Argo

I told myself I wouldn’t rant about this one thing that happened in the movie theater, but I have to do it. Pardon me.

From the second the room went dark and the screen lit up until about the last 20 minutes of the movie, I was unfortunate enough to sit in front of a man who consumed popcorn at an alarming rate and at an audible level. It was disgusting and distracting. I’m all for having a good time at the theater–especially when the movie itself is a good time, a la Rocky Horror or Skyfall or Twilight or any other one of these things that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But in the context of something like Argo, something mostly serious, something that most of the people in the theater probably haven’t seen yet, something that requires attention to be paid to the dialogue, lip-smacking is completely uncalled for. I wish I were exaggerating when I said that he chomped down a handful of popcorn every five seconds. That’s what I meant by “alarming” before. I was amazed he was able to chew and swallow at all. So, to that man, show some decency in the theater next time. Argo fuck yourself very much.

Off the soapbox now! Argo was great! Probably everyone has told you this. Probably everyone has told you that it’s a thrilling movie, and that everyone in it is fantastic and Ben Affleck is only okay. I agree with the first part of that, but I strongly beg to differ with the second. B-Fleck had a bit of a lot going on here, what with directing and producing the damn thing, so yeah, maybe he didn’t deliver his Best Performance Ever. (Though he was a little awesomer in The Town.) Anyway, I didn’t hold the stiffness against him, because I was fully convinced it was part of his character. Tony Mendez was a stone-faced guy, a CIA specialist, a person paid to be stoic. He wasn’t about to show emotion and nuance because he had been trained not to for so long. He was subtle, under-the-radar, and simple for a reason–to save people’s lives. And even though we all knew the ending to his triumphant story, it was still enthralling to watch it all unfold, and even stressful at times. Affleck-as-director should be especially proud of this fact: To turn a true story into an edge-of-your-seat thriller on the big screen is a huge feat.

Of course, he had star-studded help, but everyone’s hairdos and leisure suits helped disguise them well enough. Bryan Cranston, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Victor Garber–all these familiar faces walked and talked through government buildings so much I swore I was watching a Carter-era version of The West Wing (which, by the way, I would totally watch). Even though it was clear that painstaking measures were taken to ensure period accuracy–especially with the self-congratulating side-by-side comparison slideshow at the end of the film–the movie really did teleport me to the late 70s-early 80s era. Everything was accounted for; cars driving around in the background were old, collars were big, phones were rotary. But nothing was exaggerated or obvious. It just all blended together really well.

Back to the star-studded help, though. Whereas the G-men kept things serious, especially because they were all essentially high-stakes yelling at each other the whole time, in an attempt to keep the hostages in Iran safe), the comic relief came from two designated hitters: John Goodman and Alan Arkin, the Hollywood players in this whole scheme. In case you aren’t familiar with the story, Mendez decides to pretend to make a movie and have the hostages be his film crew so he can get them back to the US safely. Goodman and Arkin’s characters help the movie gain legitimacy in actual Hollywood, shedding some cynical light on just how much farce goes on behind-the-scenes of the farce that actually is Hollywood. It’s all very meta and layered, and brilliantly done. And the timing of the climactic scene, in which calls are made, questions are asked, guns are cocked, the whole bit–it’s what real movies are made of. Or, in Argo‘s case, what real movies about movies are made of.

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