Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

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Jeff
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Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#1 Post by Jeff » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:29 am

Apparently Affleck is three for three. The reviews coming out of Telluride are very positive, with many saying this is an early frontrunner for Oscars in several categories. Didn't see that coming.

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter
Anne Thompson, IndieWire
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

Like Magic Mike, the film is preceded by the 70s Saul Bass Warner logo.

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Alan Smithee
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#2 Post by Alan Smithee » Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:09 am

I'll say the trailer had me very interested. It seems like Costa Gavras light. For better or worse.

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warren oates
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#3 Post by warren oates » Sun Sep 02, 2012 12:37 pm

Word is that the studio loves this film and it got a super high score in the preview (so audiences seem to love it too). The script is quite strong. And I really do like Affleck's directing efforts so far. But I question his call to cast himself and his beard in this film. I pictured somebody different in the lead -- older and more grizzled. More like the Clooney of Syriana.

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The Narrator Returns
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#4 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:10 pm

I just love, love, love the cast for this movie. Bryan Cranston, Philip Baker Hall, John Goodman, and Alan Arkin make this a must-see for me.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#5 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:03 pm

warren oates wrote:Word is that the studio loves this film and it got a super high score in the preview (so audiences seem to love it too). The script is quite strong. And I really do like Affleck's directing efforts so far. But I question his call to cast himself and his beard in this film. I pictured somebody different in the lead -- older and more grizzled. More like the Clooney of Syriana.
i had the same exact thought. I just don't ever believe Affleck as an actor...there's something wooden about him. But the rest of the cast is phenomenal, it's an amazing story, and it looks great from what I can see in the trailer.

FYI: the real guy who pulled this off is named Antonio Mendez and has written a book about the rescue that's just come out. He was actually quite young, clean cut, and obviously not anglo. Seems like a perfect roll for someone like Diego Luna.

Image

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#6 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 7:15 pm

They made a good move knocking on his door for the Justice League film, just as he made a good one turning it down. I was never a huge fan of his acting, but it's entirely possible that's taken a turn because I thought he was incredible in The Town. Possible it wasn't a big stretch for his capabilities, but I don't think his character hogged the spotlight either, which was one worry I had going into his first film starring himself. Everyone around him was on their A-game for that, too. It appears to be the same here, with the cast he's assembled for this.
Last edited by flyonthewall2983 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#7 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Sep 03, 2012 7:33 pm

Something consistent with Affleck's first two films (and presumably this new one based on the advanced buzz) is strong screenwriting - dialogue, characterization, plotting, etc. His decision to turn down a superhero franchise came with a sense of relief in what would have clearly been a screenwriting black hole. One suspects he stopped taking career advice from Kevin Smith.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#8 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:07 pm

I suspected that the minute I finished watching Gone Baby Gone. The thing I really took away from that was that it made Mystic River and The Departed look like Boston tourist videos.

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willoneill
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#9 Post by willoneill » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:15 pm

Professor Wagstaff wrote:One suspects he stopped taking career advice from Kevin Smith.
Taking shots at Kevin Smith on the internet has gone beyond cliche to just being outright tiresome. And anyway, Argo has no less than 3 cast members from Red State, including Michael Parks, and that doesn't seem to me like a coincidence.

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#10 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:24 pm

willoneill wrote:
Professor Wagstaff wrote:One suspects he stopped taking career advice from Kevin Smith.
Taking shots at Kevin Smith on the internet has gone beyond cliche to just being outright tiresome. And anyway, Argo has no less than 3 cast members from Red State, including Michael Parks, and that doesn't seem to me like a coincidence.
As comic book enthusiast Smith likes to take credit for coaxing Affleck to do Daredevil a decade ago, it only made sense to me that the subject might have come up between both men over other superhero properties. Affleck's approach to choosing his projects has changed, perhaps not as easily persuaded by others as he seemed to be once upon a time. Maybe this was a logic jump for me that I did not explain well, just as I don't understand the logic of your second sentence which suggests that Affleck and Smith cut ties...or something of that nature...I can't quite make sense of where you are going with this. Apologies, in the future I will try to make my responses as clear as the condescending tone of your post.

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mfunk9786
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#11 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:35 pm

What he meant by that sentence was: They're still friends and admirers of one another's work.

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LQ
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#12 Post by LQ » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:03 am

This was an outstanding film. It was already halfway to greatness before it even started, with such a killer bit of history as its foundation, but Ben Affleck's disciplined, wise direction...as well as perfect tonal harmony between the smart script, the great performances from the ensemble cast, the richly detailed set design and even the muted hue and grain of the film stock...brought Argo to near-70's-era political thriller excellence. I was deeply impressed, and really entertained. Can't wait to see what Affleck does next.

