Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Argo": The film is a cliffhanger, with goofy "fake" comedy and even fake direction

Well, for one thing, my screenplay probably will require a storyboard as a way of presenting my high concept.  I got that out of the climax of “Argo”.  Near the end, six Americans, who had holed in in the home of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran, convinced the customs guard that the airport by showing a storyboard and convincing the guards that they really were a fake movie crew.  The fake movie, “Argo”, sounded innocent and generic enough a sci-fi story.

Ben Affleck’s new film is notable for the way it mixes Hollywood comedy with genuine, gritty suspense.  The opening of the film, where the US Embassy is attacked by the Ayatollah’s “revolution” is shocking, and it impresses on the viewer that in times of “revolution”, individual people are held personally responsible for their having benefited from the illegitimate (perhaps parasitic) older order.  The Hollywood punchlines that marked the previews start rolling in half way into the movie, after Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck himself) has traveled to Hollywood and proves he can play “bigshot without doing anything” while doing his intelligence work.

Affleck’s character is introduced ambiguously. We see some rather womanish leg, exposed underneath trousers, and we don’t even know if the character is a man until the camera pans to the head of the bed.  Affleck is only 40, and his face looks younger in the movie (hardly any gray in his beard).  And he gets the idea for the fake movie from his son’s watching “Planet of the Apes”.

The Hollywood moguls (players include John Goodman and Alan Arkin) truly make serving their country look funny. The previews, which emphasized these scenes, made the film seem a bit cuter than it really is. 

The film was shot in Turkey, and the background panoramas of Tehran do look a little “fake” themselves, rather like matte paintings.

The final climax, the airliner takeoff, is written as a typical Hollywood cliffhanger.  And the film gives one an idea of just how politicized the jobs were in Hollywood at the time (still are); the presence of a “screenwriter” on the crew helps give the fake movie credibility.

Interesting, too, is how the six captives have to memorize and master other people’s (Hollywood) resumes.

The official site (Warner Brothers and GK) is here

I also recall the rescue of two EDS employees by EDS private commandoes in 1979 when I was living in Dallas.  The EDS property on Forest Lane carried a count of the days the hostages had been held.  The Follett book “On Wings of Eagles” became a TV miniseries in 1983. 

I also remember the morning in April 1980 when President Carter announced the failure of his “Operation Eagle Claw”.

It has always seemed odd that the Ayatollah hated Carter so much that he let the hostages go as Reagan took office in 1981.  

I saw "Argo" at the Regal in Arlington VA, large auditorium, fairly full house, late Sunday afternoon. Apparently there are plenty of non-football fans around Ballston, as the Redskins were winning at the same time.  

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