#304. Burn Victims

Every scar has a story. Even though humans can be hardy creatures, sometimes our bodies can’t completely recover after a particularly damaging trauma. Sometimes these scars can be covered up by clothing, like a scarf hiding a throat that was slit (a la Seven Psychopaths (2013)), but sometimes these injuries can be difficult to disguise. What people often don’t realize is that a scar that can’t be hidden often carries with it a load of psychological damage as well. If the trauma against a person’s body is severe enough, then the scars of the mind can often be forgotten when the scars of the body are hard to ignore. These people know they don’t appear “normal.” Every time they look in the mirror, they are reminded of painful memories. Often, these scars are due to severe burns. This week’s two films examine the lives of burn victims and the two different ways they deal with their scars.

Pay it ForwardPay it Forward
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours

It can be difficult to carry a visible scar in a profession that requires you to interact with plenty of people, especially one that involves large numbers of children. Young children often lack the tact to recognize they shouldn’t point out a person’s scars, but even older children will often speculate and start rumors as to the origins of a person’s scars. In these situations, burn victims will head off any questions about their scars by being forward about this potentially sensitive subject. Hopefully, this tactic stymies any further inquiries; since the details of the trauma might be too painful to bring up in public. With visible scars, negative body image can be a challenging obstacle to overcome. Fortunately, if enough people are accepting and loving of these burn victims, even despite their disfigurement, they can learn to love themselves as well.

As a child, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) was knocked unconscious by his alcoholic father. While unconscious, his father lit him on fire with gasoline, leaving Eugene with deep scars across his body. Now a middle-aged teacher in Las Vegas, Eugene is hesitant to accept the advances of Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt), the mother of one of his students, Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment). It turns out that Eugene is the recipient of one of Trevor’s “pay it forward” favors through the romantic setup that eventually becomes deeper when the teacher helps Arlene find the missing Trevor. Unfortunately, since Arlene’s alcoholic ex is still in the picture, Eugene is upset with her because he sees the same behavior in her that his own mother had with his alcoholic father. This revelation helps Arlene kick out her ex, but before Eugene and Arlene can reconcile their differences, Trevor is involved in a tragic accident.

V for Vendetta
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

The origin of scars can be as varied as they are unique. How did a burn victim get their scars? Were they burned as a child, being forced to grow up with these scars their entire life? Did they enter a burning building to save someone? These stories can run the gamut from heroic to deplorable, but they usually define a person’s life, much like any trauma will. The make of a man comes when he has a decision to make in regards to his scars. He can either wear them proudly, confident in his personal identity, or he can hide his scars behind layers of subterfuge and masks. The former is likely someone with a public presence, whereas the latter has the ability to hide in the shadows. Sometimes we might even find that the latter is waiting for the perfect moment to enact their vengeance, taking revenge on those who burned him in the first place.

On the cusp of Guy Fawkes Day, a masked figure going by the name of V (Hugo Weaving) blows up the Old Bailey as a statement of anarchy against the fascist government of the United Kingdom. Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is the only person around to hear of V’s reasoning behind the terrorist attack, but it also puts her in danger of being caught by the police state. As the detective investigating V dives deeper into the masked vigilante’s past, he finds that many of the high-profile victims of his vengeance were once part of a chemical weapon research facility in Larkhill. This detention facility burned down, and few escaped unharmed. Meanwhile, Evey learns a lot more about V as a person, including his extensive burns. When she has finally been broken and freed, she helps enact V’s plan to free the people of England from the tyranny of their government.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 traumatic tales

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#303. Teachers who Care

Have you ever had a teacher who inspired you? A teacher who pushed you to become a better student? A better person? Most people don’t like going to school for a variety of reasons, but occasionally there comes a teacher who really cares about their students. To them, it’s not about getting tenure. It’s not about how much money they could make (which isn’t that much to begin with). It’s about educating and reaching the children of the future. Sometimes these teachers face resistance, be it from the students themselves or from the administration of the school. And yet, they persevere in the hope that they can reach just one student and help them to find their true potential. I have had several teachers over the years that I would put into this category and helped me get where I am today. This week’s two films highlight teachers who care.

Dead Poets SocietyDead Poets Society
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Sometimes it feels like the education system is stuck in a rut. It can point to the data of why it focuses on preparing students for standardized tests, but in doing so relegates each child to a number, and not a person. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to break these habits, since they are intrinsically tied to funding. Consequently, it’s almost easier to find the teachers who care about their students. They’re the ones who teach a little differently than what is expected. Even substitute teachers, like Jack Black’s character in School of Rock (2003) can influence students if they just take the time to engage with them on a personal level, finding the students’ talents and bringing them out for the world to see. Another teacher who bucked the system was that of John Keating (Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society (1989).

Seeing the potential in his students, English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) tells them that life is more than just scholastic pursuits. He encourages them to “seize the day” in order to find out who they truly are. Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) takes the edict to heart and begins to find that he enjoys acting, much to the disapproval of his father. Upon meeting resistance from his family, Neil feels his only option is to end his life in suicide. Due to the death of one of its students, Welton Academy investigates and learns how much Keating has influenced his students. Since he did not follow the strict rules of the boarding school, Keating is forced to resign. Arriving at his classroom to pick up his belongings, Keating finds the students who know the truth of the situation standing up for the one teacher who cared for them.

