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Five Pop Culture Notes on 'Argo'

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Monday, Feb 25, 2013
I'll jot down five details for pop culture connosseurs that occurred to me while watching the new DVD.
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Argo (Blu-ray)

Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy

(Warner Bros. Pictures, GK Films, SmokeHouse Pictures; US DVD: 19 Feb 2013)

Everybody and her mother has written about Argo and I’ll have no fresh insights on a movie that manages to generate classic Hollywood-style suspense and catharsis out of a bunch of people going to the airport. Instead I’ll jot five details for pop culture connosseurs that occurred to me while watching the new DVD.


1. The opening Warner Brothers logo is the late 1970s model with two and a half fat red lines forming an abstract “W” that comes at you and changes color, a W within a W, complete with dust and dirt on the image as if an old print has been run through a projector a few times. It’s a cute salute to film history, and I always like that kind of gesture on movies set in an earlier decade.
  
2. A cult figure plays a cult figure. There’s a brief scene in which an artist is consulted about making drawings for the phony movie. This character is Jack Kirby, a legend among comics fans for his work on Spiderman and dozens of other characters. The actor playing him is Michael Parks, who starred in the short-lived, fondly recalled TV series Then Came Bronson (1969-70), came to attention again with a villainous role on Twin Peaks, and more recently has appeared in several films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.


3. Alexander Desplat’s music uses abstract vocals by Iranian singer Sussan Deyhim, a titan in performance-art circles whose other soundtrack work includes The Last Temptation of Christ and The Kite Runner. Also, in an increasingly common practice, the score borrows music written for other soundtracks, specifically from Mark Isham’s score for In the Valley of Elah, about the effects of war, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ Spy Game (get it?).


3. Rafi Pitts appears an Iranian embassy officer. Pitts is an Iranian director whose most recent film, The Hunter, is a brilliant, lovely, intense character study of alienation and violence starring himself, and it deserves at least as wide an audience as Argo.


5. John Goodman’s character mentions Rock Hudson by way of introducing a thought about using the press to spread a lie. We understand him to be referring to the fact that Hudson’s homosexuality was a subject of disinformation. However, Hudson’s reality didn’t become public until the 1980s, so Ben Affleck’s character shouldn’t have grasped the connection. In real life, he should have asked, “Why are you bringing up Rock Hudson?” (BTW, IMDB’s Trivia page for this movie offers a cornucopia of other anachronisms for the interested.)


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By Michael Phillips
25 Feb 2013
17 Feb 2013
No one knew exactly how this operation was set up, who managed it, and what was needed to execute it. Making up the film's middle 40 minutes or so, this aspect of Argo is intriguing and sporadically humorous.
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