Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why ‘ARGO’ Will Win Best Picture Hands Down

What film will walk away with top honors tonight?  My own pick is 'ARGO’ (produced by George Clooney & Ben Affleck) to win the ‘Best Picture'. You can make book on it. Having seen the movie back in October, I told my wife that the early setup-background sequence alone was worth the price of admission. It showed what few Americans know, that the subsequent hostage crisis, as well as the more recent upheavals (including Iran going for its own A-weapon) are all a result of early U.S. interference – namely deposing Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. (Mossadegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organized and carried out by the CIA  at the request of the British MI6 which chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mossadegh.)

Until one grasps that background it’s impossible to understand either the Iran Hostage crisis or subsequent events, including the Iran-Contra conspiracy, and the current nuclear impasse.

The movie itself brought back the tense period (over 1979-80) of the 52 American hostages, held 444 days by Shi’ite zealots at the U.S. Embassy in Iran. It also brought back memories of what led to that dire standoff, and what nasty deals followed in its wake, including the Iran-Contra conspiracy. In the latter, money from the sales of the arms to Iran was  funneled into Nicaragua to support the Rightist “Contras’, a violation of the then Boland Amendment, and basically exposing the Reagan administration’s covert support for paramilitary activities conducted against the Sandinista government. Reagan used Oillie North (another former Marine knothead) and others to act as "cut outs" to expedite it, then sought to cover it up. As noted on p. 56 of The Iran –Contra Report:

“The federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 371, states that ‘it is a crime to conspire to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose’”

For all these reasons of historical attention, as well as the comedic undertones (with Alan Arkin, John Goodman as movie director, producer) 'ARGO'  deserves the award.

Originally, I believed ‘ARGO’ might lose out to ‘Lincoln’ based on a recent article that claimed the movie’s final scenes, e.g. with the Revolutionary Guards- armed with Kalashnikovs- chasing the departing plane, were fictitious. But then ‘Lincoln’ was exposed as having its own historical issues, when critics pointed out the inaccurate portrayal of two Connecticut reps voting against the 13th amendment. They had actually voted for it!  (Tony Kushner admitted to changing history in order to make the final House vote closer, hence more dramatic. Bad move, Tony!)

This controversy offset immediately made ‘ARGO’ the favorite, especially after having won a slew of other awards (e.g. Golden Globe) .

So, I am going with ‘ARGO’ as Best Picture.

Meanwhile, I predict Spielberg will win Best Director for ‘Lincoln’, adding to his two earlier history-based Oscars (for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Schindler’s List’). Meanwhile, it’s a given that Daniel Day Lewis will win Best Actor for his role as Lincoln, squeaky voice and all.

Best Actress had me wondering, until I saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Jessica Chastain’s performance as ‘Maya’ – the CIA prodigy who exposed the final hideout of Osama bin Laden. So now, I am going with her. (Though the Hollywood cognoscenti have Emmanuelle Riva  ('Amour') winning it because of her advanced years, and she may not get another shot. Fair enough!)

The other awards are more difficult to parse and predict, but we will see. It ought to be an enjoyable evening for movie lovers, and I’ve already got the pizza and beer on order, with extra food in case the show goes late!

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