Share

The Case for: Argo

I’m not going to talk about whether Argo will or won’t. I’m only going to talk about how good it is and what a successful film it’s been this year.

We’re used to Oscar years where most of the movies aren’t all that. Occasionally there will be an overwhelming array of greatness, as there was, to my mind, in 2010 with The Social Network, Black Swan and Inception, to name just three. But no one probably counted so many great films crowding into the race as they have this year. Beast of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom were two early favorites that might have had a better edge if this year hadn’t delivered so many good eggs. It’s easy, then, to have forgotten about Ben Affleck’s Argo. Many now believe that Kathryn Bigelow’s just delivered the Argo killer in Zero Dark Thirty, which is a much more serious look at a more recent, still white hot time in our history. Both films are so crushingly good it’s beyond comprehension that they would join a year that also delivered Lincoln, Amour, The Dark Knight Rises, and Life of Pi – even the so-so movies are better than they usually are, like Cloud Atlas. Many also believe that Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook are exceptional works by vital directors. Still, there is still a case to be made for Argo.

One of the best screenplays by a long, long way is Chris Terrio’s walnut-tight script with zingers throughout, alternating between funny, suspenseful and moving all at once. But coming off of two movies that were underrated, I think, Affleck has hit it out of the park with the crowdpleasing Argo. Admittedly, it was easier to praise it without the other late-breaking films stealing attention but once the smoke clears Argo will be well remembered.

Why is it good? Its funny. But more than that, it has you on the edge of your seat during the hostage break. Zero Dark Thirty, of course, has the Bin Laden raid which is so heavy and hard core you can’t come up for air. But Affleck wasn’t going for heavy this time (as he already went there with Gone Baby Gone) – he was just trying to make a good fucking movie and he managed to do just that.

Only two films, believe it or not have passed through the critics and the box office with flying colors, three if you add Silver Linings which had a pretty good weekend. Argo has

From Boxofficemojo:

Date
(click to view chart)
Rank Weekend
Gross
%
Change
Theaters Change / Avg. Gross-to-Date Week
#
Oct 12–14 2 $19,458,109 - 3,232 - $6,020 $19,458,109 1
Oct 19–21 2 $16,445,475 -15.5% 3,247 +15 $5,065 $43,011,964 2
Oct 26–28 1 $12,085,059 -26.5% 2,855 -392 $4,233 $60,510,347 3
Nov 2–4 3 $10,209,103 -15.5% 2,774 -81 $3,680 $75,860,240 4
Nov 9–11 4 $6,617,229 -35.2% 2,763 -11 $2,395 $85,583,187 5
Nov 16–18 6 $4,046,366 -38.9% 2,210 -553 $1,831 $91,998,846 6
Nov 23–25 10 $3,875,000
(Estimate)
-4.2% 1,255 -955 $3,088 $98,114,000
(Estimate)
7
That’s almost $100 million in just seven weeks.  The only other movie that has been doing as well at the box office is Lincoln, which has blown the lid off the joint.  
What does that make Argo? A good fucking movie. It will be Affleck’s second $100 million dollar baby. Because it came out earlier its sexiness has faded somewhat. Affleck may not be the current flavor of the month. But when you get down to it, his film will enter the race as one of the least divisive, right alongside Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln.  Those three are your general audience crowdpleasers.
Will it or won’t it? That means, earn enough number one votes to get it on the Best Picture ballot? We know that you need a certain number to make it to the second round. There is some sort of math that says it needs 5% of the vote to get in. Given the box office for it, and the critics reviews, and the large cast – I think there’s a good chance that, yes, it will be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing off the bat. But possibly Sound and Sound Editing. I think it will win Editing.
So here’s to hoping voters remember one of the Ms. Rights in a season of Miss Right Nows.

40 Comments on this Post

  1. I am very confused this year! Past years I’ve had either one or two or three favorites to win, this year I am torn between Argo, The Master, Silver lining’s play book, The Dark Knight Rises and Moonrise Kingdom. And I haven’t even seen Lincoln, Les Miserables, Django unchained and The Hobbit yet! Ugh what to do, what to do!