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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#13 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:20 am

Saw this last night at an early screening. Maybe I'm just a sucker for this type of 70s style potboiler, but this film is absolutely phenomenal. Affleck manages to hit all the right notes, throwing some Pakula, Lumet and Hitchcock into his already rather successful contemplative and moody directorial style to craft something with a far better sense for pace and tension than I thought he was capable of. The film starts off with narration catching the audience up to speed with the climate of late-70s Iran, and a gripping setpiece portraying the U.S. embassy being stormed by Iranian protestors, hostages being taken, and the remaining six employees escaping. They stowed away at the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran, and the CIA needed to figure out how to get them home. From here, the film quickly brings us to its big gag (historically accurate gag, no less!) - a faux film production was created in order to smuggle the refugees out under the guise of them being a film crew scouting locations for a Star Wars ripoff with a middle eastern flair. There are a bit too many Hollywood in-jokes during this part of the film, reaching their crescendo when Alan Arkin makes a joke about the WGA (har har har) - but the film's pace makes up for it - it grabs us by the arm and runs. Very little time is wasted in order to tell this story in an efficient way, which is a tremendous improvement on the quantity of navel-gazing in Gone Baby Gone and The Town - Argo is a much better film for it. Affleck shoots the film with a keen eye for period-specific detail (see: the braggadocious end credits in which actual photos and stills from the production are shown side by side) and an empathy for its characters that I appreciated - we feel for the refugees as they're going through the process of trying to get through the two days that Affleck's character is in Iran plotting to get them out, and their ordeal of getting through the airport without being discovered [and tortured, and murdered]. This climax contains one too many pratfalls and convenient "Whoops, I dropped something, I have to go back and get it!"-style cliches, but it didn't make my knuckles any less white. This sort of film that's about a successful non-military operation being run by the United States government that isn't political just isn't really made anymore these days, and from the 70s Warner title card at the beginning of the film (sorry Ben, but Steven Soderbergh got there first by a few months!), it's just such a relief to settle in for a film like Argo. One of the best films of this year, and immediately the frontrunner for Best Picture - it'll appeal to the arthouse and the multiplex alike, and for good reason.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#14 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:56 pm

Are the politics of the hostage crisis played off mostly in the background, or does it turn into a whole saber-rattling the-regime-is-evil thing, or how does that work out? The movie looks interesting, but I really don't think I can deal with a depiction of Iran as the devil at this point.

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mfunk9786
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#15 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:59 pm

The actual hostage crisis is only really played out in very brief background radio/TV news broadcasts while this mission is being discussed/playing out. And Iran is certainly the devil here - but not the country itself, just the Khomeini regime and their human rights abuses that were taking place upon their takeover of the country in 1979.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#16 Post by HistoryProf » Tue Oct 09, 2012 10:53 pm

the praise this is getting has me terribly excited. I'll be seeing it next week for sure. I noticed two negative reviews showed up on RT finally, but rather than tempering my excitement, one blurb had me rolling:
Out in the audience, you never shake the feeling-partly intentional-that Argo itself is swaddled in a kind of phony ersatzness.
wtf is "phony ersatzness?" Is that like a deceptively fabricated canard? Or a fake fabrication? Why do critics insist on stringing extra words together in trying to sound smarter - aka "being all Armondy"? using synonyms as adjectives for one another is really really bad writing.

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Brian C
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#17 Post by Brian C » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:48 pm

You're right, some reviewers just can't help but slide into pleonastic verbosity. Drives me crazy, too.

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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#18 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:57 pm

Three for three.

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Jeff
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#19 Post by Jeff » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:09 pm

Agree with the praise. Argo is indeed one of the best films of the year, and feels worthy of the comparisons to prime Pakula and Pollack. I'll agree that Affleck probably miscast himself (if he can pull of an American accent, Edgar Ramirez would have been great), but his performance is suitably low-key and restrained. Goodman and Arkin are great in their small roles, and I imagine the latter will pick up a supporting actor nod.

If I had any complaint, it would be one that mfunk brought up. The white-knuckle climax at the airport (and the simultaneous events in Hollywood and Washington), with its series of close calls, strains credulity. It felt silly and made up, and a little research proves that is. Still though, it's an extraordinarily entertaining political thriller and a great story. Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography is a standout too, and really helps the film look like it belongs in the era it is set in.

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#20 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:49 pm

Jeff, I'm glad you cited Edgar Ramirez because he occurred to me as being strong alternative casting when I watched this last night. I can't add much to all the praise listed here, Affleck certainly deserves to be mentioned among the top studio directors working today. Perhaps it was the Pakula vibe and my mind drifting to The Parallax View, but this project felt like it would have been great for Warren Beatty to direct and/or star in during his heyday, especially with the tie-in of political consciousness and a salute to Hollywood.

