Just last night, Argo won the Oscar for best picture. Everybody at the Academy Awards stood up and applauded, as though this was an obvious win. In fact, before the show, most film writers were pretty consigned that Argo was going to run away with the award. Meanwhile, I at home was baffled. I saw the movie. I liked it. But did it really deserve to be called the best movie of the year. Of this, I am positive the answer is no.
As a movie, Argo is very entertaining. The story of the six U.S. diplomats trapped in post-rebellion Tehran is both entertaining and tense. And the idea to make a fake movie to sneak the diplomats out was incredibly clever. As a suspenseful thriller, Argo was great. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. No one acting performance really stood out to me, although I’m a sucker for John Goodman ever since his role in The Big Lebowski. Argo is a tight, exciting movie that succeeds at being very entertaining.
That being said, Argo is not a perfect movie. Argo brings nothing new to the conversation. I have seen many movies do the exact same thing Argo has done. Munich tells a very similar story, including fudging the facts of the supposed “historical” movie. Wag the Dog also shows the power of Hollywood to mislead people, and frankly, does it much better. While Argo is a great movie to be sure, it is clearly not perfect. While watching the whole movie, I kept waiting for some particular moment to blow me away. I truly wanted this movie to live up to all the hype it had received. I had read all the reviews beforehand, and expected to be amazed. But I left scratching my head. Sure this movie was great, but I failed to see what exactly set it apart from all the others.
When Argo won, I was shocked. The Academy messed up. The past few years have been fairly consistent for the Oscars. They have largely kept to picking the best movie of the year for a while now. However, I knew this year would be different the instant I saw the nominees. Three of the best movies of the year were missing. The Master is the one that confused me the most. This is the kind of movie that is usually hardcore Oscar bait. A stellar cast, who ended up getting two acting noms anyways, tells the dark and thought provoking tale of life withing a cult. The only reason I could think the Academy might not nominate this movie was because it was too dark, and too deep for the Academy. The second movie on my list would have been a stretch for the Academy anyways. I was holding out hope that the Academy might realize that one of the best movies of the year was in fact a Bond film. No hate for Amour or Les Miserables, but they simply could not compete with the amazing performances and dark story of Skyfall.
However, the movie I’m most upset the Oscars missed really should have won many Oscars. However, in an oversight that I find equal parts frustrating and confusing, Looper was not nominated in a single category. At the very least, I expected Rian Johnson to receive a screen writing nomination. Yet, in my opinion the best movie of the year, came into the competition completely empty handed. What turned the Academy off was most likely the sci-fi quirks on the surface of the movie. They failed to find the deeper, incredibly fascinating themes which, for me, made Looper so amazing. Without a doubt, if the Academy was not so safe and self-interested, Looper would have at least been nominated, if not a winner.
So the question remains, why Argo? The answer becomes more obvious when you remember how self-absorbed the Academy is. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of old, Hollywood professionals. Therefore, any movie that glorifies Hollywood and the power of film makes the Academy feel very warm and fuzzy inside. If there is one thing Argo does, it gives lots of credit to Hollywood. The fact that it was directed by Ben Affleck, a celebrity that celebrities love, probably helped. And the cast contained Allen Arkin and John Goodman, two old school Hollywood greats. In fact, Arkin received an Academy Award nomination for basically playing himself. All of this grandiose narcissism let the Academy pat themselves on the back, and as a result, they gave the award to the movie that made them feel the most important.
Argo’s win is not the first time the award went to the wrong movie. It will most certainly happen again. What makes me most angry about this particular instance is how obvious the corruption of the Academy has become. There were many movies better that Argo, even some that were nominated like Lincoln or Django Unchained. Argo’s win is hollow and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.