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1) Interesting -- that's not at all what I remember. (Linda Jarvis)

2) In retrospect, it was all too predictable. An operating American embassy in the heart of revolutionary Iran’s capital was too much for Tehran’s aroused citizenry to bear. It had to go. It was a symbol of everything the nascent upheaval hated and feared. Washington’s underestimation of the danger was just part of a larger failure; it had not foreseen the fathering threat to its longtime Cold War ally Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the now reviled, self-exiled Shah. A CIA analysis in August 1978, just six months before Pahlavi fled Iran for good, had concluded that the country “is not in a revolutionary or even prerevolutionary situation.” A year and a revolution later America was still underestimating the power and vision of the mullahs behind it. Like most of the great turning points in history, it was obvious and yet no one saw it coming. (Mark Bowden 4)

3) As a result [of the Tudeh party’s growth and support of the aims of Moscow], it was with trepidation that America watched in 1951 at the shah’s power was slowly stripped away by an Iranian lawyer named Mohammed Mosaddeq. Mosaddeq had risen to prominence on the back of a campaign to nationalize the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a popular move among Iranians who had long felt exploited by the British. Caught in a wave of nationalism, Mosaddeq became a hero and was eventually nominated prime minister. (Mendez and Baglio 10)

4) Kinzer attended a book party for an older Iranian woman. Devoid of politics, she briefly mentioned that her family was related to the family of Mosaddeq. He asked: “What do you remember, or what can you tell us, about the coup against him?” She immediately became agitated and animated.
“Why did you Americans do that terrible thing?” she cried out. “We always loved America. To us, America was the great country, the perfect country, the country that helped us while other countries were exploiting us. But after that moment, no one in Iran ever trusted the United States again. I can tell you for sure that if you had not done that thing, you would never have had that problem of hostages being taken in your embassy in Tehran. All your trouble started in 1953. Why, why did you do it?" This outburst reflected a great gap in knowledge and understanding that separates most Iranians from most non-Iranians. (Kinzer ix)

5) It's that struggle . . . between . . . the bookkeeper's reality and . . . the poet's reality, and you make judgments as a director. And my judgment falls really cleanly on the line of, "It's OK to embellish, it's OK to compress, as long as you don't fundamentally change the nature of the story and what happened." (Ben Affleck, qtd in Van Sant)

6) In the middle you have (as required by the genre) the development of the scheme in the face of bureaucratic opposition and skepticism, and that is political, but not in a geopolitical way. Members of the Carter administration, along with high-ranking officials in the C.I.A., are presented as uninformed, discombobulated and flummoxed by events — think Libya — and incapable of figuring out what to do. That’s when Hollywood rides to the rescue in the persons of two tinsel-town types played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin, one real and one made up. Together with Affleck’s character, they dream up and put into fake production a movie called “Argo,” a Potemkin-village artifact to which the six stranded Americans are attached by a trail of false documents. This actually happened, and the Hollywood scenes are hilarious. (Stanley Fish)

7) Sarah Shourd, who was held hostage by the Islamic regime just like the American diplomats, also points out that the portrayal of most of the Iranians in this film neither corresponds with the objective reality nor with the temporal reality. It's understandable that Hollywood needs to represent its heroes as fairy godmothers emerging from heaven against followers of evil in order to dramatize and mythicize the rescue of oppressed American hostages. But when we refer to the existing documents, neither now nor even at the time that anti-imperialist enthusiasm was dominating the country, far from all Iranians shared the same approach towards the hostage taking. (Omid Habibinia)

8) In the Arab states, the United States had thrown its weight behind conservation Sunni regimes, and in Iran behind Pahlavi, who stood as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism in the region. As the two great powers saw it, the Cold War would determine the shape of the world; all other perspectives, those from the so-called Third-World, were irrelevant or important only insofar as they influenced the primary struggle. (Mark Bowden 5)

9) The final straw for the Eisenhower administration came when intelligence uncovered that the Soviets were about to give Mosaddeq twenty million dollars in aid. In light of these threats, the White House ordered CIA director Allen Dulles to work with the British to overthrow Mosaddeq. (Mendez and Baglio 11)

10) A host of factors influence the course of history, and drawing conclusions about the causes and effects is always dangerous. Nonetheless, few would deny that the 1953 coup in Iran set off a series of unintended consequences. Its most direct result was to give Mohammad Reza Shah the change to become dictator. He received enormous amounts of aid from the United States -- more than $1 billion in the decade following the coup -- but his oppressive rule turned Iranians against him. In 1979 their anger exploded in a shattering revolution led by Islamic fundamentalists. (Kinzer 202)

11) The film barely touches on the central humiliating debacle of the Iranian hostage crisis in which 52 Americans were held for 15 months and 8 American servicemen were killed during a fiasco of a ‘rescue mission’, commonly blamed for costing Carter the 1980 election. Instead, the narrative depicts a parallel, minor side-story of an America that duped the Persians with lashings of moral superiority and machiavellian cunning. Indeed, an uninitiated Western audience would almost certainly leave the cinema with the firm impression that the Iranian hostage crisis was one of the most triumphant episodes of US history -- instead of one of the most embarrassing. (Sarah Gillespie)

12) Argo is a bit too pleased with its “can-you-believe-it?” premise (we get at least three scenes in which the plan is explained to the open-mouthed disbelief of one superior or another). More disconcerting, however, is the fuel the picture relies on to generate its suspense: an unsettling combination of American jingoism and old-fashioned xenophobia. (Josh Larsen)

