This writer is probably the only person who didn't like Argo. It was just fine during the viewing. In fact I liked it so much so that I went on line and read all about it. That was mistake. Why ? Because what really happened was more exciting and less contrived than what was shown on the screen . A masterful plan made real by the CIA and Hollywood with helpers like Buckminster Fuller and Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) was ignored. In Argo that collaboration is played for yucks by the ubiquitous John Goodman and Alan Arkin. The latter seems intent on reprising his role in Little Miss Sunshine.
The Canadians who aided us immensely in the escape, by sending embassy staff in and out of the country to ascertain airport security,buying the departure tickets, and even tutoring the Yanks on how to speak Canadian English, are forgotten. The outcry over said prompted the producer's of Argo to post a post script at the film's conclusion stating that the escape was the result on "international cooperation". The movie has the CIA getting cold feet and almost scuttling the project by not providing the departure tickets (which in reality were purchased by the Canadian Embassy). Even the CIA agent who helped mastermind the project and lead it a successful conclusion is compromised. In the film he and is wife are "taking a break from their marriage." In reality on the day of his departure to Tehran the wife drove the agent to the airport.
If you would like, say for the sake of argument, to consider moral ambiguity Argo has none. Fanatics storm the US Embassy and the true story of how half dozen American with a little help from our friends escaped is trampled in a mad dash, cut to the chase.
Zero Dark Thirty has a smidgen of moral ambiguity. In all other respects it suffers in comparison to almost everything else including rather ignominiously a preview of a coming attraction for the movie Emperor. Emperor is set during the United States occupation of Japan after the Second World War. In a matter of minutes the preview tells us that General MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) is not sure what do with the defeated Emperor, connecture is not fact, and revenge is not justice.
Zero Dark Thirty starts with torture scenes that according to some experts provided negligible information in the hunt for Bin Laden. One imagines that these scenes were included because like desert sand they, just part of the landscape. Part of the problems with this film is that you are not (perhaps for reasons of security) privy to very many facts. It is never explained where the CIA lady (Jane Chastain ) who becomes the protagonist comes from. She just drops in as do you.. I think the term is "in medias res." Unless you know a lot you really aren't sure of what is going on. Especially in the early stages. No offense intended . Spywise there is a name for leaving you in the dark. It's called trade craft.
As opposed to beginning of the film the red, white, and blue finish with flying colors. While protagonist is 95% certain the compound in question is actually Ben Ladin's ,the CIA powers that be wait until that certainty is 100% before launching the raid. That's good. As is the efforts of the Navy Seals who attack an armed and locked multi building compound (It's much bigger than what you saw in the newspaper or TV photos). Going building by building blowing off doors with presumed plastic explosives they awaken angry nearby neighbors who make an appearance Eventually the local authorities launch F 15 fighter jets which we probably sold them. By then the Seals have escaped into the night Mission accomplished.
In contrast, The Life of Pi and Les Miserables were most enjoyable and thought provoking,.
You want moral ambiguity ? How about Les Miserables with the X man Wolverine as John Val Jean and Inspector Jabert played with empathy and surprising sensitivity by the normally two
fisted Russel Crowe ?
The Life of Pi offers three religions, and two possible explanations for an unplanned often spiritual journey of life from French India (Goa. annexed by the New Dehli government in the early nineteen sixties) to Montreal. The movie advertisement show a teenage boy and tiger sharing a lifeboat. That is part of the film but don't let that deter you . Pi's family "owned "a zoo in French India. As the father pointedly states their ownership stopped with the the zoo animals and did not include the land the government would annex. That annexation prompted the family's departure by sea with animals in cargo..Story telling is at the heart of the movie.The story of how Pi came to be named , the problems his unusual name caused and what he did about is hilarious and worth the price of admission .As is the extra $2 required for 3D viewing . The movie is narrated matter of fact with a touch of semi zen tossed in.. If one is curious many interesting interpretations abound on the internet
Lincoln is a historically accurate. It is also a very clever movie which works in the Gettysburg Address and the exact language of the 13th amendment and all the fighting that went into it's passage while still being very entertaining.. Curiously Lincoln had a re-occurring dream in which he was on a small boat not unlike Pi 's and was on drifting towards an unknown destination. Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Fields, nee TV's Gidget, and the Flying Nun and a two time Ocsar winner) said Abe always had that dream when he was under stress.
