Saturday, April 13, 2013

Argo and Hollywood's War on History

We saw the movie, Argo, the other night.

Overall, I found it disappointing. In its enthusiasm for creating this sort of lone wolf character from the CIA, it failed to mention that the entire scheme used for getting six escaped Americans out of Iran in 1980, came from the Canadian ambassador, not the lone wolf played blankly by Ben Affleck. The real-life ambassador had even coached the six, who escaped the US embassy in Teheran when many of their number were taken hostage, on using Canadian accents.

Getting the Americans out was also not nearly as difficult as portrayed in the film either. That only made the endless profusion of Hollywood near-misses at the end more tiresome.

Once again, Hollywood fillmakers, most notably Affleck and George Clooney, who produced Argo, opted for telling the story they wanted to tell rather than the story that actually happened.

By contrast, the magnificent Lincoln, which also was up for Best Picture at the Oscars last year, was scrupulously factual and far more engaging.

I accept that films like Sergeant York, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and The George Gershwin Story aren't historically accurate. They're from a bygone day, when filmmaking was largely about mythologizing.

But one would hope that filmmaking had grown up enough not to present such blatant falsehoods like Argo, JFK, or Nixon, to name a few of the most egregiously awful films from the past several decades of Hollywood films.

If filmmakers are going to present fiction, they should label their work as such. But, filmmakers, quit making war on history by deluding movie audiences with false histories. That doesn't help anyone but the filmmakers' pocketbooks.

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