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Argo Blu-ray Review



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#41 of 73 Jon Lidolt

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Posted February 19 2013 - 10:09 AM

The problem with history is there often isn't one clear version. Say you were teaching a history class fifty years from now. What would you say about Bush, or Obama? You could find tons of information. Most of it accurate, and often contradictory. With Richelieu, what Dumas wrote may have been 'his' version of what happened. And it might have been true. What you researched might also have been true, or it could have been slanted by the particular author you were reading. In regards to Argo, many have said it minimized the contributions of the Canadians. That may be a true statement, but the Canadians were shown contributing. So it was a matter of prominence. Yet many have concluded that this part was factually inaccurate because they weren't at the forefront. So Argo was true and false. For myself, I never take any movie as factual. Movie are not supposed to be factual. They are drama, entertainment, storytelling.

I totally agree with you. Argo is a feature film, not a documentary. If Argo had been shot as a documentary, chances are very few people would ever have seen it. The fact that it was such a well made and entertaining piece of work brought this story to the attention of the public in a way that no story in a newspaper, magazine article or poorly made action flick could ever have done. Wonder what subject Mr. Affleck will tackle next? Can't wait.

#42 of 73 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 19 2013 - 10:48 AM

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#43 of 73 Persianimmortal

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Posted February 19 2013 - 11:05 AM

I totally agree with you. Argo is a feature film, not a documentary. If Argo had been shot as a documentary, chances are very few people would ever have seen it. The fact that it was such a well made and entertaining piece of work brought this story to the attention of the public in a way that no story in a newspaper, magazine article or poorly made action flick could ever have done. Wonder what subject Mr. Affleck will tackle next? Can't wait.

All I'm suggesting is that although Argo and most other historically based movies don't sell themselves as documentaries, the unfortunate reality is that they have significant influence on ordinary people's perceptions of important people and events. This is exacerbated when the director of said movie goes on record touting the accuracy of the film. Hollywood has a great deal of power and influence over people these days, which is ironically a key theme of Argo. This brings to mind the quote "With great power comes great responsibility". I personally think it can be irresponsible to create highly plausible movies about historical events, then significantly distort those events just for entertainment value. In an ideal world, we would all know the real events and thus be able to easily separate fiction from fact; in today's world, people cannot make that distinction, and will readily accept one for the other. I find it odd that Hollywood even feels the need to use historical events as the basis for movies, then proceeds to "jazz them up". Nothing wrong with condensing or filling in the gaps with educated guesses, but not wholesale alteration. I suspect that the "based on a true story" tag is a major selling point. In my opinion Argo would be considered a rather mediocre thriller/spy movie without relying on the "true story" angle. Anyway I've bored you guys enough about this issue. It's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

#44 of 73 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 19 2013 - 12:50 PM

Originally Posted by Persianimmortal 


All I'm suggesting is that although Argo and most other historically based movies don't sell themselves as documentaries, the unfortunate reality is that they have significant influence on ordinary people's perceptions of important people and events. This is exacerbated when the director of said movie goes on record touting the accuracy of the film.

Hollywood has a great deal of power and influence over people these days, which is ironically a key theme of Argo. This brings to mind the quote "With great power comes great responsibility". I personally think it can be irresponsible to create highly plausible movies about historical events, then significantly distort those events just for entertainment value. In an ideal world, we would all know the real events and thus be able to easily separate fiction from fact; in today's world, people cannot make that distinction, and will readily accept one for the other.

I find it odd that Hollywood even feels the need to use historical events as the basis for movies, then proceeds to "jazz them up". Nothing wrong with condensing or filling in the gaps with educated guesses, but not wholesale alteration. I suspect that the "based on a true story" tag is a major selling point. In my opinion Argo would be considered a rather mediocre thriller/spy movie without relying on the "true story" angle.

Anyway I've bored you guys enough about this issue. It's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

Lucky for you that you weren't around since the silent film era as Hollywood has been making such films forever in which movies based on real events have little historical value, but plenty of entertainment in its place.







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#45 of 73 PaulDA

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Posted February 19 2013 - 01:03 PM

I totally agree with you. Argo is a feature film, not a documentary. If Argo had been shot as a documentary, chances are very few people would ever have seen it. The fact that it was such a well made and entertaining piece of work brought this story to the attention of the public in a way that no story in a newspaper, magazine article or poorly made action flick could ever have done. Wonder what subject Mr. Affleck will tackle next? Can't wait.

