Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In the Theater with...Argo

I must confess to never having been particularly impressed with Ben Affleck's movie career. Even in his Academy Award™-winning, break out Good Will Hunting phase, I never felt a connection to him on screen. And it wasn't just legendary dumb scripts like Armageddon (Ar-MEG-uh-don) either. He just didn't seem to have the weight to be a real movie star.

The early years: A boy in man-child's clothing

But now, allow me to reverse course. Affleck's role as the lead in Argo, as well as his job directing, was strong and nuanced and impressive. Forget Smokin' Aces and even Gigli (which, like everyone else, I never saw), because Ben has risen to his material and made an excellent film. Also, his in-film beard is matched for its excellence only by his real-life awards season beard.

The B.A. of today: Give this man another award

Affleck's CIA agent based-on-reality character Tony Mendez manages to bounce between family heartbreak, career uncertainty, and the terror of facing torture and execution with calm determination. If he were from a normal walk of life, this would seem like under-emoting, but as an experienced covert operative it's only part of the life he's chosen. He's concerned and wary, but his past successes give him confidence to face the challenges of hostage-era Tehran without losing his Shiite

Tony Montana, telex your office

Style points for art direction and costuming are awarded for the very late-1970s (actually 1980) feel of the movie. The office typewriters, shaggy hair, big tie knots, and constant smoking evoke a not-too-distant age in which micro computers were the technological rage and citizen band radio was still a major cultural influence.

Him? Never met the guy.

On a related costume/styling note, I was afraid I would be too far under the influence of the legendary Heisenberg to see Bryan Cranston in another light, but a head of (presumably natural) hair and a brown three-piece suit had me under his covert bureaucrat spell.

Where the hell is that kid with my cappuccino!?

Finally, I also liked John Goodman as real-life makeup wizard and sometimes spy sidekick John Chambers, but the dialogue in the Hollywood scenes is a little on the shticky side of Hollywood. The "let's-make-a-fake-movie-to-fool-the-Ayatollah" plan is admittedly wacky, but surely they could have done better than telegraphing a cornball line like this from a mile away: 
John Chambers: [after hearing of the plan to get the hostages out] So you want to come to Hollywood, act like a big shot...
Tony Mendez: Yeah.
John Chambers: ...without actually doing anything?
Tony Mendez: Yeah.
John Chambers: [smiles] You'll fit right in! 
Ba-dum-bum! Take that, vapidity of the entertainment business!

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