Amour deal with death and morally ambiguous outcomes. It ends with a five word conversation husband a wives often have when going somewhere. Like the Life of PI you can interpret the ending a number of ways. The denouement scene didn't sell this writer but maybe it wasn't for sale. The ending was stunner. I did not however have the desire to go on line and consider various interpretations.
Beast of the of the Southern Wild despite being a low budget Indie has enormous heart and depicts a part of our country which is often underwater.. Both the Oscar nominated actresses of Amour (age 86) and Beasts( age six when the movie was being filmed ) despite much adversity and the shadow of death comment on the beauty of life. It is said that Beasts also cleaned out the community theaters and drama guilds of southern Louisiana to populate it's film and give it a big picture feel.
The Nine Pictures (of which we have so far discussed seven) sort of over lap and in content could be packed together in a nine disk box set to be called "The Big Nine of 2012."
So like the Zen Master says in the end we must go back to the beginning. In the beginning it was really quite simple. People did what they thought was right. There was no consideration of fairness or moral ambiguity because no thought they were doing anything wrong.
King Ben Afflleck's Oscar nomination for Best Director of Argo to another Ben,. Benh Zeitlin for the Beast of the Southern Wild. Hollywood money making interests (not realizing how hard it is to direct amateur (often first time actors) then went nuts over the perceived snub to Mr. Affleck.
Thus the need for good direction became obvious. Tit for Tat, Hollywood may have gone to to the Central Intelligence Agency and asked for help. There aided by a young lady with a code name ( no further explanation provided ) a 95% solution was arrived at.
To rectify the snub to Big Ben Argo would get best picture. Life of Pie would get Best Director, Lincoln would get Best Actor. Silver Lining Playbook would get Best Actress.Amour would get best foreign film. Les Miserables would get Best Supporting Actress and a nice number on the Oscar show. Zero Dark Thirty in a tie with Skyfall would receive the award for sound editing. If that sounds paltry perhaps it is the price one pays for being semi -controversial. Beasts of the Southern Wild would have it's nominations (Picture, Actress, and Director) the latter two for first timers. Djano Unchained would get Best Supporting Actor . Nobody but nobody would brag about how many Oscars they received because nobody would receive very many.
Am I rewriting history ? Perhaps just a little or as Yogi Berra famously said it could be deja vu all over agian.
Hollywood needed a play book. Preferably one with a silver lining. As luck would have it a movie by exact;y that name came long. The film had the de rigueur number of tie ins to other he other nominated pictures. It had the karma of Pi, the passion and sincerity of Lincoln. Silver Lining Playbook provided a cop who makes Inspector Jabert look like the Welcome Wagon, and a hero hampered by restraining orders. at every turn, The movie also spoke French. Well sort of. Our hero goes goes bananas every time the song Mon Cherie Amour is played. It is a wonderful romantic comedy that will warm the hearts and prompt impromptu cheering from those who hate romance and comedies. Silver Lining Playbook is in this writer's opinion, the Best Picture of the year and can boast a proud pedigree. The first to come to mind is Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac but there are other parallels as well.
Silver Lining Playbook is the the first film since 1981 to receive nominations in each of the important categories Thiry years ago then King Warren Beatty's Reds was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Adapted Screen Play.
For the happy ending Silver Lining requires two possible but improbable events to occur on the same day. It is similar to Beatty's other blockbuster hit Heaven Can wait in which an athlete improbably passes on a pass through the pearly gates in order to to compete in the Super Bowl.
Regrettably this writer has yet to see Djano Unchained which is the second (in three years) award winning collaboration of the seemingly unlikely combination of the urbane European Christopher Waltz and the sassy and brassy American Quentin Tarantino who directed Waltz in in both Djano and 2010's Inglorious Bastards. Waltz won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in both films . This year Tarentino won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. In 1994 he won the same award for Pulp Fiction. Neither triumph went unnoticed or unacknowledged by Studio Babelsberg which produced Inglorious Bastards and Roman Polanski's The Piano and Ghostwriter.
Hollywood is still the star but best stay on it's toes because Babelsburg, Bollywood, and some say South Korea with spectacular CGI war movies is waiting in the wings. For more see 1950's Best Picture All about Eve.