All I'm suggesting is that although Argo and most other historically based movies don't sell themselves as documentaries, the unfortunate reality is that they have significant influence on ordinary people's perceptions of important people and events. This is exacerbated when the director of said movie goes on record touting the accuracy of the film.

Perhaps I can shed a bit of light on this specific point. In my research (wading though a LOT of books and journal articles about historical feature films, along with watching/listening to what must be hundreds of hours of extra features, interviews and film commentaries), I've found that when filmmakers (and I include the whole crew here, not just the director) speak about accuracy of an historical feature film, the bulk of their focus is on visual accuracy--costumes, sets and so on. They want to get "the look" right (let's leave aside how successful, or not, they may be). A lot of time is spent explaining and demonstrating just how close to the real thing the film looks like. An actor's ability to personify a real person. The use of period music to set the proper mood. Factual accuracy is important insofar as it does not interfere with the cohesion of the narrative (actual history is a lot less cohesive than films, or even books, make it seem). But one thing that is almost always overlooked is how the characters speak and behave towards each other (this is more problematic the further back in the past you go). You can tell a lot about the seriousness filmmakers apply to historical authenticity by paying attention to how characters behave and speak. But even then, reality is sometimes set aside so as to convey the spirit of historical truth, at the expense of the letter of it. As anyone who has watched Deadwood knows, there is an astonishing degree of foul language (the opening scene of the series alone had me running to my bookshelves looking for any trace of evidence to support such language in that time period). It is almost entirely anachronistic but it is also, paradoxically, a lot closer to the historical truth than a literal transcript of language usage of that time would appear to a modern audience. If the makers of Deadwood had been faithful to the letter of the language of that period, it would have appeared to the audience that the population of towns like that were rather more polite than they actually were. Instead, the creators transposed the language so as to properly shock, rather than bemuse, the audience. This is a case where revisionism served a quite useful historical lesson--mining towns on the frontier were not populated by polite society. In any event, as most makers of historical feature films are not historians by training (and only a rare few choose to self-identify as historians, like Oliver Stone), the focus on visual accuracy by artists working in a visual medium is understandable, if sometimes a touch irritating to those who work in the field professionally.
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#46 of 73 Brett_M

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Posted February 20 2013 - 12:52 AM

"JFK"? :D

As this discussion started, JFK sprang to mind but it did what it should -- made me do my own research. JFK is a movie (not a documentary) and it succeeds on all levels in that respect. Great performances, editing, music, etc. It's wildy inaccurate but it's so well made I can't help but love it. The same is true of Amadeus and The Elephant Man. I love Argo -- it's probably my favorite flick of last year because I enjoyed it so much. I don't mind dramatic liberties if they're done to make a great movie. Argo succeeds for me.
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#47 of 73 Trentrunner

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Posted February 20 2013 - 01:24 PM

All I'm suggesting is that although Argo and most other historically based movies don't sell themselves as documentaries, the unfortunate reality is that they have significant influence on ordinary people's perceptions of important people and events. This is exacerbated when the director of said movie goes on record touting the accuracy of the film. Hollywood has a great deal of power and influence over people these days, which is ironically a key theme of Argo. This brings to mind the quote "With great power comes great responsibility". I personally think it can be irresponsible to create highly plausible movies about historical events, then significantly distort those events just for entertainment value. In an ideal world, we would all know the real events and thus be able to easily separate fiction from fact; in today's world, people cannot make that distinction, and will readily accept one for the other. I find it odd that Hollywood even feels the need to use historical events as the basis for movies, then proceeds to "jazz them up". Nothing wrong with condensing or filling in the gaps with educated guesses, but not wholesale alteration. I suspect that the "based on a true story" tag is a major selling point. In my opinion Argo would be considered a rather mediocre thriller/spy movie without relying on the "true story" angle. Anyway I've bored you guys enough about this issue. It's just a bit of a pet peeve of mine.

Much wisdom in a single post. :)

#48 of 73 Reggie W

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Posted February 22 2013 - 12:08 AM