13) It [the American embassy in Tehran] looked like a big American high school, which is why years ago it had been dubbed “Henderson High,” after Loy W. Henderson, the first U.S. ambassador to use it, in the early fifties. (Mark Bowden 6)

14) He [Lee Schatz] was taken in the ambassador’s car over to the house of Cecilia Lithander, the Swedish consular officer who had first told him about the phone call. Her house was located in a tranquil neighborhood in northern Tehran, and when Schatz got there he couldn’t believe he was in the same city where the embassy attack had taken place. Later that evening he and Cecilia went out for a stroll to the local market. All in all, it was a nice evening. (Mendez and Baglio 79)

15) “It is easy to see Operation Boot as the first step towards the Iranian catastrophe of 1979,” Woodhouse conceded. “What we did not foresee was that the Shah would gather new strength and use it so tyrannically, nor that the US government and the Foreign Office would fail so abjectly to keep him on a reasonable course. At the time we were simply relieved that a threat to British interested had been removed.” (Kinzer 200)

16) If Affleck captures one of the darker and more chaotic periods of recent history in meticulous detail -- and his replication of the revolutionary streets of Tehran, and the seizure of the United States embassy, is genuinely impressive -- I would argue that’s all elaborate window dressing for a propaganda fable. (Andrew O'Hehir)

17) Argo makes the Iran hostage crisis, one of the most cataclysmic episodes in U.S. foreign affairs in the last 50 years, a mere backdrop to a silver-lining subplot—one that even Robert Anders, one of the Argo hostages, admitted was a “footnote.” The film thus distorts and belittles an event that transformed U.S. history. Ironically, the larger narrative of the hostage crisis would make for a more compelling movie from both a plot and action standpoint: A great filmmaker could make an amazing sequence of Operation Eagle Claw, a failed rescue mission that resulted in two helicopter crashes, several dead U.S. soldiers, and a subsequent overhaul of U.S. military operations. Imagine the last act of Zero Dark Thirty, but with an unhappy ending. I’m not naive. I know such a film wouldn’t go over well with the home audience. And I’m not demanding that Hollywood make a movie about Iran as bracing and uncommercial as Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film, my top movie of 2012 and a true reflection of Iran's reality, using all the resourceful invention that's missing in Argo. But apologists will argue that a film like Argo is the best we could hope for in depicting this episode of history, which makes the film less about history than about our national addiction to happy endings in movies. (Kevin Lee)

18) Most Americans — even the under-33 generation — have some recollection of those events: photos of blindfolded diplomats; angry crowds of bearded young men waving their fists at the TV cameras; wreckage of helicopters in the Iranian desert after the failed rescue mission; triumphal homecoming parades. Several episodes, however, have largely been forgotten. Who recalls that 13 American black people and women were released by the Iranians in the first few weeks of the crisis in a crude bid to polarize American public opinion? And how many people remember the six Americans who hid out in the Canadian embassy after evading capture, and who were later smuggled out of Iran in full sight of the militiamen at Mehrabad Airport? This latter part of the story, dubbed the “Canadian Caper,” was a brief burst of good news in the midst of an otherwise grim daily dose of frustration and anger. Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor rightly became an American hero. (Gary Sick)

19) Khomeini gave a speech urging “all grade-school, university, and theological students to increase their attacks against America.” (Mark Bowden 14)

20) Ironically, as the historical record shows, the countercoup would not have succeeded if it hadn’t been for the support of a sizable faction of Iranians who’d also had much to gain by securing the shah’s power. However, the popular myth in 1979 among Iranians, ever distrustful of foreign intervention, was that the CIA had single-handedly ousted a democratic leader while imposing a tyrant in his place. While not entirely accurate, it painted a picture that many Iranians were eager to believe. (Mendez and Baglio 12)

21) One day, my new friend told me, a peasant came to Mosaddegh to complain that he had been detained by some of the local Savak agents, taken to their headquarters, and beaten while they should questions about Mosaddegh’s habits and conversations. “It was the only time I ever saw him get angry. He called the police chief and shouted at him to come to the house immediately. When he got to the house, Mosaddegh pushed him against a wall, held his cane against the guy’s throat and shouted: ‘You are here to watch me, and you have no right to abuse anyone else. If you have a problem, you come to me and only me! Don’t ever, ever lay a finger on one of my people again!’ This was a Savak officer and not a nice man at all, but when this happened he started apologizing and begging forgiveness. After that, the police never went near us. The jailor was afraid of the prisoner!” (Kinzer 222)

22) We all know that in Hollywood, narratives are applauded for their appeal, not their accuracy. Fictional reconstructions of past events do not claim to ask questions about history. What they do provide are parables loaded with collective wishes, hopes, fears and unarticulated anxieties. (Sarah Gillespie)

23) It all leads up to the inevitable airport sequence whose nail-biting uncertainties as to whether or not the Americans will be able to make their escape before the authorities realize who they are, are aided by a sustained series of cross-cutting that would make D.W. Griffith proud. Perhaps too proud. In The Birth of the Nation, Griffith infamously built tension by juxtaposing shots of "evil" African Americans with glimpses of the "heroic" Ku Klux Klan riding to the rescue. The cutting in Affleck's film between menacing Muslims and peaceful white Americans is clearly not on the same level of preposterousness as Griffith's fantastical worldview. After all, Iranian revolutionaries really did call for the death of all Americans. And yet, by placing the image of murderous Middle Easterners front and center in his film, there's little doubt that the effect is to reawaken memories of the last time when anti-Iranian sentiment ran rampant in the United States and to stir up similar feelings at exactly the moment when doing so would be most dangerous. No one would deny the thrill of seeing the Americans affect their daring escape. It's only in retrospect, when we wonder what exactly it is we've been cheering, that the momentary excitement gives way to a bitter reminder of how little the American mindset has changed. (Andrew Schenker)

