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 recent 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]]
Argo 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 enjoyable, 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.