The Problem with Argo


This isn’t one of those Argo-sucks-because-it-doesn’t-give-Canada-enough-credit arguments. Although, I will say that it was in incredibly poor taste to make horribly cliché Canadians-are-nice-but-useless jokes in a movie that literally would not exist if the Canadian embassy had not protected 6 Americans who ran away from their embassy in Tehran that day.

No, this is an argument about how the film Argo didn’t deserve any of the accolades it received in both Britain and Hollywood. Mind you, I’m basing this argument on the premise that awards given out for film (or any other art form for that matter) mean something, which of course, they don’t.

First, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of moving pictures: There exists those we can label ‘film’ and those we can label ‘movie’. A film is a work of art which is meant to dramatize some event or situation but not necessarily in an enjoyable-to-the-audience fashion. Films are usually serious affairs exploring some aspect of the human condition; in which the director tries to make every shot or scene carry artistic weight. A movie, conversely, is a story told in a way as to be enjoyed by the largest audience possible. Making the movie look appealing and for it to be enjoyable is far more important to the director than making art.

Both of these, the film or the movie, can be done well or done poorly. Some The Masterrecent examples: In the good column for ‘film’ would be The Master and for ‘movie’ would be Skyfall. In the bad column, I’m cautiously suggesting The Tree of Life for film (I mean seriously, what the fuck was with that movie and everybody gushing over it? It had NO point and Malick’s floating camera and wispy colors are just too much sentimentality for me to handle) and for movie, well, there’s a million I could put down, but I’ll throw The Avengers out there because I know so many people liked that movie.

[[The following paragraph contains spoilers]]
is a title which doesn’t fall neatly into either the ‘film’ category or the ‘movie’ category. Because it’s based on true events that weren’t that exciting to begin with (like another big name movie from last year *cough* zerodarkthirty *cough*) the director has a choice to make; either stay true to the story and ?????????????????make the drama about the characters and what they’re feeling using poignant dialogue or spice things up a little with comic relief and made-up action that wasn’t there in the real life story. Mr. Affleck chose to try to spice up the story and by doing so failed to make a good ‘film’. He also failed to make a good ‘movie’ because it wasn’t fun to watch; it was boring and other than looking good, had nothing to offer the audience. The sad attempts at comedy in this film were the aforementioned Canada jokes, everything that came out of John Goodman’s mouth and the line in the market scene, where the guy’s holding the viewfinder backwards and Affleck leans in and says something like, “If I was to tell you that you were looking into the wrong end of that viewfinder, would I be correct?” Groan. As for forced action sequences, the climax of the movie was a ridiculous airport scene, which culminates in the bad guys chasing the plane carrying the Americans down the runway. Really, Ben? Argo would have worked as a ‘film’ if they had stuck to the real story and not embellished things. Like I said, it was a good-looking period piece. What would have served it better would have been to write smarter, lengthier dialogue and to repress the urge to make a ‘movie’.

By trying to walk the line between film and movie, Argo fails as both. It was not 223902id1k_THE TOWN_27x40_1Sheet_0410.inddenjoyable, as a good ‘movie’ should be, nor was it an artistic achievement, as a good ‘film’ should be with great characters, dialogue, and meaning. There are certainly worse movies out there, but Argo provides a classic example of how a mediocre movie can be propelled to a status of greatness by riding a wave of Hollywood, in-circle, self admiration. Affleck should stick to making fun, entertaining, solid movies like The Town and forget about trying to make Oscar-bait films.

3 thoughts on “The Problem with Argo

  1. olsonwrites

    I thank you for the spoilers notification. I stopped reading there and will continue to read your post after I watch the movie. The wife ‘purchased’ it yesterday and I’ll suggest watching it tonight. From the tone of the first bit, it seems you have a negative opinion of it. We’ll see if I was right.

    On the plus side, my six-year-old liked The Avengers.

  2. olsonwrites

    Well, we watched it. And while I can’t comment on the picture’s historical accuracy, I can say that we both liked it. Granted we like to consider ourselves more educated than the masses and can derive enjoyment from dark attempts at historical recreations.

    I remembered part of what you said about the negative Canadian associations while watching, and was therefore subconsciously looking for some but I didn’t find many. There was the stereotypical ‘EH’ that’s always thrown in, which pisses me off as I don’t really say that. I also don’t ever say a-boot, but that’s the subject of another discussion.

    The Canadian’s were assumed to be useless in the movie, sorry film, fuck it, picture; but that may have had more to do with the six hanging out drinking wine at the ambassador’s house and not held up in a military barracks. It wasn’t our responsibility to extradite them as they weren’t our citizens. I think that guy did a good job of keeping them alive and if not for the efforts of the states they would have all died.

    One thing that struck me at the very beginning of the picture was the history of the leaders of Iran. They had a good one and the country was doing well but the west wanted the oil so they got rid of him and replaced him with a dick that fucked his country but kept the taps flowing. That I think is the point that the movie misses. The people were angry about the states’ involvement in the beginning and thanks to them now they are angry with us. Those people, all of them including the rest of the embassy, were lucky to come out with their heads still attached.

    Or, perhaps I missed the point. It’s seems Iran has KFC now. I guess we’ll call that a win. If not, there is really only one thing left to say…..Argo-fuck-yourself.


    1. thelackey Post author

      Thanks for your input. I suppose the bottom line for me was that I was disappointed by it.

      Yeah, I think a *picture* about the west fucking over Iran would make for an interesting story. You should get on that.


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