24) Filmgoers troubled by factual inaccuracies in the hostage thriller Argo are advised to hold fire until The General Staff [a proposed Iranian film] arrives to set the record straight. Conceived as a "response" to Ben Affleck's Oscar-nominated take on the 1979 hostage crisis, it promises a tale of cowardly US diplomats who are treated with kindness and eventually delivered to safety by their Iranian hosts. Viewers should note that Iran's idea of a happy ending may well differ from Hollywood's. (Brooks and Dehghan)

25) Instead of keeping its eye on the big picture of revolutionary Iran, the film settles into a retrograde “white Americans in peril” storyline. It recasts those oppressed Iranians as a raging, zombie-like horde, the same dark-faced demons from countless other movies— still a surefire dramatic device for instilling fear in an American audience. After the opening makes a big fuss about how Iranians were victimized for decades, the film marginalizes them from their own story, shunting them into the role of villains. Yet this irony is overshadowed by a larger one: The heroes of the film, the CIA, helped create this mess in the first place. And their triumph is executed through one more ruse at the expense of the ever-dupable Iranians to cap off three decades of deception and manipulation. (Kevin Lee)

26) In October, Carter had polled his top advisors on the question, and most of them supported letting the shah in. “What are you guys going to advise me to do if they overrun our embassy and take our people hostage?” asked the president. No one had answered. (Mark Bowden 19)

27) If we put aside how much the hostages, who spent 444 days in solitude, and their families suffered, the Iranian people are those who suffered the most when the Mullah's dominated following the hostage taking, with violent suppression of opposition parties, slaughter of political prisoners, war and consolidation of the Islamic Republic's governance of Iran for several decades. Ma'soomeh Ebtekar, a hostage keeper who has become a reformist and discussed Argo in a post on her weblog, claims the film doesn't confess what a heavy cost the crisis had for the Iranian people who were the main puppeteers. (Omid Habibinia)

28) Even though I had been forbidden to interview Iranians about Mosaddegh and his regime, the casual conversations I had with ordinary people make it abundantly clear that most held him in high regard. (Kinzer 225)

29) More disconcerting, however, is the fuel the picture relies on to generate its suspense: an unsettling combination of American jingoism and old-fashioned xenophobia. I understand that this is a true story with clear bad guys. The revolutionaries who overthrew Iran’s Western-backed dynasty were a brutal bunch, and the early days of transition were filled with the torture and murder of those who had even the slightest ties to the United States. By no means am I asking that this story turn a blind eye toward the abusiveness of the revolutionary regime. Yet I think it’s worth exploring exactly how the story is told by Argo, and what the effects of that approach might be. In order to generate fear and suspense, the movie plays to our worst impulses. This is a film dominated by screaming men with dark beards; the constant waving of weapons; disorganized gatherings in unfamiliar streets. It’s telling that more often than not, when the Iranian characters speak, their words aren’t translated via subtitles. In short, they’re unfamiliar, unintelligible monsters. (Josh Larsen)

30) Even if you go in knowing the details of how the operation turned out (I didn’t, precisely), you can’t help but break into a cold sweat during the climactic checkpoint encounter, or thrill to the car-on-plane chase down the runways of Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport—one of a few scenes in which screenwriter Chris Terrio’s broadly accurate retelling of real events allows itself some fairly whopping dramatic license. But Argo provides just enough grit to sand down the edges of the audience’s disbelief. We’re not here for an episode of Frontline: We’d like a little emotional catharsis with our late-20th-century history lesson, and Affleck generously provides it in the movie’s last act, when Mendez’s character and the resilience of the houseguests are put to the test. One could wish that the movie contained at least one significant Iranian character—the locals we encounter are pretty much restricted to the “menacing thug” or “loyal servant” variety—but there’s no pandering to negative stereotypes of Islam, and the opening voice-over treats the history of American meddling in Middle Eastern affairs with frank disdain. (Dana Stevens)

31) Affleck's thriller is banned in Iran, where it is officially viewed as "anti-Iranian". Mohammad Hosseini, the country's minister of culture and Islamic guidance, has described it as "an offensive act" motivated by "evil intentions." (Brooks and Dehghan)

32) (Once the Iranian students were in the embassy) “This is United States property. Get out of this building immediately.” Rosen’s defiance was not simply bravado. He found it hard to take this bunch seriously. They were so young, for one thing, shabbily dressed and clearly nervous. He was more angry than frightened.
(Mark Bowden 32)

33) In one surreal instance, Hamilton Jordan, President Carter’s chief of staff, remembers driving past a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in Washington, where American police were holding back an angry crowd. It was the irony of all ironies. Here was the United States protecting Iranian diplomats, while at the same time in Iran, American diplomats were being held captive and abused. (Mendez and Baglio 47)

34) The violent anti-Americanism that emerged from Iran after 1979 shocked most people in the United States. Americans had no idea of what might have set off such bitter hatred in a country where they had always imagined themselves more or less well liked. That was became almost no one in the United States knew what the Central Intelligence Agency did there in 1953. (Kinzer x)

35) The craft in this film is rare. It is so easy to manufacture a thriller from chases and gunfire, and so very hard to fine-tune it out of exquisite timing and a plot that's so clear to us we wonder why it isn't obvious to the Iranians. After all, who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis? Just about everyone, it turns out. Hooray for Hollywood. (Roger Ebert)

