A modest proposal: Movies exploring some aspect of American history, such as “
These are works of historical fiction. They are not documentaries. Movies based on true stories take a little truth and then make things up to make it interesting, and — sometimes — truthful in another way.
David Byrne was right: Facts just twist the truth around. If a screenwriter remains faithful, at any cost, to what we know, or we think, or we think we know for certain happened in 1865, or 1979, or a year or two ago, drama doesn't stand a chance.
The titles dominating this year's Academy Awards competition, the results of which will be hosted by the dentally exquisite
Let's stick to truthiness for a moment. How true, how literally factual are “Argo” and “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty” as depictions of procedurals of the American political process in action? They vary. As historical fictions will. It is up to the individual viewer whether “Zero Dark Thirty” takes too many liberties in its placement or implications of the waterboarding sequences. Or if “Lincoln” elides certain aspects of the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. Or if it matters, at all, that the exciting action climax of “Argo” is as fraudulent as the fake movie of its title, the pretend “
“Argo” makes Hollywood smell good. Its industry scoundrels, played by
For months now, you could feel the 2013 Oscars (awarding work from 2012) moving toward "Argo" and "Lincoln."
“Argo” now positions itself as the front-runner: It has won enough parallel awards, both in the United States and overseas, including the recent British Academy of Film and Television Arts top prize, to indicate a shift away from director
It always felt like a race between these two, even though seven other pictures were nominated for best picture this year, because they're such solid consensus picks, well-liked and widely admired.
Also, they're true-blue American triumphs of the human spirit. Assuming "Argo" wins, it'll be the win denied "Apollo 13" (1995), a film in the same spirit, also featuring scenes of tense, capable government employees keeping watch on a rescue operation far, far away.
“Braveheart,” a film relishing direct, sadistic action in the face of political adversaries and certain disaster, won the year that “Apollo 13” lost.
People respond to "Argo" for a lot of reasons, one of them, I think, being its essentially apolitical nature.
It's about a secret mission that did not end in bloodshed. It rewrites history for streamlined narrative purposes, so that the American intelligence community doesn't simply save the day; it saves the world, or at least a little piece of it. "Argo" restores our good name in the name of crackerjack entertainment. And "Lincoln" speaks eloquently to what, and whom, that good name should represent.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is more troubling, more ambiguous. This is why it doesn't have a chance at the top Oscar this year. Leaving aside the absurd exclusion of
"Argo" isn't like that. It's a great time, a story about winning a clever intelligence game against a nasty bunch of rivals who shout "Down with America!" Affleck's film tells some truth. But it's historical fiction relaying a version of events built on the lie of its fake movie.
Some lies you can take to the bank, and then perhaps to the stage at the Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak, better known as the Oscars.