Much like the escape, "Argo" is Hollywood audacity at its best, taking the gist of a true story and dressing it up into a fun night out.
Meantime, the makers of "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty" may have tried to be too genuine. Based partly on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," Spielberg's film is enormously entertaining yet professorial at times. Based on Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal's painstaking research, "Zero Dark Thirty" has prompted a savage debate over its depictions of interrogations, with critics saying the film misleads viewers for suggesting that torture provided information that helped the CIA find bin Laden.
"Lincoln" gets a little dry in its history lesson, and "Zero Dark Thirty" gets a little ugly in its reflection of deeds done in our name. Or more simply, "Lincoln" hurts our heads, "Zero Dark Thirty" hurts our hearts.
While "Argo" is a big wet kiss, a crowd-pleaser that works at every level.
"Argo" won at the Golden Globes and earned top honors from the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. Affleck is up for the big prize at Saturday's Directors Guild of America Awards, and if he wins there, it will establish "Argo" as a solid favorite at the Feb. 24 Oscars, where it would become just the fourth film to win best picture without a directing nomination.
Some years, heavy, somber films win, like Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" over the sci-fi smash "Avatar" three years ago. And some years, Oscar voters want that big wet kiss. The great escape chronicled in "Argo" seems to be just the sort of escapism they're looking for this season.
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