36) Hollywood’s dramatization and exaggeration is not just limited to adding some flavor to increase suspension and thrill, as was done in the case of the scene of a dramatic fake execution of hostages or the use of the rescue formula at the scene in the airport. Dramatization and exaggeration have gone so far as to make both scenes seem foolish when one considers the objective logic: there's no reason to scare hostages who are in captivity and it's not clear why the Iranians don't use their American jets to force the pilot to return or, even easier than that, why they don't simply order him to turn back. (Omid Habibinia)

37) Both espionage and filmmaking rely on telling complicated lies that people need, not necessary to believe in, but to suspend our disbelief. As such, ‘Argo’ provides a respite from America’s encroaching anxiety surrounding its own impotence at a time when it was locked in conflict with an enemy it failed to conquer in the past. It retells the tale of the worst fiasco in US/Iranian history as if the West had triumphed. But the West didn’t triumph then, and it may not triumph now. The film implores us to differentiate between what we know and what we believe. It tells us that if we all invest in the myth of Western omnipotence the West might prevail. Let’s see if it works. (Sarah Gillespie)

38) Outside the door, demonstrators with bullhorns were repeating reassurances in both Farsi and English, “We do not wish to harm you. We only wish to set-in.” (Mark Bowden 34)

39) At one point Mark embarrassed himself by standing up and asking if the Canadian ambassador was aware of their situation. Mark was concerned that maybe Sheardown was acting on his own and they were in for a repeat of Gholhak Gardens if Sheardown lost his nerve. Taylor had introduced himself earlier by name only, and Mark hadn’t realized who he was. Sheardown couldn’t resist. “Of course the Canadian Ambassador knows,” he responded. “He’s sitting right next to you.” (Mendez and Baglio 93)

40) Affleck evokes the era without fetishizing it: He gives us the sci-fi glitz, the clunky glasses, the full ashtrays, the butt-ugly hair, but none of these things detract or distract from the essential story. (Amy Biancolli)

41) I saw Ben Affleck’s movie “Argo” the other day, and ever since I’ve been wondering why it’s gotten such good reviews and has even, as some of the reviewers breathlessly say, “been generating Oscar buzz.” It’s not a bad movie; watching it is not a chore; it’s just that I’d seen it done before and done better. Basically it’s a caper movie: some improbable task has to be pulled off by a combination of ingenuity, training, deception and luck. (Stanley Fish)

42) Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: A cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans. We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller. (Kevin Lee)

43) Tehran’s protesters were accustomed to tear gas and had learned how to cope with in during the months of their uprising -- that explained the kerchiefs many of them wore wrapped across their faces. (Mark Bowden 35)

44) “We’re in a bit of a bind,” he (Anders) said. Sheardown didn’t hesitate. “Why didn’t you call be before?” he said. “What took you so long?”
(Mendez and Baglio 89)

45) I wanted to go [to Iran]—just for research—very badly. I really wanted to be accurate. The studio, however, said, “This is a bad idea,” to which I responded, “Well, I’m just going to go as a private person, without any association with the movie or the studio—just as a tourist.” Then I talked to the State Department about it, and they said, “Look, you could go, but there’s a likelihood that people from the government will show up with a camera, shake your hand, take pictures, and say, “See, this American supports what we’re doing. ” All of a sudden, a visit that’s supposed to be apolitical and personal could be publicized and create a headache for me and the movie. I wanted to feel like the brave, intrepid filmmaker who is not afraid, but then eventually it was like, “Maybe I am afraid a little bit.” (Ben Affleck, qtd in Van Sant)

46) While yellow ribbons begin to swathe the rest of America -- and a little show called “Nightline” becomes citizens’ go-to source of hostage crisis updates -- Mendez and his colleagues refine their plan until he’s ready to take it live, at which point “Argo” suddenly but seamlessly switches from an antic Hollywood send-up back to a taut “Mission: Impossible”-type thriller. And by “Mission: Impossible,” I refer to the television show of the 1970s, a time period that Affleck captures with stylistic touches as authentic as they are inadvertently witty, from IBM Selectrics that were the state-of-the-art word processors of their day to the pneumatic tubes CIA bureaucrats used for intra-office communications (hey, they never crashed). (Ann Hornaday)

47) Am I being too sensitive? Perhaps. But at a time when war with Iran is being discussed in certain American circles, I don’t think this sort of cinematic fear mongering – even in a historical piece -- should be easily dismissed. And anyone who thinks Argo is apolitical need only note the picture’s coda, in which two reunited characters embrace on a Norman Rockwell front porch as an American flag billows beautifully in the background. (Josh Larsen)

48) By concentrating on the daring CIA-backed mission to rescue the diplomats, it puts a positive spin on an event that is still widely regarded as a US foreign policy disaster. But Argo has faced criticism for its alleged historical inaccuracies and for claiming that British and New Zealand officials initially turned away the US refugees. "My immediate reaction on hearing about this was one of outrage," said Sir John Graham, Britain's then ambassador to Iran. "I have since simmered down, but am still very distressed that the film-makers should have got it so wrong." (Brooks and Dehghan)

49) At another radio station in the Midwest, the station manager spent a portion of the day tied to a chair in his studio to better communicate to his listeners what it felt like to be in captivity. (Mendez and Baglio 48)

50) In one scene, an Iranian mocks our heroic CIA protagonist with dialogue straight out of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’, accusing the American of seeking “snake charmers and flying carpets”. Affleck is clearly well-versed in standard post-colonial discourse. His film delivers its main points with a disingenuous candour that enables the audience to feel superior without feeling like a supremacist. But the pseudo Western self-criticism is undercut by the fact that, aside from one traitor, there is not one single Iranian who is remotely likable in the entire film. (Sarah Gillespie)