  2. Jack Traven II

    I couldn’t agree more. As of now I would say that it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in years. At the end of the film I was hardly able to sit still. It was so terrifically gripping. And it was so wonderfully balanced, regarding the humour and the drama. I hope that Ben Affleck and all who worked on the film get the recognition they deserve.

  3. Argo will win editing easily. It will either be that or Lincoln for adapted screenplay. Affleck is a strong choice for director. Best picture? Tough call with so many good films this year

  4. rufussondheim

    I would be thrilled with Argo winning except it played a little too fast and loose with the facts. There were time zone issues towards the climax and way too many close calls. (Like the one where the Hollywood people almost missed the call from Iran.) The movie didn’t need that stuff, I thought it was tense and exciting throughout.

    Two things that especially stand out. First, the opening sequence of the takeover of the embassy was extremely effective. The shots of the Americans slowly accepting the inevitable were spot-on. This ranks, in my opinion, as one of the best opening sequences in film.

    Secondly, I think Ben Affleck’s performance is masterful. He’s not showy at all, and nor can he be. In order for him to be a successful CIA agent he needs to keep his emotions in check. And you can see Affleck fighting the natural tendency to get excited in many of these scenes. But the final scene when he comes home and he needs to do the same thing with his wife and child, because he can’t be truthful with them, is utterly heartbreaking. This is a great performance in an almost great film.

  5. Argo was an okay film, but never goes beyond easy hollywood jokes and a decently crafted story for me. Sloppy editing, and the kind of narrative we have seen a million times before. Like, nothing new at all. The “emotional” parts is very thin and shoehorned in, to say the least. And it had THE worst ending of any film released in 2012. Any film.

  6. So I’m guessing James didn’t like “Argo.”

  7. Robert A.

    I also liked Argo quite a bit. One of the big selling points for me was how suspenseful I found it. I’m a sucker for suspense, and I don’t think I’d felt that tense and wound-up in a movie since The Hurt Locker. (Comic book and superhero suspense just doesn’t do it for me, although I realize this is my own personal bias.)

    I feel confident that Argo is going to get nominations for BP, director, screenplay, editing, and probably supporting actor and maybe a couple other categories as well. Still, as others have pointed out in different AD threads, Argo seems to have dropped down in the pack (somewhat) as the likely BP winner. Both Lincoln and Les Mis seem to have surpassed it buzz-wise. If Argo wins one or two of the high-profile crit BP awards, that might help revive its chances a bit (although I’m not sure if that alone would be enough–the guilds would have to follow suit). Argo could also benefit, I suppose, if there’s some brutal battle for BP between Lincoln and Les Mis, and those two movies somewhat evenly divide the vast AMPAS Old Guard vote that leans toward historical/period costumes/noble/epic, leaving room for a more contemporary/Young Turk/New Guard entry like Argo to sprint up the middle and win.

    Do I think that will happen? Probably not. Hell, I don’t even exactly believe in my own Old Guard/New Guard rhetoric. But it’s kind of fun for me to think about these things, so I’m indulging myself and subjecting AD to my whimsy.

  8. Agreed! There are so many great movies this year! This has been my favorite year in the movies.

    Hunger Games and Avengers included on that list.

    I mean Gandalf is Back and so is James Bond!

    I’m convinced right now that Lincoln is sure to win Best Picture, but who knows what will happen. I think it is still too early to call.

  9. Argo was my favorite to win BP until I saw Lincoln…

    Still anything is possible including Argo winning BP, but for now Lincoln seems to be the winner (at least in my heart!).

    If anything, and if they decide to have a split, I think Argo is closer to winning BD than BP.

    And i think we learned a long time ago that a movie doesnt need to be a perfect movie to win BP. So even with its faults, Argo is still a strong contender.

  10. I agree “Argo” is the least divisive (I don’t agree that “SLP” and “Lincoln” aren’t divisive — each has its own ardent opposition). Almost everyone would range from “indifference” to “utter elation” at an “Argo” win. Very few would be “upset” or “enraged”. Unfortunately, the Academy doesn’t care what pundits or fans think. 2010 proved they only care what critics think to a certain extent. They have their own reasons for doing things that seem to defy traditional logic. If not for that feature of the Academy, I think it would be say to say that “Argo” is the middle ground everyone would be inclined to agree upon. I’m a “Lincoln” backer (who admittedly needs to see about 6 other contenders still) and I wouldn’t mind “Argo” winning most of the awards for which we believe it merits consideration.

