Best Picture Recall: Argo
If we’re going to delve into the world of Best Picture winners within the past ten years, I’m afraid we’ll have to start with one of my absolute favorite films, Argo. Directed by Ben Affleck and written by Chris Terrio, the film follows the extraction of American personnel during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Based on a true story about the “Canadian Caper,” it embellishes and adds drama to an already tension filled set of circumstances. The film stars Affleck as CIA agent Tony Mendez and contains an incredible supporting cast in Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman. In addition to winning Best Picture at the 85th Academy Awards, it also went on to win Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.
So, why is this Best Picture winner worth another look?
1) It’s A Missing Piece of History
As someone who grew up primarily in the 1990’s, I always learned about certain points of history in school. We would spend long periods of time discussing the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and both World Wars. This is completely understandable, but after hammering away on those details, we would rush to learn as much as we could afterward, which always seemed to stop at Watergate. Based on my schooling alone, I could tell you very little about the Carter, Reagan, or Ford presidencies. They were in recent enough history to where we didn’t discuss them in class and not as wracked with scandal as the Nixon presidency. It fell between the cracks, which might be part of the reason I enjoy this movie as much as I do.
This film certainly covers a piece of time we don’t evaluate all that much yet, and the movie does a fantastic job of setting up the political climate in Iran and that area of the world before diving into this particular rescue operation. In addition to that, it also showcases the cooperation between two different nations. The extraction of the embassy personnel would have never been possible without the Canadians’ help and shelter, and I think it’s impressive to showcase that partnership.
2) Alan Arkin
For a movie directed by Affleck and starring Affleck, I should probably be talking a little more about him here. I do believe he was snubbed for a directing nomination that year, but honestly, it’s Alan Arkin who steals the show. He plays a film producer named Lester Siegel, and he shines as this slightly cantankerous character. He is incredibly blunt throughout the movie, and his character has some of the best lines in the entire film. While I won’t type it out here, his exchange at the table read about what Argo means is still one of my favorite cinema moments in recent years. Without Arkin in this role, the movie would not quite have the ingenuity that it does.
3) Terrio’s a Genius
While screenwriter Chris Terrio might be facing a little criticism lately for his work on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, I just remind people that he co-wrote those scripts with other people. Argo was solely his project, and his ability to write a cohesive, quick-paced story is showcased here. While capturing all of the different tensions and points of views from different people involved in the rescue, he also manages to provide comedic relief in the perfect moments. This film is intense, clever, and easy to follow, which is quite an accomplishment in a film where a lot of minutiae could bog it down.
After watching so many movies through the years, I almost despise the idea of forming a top ten or top twenty list of some of my favorite films of all time. However, I believe that Argo would have to be on one of those lists somewhere. The performances are fantastic, the story is perfectly paced, and while it’s rated R for language, this movie has some of the best quotable moments. If you have never watched Argo, let me say that this is one best picture winner you should spend two hours watching sometime soon.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.