51) One of the young men seemed to be the leader, so Golacinski grabbed him by the arm and asked if he spoke English. When he nodded, Golacinski told him that they all had to get out. “We are not going to stand for this,” he said, angrily. “Maybe you didn’t realize it but we are prepared to defend this place. “Yes, yes,” the young man said. “We don’t want problems. We just want a peaceful demonstration. That’s all we want.” “You can’t do a peaceful demonstration in the embassy,” Golacinski said. “Now you all are going to have to get out of here.” The young man nodded. He told the other in Farsi to go back out the window, and the crowd complied. (Mark Bowden 40)

52) For months, Iranian newspapers had been running fabricated stories claiming the United States was behind every setback that befell the country. (Mendez and Baglio 16)

53) The Iranians in ‘Argo’ are essentially a screaming, braying mass of hysterical mobs. They bang on cars, smash buildings, exploit children, torch flags and torment innocent people. They are scary, suspicious, and innately violent. Most harrowing of all, their streets are peppered with cranes hung with the corpses of collaborators. For the audience, it is almost impossible to root for any character that acquiesces in such a harrowing spectacle. And yet, for some reason, the fact that the American Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in the state of Utah in 2010 never made it into a Hollywood movie. Garner’s death wouldn’t seem too pretty in HD surround-sound either. In short, ‘Argo’ ultimately reinforces the binary opposition of a civilized West and a savage Iran. We hear a lot of Farsi in the movie, but only when Farsi is spoken by a Western character is the dialogue given subtitles. Farsi spoken by Iranian characters in the film is merely incomprehensible noise. Here the film accurately mirrors our contemporary reality, in which we inflict our discourse on Iranians, but are incapable of listening to theirs. (Sarah Gillespie)

54) Both Americans and Iranians anticipated the arrival of the film Argo. Perhaps Iranians were somewhat afraid of how they would be depicted. Just like Rocky and Rambo, Argo was made as a compensation for a horrendous mental breakdown in American contemporary history, and carries the same polarized atmosphere. Thus, confronting this film is a bit different for the Iranian audience whose lives are politicized in all aspects. (Omid Habibinia)

55) The picture’s definitive scene takes place in an outdoor market, where Mendez has taken his “crew” to convince Iranian officials that they’re scouting locations. Affleck’s camera emphasizes the chaotic nature of the market, the darkness of the various alleys, the unfamiliar, non-Western “otherness.” After one of the Americans has a misunderstanding with a shop owner, the market erupts into more (unintelligible) screaming, pushing and threats. Aside from a quiet young maid in the Canadian ambassador’s house who protects the Americans, Argo is overrun with ugly Iranians. (Josh Larsen)

56) (After Golacinski left the embassy to intervene and calm the crowd) As soon as he stepped out into the gray drizzle, Golacinski was surrounded. With the wiry Iranian by his side translating, he demanded that everyone leave. Some of the leaders of the crowd quieted the others, which heartened him. They were listening.
(Mark Bowden 45)

57) ["Argo"] has repeatedly been praised for being “just a movie,” in obvious contradistinction to the complicated and problematic truth-telling goals of “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty” -- but what is that supposed to mean? It means that 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. (Andrew O'Hehir)

58) Argo is ostensibly about how a fake movie saves lives, and thus about the redemptive power of movies at large. But since it’s about a fake movie, it’s not really about moviemaking—it’s about the power of Hollywood bullshit. Instead of a real filmmaker, we get Alan Arkin’s wise-guy hack producer dispensing chestnuts over how to create hype and attention to make it seem like a film is important— lessons Argo’s promoters no doubt took to heart. (My favorite Argo publicity factoid is that Ben Affleck majored in Middle Eastern studies. No one mentions that he didn’t graduate.) Arkin’s remarks may very well be an accurate insight into how Hollywood really works, but they reflect the movie’s smug complacency over its ability to pull its gilded wool over our eyes. (Kevin Lee)

59) Argo mixes archive footage seamlessly with utterly realistic sets and performances. Whether the action is taking place in the sterile confines of a CIA office, the slightly claustrophobic guest quarters of the Canadian embassy, or the tumultuous chaos of the Tehran bazaar, the producers and editors of the film have made it easy to suspend judgment. Portrayals of White House chief of staff Hamilton Jordan (Kyle Chandler) and Ambassador Ken Taylor (Victor Garber) were almost eerily accurate -- right down to the tiniest body language. (Gary Sick)

60) (After things started to escalate outside the embassy) Golacinski was . . . struck by the apparent confusion among the protesters. There seemed to be violent ones, like the one with the fun, more moderate ones, like the one in the rugby shirt, and others who just seemed to be going with the flow. No one appeared to be in charge.
(Mark Bowden 57)

61) It was also a cause of great concern to the Swedish ambassador, who began to worry about the repercussions of harboring Lee Schatz. It was then that Sunberg thought of Taylor, and after explaining his situation, asked if the Canadian ambassador would be willing to help. Taylor didn’t bat an eye, telling the ambassador that since he already had five Americans, it would be easy to just add Schatz to the group. This news, and Taylor's nonchalance, flustered the Swedish ambassador, who’d had no idea that there were other Americans who had escaped. (Mendez and Baglio 97)

62) One factor is that “Argo” applies a faint left-center gloss to its patriotic fantasy, acknowledging early on that the Iranian revolution of 1979 was partly blowback from the CIA-sponsored coup that had toppled prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh 26 years earlier, and adding a concluding voiceover from Jimmy Carter. So its propaganda is largely agreeable to its target audience, and is hence perceived as not propaganda at all. (Andrew O'Hehir)