  11. EW.COM has 5 movies at number 1 spot:)

    And Sasha, you are cited in this article!

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/26/zero-dark-thirty-les-miserables-oscar-race/2/

  12. ARGO is overrated. The most mediocre film of Ben Affleck’s filmography as a director.

    THE TOWN was so much better. He should be nominated for that film instead.

  13. I like Ben Affleck, he makes fine films, but he has the worst endings. Lord have mercy, I can’t even imagine someone defending those with a straight face.

    And do every American love a shot of their flag blowing in the wind as a closer? Looks like there will be more patriotism-porn with Zero Dark Thirty as well. For the rest of the world its getting a bit cheesy.

    I loved The Master, Beasts, TDKR (with a lovely ripped american flag), Moonrise and some other American films this year, but Argo was a letdown for me.

  14. Jack Traven II

    Despite its class Argo might not win a thing at the Oscars. I don’t know why. Maybe because I still think that Lincoln will win big. No, not just big, but BIG. But in contrast to his previous film the Academy will finally reward Affleck’s ambition and talent and at least nominate it in several categories (maybe up to 9, including BP and BD).

    PS: It’s interesting to see all of the possible top-contenders being divisive here. Some more, some less.

  15. Ivan, I am on the same page with you, I think the Town is actually my favorite Affleck’s film. I don’t think Argo is overrated though because technically I think it is Affleck’s most mature film yet. Going to see Lincoln tomorrow and Holy Motors on Wednesday:) Maybe I can squeeze in Life of Pi haha…

  16. I agree with Ivan.

    I also think that LINCOLN, ARGO, and ZERO DARK THIRTY will fight for the same votes. I can see two getting in, but three? Hmmm…. I don’t know. I insist that Affleck must go on Letterman. Mainly because I always wanted him to and he never has. :P But if he gets some award or something, especially in New York, I think it would be a good idea to show up to remind everyone about it and how much they like him. Besides if he doesn’t, it’ll seem like Dave was right about him having Low T. ;)

    I also think that LIFE OF PI will remove any glimmer of a chance CLOUD ATLAS had. Same people again, except me. I loved CLOUD ATLAS and was meh on LIFE OF PI.

    I think I need to go over the voting rules again. Cripes. *sigh*

    EW.COM has 5 movies at number 1 spot:)

    That’s wimpy.

  17. Jack Traven II

    Anyways. I really like the divisiveness. ‘Cause the more people dislike a film I like, admire or even love the more I stick to it. The Majestic, for example. I think it’s one of the most criticized films. And yet it’s one of my favorite films. I don’t even dare to ask what you, loyal AD readers, thought about it back then. But whatever those answers might be, they wouldn’t change a thing.

  18. It seems every year there is always some film that is good but overpraised, and this year I’d have to say Argo is that movie for me. I like the movie and thought it was well done and suspenseful, but I think people have gotten a little carried away in their enthusiasm for it. I still think The Town is his best movie, but that’s just me. The audience I saw Argo with clearly loved it and were cheering and clapping throughout the film and especially when the credits started rolling.

    Lincoln was a similar theatrical experience, and it happens to be one of the few movies this year that I have found to live up to its hype. It’s probably Spielberg’s best movie in over ten years, possibly even since the 1990s. I’m looking forward to seeing Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables, even though the musical genre is not my favorite. Hopefully they’re both as good as the early buzz indicates.

  19. moviewatcher

    “it’s beyond comprehension that they would join a year that also delivered Lincoln, Amour, The Dark Knight Rises, and Life of Pi – even the so-so movies are better than they usually are, like Cloud Atlas.”

    Was completely thrown-off by this one… I thought you loved Cloud Atlas?!

    If I had my way, The Master would win Best Picture. But I haven’t seen quite a lot of the films that have just been released (i.e. Lincoln, SLP, Life of Pi). However, I have seen Cloud Atlas, Amour and Holy Motors.

