Whither Argo? Blame Canada

Blame Canada, blame Canada
We need to form a full assault
it’s Canada-s fault!

(From Blame Canada,  from South Park: The Movie, nominated for Best Song at the 1999 Academy Awards,)

Say hello to awards season. On Jan. 10, the Academy Awards will announce the nominees for this year’s Oscars. The Golden Globes air Jan. 13. Ben Affleck expects to hear his name called for Argo (Reel Beach, Beach Metro News, Oct. 9, 2012). If not, we know where he’ll point a finger… BLAME CANADA!

Canadians laughed when Robin Williams and a bevy of prancing Mounties sang the satirical Blame Canada at the Oscars in 2000. We can take a joke, but Affleck isn’t kidding when he attributes the backlash against Argo to pesky Canucks. According to Affleck, the charges of inaccuracy arose because Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador who helped shelter six American ‘house guests’ and arranged for their escape from Iran in 1979, “got his feelings hurt.” The Huffington Post reports that Taylor had originally been given full credit for the rescue and “has taken it upon himself to defend Canada’s indispensable role in the episode.”

“That sort of coloured the perception that the movie got some of the facts wrong,” Affleck said.

Victor Garber, who portrays Taylor as a kindly innkeeper waiting to be saved by the CIA, added, “I’m sure he would have preferred if the movie had been, ‘The Ken Taylor Story’.”

These insulting comments are a far cry from Affleck’s comments in Toronto at TIFF, saying “Argo is a thank you to Canada.” Back in October Affleck called Taylor “a class act” whose “feathers weren’t ruffled.”

The Huffington Post article (Dec. 10) reports that to win the big awards, “you have to persuade members of the academy, often one by one, that the people spreading vicious innuendo about your movie are full of crap.”

How dare Canadians suggest his movie is full of fiction, just because it is! Hollywood studios spend huge amounts (an estimated $500 million USD) to promote their products as serious award contenders. Affleck is fishing for Oscars and “true” is good bait. Argo has ‘for your consideration’ written all over it, heavily marketed as a “true story,” a big part of its appeal. Otherwise, “it wouldn’t seem really interesting.” (Affleck)

Affleck’s “first objective is to neutralize the notion that the film plays fast and loose with the facts.” He evades questions about Argo’s credibility. “My movie is-it’s extremely accurate…you can’t have a five-hour movie …but it was all true.”

Well, ‘true’ except for all the completely made-up scenes (Mendez’ drinking, his estranged family, his boss, a young son, the bicycle plan, the producer, buying a script, the table read with costumed extras, going into Iran alone, the Iranian maid, Mendez driving through crowds, the bazaar, everything at the airport, every suspense cliche thrown in, etc). Take out the fiction and Argo would be a 20 minute movie.

Affleck made the mistake of bringing his baby to Toronto for its big premiere. Taylor wasn’t invited, but some Canadians knew that the fairy tale on screen had little to do with the actual events in Iran. The TIFF crowd cheered, but a few whispered that the emperor had no clothes. The controversy hit the media.

Ken Taylor was gracious and diplomatic in praising the cooperation of all those who helped rescue the Americans. After Taylor wrote a new postscript for the film, Affleck hoped it would end there. Then some media south of the border picked up the story. The Beach Metro News article was quoted and linked by a number of online journals, including Slant and Screenrant. Critics began to question Argo’s credibility.

In Britain and New Zealand, diplomats were outraged at the blatant lie that “the Brits and Kiwis turned them away” when, in fact, they helped the six Americans in many ways. It was a New Zealander who woke Mendez up when he overslept, then drove him to Mehrabad Airport. It was a Canadian who conducted the fake interrogation and corrected the wrong date the CIA had forged in the passports. It was an Iranian who drove the six to the Tehran airport in a Canadian Embassy van. The Taylors bought the air tickets. Argo puts a lie in Taylor’s mouth that Canada was about to close the Embassy. People are often shocked to hear the true story.

In fact, Mendez never took the six anywhere and the Argo portfolio never once had to be put into play, because no Iranian officials ever asked more than, “is this you?”

The six just left with Canadian passports. Hollywood smoke and mirrors had zero actual effect on the rescue, but phony wizards don’t like it when you pull back the curtain. (Pay no attention to that little man!)

In November, Argo was the frontrunner for Best Picture and Director, but other real-life heroes in Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty have stolen its thunder.

We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before somebody thinks of blaming us

Rest in Peace: John Sheardown, the unsung hero of the ‘Canadian Caper’ in Iran, died on Dec. 30 in an Ottawa veterans’ hospital at age 88. In 1979, John and Zena Sheardown risked their own safety to shelter Americans who had escaped from the Embassy hostage situation. His son, Robin, has said the family was happy that his father’s efforts were recognized by Windsor, declaring Nov. 10 ‘John Sheardown Day’. The movie Argo ignored Sheardown’s contribution, but the six Americans know the true story. Commenting on Argo in October, Mark Lijek wrote to Screenrant:

“But the real difference between Argo and what happened to us is what’s not in the movie. The courage, warmth and sheer friendliness and humanity of our Canadian hosts is at the top of the list. This article is the first I have seen to mention John Sheardown, a true hero and perhaps the indispensable man in this entire adventure. He was our initial point of contact with the Canadians. His enthusiastic ‘Why didn’t you call sooner?’ may well have spelled the difference between our decision to accept his offer rather than continue on our own.”

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