My thoughts would be that the intention of the filmmakers is not to distort the actual history but rather to draw attention to it. You would think that most people at this point understand that a film is not a documentary...but granted I will admit that is not the case. Obviously the major selling point of telling this "true story" is how ridiculous the plan was to get these people out of Iran. That is the hook and the major element that makes the film and the story so interesting..."This is the best bad idea we have." Really, if this was a fictional story people would make fun of how silly and self-aggrandizing it is for Hollywood to make a film like this...but knowing they really did use this plan to help these people escape makes this particular tale exciting and very funny. Mainly what films do when they tell a "true story" is attempt to let the audience experience the emotional landscape of the event...to feel from the comfort of their seat what the people that were really there might have felt. This really is the main goal of the filmmaker...to open up the emotions of the event to the audience. I think it has been discussed here already that the end of the film has been changed from how things actually played out but I would say the end of the film probably does communicate in an accurate way how those people actually felt during their attempt to escape from Iran. So I think it is easy to see why the end of the film plays out as it does. I think there are two key aspects in this story as it is told. There is the planning of the rescue attempt taking place back in the United States and in these sections of the film we are observing the historic event from afar and in doing so we see the comedy in it...how crazy and ridiculous the plan is and how the other plans were even worse. These scenes allow us to laugh at something now that in the moment probably was not all that funny. Then there are the scenes in Iran where we see how frightening it must have been for these people and this allows us to emotionally experience how desperate this whole operation was. Combining these two elements makes the film the ride that it is and draws people to the history. People identify with and understand emotions but facts can sometimes be cold, hard, and opaque to them.

#49 of 73 Howard Tom

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Posted February 22 2013 - 12:52 AM

There was a 1981 TV movie titled Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper that could be used as a possible counterpoint or alternate view of the same events, but as it was made for Canadian TV I'm not sure it is readily available for viewing; certainly I haven't seen it since it first aired. The success of Argo might make for a quickie release, though. The focus of this film was on the efforts of the Canadian Embassy staff to smuggle the US staffers out and to make it out of Iran themselves, of course.

#50 of 73 Reggie W

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Posted February 22 2013 - 01:13 AM

One issue with a film from 1981 would be that the CIA involvement was still classified at that point and that events that could be portrayed in ARGO could not have been portrayed in 1981.

#51 of 73 PaulDA

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Posted February 22 2013 - 12:22 PM

My thoughts would be that the intention of the filmmakers is not to distort the actual history but rather to draw attention to it. You would think that most people at this point understand that a film is not a documentary...but granted I will admit that is not the case. Obviously the major selling point of telling this "true story" is how ridiculous the plan was to get these people out of Iran. That is the hook and the major element that makes the film and the story so interesting..."This is the best bad idea we have." Really, if this was a fictional story people would make fun of how silly and self-aggrandizing it is for Hollywood to make a film like this...but knowing they really did use this plan to help these people escape makes this particular tale exciting and very funny. Mainly what films do when they tell a "true story" is attempt to let the audience experience the emotional landscape of the event...to feel from the comfort of their seat what the people that were really there might have felt. This really is the main goal of the filmmaker...to open up the emotions of the event to the audience. I think it has been discussed here already that the end of the film has been changed from how things actually played out but I would say the end of the film probably does communicate in an accurate way how those people actually felt during their attempt escape from Iran. So I think it is easy to see why the end of the film plays out as it does. I think there are two key aspects in this story as it is told. There is the planning of the rescue attempt taking place back in the United States and in these sections of the film we are observing the historic event from afar and in doing so we see the comedy in it...how crazy and ridiculous the plan is and how the other plans were even worse. These scenes allow us to laugh at something now that in the moment probably was not all that funny. Then there are the scenes in Iran where we see how frightening it must have been for these people and this allows us to emotionally experience how desperate this whole operation was. Combining these two elements makes the film the ride that it is and draws people to the history. People identify with and understand emotions but facts can sometimes be cold, hard, and opaque to them.

Very good points (and among the arguments scholars like Robert Brent Toplin, John O'Connor and Natalie Zemon Davis make in support of historical feature films as viable supplements to traditional presentations of history). There is a film I often use called Black Robe. It is about the journey of a Jesuit missionary to Huronia, in the company of some Algonquins. A common critique of the film, made by historians specializing in the period, is of the journey during winter. In reality, no Amerindian guide would have countenanced such a journey (nearly 1500 miles) in late fall/winter. However, by setting the journey in winter, Bruce Beresford (whether intentionally or not) created a powerfully effective shorthand for making the audience feel the hardship of the journey. It is not true to the letter of historical fact, but it is quite true to the spirit of the experience. The scene in the airport in Argo is similar. It deviates from the factual record (for reasons of drama and narrative coherence) but it certainly helps the audience empathize more fully with the anxiety the escapees must have felt.
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#52 of 73 larryKR

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Posted February 23 2013 - 07:06 AM

