Argo reviews

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:57 am

Uri wrote:Sorry Marco, but I’m on Sabin's side here. First, I must admit I’ve always been a fan of Affleck, so I may be biased. And I was aware of what you guys said about this film when I saw it yesterday. The fact that it’s a tribute to Carter was very obvious to me. But while I thoroughly enjoyed it, at first I felt the scope of it was too limited. As said in a piece of criticism I read in the paper here right after I saw it, it looks like a missed opportunity to say something about the American historical way of handling itself in the world. But as it usually the case, I needed to sleep on it.

Yes, it’s a very American piece. Yes it’s patriotic. Actually, it’s a remark about what constitute as American patriotism. And it’s being an homage to Carter is not only about him being the one green lighting this operation at the end but in the fact that Argo at heart is about celebrating moderation, lacking of bravado when needed, and putting the interest of one’s country ahead of one’s self promoting. There’s a respect for these six people who are the ones who escape, who smartly managed to avoid confronting the Iranians, and the film embrace them. And the hesitations they demonstrate about the rescue operation are viewed as respectably legitimate. It celebrates the quite heroism of the Canadian (Canadian!) diplomat and his wife as well the extreme bravery of the Iranian woman who work for them (and the price she had to pay for it). And above all, its comment about the patriotic power of cinema is as much Cateresqe as the Rambo ones’ were Reganesge. You can try and re-write history with your silly, pompously self important Alfa male action blockbusters, but it was the one film that was never made that actually saved the day. Self-depreciation should never be underappreciated, if you ask me.

As for the politics of Argo. For me it was very clear – Affleck clearly stated that on the Americans vs. Iranians issue, it’s the later who’re right. And I found the way the Iranian crowds and individuals are depicted to be quite objectively done. It says volumes about us that we’re conditioned to see them not only as threatening, which in the context of the film (and history), for the Americans, they indeed were, but also as demonian and evil, which I for once didn’t find they were depicted as. Throughout the film, Affleck choose to bring the Iranian side in the shape and voice of a seemingly reasonable, pleasant, soft spoken young woman. The Iranian officials are doing their jobs and not looked at as buffoons as often is the case in Hollywood films and I think that the part about the shreds of papers being salvaged but the children was almost depicted as heroic. For a mainstream American film, I found the tone used towards “the enemy” to be rather soberly fair.

As for the flags. Surprisingly, this overbearing presence of them, in real life as well as in its cinematic representation, is not even part of MY national iconography, but it is essential to the way Americans define their own, so in a film which is about what constitute American heroism and patriotism, there must be a flag waving, but again, I found the almost The Searchers-like framing of the flag by the door at the end to be both the “real” thing and a (non cynical) comment about it, which was fine with me.



No Uri, there mustn't be a flag waving. It's terrible and terribly superficial. Ok, you say that it's not a problem of the movie itself, but of the way Americans define their "heroism and patriotism" - but it's still a problem, one that I will always fight against, and especially from a would-be intelligent director one would expect a different, and more critical (it's possible to be critical, you know) approach to this kind of subject (as far as iconography goes, I prefer the way the American flag was used in In the Valley of Elah. Icons can be destroyed, even).

And are you sure that we really need ANOTHER movie about American "heroism and patriotism"? I personally don't. I've seen enough. I don't think we should be grateful to Americans when they make something admittedly a bit less stupid than Rambo on these issues - I want them to be like us, because it IS possible to be self-critical, especially today. I'll never treat Americans as inferiors who can't escape certain cliches - I'm sure that they can do it, and they sometimes did by the way. Even Leni Riefenstahl's movies (which are much better than Argo, of course) can be seen as intelligent studies of the Nazi regime's "heroism and patriotism" - so what? I still hate their messages.

