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The Oscar for Best Fabrication

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This entry of an article by Maureen Dowd published in The New York Times on February 16, 2013 might have been added to the one on Zero Dark Thirty (Reseñas),  but I have decided to underline its message with a space just for itself, given the universal lesson it brings on a very large number of films. This is how she reacted to ARGO:

I  saw “Argo” with Jerry Rafshoon, who was a top aide to President Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis, when six Americans escaped and were given sanctuary for three months by courageous Canadian diplomats. 

We were watching a scene where a C.I.A. guy can’t get through to Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief of staff, to sign off on plane tickets for the escaping hostages, so he pretends to be calling from the school where Jordan’s kids go.

“Hamilton wasn’t married then and didn’t have any kids,” Jerry whispered, inflaming my pet peeve about filmmakers who make up facts in stories about real people to add “drama,” rather than just writing the real facts better. It makes viewers think that realism is just another style in art, so that no movie, no matter how realistic it looks, is believable.

What «The Oscar for Best Fabrication» questions is the right, convenience, opportunity or wisdom of film makers, when working with real life events, to freely manipulate and deform what really happened. I suppose the easiest answer would be: «it all depends on the result».  In other words, if you produce a superb piece of art, forget about being faithful to the truth. But does loyalty to the truth have anything  to do with good or bad cinematography? May ends justify means in film making?  Should there be a set of margins to measure what is permissible and what is not in interpretation of History by artists? I guess that would be the end of art, a wide open door to all kinds of censorship or  self-censorship.

In The Oscars: Reflections of America, published on Jan 11, 2013 by Reuters, Nicholas Wapshott summed up Ben Affleck’s Argo in two paragraphs:

(It) is about a group of American diplomats in Iran who slipped out the back of the embassy in Tehran the day Islamic fundamentalists rushed in the front. They took refuge in the plucky Canadian ambassador’s residence and, by posing as Canadian filmmakers looking for locations for a nonexistent Hollywood movie, obtained papers that allowed them to fly to freedom.

The movie is a traditional piece of Hollywood hokum. In real life the escape lacked the movie’s contrived tense, near-capture moments and the final scene, where Khomeini’s goons race down the runway to prevent the plane carrying our anxious envoys from taking off, never happened.

 Any regret if, in spite of it, you think or the Academy decides that it deserves the Oscar to the best film in 2013? No such remorse in Wapshott:

But what the heck. It is a ripping good yarn laced with humor in which the truth was bent a little to keep us on the edges of our seats.

If the Academy picks Argo, or if this is the picture you would choose if you had a vote, you probably think that all is right with the world. America remains the home of democracy and decency, its people are courageous and ingenious. Whatever trouble we may currently be in, we have the strength of character and material resources to ensure everything turns out right in the end.

 Are we simply dealing here with «the older picture-goer», as Wapshott believes, the type who moans that  nothing is the same anymore? In other words, is Affleck «the hero of old-fashioned moviemaking and simple, traditional American values»? He himself takes good care, before going into details, of placing Argo in a much larger and clarifyng context:

Movies have held a special place in American cultural life since they first flickered on sheets stretched across theater stages. And the pictures and people chosen to receive the Oscars have come to represent an artistic aristocracy to revere and admire.Among the movies Academy members are considering are three that offer distinctly different views of how Americans see themselves and their place in the world.

A self-described “specialist in anti-Iranian and anti-Islamic films, Mehdi Tondro, used very strong words againts ARGO and against Hollywood in a conference held in Teheran in February 2013:

We Iranians look stupid, backward and simple-minded in this movie…  Hollywood is not a normal industry; it’s a conspiracy by capitalism and Zionism. We need to come up with an answer to this and other films.
According to Thomas Erdbrink, of The New York Times, the meeting of Iranians with around 130 foreign guests was very illustrative on the hearts and minds still determining Iran’s attitudes towards the U.S. and the West.

Ficha técnica de ARGO:

Warner Bros. Pictures lanzó el primer trailer de Argo, la tercera película dirigida por Ben Affleck –antes realizó Desapareció una noche (Gone Baby Gone) y Atracción peligrosa (The Town). El filme está basado en un caso real de la CIA y está ambientado en los 70s, vean el avance a continuación: Argo se estrenó a finales del 2012 y es protagonizada por Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, entre otros.
Título original: Argo País: EUA Año: 2012 Director: Ben Affleck (Atracción peligrosa) Actores: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin Fecha de Estreno: 2012


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