63) The film could have been something quite different; instead of juxtaposing Mendez’ efforts in putting together the titular fake movie with scenes alluding to the metaphorical noose tightening around the six Americans’ collective necks (as the Iranian revolutionaries slowly became aware of their presence), the film could have jumped back and forth between the Canadians and Mendez in action. Eventually, the plot threads could come together like pieces to a puzzle, thus illustrating the beneficial nature of complimentary approaches to a large-scale problem (an important lesson for today, given the current political climate). Now, would such a film have been nearly as engaging and fun to watch as Argo? To be honest, probably not. However, it might have allowed Affleck and Terrio to skip on some of the cliches -- like turning Mendez into a workaholic with a messy personal life, or featuring stereotypical Iranian soldiers who do little more than run around and act angry. We could have followed multiple people (not just a single protagonist) as they discover the idiosyncrasies of both Hollywood folk and Iranian personnel, then deduce how to use them to their advantage, so as to pull off such a so-crazy-it’s-brilliant rescue operation. It might have been equally smart and funny at examining two very different cultures (as Argo manages to do when it concerns people in the movie business) -- but again, that would have lowered the suspense factor. (Sandy Schaefer)

64) The blindfolded captive’s nerves were about shot, and when one of his captors rolled up a magazine and lit it and he felt the flame near his face, he panicked. “Don’t burn me!” he screamed. “Shoot me, don’t burn me!” “No, no, no,” one of the Iranians told him. “For the gas. For the gas.”
(Mark Bowden 58)

65) The militants led Al Golacinski into the basement of the chancery and then marched him up to the second floor, where the Americans had barricaded themselves behind the reinforced door. The stairwell was filling with tear gas and his eyes stung. Someone waved a burning magazine in front of his face and he recoiled in fear. “Don’t burn me!” he shouted. Then the barrel of a fun was shoved to the back of his head and he was given an ultimatum: tell them to open this door or you die. (Mendez and Baglio 22)

66) “It is a reasonable argument that but for the coup, Iran would be a mature democracy. So traumatic was the coup’s legacy that when the Shah finally departed in 1979, many Iranians feared a repetition of 1953, which was one of the motivations for the student seizure of the U.S. embassy. The hostage crisis, in turn, precipitated the Iraqi invasion of Iran, while the [Islamic] revolution itself played a part in the Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan. A lot of history, in short, flowed from a single week in Tehran . . . ” – American foreign policy journal (Kinzer 204)

67) Many Iranians, after watching "Argo" recalled the film "300," which depicted Persians as ugly black rapacious beasts. Yet the issue is not just that the Iranians in this film are nervous, ugly, dark-skinned, fat and mischievous, with the exception of one of them (the housemaid of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran). After finally putting on a red scarf, she takes refuge in Iraq and at last we are meant to understand that she wasn't a bad person, while the rest of them are just the same as any depiction of "the other" in Hollywood films. (Omid Habibinia)

68) Belk was grabbed and blindfolded. His hands were bound with a nylon rope. When the young man tying the rope used a knife to cut off a strip he had inadvertently jabbed Belk with it in the side. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
(Mark Bowden 64)

69) It was almost like dealing with aliens from another planet. (Mendez and Baglio 47)

70) It is a rather curious time for Hollywood to launch a blockbuster movie based on the worst US/Iranian diplomatic fallout in history. Currently Iran is threatened with attack from the West almost on a daily basis, and sanctions have devastated the rial, plunging millions into poverty for the crime of (allegedly) developing the same weapons that Iran’s agitators enjoy without reprisal. Meanwhile, in the fantasy emporiums of high street cinemas, millions of moviegoers across the world are invited to imagine the opposite scenario, a tale in which the innocent Western subject is faced with extinction at the whim of an Iranian aggressor. (Sarah Gillespie)

71) The best writing in this film was reserved for the segment about inventing a fake film company producing a fake picture. John Goodman and Alan Arkin do star turns as an award-winning makeup artist and a famous but aging director. Between them they have seen it all, and their cynical repartee leaves no dirty linen of the movie game unexposed. Tinseltown meets the Puzzle Palace. It is a comic gem, and Affleck wisely restricts himself to the role of straight man. (Gary Sick)

72) (Discussing the 1953 coup) One of the propagandists, Richard Cottam, estimated that four-fifths of the newspapers in Tehran were under CIA influence. “Any article that I would write -- it gave you something of a sense of power – would appear almost instantly, the next day, in the Iranian press,” Cottam recalled years later. “They were designed to show Mosaddegh as a Communist collaborator and as a fanatic.” (Kinzer 6)

73) Of America’s many allies, Canada had been one of the most outspoken in condemning Iran for the embassy attack, and it took only a day for Taylor to get his answer [whether or not to accept the Americans], which arrived the following morning. In the cable from Ottawa, he was told to use discretion, but was given a green light to do whatever he thought necessary to help the Americans. (Mendez and Baglio 91)

74) Have you heard that cinema is dying? That the movies are kaput? That Hollywood just doesn’t make films for grown-ups anymore? You’ve heard wrong -- at least if “Argo” is any indication. This captivating, expertly machined political thriller jumps through every hoop the naysayer can set up: It’s serious and substantive, an ingeniously written and executed drama fashioned from a fascinating, little-known chapter of recent history. (Ann Hornaday)

75) His captor kept telling him, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid,” but with a multitude screaming for his blood it was hard not to feel like he was being led to his death. “We will teach you,” his captors said. “We will bring to you Khomeini’s thoughts.” He was surprised by how gentle they were. (Mark Bowden 65)

