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Thursday, January 31, 2013

ARGO fuck yourself

Saw ARGO last night. The setting of the film and its political nature immediately and irresistably led to me comparing it it to Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, and the comparisons were not kind to ARGO.


It may simply be that the entire cast of ATPM was enormously superior to the entire castd of ARGO; we're talking Redford, Hoffman, Robards, Holbrook, Warden, and Balsam vs the likes of Ben Affl...eck and Tate Donovan here, after all. (To be fair, John Goodman and Alan Arkin are fine actors; it's probably no coincidence that they created the only memorable characters in the entire movie.)

Or it may just be that Ben Affleck is an incompetent director. For a movie like ARGO to work, we have to give a shit about the characters, and we just don't... everybody is a cipher except for Affleck's main character (and wasn't he brave, reserving that central role, the heroic young CIA exfiltration expert, for himself; god knows a lesser actor than Ben Affleck could easily have fucked up such a challenging and nuanced part) and, as previously mentioned, the Goodman and Arkin bits.

Goodman and Arkin make their guys work simply because Goodman and Arkin are so charming; Affleck's character rises (to the extent that it does) to maybe two and a half dimensions simply because Affleck reserves all the nifty, heartwarming characterization bits to himself, leaving the six people trapped in Iran to such brilliant characterization displays as desperate gazes while doing the washing up after dinner, and heartfelt, moaning protests of "It won't work, you're just going to get us killed", repeated over and over again when Affleck's character finally shows up to save them.

That these people don't know Affleck's character and don't trust him to save their asses is obvious and sensible; the moment where Affleck's character wins their trust by revealing his real name, rather than his cover identity, to them is pure cornball and completely unconvincing. A better director might have made us believe it by getting better peformances out of his actors; Affleck seems to feel certain we'll buy it because, well, he's Ben Affleck and he's just that fucking awesome.

Whatever the case may be, ARGO didn't convince me or persuade me or pull me into it, and, frankly, the third grade level history lesson regarding the American foreign policy blunders that led to the hostage crisis, and the impact that crisis had on American politics, was just insulting to my intelligence. Over the course of this movie the Presidency actually changes from Jimmy Carter's hands to Ronald Reagan's... but the movie doesn't even mention this. I mean, seriously, an in depth movie about the Iranian hostage crisis, and it doesn't even note when Carter leaves office and Reagan takes over. That's just mind boggling.

Overall, I have little doubt this thing will win Best Picture... we are, after all, the culture that loves Honey Boo Boo and FAMILY FEUD.

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