And no, Uri, sorry... Not from you. Not you. I expected anyone else here to point out that there's the good little Iranian servant in the movie. But not you. I know that there are good Iranians in this movie, just like there are good Thais in The Impossible, but... ok, I won't insist. You know what I mean, I'm sure. :)

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby criddic3 » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:44 pm

Sabin wrote:
criddic3 wrote
Hmm. I'll have to watch it again to follow that bit a little more closely, because I recall them talking about how the administration was worried about looking bad if the mission failed. While I've heard a number of stories about Carter's scheming through the years, I know that he and his administration were/are not seen as having handled the Iran Hostage situation well. The best thing Carter did was the peace talks he held during his time in office, and helping to build houses after he left office. If Carter gave the green-light at the last minute, it was a reversal. I seem to vaguely remember sighs of relief before the end of the movie, but I should see it again. Funny how you don't remember certain details a couple of months later. I know I liked the film for other reasons, and I know that sometimes presidents do little things they never get credit for even amid the mistakes or bad times. So I'll have to consider this is Affleck's way of being even-handed and fair-minded.

Do you ever stop?


What? All i said was I need to watch the movie a second time to recollect how Carter is portrayed in the film. If he gave the go-ahead then that's a good thing, but I seemed to recall much hesitation to do so. They gave the OK and then at one point they pulled the plug on the project, which leads to a section of the film where there is a lot of scrambling to make sure the crew gets through. (For those who haven't seen the movie, I hope I'm not giving too much away). I was just trying to sort out my confusion from reading the conversation below about what light the Carter administration is viewed in. I want to be as fair as I can to a not-very-popular ex-president. I'm sure you'd do the same for, say, President George W. Bush. Anyway, the movie doesn't dwell on it, as I recall, but it does come up.
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:16 pm

criddic3 wrote
Hmm. I'll have to watch it again to follow that bit a little more closely, because I recall them talking about how the administration was worried about looking bad if the mission failed. While I've heard a number of stories about Carter's scheming through the years, I know that he and his administration were/are not seen as having handled the Iran Hostage situation well. The best thing Carter did was the peace talks he held during his time in office, and helping to build houses after he left office. If Carter gave the green-light at the last minute, it was a reversal. I seem to vaguely remember sighs of relief before the end of the movie, but I should see it again. Funny how you don't remember certain details a couple of months later. I know I liked the film for other reasons, and I know that sometimes presidents do little things they never get credit for even amid the mistakes or bad times. So I'll have to consider this is Affleck's way of being even-handed and fair-minded.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby criddic3 » Sat Jan 05, 2013 2:56 pm

Sabin wrote:Carter gives the final go ahead. The administration may disconnect it but it's presented as red tape, etc. Administration vs. Carter himself.


Hmm. I'll have to watch it again to follow that bit a little more closely, because I recall them talking about how the administration was worried about looking bad if the mission failed. While I've heard a number of stories about Carter's scheming through the years, I know that he and his administration were/are not seen as having handled the Iran Hostage situation well. The best thing Carter did was the peace talks he held during his time in office, and helping to build houses after he left office. If Carter gave the green-light at the last minute, it was a reversal. I seem to vaguely remember sighs of relief before the end of the movie, but I should see it again. Funny how you don't remember certain details a couple of months later. I know I liked the film for other reasons, and I know that sometimes presidents do little things they never get credit for even amid the mistakes or bad times. So I'll have to consider this is Affleck's way of being even-handed and fair-minded.
"If you can't stand the nut on the left and you can't stand the nut on the right, go for the Johnson,” Jonathan S. Bush (10/21/2016)

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby Sabin » Sat Jan 05, 2013 2:36 pm

Carter gives the final go ahead. The administration may disconnect it but it's presented as red tape, etc. Administration vs. Carter himself.
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby criddic3 » Sat Jan 05, 2013 2:16 pm

I think the film is very critical of the Carter Administration. The program is cut off by the administration at one point, and one character defies that order to save the crew. Maybe I misinterpreted the actions I was seeing (I've been known to do that from time to time). I know I saw the movie a while ago, but this is how I remember it unfolding. Am I wrong about this?
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby Uri » Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:40 am

Sorry Marco, but I’m on Sabin's side here. First, I must admit I’ve always been a fan of Affleck, so I may be biased. And I was aware of what you guys said about this film when I saw it yesterday. The fact that it’s a tribute to Carter was very obvious to me. But while I thoroughly enjoyed it, at first I felt the scope of it was too limited. As said in a piece of criticism I read in the paper here right after I saw it, it looks like a missed opportunity to say something about the American historical way of handling itself in the world. But as it usually the case, I needed to sleep on it.

