Argo – 8

A very adult thriller from Hollywood – bravo, Ben Affleck! The danger was real and historical, yet there weren’t any conventional bad guys: the Iranians were shown to have full justification, in their minds if not ours, for their actions. The hostages were presented as unglamorous everyday people – in fact, their appearances uncannily matched their real-life counterparts. Washington bureaucrats were the other big obstacle, but their decisions, however cruel for these individuals, made sense in the larger picture. Affleck’s filming techniques and the intercutting with contemporary news reports added substantially to the realism, if recent events in Benghazi hadn’t already driven this home.
Then there was the comic relief: it would have been hard to believe the John Goodman/Alan Arkin sideshow if the Hollywood scenario hadn’t had a substantial basis in fact. Regardless, it was wonderful: I totally relax whenever Goodman is on the screen, and every one of Arkin’s zingers was hilarious. The slapstick of “Argo” melded with the suspense in Tehran to form a remarkably seamless and well-rounded whole. Holding it all together was Affleck, underplaying behind a beard. Why his character would take on this assignment was never explained, which was just as well for I probably wouldn’t have bought any explanation. The point is, he did it, and we could cry with pleasure because he did.
I do have quibbles: the airport scenes at the end larded on too many cliffhangers. Would the tickets come through, would the producers get to the ringing phone, would the rebels get to the control tower, would the racing Jeeps catch the taxiing plane? The realism that had been built up seemed to be tossed aside to manufacture even more intense suspense. By that point, though, the stakes were high enough, and I wish we could have been treated like adults for a few minutes more.

Trouble With the Curve – 7

One could list the ten most improbable moments of the film, starting with Amy Adams throwing her potential law firm partnership in the garbage can, or Rigo Sanchez, sans warmup, throwing fastballs past Bo Gentry (and if the issue is the curve, why make Rigo a lefthander?), and you’d probably have trouble stopping at ten; or, one could just say what a great acting job Amy Adams did, as usual, and what fun it was to watch her relationship with Justin Timberlake blossom and luxuriate in her mass of red hair. The baseball scenes rated a ‘B,’ which is pretty good for a Hollywood movie, and the trivia questions were pitched perfectly. The main downer was Clint Eastwood, so crusty you wanted to spit him out and bring in a reliever, like the old pro John Goodman. A la Hollywood, the bad guys were presented as so devoid of redeeming qualities that it was heartwarming to see them disgraced and fail at the finale.