Russell Baillie: Movie town warms to Affleck's film

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Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack O'Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo. Photo / AP
Bryan Cranston, left, as Jack O'Donnell and Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo. Photo / AP

That Ben Affleck's Argo won Golden Globes for best film drama and best director might seem surprising.

After all, Affleck's riveting film is essentially a modest, old-fashioned thriller. It might be "based on a true story" - about how a CIA ruse about a fake movie production helped to get American diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 Tehran embassy hostage crisis - but it wasn't an earnest prestige history movie of vast duration, like its chief competition Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.

Yes, it might briefly slight New Zealand's diplomatic efforts in the actual events.

But it's a ripping yarn and it won against far more ambitious films.

Just why it triumphed is maybe because Argo is also something else. It's a movie kind of movie - like last year's quirky best picture Oscar winner and Globe comedy or musical winner, The Artist, which was an ode to the silent era, or with Hugo, Martin Scorsese's movie about the creation of cinema which won him the best director Globe.

They were both movie kind of movies. So, too, is Argo. It might be the sort of taut thriller Hollywood used to make in the era in which it was set but it is also a gentle send-up of Hollywood where "people lie for a living".

The Globe voting pool of 80 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association undoubtedly laughed a little harder and more knowingly at its scenes depicting the faux production's attempts to drum up hype loud enough to be heard in Tehran.

It's also true that the Globes love a movie star directing. Giving moonlighting actors the director's prize goes way back to when Paul Newman's little-remembered directorial debut, Rachel Rachel, won in 1968.

But Affleck is no newbie. He has a screenplay Oscar to his name (for Good Will Hunting) and Argo is his third feature as director. He won yesterday against a bunch of directing big names - Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow and Ang Lee. Curiously, Affleck isn't up for a best director Oscar next month but Argo is one of the nine best picture contenders. After yesterday, its odds will have improved.

- NZ Herald

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