Yes, it’s a very American piece. Yes it’s patriotic. Actually, it’s a remark about what constitute as American patriotism. And it’s being an homage to Carter is not only about him being the one green lighting this operation at the end but in the fact that Argo at heart is about celebrating moderation, lacking of bravado when needed, and putting the interest of one’s country ahead of one’s self promoting. There’s a respect for these six people who are the ones who escape, who smartly managed to avoid confronting the Iranians, and the film embrace them. And the hesitations they demonstrate about the rescue operation are viewed as respectably legitimate. It celebrates the quite heroism of the Canadian (Canadian!) diplomat and his wife as well the extreme bravery of the Iranian woman who work for them (and the price she had to pay for it). And above all, its comment about the patriotic power of cinema is as much Cateresqe as the Rambo ones’ were Reganesge. You can try and re-write history with your silly, pompously self important Alfa male action blockbusters, but it was the one film that was never made that actually saved the day. Self-depreciation should never be underappreciated, if you ask me.

As for the politics of Argo. For me it was very clear – Affleck clearly stated that on the Americans vs. Iranians issue, it’s the later who’re right. And I found the way the Iranian crowds and individuals are depicted to be quite objectively done. It says volumes about us that we’re conditioned to see them not only as threatening, which in the context of the film (and history), for the Americans, they indeed were, but also as demonian and evil, which I for once didn’t find they were depicted as. Throughout the film, Affleck choose to bring the Iranian side in the shape and voice of a seemingly reasonable, pleasant, soft spoken young woman. The Iranian officials are doing their jobs and not looked at as buffoons as often is the case in Hollywood films and I think that the part about the shreds of papers being salvaged but the children was almost depicted as heroic. For a mainstream American film, I found the tone used towards “the enemy” to be rather soberly fair.

As for the flags. Surprisingly, this overbearing presence of them, in real life as well as in its cinematic representation, is not even part of MY national iconography, but it is essential to the way Americans define their own, so in a film which is about what constitute American heroism and patriotism, there must be a flag waving, but again, I found the almost The Searchers-like framing of the flag by the door at the end to be both the “real” thing and a (non cynical) comment about it, which was fine with me.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:25 pm

Oscar Guy wrote
While you can say that success in America is hinged on the popularity of patriotic films, of the highest grossing films of the last three years, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, and Transformers are the only ones that are remotely patriotic. But look at the huge success of The Hunger Games, an examination of the dystopian future that awaits America with its current political and social policies in place. You also have The Dark Knight Rises, which examines political corruption reminiscent of the 1%'s attack on the 99%, two Harry Potter films, two crappy Twilight films, Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland and Inception. I'd say per capita, our flagwaving patriotic films aren't as commonly popular as you might want to believe.

I think there's truth in this but look at the Spider-Man movies for example. They all feature an obligatory "flag" shot. Movie for movie, I think you're right, but the machine that churns them out? Your Bruckheimers, for example? Almost always fit a glorification into every contemporary live-action film. I would also argue that The Dark Knight Rises does not examine political corruption, it just looks like it does. I would argue that Nolan fetishizes the 1% hero in a world gone awry that only he can fix, that Batman is the lever that can move the world. I absolutely believe that the studios are a propaganda machine that only becomes self-critical when the machine breaks down like in the 1970s.
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:25 pm

OscarGuy wrote:Movies reflect cultural ideals, they don't determine them. You cite the flagwaving in American movies. This is a byproduct of a government that encourages such things. Pride in one's country is at the center of our nation. It's been that way almost since the year we were founded. But Europe has also been around significantly longer than the U.S. They have had a chance to mature. I'm not defending our country in this respect. I'm not the flag-waving patriot by any stretch of the imagination, but I still defend the nation. But what are the biggest films of all time? The highest ranked film on the list that could be considered a "flag waver" is Forrest Gump at #24. After that, it's this year's The Avengers at 27.