  20. I enjoyed Argo, but I think it is too bland and formulaic to win Best Picture, especially when you know they’re going to get out alive. There was no price, no sacrifice to get to the happy ending, so to me it wasn’t an amazing film. People will forget about it in a few years, I don’t see it as a film with a lot of longevity.

    I thought The Master was the most overrated film. And the sad thing is, it had such great subject matter to work with, the story had such potential, but the screenwriter totally missed the mark. Campy as it was, “Nip/Tuck”‘s Scientology storyline was Citizen Kane compared to PTA’s script.

  21. Jesse Crall

    “But no one probably counted so many great films crowding into the race as they have this year.”

    I know Sasha’s been remarking on Lincoln as a far and away piece of greatness* but I see 2012 as featuring a good dozen movies that are all deserving for many different reasons. Nothing has quite stood out in my mind, which is fine because the field is so deep.

    *At least until she saw ZD30.

  22. I love Argo so much I don’t think anything can top it. I still have to see Lincoln, les mis, life of pi, zero dark 30, etc.

  23. I get to see Amour tomorrow, Zero Dark Thirty on Wednesday and The Hobbit on Sunday. Very excited and I totally agree that this year has been an embarrassment of riches; the best since 2007 I’d say.

    Beasts Of The Southern Wild is still my fave, and a close second is Holy Motors which mind-blowingly doesn’t have a chance. Denis Lavant should be nominated for Best Actor.

  24. The Town did not gross $100 million at the US Box Office(it was close though). Argo will be Affleck’s first film to do that.

  25. Flight is also doing well at the box office at around $75 Million. Impressive for a film about an alcoholic. I’m still a fan of Argo but I have always believed it will be this year’s Up In The Air. It won’t go all the way. Ben Affleck though deserves a BD prize for his exceptional craft work. Editing is another category which it deserves to win. Everything else will be split by Les Mis, Lincoln, Life of Pi, SLP.

  26. I thought Argo was good, not great…and this year has been great with The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, SLP, Les Mis, Beasts, Pi and Flight. It’s gonna be a tough tough battle to crack the top 5 or 6 or 7 for best Picture. For now, I do think it’ll probably be TDKR, Lincoln, Flight, SLP, Les Mis and maybe one more.

  27. unlikely hood

    Only two films, believe it or not have passed through the critics and the box office with flying colors, three if you add Silver Linings which had a pretty good weekend.

    Life of Pi way over-performed this weekend. It’ll be there soon.

    Many now believe that Kathryn Bigelow’s just delivered the Argo killer in Zero Dark Thirty, which is a much more serious look at a more recent, still white hot time in our history.

    Many believe something worse – that Argo and Zero Dark Thirty will cancel each other out, at least awards-wise. Nominations? Truckloads. Wins? None likely, at least as of this writing.

  28. I’ve seen Argo (and Cloud Atlas) twice this weekend, and I LOVED both. The reason why I don’t think Argo could win, is simple : it doesn’t feature one outstanding performance. That’s not a complaint, the film would have been ruined if they tried to force some flashy Oscar-scenes into it, it worked so perfectly because Affleck, the director was well aware that this time the actors have to serve the story and not the other way around. Sure, Arkin was great and his script-buying-scene is one of my favorite’s this year, but I don’t think he could/should make the cut, not when A-listers like Tommy Lee Jones, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Russel Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ewan McGregor, Matthew McConaughey, Javier Bardem, Jude Law are playing flashy parts with considerably more screentime, not to mention the two relative newcomers, Eddie Redmayne and Ezra Miller who have been gaining buzz in recent days/months.

    P.S. Sasha, can we expect a favorite scenes/lines of 2012 piece ? Because ‘Argo, fuck yourself!’ is probably one that will end up on ‘Best Movie Quotes’ lists in the future. Hopefully “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” is heading for the same. Any memorable lines from Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln ?

  29. Bob Burns

    I admire tArgo and have no problem with any acclaim or awards it receives, but I don’t think it will win any gold…. the acting is so realistic, it feels thin. Appropriate for the story, but they don’t give out a “most appropriate” statue.

    The wonderfully hammy Lincoln beats it.

  30. Because it will be the same voters, one would be safe to assume that, by using the past two years as an indicator – and I say this holding my nose – “simple, emotional and likeable” will win the day at the Oscars.

