What’s kept Argo’s flame burning brightly

I have a hunch about what’s helped keep Argo’s awards slowly, stubbornly piling up inside Hollywood: Benghazi and its seemingly interminable fallout.

Argo opened one month and a day after that murderous attack. It was a month that reshaped what we knew about the realities of  “diplomacy” when, in the presence of the President and the Secretary of State, the bodies of our Ambassador to Libya and three men who tried to save him were returned to their families and to a largely uncomprehending country.

And as we began to think about what it is that diplomats do, Argo arrived to show us. It was deadly-real and it was Hollywood-real; it had the look of newsreel footage and a grand, bogus bigger-than-life finale, and at its core were six, human, identifiable characters – diplomats all.

At its most deadly serious, Argo was sound for sound, action for action, what happens when an American embassy (consulate, mission) is overrun in a decidedly unfriendly country. Even when Benghazi became political attack fodder, Argo’s resonance of resilience under fire lingered.  Last week, the film got gold-standard corroboration from Hillary Clinton, during her day-long testimony about Benghazi to both houses of Congress, when she said,

“Marine security guards, as you know, are very much a presence on more than 150 of our posts.  . . If you saw the recent movie Argo, you saw the Marines in there destroying classified material when the mob was outside in Tehran.”

Having your movie taken as a point of reference by the Secretary of State  must have given Ben Affleck a not-bad day, although he’s been having a lot of those recently (the Producers Guild Award, back-to-back with the Screen Actors Guild Best Cast win, on top of all those other odd-shaped awards Argo has collected for all its artists along the way.)

But I think that Argo does something well beyond winning awards: it connects us to that soaring, exuberant, embarrassing emotion, patriotism, in the same way that the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir did when they took “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to pure lump-in-your throat, tear-stained national pride at Obama’s Inauguration.  For every one of Argo’s artists, its portrait of American patriots, in Hollywood, Tehran and even Washington D.C. may have come at exactly the right moment.

3 thoughts on “What’s kept Argo’s flame burning brightly

  1. This is an interesting route to figuring out Argo’s remarkable run. My take was more about its connection to Hollywood and the loving way it looks at the filmmaking process with John Goodman and Alan Arkin’s characters. I also think it felt more like a “classic” Hollywood thriller with all the high and low points that get the audience engaged. It’s one of those movies that’s hard not to like, despite some unnecessary suspense at the end. However, I think you make a really good point about its connection to Benghazi that I’d overlooked with its success. It will be interesting to see if its run continues at the Oscars and finishes this surprising move through all the major awards.

  2. Great article, Sheila. I liked ARGO as well. Thanks for pointing out its timeliness. Every once in a while a film is perfectly timed with unforeseen tragic events (CHINA SYNDROME?) that gives the film an added resonance and urgency. I thought Affleck did a very nice job in directing the film. The rather overblown Hollywood finale left a slightly unfortunate taste in my mouth, though I can’t deny being riveted in the moment despite the aftertaste. I also understand why Affleck made the decision to amp up some of the qualities of the film’s climax. It is an artist’s right to offer the “feel” of the tension as opposed to playing it out closer to how it actually happened. That said, I think it could have played out closer to how it happened and have been even more intense in the hands of another director. Affleck made a choice and it is a choice that worked, even if I would have preferred to see another. It lessens for me my over all impression of the film, though there is still much to admire. And given what Hollywood offers us as its regular regiment of recycled garbage disguised as scrumptious spread, ARGO is a downright twelve course meal by comparison.

  3. Pingback: What’s kept 'Argo'’s flame burning brightly - Parallax View | Parallax View

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