While you can say that success in America is hinged on the popularity of patriotic films, of the highest grossing films of the last three years, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, and Transformers are the only ones that are remotely patriotic. But look at the huge success of The Hunger Games, an examination of the dystopian future that awaits America with its current political and social policies in place. You also have The Dark Knight Rises, which examines political corruption reminiscent of the 1%'s attack on the 99%, two Harry Potter films, two crappy Twilight films, Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland and Inception. I'd say per capita, our flagwaving patriotic films aren't as commonly popular as you might want to believe.



True. And there was a time, a few decades ago, when American movies could be very critical - and bitingly so - of American society. It' s not like Americans can't be self-critical - it's just that American movies today tend to be, even when not obviously patriotic, too soft. But of course cinema has changed, and not only in the US.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:57 am

Movies reflect cultural ideals, they don't determine them. You cite the flagwaving in American movies. This is a byproduct of a government that encourages such things. Pride in one's country is at the center of our nation. It's been that way almost since the year we were founded. But Europe has also been around significantly longer than the U.S. They have had a chance to mature. I'm not defending our country in this respect. I'm not the flag-waving patriot by any stretch of the imagination, but I still defend the nation. But what are the biggest films of all time? The highest ranked film on the list that could be considered a "flag waver" is Forrest Gump at #24. After that, it's this year's The Avengers at 27.

While you can say that success in America is hinged on the popularity of patriotic films, of the highest grossing films of the last three years, The Avengers, Iron Man 2, and Transformers are the only ones that are remotely patriotic. But look at the huge success of The Hunger Games, an examination of the dystopian future that awaits America with its current political and social policies in place. You also have The Dark Knight Rises, which examines political corruption reminiscent of the 1%'s attack on the 99%, two Harry Potter films, two crappy Twilight films, Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland and Inception. I'd say per capita, our flagwaving patriotic films aren't as commonly popular as you might want to believe.
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:21 am

mlrg wrote:
Probably that’s the problem with us Europeans. We have been thrown inside this European Union thing and trying to deeply hide our own mistakes during the 20th century (WWI and II, leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, communism, etc…)


I dont think we hide our past mistakes - quite the opposite, actually.

It's probably true that we should be a bit prouder of ourselves... but then when I see (certain) American movies I realize that self-criticism is still better, sorry!

And also, honestly... when I see a country, any country, which keeps celebrating itself, showing its muscles, waving its flags... I feels that it's actually very, very weak inside - socially and culturally weak, and in desperate search of an identity. We don't need that thank God.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby mlrg » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:11 am

This would lead us to a whole different conversation, but, being and European, I really don’t see anything wrong with all the American flags. I’ve been to the US a couple of the times and I’m not bothered at all. I was in New York last May for a week and what really bothered me was the constant message “If you see something, say something” all over the place.

Probably that’s the problem with us Europeans. We have been thrown inside this European Union thing and trying to deeply hide our own mistakes during the 20th century (WWI and II, leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, communism, etc…), that we forget to truly celebrate our identities as free countries (or for that matter, looking at what’s going on in Europe these days, our WISH to be free countries) and the centuries of great history. We take too much time looking into the past on a negative way, and in the end, we like that. And if we see someone else doing it, specially Americans, we feel cynical about that.

Just take this example: last week it premiered in Portugal the biggest and most expensive biopic ever put together by the Portuguese film industry. It’s a movie about Aristides Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese who was working in the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France, during WWII and saved more than 30.000 persons, of which 10.000 were jews, by granting them visas to escape the germans. This is three times what Oskar Schindler did. Do you know what happened this weekend? The movie bombed at the box office and apparently no one cares about the film…. We just don’t care (and don’t know how to market it) about success stories, unless they are American.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:00 am

Sabin wrote: I saw Jimmy Carter's struggle throughout this film.


