Argo's Best Picture Controversy and Academy Award Fallout

Monday, 25 Feb 2013 08:33 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Ben Affleck's "Argo" took the top prize of Best Picture at Sunday night's Academy Awards, beating out eight other nominees, but not everyone was pleased with the movie's account of the 1979 Iranian hostage rescue.

The film chronicles the previously confidential story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative played by Affleck, who led the rescue of the six U.S. diplomats from Tehran during the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis. The escapees were hidden in the home of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor while Mendez brainstormed a way to get them back to the U.S. He planned to create a cover story that the six people were members of a Canadian film crew scouting a movie location in Iran. The escapees make it through Iranian airport security in a nail biter of a finale and, ultimately, return home safely.

Former president Jimmy Carter, who was in office at the time of the hostage crisis, has taken issue with the accuracy of "Argo."

"Let me say, first of all, it's a great drama, and I hope it gets the Academy Award for best film because I think it deserves it," he told CNN's Piers Morgan last week. "The other thing that I would say was that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good."

Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador who was one of the key players in helping the U.S. diplomats, has also spoken out against "Argo."

"In the movie, Canada and Ottawa didn’t exist," Taylor told the New York Times. "It's a great film, it's great. But at the same time it was a Canadian story that’s been, all of sudden, totally taken over by the Americans. Totally."

Other bloggers have said the movie "distorts history" from truth to propaganda.

"Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio have taken a minor but intriguing historical episode drawn from the Iranian hostage crisis and rendered it into a reassuring and familiar action-adventure flick about American heroism and, not coincidentally, the inspiring patriotism of the apparently cynical bastards in the film industry," writes Andrew O'Hehir for Salon.com.

The film, directed by Affleck, bested "Lincoln," "Life of Pi," "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Les Misérables," "Django Unchained," "Silver Linings Playbook," and "Zero Dark Thirty."

First lady Michelle Obama joined actor Jack Nicholson to help present the award.

"Argo" was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three, for Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. Last month, Affleck took home a Golden Globe for Best Director.

Related stories:

Ex-Canada Ambassador Slighted by Affleck's 'Argo'


First Lady Surprise Guest Announcing Affleck's 'Argo' as Winner of Best Picture Oscar

Lieberman: 'Shocked' if Iran Gives Up Its Nukes

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