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.