Then I can only think that this part was cut in the Italian copy of the movie.

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Re: Argo reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:53 am

Italiano wrote
I'm not exactly dismissing it. That may be, at least partly, Ben Affleck's intention, and it's true that President Carter is mentioned two or three times in the movie... but the focus, as Oscar Guy points out, isn't there. And by the way, would it be that bad that an American president is considered a failure? Do they all have to be great? Each country has its failures and people who were responsible for these failures. So what?...I repeat: all this probably isn't exactly intentional - but it's still there, and a movie is often more relevant for what it implies than for what it explicitly wants to say. I personally feel that this approach to foreign cultures, so typical of American, and sadly not only American but especially American, movies is a big mistake and that mutual understanding would be better, but it's just my humble opinion. If you prefer to see it as a movie about Jummy Carter, you have every right to do so.

When you say you're not exactly dismissing my point, I understand you. But what you're saying/doing is advocating an entirely different film. What is Argo?

"When hostages escape to the Canadian embassy, the CIA acts as though a science fiction film is being made in Iran as a guise to get them out."

That's the film. Everything else good or bad pivots around this Niteline episode/logline. And I'm sorry, but Jimmy Carter and his administration are mentioned more than you're giving credit. If OscarGuy is saying the focus on Carter-specific policies aren't there, I'm saying they are.

I really don't know what to say about whether or not it would be so bad if a President were to be recognized as a failure. We have a lot of failures in our history that I doubt anybody would think twice to defend: your James Buchanans, your Franklin Pierces, your Warren Hardings. Even a few well-regarded Presidents like James Polk and Andrew Jackson has a legion condemning them among our worst while others champion their visions. America is a country that is too quick too condemn and also to lionize. Is it the end of days to admit that an administration ultimately failed? Sure, but if there is a triumph deserving of credit, why not dramatize it? That's what Argo is before anything else. Again: I'm sorry, but I don't understand how it's capable of being anything other than a vindication of an administration first and everything else second. The fact that you saw Jimmy Carter's presence in the film two or three times is testament to this. I saw Jimmy Carter's struggle throughout this film.
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Re: Argo reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:27 am

Sabin wrote:You're dismissing my argument



I'm not exactly dismissing it. That may be, at least partly, Ben Affleck's intention, and it's true that President Carter is mentioned two or three times in the movie... but the focus, as Oscar Guy points out, isn't there. And by the way, would it be that bad that an American president is considered a failure? Do they all have to be great? Each country has its failures and people who were responsible for these failures. So what?

But I mean, while it's certainly true that the movie at least provides a fair historical background to the events, and it's much more subtle than, say, a Sylvester Stallone film would be... we'd be naive to think that a movie about tensions between the US and a Muslim country - Iran, especially! - isn't connected even remorely with today's issues, and that today's audience will get the Jimmy Carter references and ignore these connections. It may even be unintentional - Ben Affleck may be, by American standards, the most open-minded and pro-Muslim person ever - but movies aren't only about (good or bad) intentoons, they are the product - and sometimes unfortunately the cause - of a cultural and social background that even the most intelligent filmmaker is often influenced by. And honestly, intentional or not, all the cliches about good Americans vs bad "Arabs" are here, including that old trick of mixing the voice of the muezzin with images of irrational violence or torture (this dates back to Midnight Express). And then - again - all those American flags... ok, for you it's normal, I know - American movies are full of American flags, but... I don't know if you have ever noticed... there are never European flags in European movies. It must mean something.

I repeat: all this probably isn't exactly intentional - but it's still there, and a movie is often more relevant for what it implies than for what it explicitly wants to say. I personally feel that this approach to foreign cultures, so typical of American, and sadly not only American but especially American, movies is a big mistake and that mutual understanding would be better, but it's just my humble opinion. If you prefer to see it as a movie about Jummy Carter, you have every right to do so.


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