a true story. A movie. And an incredibly good one at that.

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