    Complicated structure, controversial characters, and anything requiring a wee bit of bit of brain power might get a nomination, but can safely be eliminated from the winners circle. Unlike the critics (and most of us here) the current crop of AMPAS voters like to be led, unchallenged, to a comfortable and satisfying conclusion.

    They also love surprises where an actor shows competency in another skill, such as singing, dancing or directing. They have a natural disdain for too much box office success when it comes to BP and nearly always – always – measure an actor’s likeability in the role over skill as the primary factor when ticking the box.

    Applying those observations:

    The Artist and The King’s Speech were competent projects but were as challenging as a game of Simon Says. That environment is the perfect setup for Les Mis.

    Jean Dujardins takes the Oscar while Fassbender doesn’t even get an acknowledgement. Jackman will seriously challenge DDL and Phoenix may as well stay home.

    Because Hooper has won recently, I think Affleck has the edge for BD.

    The race will be for the writing and tech awards, where quality still counts for something, so I absolutely do not see a sweep.

  31. dinasztie

    Argo, in my humble opinion, was a mediocre, exaggerated movie, terribly written with average direction. The ending was intense plus Arkin and Goodman gave fun performances but that’s about it. It shouldn’t get near the Oscars, except for maybe these two guys and the editing.

  32. he was just trying to make a good fucking movie and he managed to do just that.

    That’s as perfect of a summation as you’ll likely to get for a film like Argo.

    It doesn’t do anything especially daring, it keeps to a true-and-tested formula of suspense in its third act and bends historical facts to make a more memorable film experience. None of that takes away anything of what’s one of the most thrilling films of the year. The way it uses humor is especially effective; the Argo script reading scene that’s spliced with the real life events in Iran will remain as one of my favorite scenes of the year.

    The acting from absolutely EVERYONE is genuine, the recreated 80s in the offices, streets and homes is believable down to the last ashtray. Goodman and Arkin stand out as the best odd screen couple of the year and I hope one of them gets in for Supporting Actor.

    Argo is the perfect example of what a good movie should be, it’s textbook stuff so I don’t think it’s going to win Best Picture. But Affleck is in the lead for Director and I hope it stays that way because if there’s a case to be made for anything, it’s for him to get his first directing Oscar.

  33. I find it very odd that Argo isn’t more divisive. For me, it was a jingoistic piece of American propaganda, patronising to the Canadians and deeply contemptuous to the Iranians. In light of what’s going on in Iran at the moment, to make a film about the Iranian Revolution that refuses to treat a single Iranian (with the narrow, and debatable, exception of the housemaid) as a human being, seems to be not only bad filmmaking but incredibly mean-spirited. I understand the film isn’t about the Iranians so much as it’s about the hostages, but to ignore the Iranians as real people to such an extent is to show a discomfiting disregard for the context of the film. And the way the guards are presented in the climactic scenes – basically brainless thugs, who get a childlike thrill from being left with the storyboards – is horrid.
    I know I’m going to get shot down for this, but I think it’s important people say what they think. Argo’s incompetence as a film goes beyond its politics. There’s a great line (it is, to give its due, a really witty script) where John Goodman says ‘you could teach a rhesus monkey to direct in a day’. This is when Mendez is asking if it would be possible to train someone to pretend to be a director. It is funny because we believe that is the situation Mendez is hoping to set up. But it turns out it isn’t – he never does train anyone to be a director. All the director stand-in has to do is say he’s a director. It’s details like these – and Argo is chock-full of them – that betray the shallowness of this film. Yes, the script has some terrific lines, Affleck’s performance is pretty good (even if his direction is terribly self-regarding) and it’s based on a remarkable story. But it’s a dire film, summed up by that awful ending where Affleck marches back to embrace his wife (who isn’t given any lines of her own, apparently her desires and motivations don’t need to be expressed) with the patriotic flag waving behind them. Euchhh. Someone please pass me the sick bag.

  34. I don’t like seeing one side portrayed as completely inhuman, but the housemaid here in a surprising twist ends up being very human after all. How is it debatable exactly?

