Argo’s oops

Been dragging my feet on my pick for Best Picture as distinguished from my prediction for Best Picture, which, everyone who has been reading my blog knows, is Argo … meaning pretty much no one is aware.

Here’s another reason why Argo doesn’t earn my vote, not even for film editing: a honkin’ continuity problem.

Scenes between John Goodman and Alan Arkin I would watch again and again. But that's about it.

Scenes between John Goodman and Alan Arkin I would watch again and again. But that’s about it.

Watching it a second time with my husband this afternoon (because I had dozed off during three scenes the first time and wanted to give it a fair viewing), he astutely wondered whether the use of the Rolling Stones’ Little T&A was anachronistic.

When we first meet John Chambers, played by big talent John Goodman, on the set of the minotaur movie, a date flashes across the screen: January 19, 1980. Pipe in Little T&A — which wasn’t released until August 1981 on the Stones’ Tattoo You LP.

Sure, that album is composed of studio outtakes, some of which dated back a decade. Little T&A was intended for release on the 1980 Emotional Rescue LP, but was dropped. Plus, forgiveably, the song isn’t playing in the movie’s reality, it’s merely providing the soundtrack. But even if it had been released on Emotional Rescue, that LP didn’t come out until June of 1980.

The bigger problem arises in the next scene, after Chambers has received a call from CIA agent and exfiltration specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck). Mendez shows up for their meeting — one assumes time has passed — and bam, a close shot of a newspaper shows the date: Jan. 15, 1980.

I did not know CIA agents could do that: travel back in time.

Now maybe this newspaper was a weekly. In fact, it probably was Variety, now that I think about it. Still … sloppy, sloppy. Why even show the date? Why even use that song? Add that to the other fabrications that other critics find offensive — despite the movie’s caveat “Some scenes and dialogue in this film have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes” — I simply don’t feel any compulsion to see Argo again and again, as I would a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) or The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but a Best Picture needs to be held up to the highest standards to stand the test of time. Given that the prevailing winds favor Argo, “a paean to Hollywood,” as my husband summed it up, I now feel free and unembarrassed to vote for my own favorite, also destined to be a “Hollywood”-style classic: Silver Linings Playbook. It was not only unpredictably delightful but flawless in its portrayal of flawed humans. I would watch it again and get sucked into it whenever I catch a glimpse on cable, and have already recommended it to friends (my criteria for Best Picture, as outlined in my overall predictions & picks announcement, here).

"Silver Linings Playbook" is about something that is relevant today -- mental illness, bipolar disorder -- and I feel a Best Picture winner should act as a societal time capsule. The other front-running films indicate we are looking to the past for answers. Which may be true.

“Silver Linings Playbook” is about something that is relevant today — mental illness, bipolar disorder — and I feel a Best Picture winner should act as a societal time capsule. The other front-running films indicate we are looking to the past for answers, which may be true. But that’s just not where my head, or heart, is at.

In second place, for me: Django Unchained, because it makes a statement, has a point of view, fits an actual genre, and is destined to be a cult classic. It also confronts our past, a very ugly chapter, but with judgment, attitude and no mercy. As Ann Hornaday wrote in The Washington Post, Quentin Tarantino brilliantly blended slavery and bounty hunting, which both “commodify” the human body. I cannot wait to catch it again.

Tied for third: Big-Picture pictures Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild remain neck and neck because they both showcase relevant themes (searching for religion/impact of climate change/exploring our relationship to life on the planet/true grit and survival); are breathtakingly poetic and allegorical; and reflect an artful, global period in movies using the best of the latest technology. Plus, storytelling is the star. True art. I would welcome these streamed live on my bedroom wall with a frame around them.

And now I feel I have covered my butt. If one of these four win, I shall be ecstatic.

And then there’s Lincoln. If it wins, I am totally toast.

Happy Oscars Eve to you all, and to all a good night!

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