From a recent article on the CBC News website. Ken Taylor, Canada's former ambassador to Iran who protected Americans at great personal risk during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis says it will reflect poorly on Ben Affleck if he doesn't say a few words about Canada's role, if the director's film Argo wins the Oscar for the best picture Sunday. But Ken Taylor -- who said he feels slighted by the movie because it makes Canada look like a meek observer to CIA heroics in the rescue of six U.S. citizens caught in the crisis -- is not expecting it. Taylor hid the Americans without being asked at the Canadian embassy, and then got them plane tickets and fake passports. Taylor said that CIA agent Tony Mendez played by Affleck in the film, was only in Iran for a day and a half. Some interesting quotes from former president Jimmy Carter in the article. " I saw the movie Argo recently and I was taken aback by its distortion of what happened because almost everything that was heroic, or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not the United States." " Ninety percent of the contributions to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian, but the film gives almost full credit to the American CIA."

#53 of 73 Howard Tom

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Posted February 23 2013 - 12:29 PM

Some interesting quotes from former president Jimmy Carter in the article. " I saw the movie Argo recently and I was taken aback by its distortion of what happened because almost everything that was heroic, or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not the United States." " Ninety percent of the contributions to the ideas and consummation of the plan was Canadian, but the film gives almost full credit to the American CIA."

Former President Carter apparently first made these comments back in November as well as on CNN last night.

One issue with a film from 1981 would be that the CIA involvement was still classified at that point and that events that could be portrayed in ARGO could not have been portrayed in 1981.

I still haven't seen Argo yet but the two films may be mostly complementary, if only because there seems to be nearly no overlap of the events shown. Most of that film dealt with the time the American diplomats were being hidden in the houses of Ambassador Ken Taylor and Immigration officer John Sheardown. The suspenseful events there involved possible detection of the diplomats by those Iranians in contact with the Embassy staff, and the issue that the fake visas created for the diplomats used an incorrect date on the entry stamp due to differences with the Iranian calendar...

#54 of 73 Lord Dalek

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Posted February 24 2013 - 04:05 PM




Dig in fellas.



#55 of 73 mattCR

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Posted February 24 2013 - 04:20 PM

In response to some of the criticism:


Yes, the Canadian role was drastically underplayed, and that's true.   However, we also have to remember that even Carter, at least according to the pieces as run by The Rolling Stone and the CIA officers in question was not fully briefed on the subject matter.

In the end, there are some components that were done by the Canadians attributed to the US:  Getting Passports, arranging flights.   Those were actions of the Canadians.


However, per official CIA records and his personal account as well as the researched account as released by those involved, the idea of a film =did= come from Mendez, and they put together a fictious film.  And despite all of the role that Canada did play, it was still Mendez who entered the country pretending to be something he wasn't to smuggle them out, so if he was busted his head would have been killed on the spot.


Those things aren't in question either.


It's not incredibly historically accurate, definitely sensationalized, but we can't say "all of the major elements came from Canada" because independent reviews put many people at play here.  And Mendez does deserve credit for risking his life


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#56 of 73 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 24 2013 - 04:46 PM

I'll dig in as soon as I have the chocolate I won in my local Oscar pool. :)


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#57 of 73 larryKR

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Posted February 24 2013 - 05:18 PM

It's not incredibly historically accurate, definitely sensationalized, but we can't say "all of the major elements came from Canada" because independent reviews put many people at play here.

It doesn't matter how much pure fiction the movie contains, history will have been rewritten as the believed history of the actual event will be the movie version.

#58 of 73 Cameron Yee

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Posted February 24 2013 - 05:31 PM

Only for the intellectually lazy (which some would argue is most of the population, but that's another issue).


Frankly, I have a bigger issue with "Lincoln's" incorrect vote record for Connecticut. It's a pure factual piece of information like the date of the vote.


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#59 of 73 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 24 2013 - 08:11 PM

Originally Posted by Cameron Yee 

Only for the intellectually lazy (which some would argue is most of the population, but that's another issue).


Frankly, I have a bigger issue with "Lincoln's" incorrect vote record for Connecticut. It's a pure factual piece of information like the date of the vote.

What's ironic is the most fictionalized parts of Argo is one of the main reasons it was such an entertaining film and probably why it won Best Picture.


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#60 of 73 David Weicker

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Posted February 25 2013 - 12:37 AM

As for history books and accuracy, don't forget that the entire world was lied to (by the Canadians, by Mr. Taylor, by the U.S., and by Pres. Carter) for almost 30 years. "History" was re-written when the real story was declassified. Documents of the time are basically worthless. As for me, it is just a movie, not a history book. A very good movie David





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