76) Now that Ben Affleck’s Iran hostage drama Argo has garnered seven Oscar nominations to add to its mantel, upon which already sit $110 million in domestic box office, near unanimous acclaim from critics, and even a whisper campaign for Affleck to run for John Kerry’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat, it needs to be said: Argo is a fraud. (Kevin Lee)

77) But this sense of balance is soon lost and the film becomes an increasingly blinkered tale of the heroic C.I.A. versus the Muslim menace, exactly the narrative that today's hawkish politicians love to propagate. It's astonishing how easily the film is content to give into what critic Jack Shaheen might call Reel Bad Arab syndrome, in which every Iranian face is either filled with hatred or suspicion. Granted, in post-revolutionary Iran, people were indeed filled with anger and hostility toward Americans, but Affleck's decision to portray this sense of fury—quite vividly evoked despite the director's distracting penchant for whip pans and arcing shots—not only seems increasingly misguided in a moment when mainstream outlets like Newsweek run headline stories unhelpfully declaring the phenomenon of "Muslim Rage," but seems to play exactly into the simplified us-versus-them narrative of the war on terror. (Andrew Schenker)

78) He refused the food and was taken to one of the offices down the hall. The door was shut behind him. When the bag was taken off his head he faced several protestors seated in the office chairs and on the desk. The office had been ransacked, the drawers pulled out, pictures were crooked on the walls. Framed photos of President Carter and Secretary of State Vance had been thrown to the floor and their glass covers smashed. He thought it was his turn to be berated and his tough marine mask crumbled. He was instead a frightened nineteen-year-old, and he started to cry. (Mark Bowden 84)

79) It’s also a propaganda movie in the truest sense, one that claims to be innocent of all ideology. Affleck and Terrio are spinning a fanciful tale designed to make us feel better about the decrepit, xenophobic and belligerent Cold War America of 1980 as it toppled toward the abyss of Reaganism, and that’s a more outrageous lie than any of the contested historical points in “Lincoln” or “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s almost hilarious that the grim and ambiguous portrayal of torture in Kathryn Bigelow’s film -- torture that absolutely happened, however one judges it and whatever information it did or didn’t produce -- was widely decried as propagandistic by well-meaning liberals who never noticed or didn’t care about Affleck and Terrio’s wholesale fictionalization. (Andrew O'Hehir)

80) (The day of the embassy takeover) As Graves stood by the window he watched one of the militants approach an Iranian policeman who was supposed to be protecting the embassy, and the two men embraced. Graves wasn’t surprised. (Mendez and Baglio17)

81) Argo is a film, like many other factory productions of Hollywood, which exacerbates the perception of “the other,” a term reminiscent of colonialist discourse. This is today so close to the conventional and polarized approach of the American mainstream that taking a negative position against this film has in fact united many Iranians from different camps within Iran’s domestic political sphere. (Omid Habibinia)

82) News coverage of the crisis was relentless. From day one, the event had become a media circus, with hundreds of journalists from all over the world descending on the U.S. embassy in Tehran to point their cameras and pontificate on the nightly news. It’s clear that early on the militants viewed the media as an ally and counted on them to beam their message into America’s living rooms. This, of course, led to an odd situation in which American journalists roamed freely about the city while sixty-six of their fellow countrymen were being held hostage. (Mendez and Baglio 47-48)

83) That morning, as soon as the embassy grounds were invaded, Daugherty had emptied the four safes in his own vault and personally passed all of it through a shredder. He had left the shredded paper in a big pile on the floor when he had closed the door on it earlier. He had thought about flipping a match into the pile but he decided against it, figuring this demonstration would probably be over in a few hours and he didn’t want to damage the interior of the vault . . . . If this was all going to be over in a few hours, Daugherty didn’t want to be known as the guy who panicked and burned down an American embassy. So he hadn’t thrown the match. (Mark Bowden 107)

84) Late in the movie, Affleck’s CIA agent dazzles Iranian soldiers at a checkpoint with storyboards from his fake sci-fi production. The scene plays into the hoary sentiment uttered at every Academy Awards ceremony, one surely to be repeated with each Oscar Argo wins: People across the world are movie fans at heart. But like Oscar night, the scene is really a reflection of Hollywood’s hubris in trumpeting its own power. This moment, of course, is more bullshit, a self-serving fantasy concocted by the screenwriter. But it reminds us of Argo's opening sequence, when it was us dazzled into submission by a series of storyboards. A razzle-dazzle con job worthy of its CIA subject, Argo thinks of you just like it thinks of those buffoonish Iranian soldiers: too easily impressed with a flimsy fabrication to see beyond it. (Kevin Lee)

85) One of his [Carter’s] most outspoken critics was Dorothea Morefield, the wife of Dick Morefield, who was the embassy’s consul general. She repeatedly criticized Carter for not having evacuated the embassy before he had allowed the shah to come to New York. (Mendez and Baglio 48)

86) This is one of those movies that depend on your not thinking much about it; for as soon as you reflect on what’s happening rather than being swept up in the narrative flow, there doesn’t seem much to it aside from the skill with which suspense is maintained despite the fact that you know in advance how it’s going to turn out. (Stanley Fish)

87) In a fit of frustration, Carter told his press secretary one day that he was tired of seeing “those bastards holding our people referred to as ‘students.’ They should be referred to as ‘terrorists’ or ‘captors,’ or something that accurately describes what they are.” (Mendez and Baglio 49)