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warren oates
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#21 Post by warren oates » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:17 pm

Liked this film a lot too. Still conflicted about Affleck's casting of himself. Not sure Ramirez would have been right either (Though maybe somebody like Michael Sheen could have pulled it off). Affleck's performance works better in the film as a whole than it seemed in the trailers, and I can kind of see what he was going for, modeling his choices on the real-life CIA Officer Antonio Mendez, who prided himself on being a bona fide George Smiley-esque "little grey man." The problem isn't so much that Affleck can't muster this low-key energy but that he can't channel it organically. And that his physical presence is completely at odds with the way somebody like this ought to look. In the past Mendez has said things like "The really good spies don't need disguises. They're just naturally uninteresting." Even with a schlepy beard, the tall strapping Affleck is going to turn heads when he walks into a room. Anyway, Mendez has a number of books worth reading for those who want to know more. And a great bit as the centerpiece of one of Errol Morris' First Person episodes from Season 2, which is naturally titled "The Little Grey Man."

The other bone I have to pick is with the visual concept of the opening exposition, which reminded me of films like JFK and The Kingdom (Peter Berg, not Von Trier), but seemed both derivative and not exactly appropriate to the film at hand (at least until much later, when you get to the part about the Hollywood connection).

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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#22 Post by movielocke » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:53 pm

who is Arkin's character supposed to be based on?

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Professor Wagstaff
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#23 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Oct 15, 2012 2:02 pm

Arkin said in an interview that the character was a composite of 2-3 different producers. His performance itself is, according to him, based on Jack Warner. Referenced here.

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Andre Jurieu
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#24 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Oct 18, 2012 5:04 pm

warren oates wrote:Still conflicted about Affleck's casting of himself.
I think I'm in the same boat on that point. I really enjoyed this movie, particularly the building tension and anxiety Affleck is somehow able to create through his editing choices, building of obstacles, and direction of his actors. However, Affleck's decision to cast himself kind of threw me off a bit, precisely due to Affleck's naturally imposing physical presence that warren mentions above. I appreciate that Affleck attempted to make himself a bit more ordinary and forgettable through his choices in wardrobe, haircut, and facial hair, but his natural build and physique are almost too much to overcome. Despite understanding what Affleck was attempting to accomplish and convey with his rather modest performance, I also wish that he could have found a way to subtly express some kind of personality for Mendez, because he comes off as bland rather than purposely restrained. It's a subtle, minute, but crucial difference, which I can only really convey through referring to how well it was done by Gary Oldman and Colin Firth in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, who both seemed positively enthralling while being completely subdued. Actually, Michael Sheen might not have been a bad choice for this role. OK, maybe I'm just naming British actors.

Anyway, the only other issue I had with this was that I thought that - aside from the material they gave to Alan Arkin - the stuff involving Hollywood satire was kind of shallow and tired. I was quite thankful when they made their points about the entertainment industry and quickly moved towards the more substantial material.

Yet it's a credit to the effectiveness of the filmmaking that these feel like only minor quibbles when contemplating the whole thing. I thought the film was incredibly well crafted once they got into the substance of the story.

Plus, casting Coach Taylor and Walter White in supporting roles is never a bad idea. I kind of wish there was more Coach Taylor though.

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HistoryProf
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Re: Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

#25 Post by HistoryProf » Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:04 am

I agree completely that Affleck's self-casting as the CIA's most legendary "Master of Disguise" is laughable, but I guess in the end that's a bit of criticizing the film for something it's not trying to be. In the end this is just an amazingly well written, acted, shot, and all around crafted picture that provides a surprising amount of laughs on top of mounting tension from the outset. I thought the first ten minutes were absolutely brilliant and overall the film found a near perfect balance of period footage intermixed with modern recreation. Frankly, it's the first time i've outright enjoyed Ben as an actor. He won me over, and I didn't think that was possible going in. This is just a damned good film, and above all I think credit goes to the screen play. Sorkin could learn a thing or two from the pitch perfect comedic dialog interspersed throughout - none of which felt forced or stretched the bounds of credibility. Just really sharp, funny, and tense scenes coming at you rapidly, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. There were also myriad opportunities to get maudlin, melodramatic, jingoistic (or conversely cynical), or mired in the Iranian side of things...but each and every one of these pitfalls was avoided. Sure the very ending is a bit too perfectly "suspenseful" to be based in reality...but it sure as hell was entertaining.

I'm usually first in line to bitch about historical inaccuracies, but this wasn't a picture about what the Canadians did for the hostages. I'll always wish Mendez was played by someone much more nondescript (yet charismatic enough to pull this off), but in the end it was just so damned enjoyable that I can't really fault Ben for what he ultimately made - which is just a really great movie. He took a great topic, a timely one at that, and set a riveting thriller in its midst. In the end, though, I again want to give the most credit to the script - if this wins any awards come February, best screenplay should be the one.

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