    The movie didn’t have time to go into the Iranian side of things. It showed the horrors of the war during the Argo table read, and doesn’t expect its audience to think that its clueless as to the general nature of every war….i.e. there’s good and bad on both sides. Why would it spend time trying to paint some Iranians (if the housemaid wasn’t enough for you) as good just so you can feel satisfied that it’s politically correct? You know that not every Iranian person is like the security guards in the airport, you don’t need the movie to tell you that.

    As for the guards, they were scary as fuck. And I think that’s the general idea of what Affleck wanted to show. Also, they can’t be so brainless if they suspected the group can they?

    Finally, this type of stuff really gets to me:

    (who isn’t given any lines of her own, apparently her desires and motivations don’t need to be expressed)

    Seriously? Does everything always have to be so politically correct in EVERY movie? If it’s not, then I guess it’s deemed what, shallow, puke-inducing? The wife isn’t given any lines because her desires don’t matter to the story the film is telling. It’s not a family film, it’s not about the effects the job has on Mendez and let’s see how the wife feels about that. This type of criticism is completely asinine, sorry.

    End of shoot down. You kinda asked for it :p

  35. moviewatcher

    phantom: the multitude of drops quote is great, but the “Someone already does” line hit me right in the gut…

  36. “Nothing makes a British officer shit quicker than the sight of George Washington!” –Lincoln

    But really, Lincoln doesnt have quotable lines so much as it has like five speeches that need to be studied and memorized verbatim. But I always liked the quote “We begin with equality.” The time and place on which he says that in the movie is my favorite thing about it.

  37. jtagliere

    James wrote “I like Ben Affleck, he makes fine films, but he has the worst endings. Lord have mercy, I can’t even imagine someone defending those with a straight face.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I felt like The Town missed getting a nomination because of the god awful “Dear Claire” bit at the end, and the “coming home to wifey” scene at the end of Argo was terrible as well. Affleck’s movies remind me of a gymnast doing a stellar highbar routines only to completely blow the landing.

  38. rufussondheim

    I thought the opening sequence of Argo, where the unflattering history of US involvement in the country was detailed, was extremely sympathetic to the Iranians. So when the Iranians angrily stormed the embassy I completely understood why they did it and didn’t hold them in contempt.

    And the simple fact that they didn’t waterboard anyone made me say to myself “Gee, those Iranians are better than we are.”

    I think, eventually, it was very respectful of the Iranians, and the storyboard sequence showed them as curious about Western Culture. And their excited nature is completely believable. If you got your hands on, say, PT Anderson’s storyboards for his next film, you’d probably be giddy like a child as well. After all, this was supposed to be a Western Space Action filmed in Iran. They’ve seen Star Wars, it’s natural they would be excited.

  39. Scott (the other one)

    I had a great time at Argo — a very slick and well made thriller with a great script. The film is pretty perfect, in its way.

    However, the problem I have with predictions of Argo winning BP is that I cannot for the life of me figure out WHAT Argo is ABOUT. Really, all it is is a smart thriller, but it says nothing to us about any important theme that resonates with movie audiences or Oscar voters. Oscar voters like to vote for a movie that purports to be saying something about life, humanity, the world. But what was Argo about? What was the theme it articulated that resonates with people on any emotional level? Aside from the thin, tacked-on at the end reference to “international cooperation”, which is not really much of a “theme” and certainly not a theme that resonates in people’s hearts.

    (And, by the way, isn’t it ironic that a movie that claims it reflects a story of international cooperation actually utterly misrepresents, and seriously underplays, the role that Canada and the Canadian ambassador actually played in the events?????)

    So as I say, I completely enjoyed Argo, but I think Oscar voters will want to vote for something that has a more obvious theme about the human heart and adversity and justice (Les Mis), race and war and politics and equality (Lincoln), or human connection (Silver Linings Playbook).

  40. 2012 will forever be remembered as the year of propaganda. Every single one of these flicks being discussed is, at their core, nothing more and nothing less than profitable brainwashing; corporate-state propaganda. The lines between large corporate entities within the private sector and the highest levels of government literally completely disintegrate before our eyes and our once halfway decent nation turns into a propaganda vomiting, disease ridden, monster of dead ignorance glorifying consumerist culture that destroys everything it touches and makes the Soviet Union look mundane and sane in retrospect.

Leave a Comment