88) Voted prime minister by the Majlis in 1951, Mossadeq immediately did what the shah would never have dared; he defied the great powers by enforcing nationalization of the oil industry. The move was hugely popular at home and so potentially world-altering -- a Third World country asserting ownership of its own resources -- that Time magazine named Mossadeq its “Man of the Year.” In a speech before the United Nations, Mossadeq said, “The oil resources of Iran, like its soil, its rivers, and its mountains, are the property of the people of Iran.” While self-evident, the concept proved much too bold. (Mark Bowden 117)

89) Though this section is clearly inspired by the true events, dramatic liberties have been taken as the nail-biting escape likely has more in common with Hollywood dramatic thriller conventions than the pace of actual events. Still, right from the opening credits Affleck (working from Chris Terrio's aces screenplay) gets it all right and strives to set the story almost like a documentary, complete with a recently recorded audio interview with former President Jimmy Carter which is played over the end credits explaining why the mission had to remain top secret for 16 years until the whole story was finally declassified by President Bill Clinton. (Pete Hammond)

90) When the reality eventually emerged that Americans actually despised the militants for kidnapping and torturing their fellow countrymen, the militants were shocked and saddened. To some of the hostages who interacted with them on a daily basis, it fit perfectly with the militants’ skewed worldview. Much like actors in a Hollywood movie, the militants saw themselves as the heroes and expected the whole world to see them as such. (Mendez and Baglio 50)

91) However one of the most important features of the film, which makes it entertaining, is its satirical tone, which somehow recalls Tintin comic strips: a CIA agent in the role of a producer of a Sci-Fi movie full of aliens and UFOs arrives in Tehran, a city full of rough, primitive, and vicious people and is going to fake six American embassy staff to be members of his production crew. One would expect that the American view of Eastern countries should naturally be something like this! The image is exactly the same as the stereotype of comic strips that were favorites of teenagers in previous decades. Maybe that's why these kinds of films, which are about Iran – there aren’t that many yet -- provoke rage and hatred in most of Iranians despite their differing political standpoints. They find a primitive and rough image of themselves in the film. This happened in the case of "Not without My Daughter" and in "300." These were stereotypes akin to comic strips, which enraged Iranians, especially those in the US who were forced to call themselves "Persian" rather than "Iranian," in order to avoid discrimination. (Omid Habibinia)

92) Their arrival at the residential compound unleashed a flood of relief. The British were kind hosts, and offered them [the Lijeks, the Staffords, and Bob Anders] a house of their own, fed them a warm meal, even prepared cocktails. As a precaution they were told not to turn on any lights and if possible to stay away from the windows . . . despite these concerns, they slept soundly, for the first time feeling secure to be in the care of the British government. (Mendez and Baglio 78)

93) The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the “house guests” chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet. All that is supposed to be dramatic license, “just a movie,” “based on a true story” vs. actually attempting to tell the truth. I get it. But I’m less concerned with the veracity of individual details than with the fact that “Argo” uses its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological. (Andrew O'Hehir)

94) He [Mark Lijek] thought about the ways they could mistreat her [Cora, his wife], harm her -- anything they wanted to get to him, and vice versa. It made him feel very vulnerable. This wasn’t some Hollywood move, but life. The stakes were high. (Mendez and Baglio 85)

95) What does “Argo” have to say about that vexed subject [American-Iranian relations]? Nothing much, or at least nothing clear. There is a sketchy, somewhat perfunctory retelling of the United States’ part in overthrowing an elected government and cementing the power of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi at the beginning. But that is balanced at the end by the hooray-for-the-U.S.A. cheerleading that follows the escape and extends into the aftermath when bits of archival footage are brought in to underscore a belated and tacked-on message of international cooperation. (Stanley Fish)

96) The reality of six fugitives living in the knowledge that any moment could be their last is the very essence of tension. But that is not enough for the movies. The film has added a terrifying visit to the Tehran Bazaar by the six members of the “film crew” — a risk their handler would surely have been fired for attempting in real life. The end of the film is a real nail-biter, with the Iranians in the process of discovering the truth and with the US government suddenly backing away from the whole venture. As far as I know, none of that was true. But hey, this is Hollywood, not history. The film works. Enjoy it! (Gary Sick)

97) By all accounts, the highlight of their day was the evening meal, fondly remembered by all as a kind of traditional Norman Rockwell moment each night. John would come home from work and everyone would gather at the dinner table to hear the news. Since Sheardown’s TV had broken a week or so after the houseguests had arrived, they relied on John to keep them informed on events happening in the outside world. The vibe got to be so familial that Anders took to calling Sheardown “Big Daddy.” (Mendez and Baglio 103)

98) Which brings me back to that storyboard beginning. By the movie’s end, it seemed perfectly natural that Argo would present another nation’s history via a quintessentially American art form. The movie opens with an act of cultural imperialism, and proceeds downhill from there. (Josh Larsen)

99) Affleck does himself proud, detailing the attack on the American Embassy in Tehran by Islamic student militants and the plight of six U.S. embassy staffers who escaped but needed help to get out alive. Argo is a ferociously exciting thriller. Yes, it's based on fact. Yes, that's Hollywood code for truth-stretching. But, no, you shouldn't be that worried. . . . The Argo operation stayed top secret until Clinton declassified it in 1997. But given current U.S.-Iran relations, the film practically screams with topicality. Shot by the gifted Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain), with Istanbul standing in for Tehran, Argo has a propulsive energy that sweeps you along. And if the jacked-up climax, with its narrow escapes and a chase down the tarmac, doesn't jibe with pedestrian reality, don't sweat it. That's Hollywood for you. (Peter Travers)