Pay it ForwardPay it Forward
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 123 minutes / 2.05 hours

When a teacher finds a student with exceptional talent, sometimes they will make it a point to encourage said student to explore the possibilities of their talent. At least, the teachers who care are more likely to do so. For example, Miss Riley (Laura Dern) from October Sky (1999) saw that some of her students had an interest in rocketry and encouraged them to keep with it even though their recent attempts were explosive failures. If she hadn’t provided the nudge in the right direction, the four “rocket boys” wouldn’t have followed through with their interest and would not have won the national science fair. This validation at the national level is part of what helped these men get into the rocket science careers that have made them so successful. And all it took was a teacher who cared. Now, what if a teacher encourages his students to change the world?

Wanting to challenge his students, social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives them an assignment to think up and implement a plan that will improve the world. Expecting to get back mediocre ideas, he is surprised to find Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) has struck upon an idea he calls “pay it forward.” Simply put, a person must do a good deed for three other people that they could not accomplish by themselves. Unfortunately, Trevor’s mother does not approve of this idea, since it has led her son to bring a homeless man home in the process. Confronting Mr. Simonet, she soon finds that Trevor’s next “pay it forward” target is his teacher, setting both adults up to pursue a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, Trevor’s empathetic kindness gets him into trouble with some bullies, eventually providing him the opportunity to spread his idea to a much wider audience.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 empathetic educators

#302. Robin Williams

“Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult.” Unfortunately, the one man who perhaps epitomizes this statement is none other than Robin Williams. His too-soon departure from this world is still a tragedy many years later, especially considering his comedic skills. Of course, this also begs the question: if comedy is difficult, is it more difficult than drama? Sure, there are many attributes of comedy which are hard to master, such as wordplay, observation, and . . . timing, but could the emotional complexity of dramatic acting be as equally challenging? If we examine a number of actors who made the transition from drama to comedy, we’ll find they are vastly outnumbered by the actors who successfully transitioned from comedy to drama. Even though Robin Williams was best known for his comedy, his dramatic roles were certainly notable as well. This week’s two films examine Robin Williams’ dramatic roles.

Good Will HuntingGood Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

A good indicator of an actor’s dramatic potential lies in his nominations for Best Actor. This Oscar and its Supporting counterpart can almost show the progression of an actor’s career. While nominations can happen early in an actor’s career as recognition of some underlying talent, sometimes it takes several years before they are actually recognized with the gold statue of a winner. Only seven years after his first leading role, Robin Williams was first nominated for Best Actor in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). His second nomination would come two years later for Dead Poets Society (1989), followed by his third nomination for The Fisher King (1991) two years after that. Finally, a decade after his first nomination, Robin Williams would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting (1997).

When Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) finds that a difficult mathematics problem he posted for his students has been solved by an anonymous person, he finds none of his graduate students stepped forward with the solution. Upon leaving another, even harder problem, he finds that the janitor, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), was the mysterious mathematician. While Will has plenty of talent, he chooses to live his life simply, never pushing the limits of his possibility. It soon becomes clear to Lambeau that he must pass Will onto one of his therapist colleagues, Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). At first, Will doesn’t take the therapy seriously, but as Sean begins to open up about his own life and struggles Will eventually finds they share much of the same trauma. Now that his past is behind him, Will drives off to California to fully live his future.

Dead Poets SocietyDead Poets Society
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

It’s interesting to think that, by 1989, Robin Williams had only acted in a dozen films. Sure, just like other comedians, he started out with a long and successful career in television, but by the 1990’s his transition into film was quite complete. By the turn of the century, he had tripled the number of his film roles with such classics as Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Jumanji (1995). Amidst these comedic gems, he continued to perform in dramatic roles like What Dreams May Come (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), and Insomnia (2002). Clearly, Williams was a master of both muses of acting: Thalia (comedy) and Melpomene (tragedy). Given the tagline of Dead Poets Society (1989), he certainly seized every day given to him, up until his very last one.

An alumnus of Welton Academy, John Keating (Robin Williams) has taken it upon himself as an English teacher to inspire the students under his purview at the same school where he once was one of them. One of these students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), is inspired by Keating’s encouragement to “seize the day” and decides to resurrect the Dead Poets Society, a group which once had Keating as a member. Neil continues to open up and learns that his passion for drama and acting does not align with his father’s wishes for him to be a medical doctor. With no other recourse, Neil takes his own life. This action causes the administration of Welton Academy to scrutinize Keating’s teaching style. After they come to the conclusion that Keating’s encouragement of free will was the culprit, he is forced to resign. However, the students resist the verdict and stand up for Keating one last time.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 wonderful Robin Williams roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Big Wedding / Robert DeNiro -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#301. Matt Damon

If you had one Trillion dollars lying around, would you use it to save Matt Damon? A few years ago, someone threw some numbers together to estimate the amount of money spent on rescuing all of Matt Damon’s characters and the total was close to a Trillion dollars. Granted, Matt Damon certainly has some skill when it comes to being an actor, but why his characters always need saving is quite the question. Part of why this number is so large is due to the variety of Damon’s roles. From sci-fi epics like Elysium (2013), Interstellar (2014) and The Martian (2015) to modern-era films like Syriana (2005) and Green Zone (2010), Matt Damon has shown time and again that he knows how to act like he needs help. With so many excellent roles to choose from, this week’s two films highlight some award-winning films featuring Matt Damon.

The DepartedThe Departed
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 151 minutes / 2.52 hours

What helps set Matt Damon apart from other actors is the fact that he can remain as an individual in a cast filled with high-profile actors. From his role as Linus Caldwell in Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) to his role as James Granger in The Monuments Men (2014), few films with a star-studded cast including Matt Damon have been nominated for Best Picture. Unless you also want to include Good Will Hunting (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and True Grit (2010) in this list, in which case it’s happened three times. However, the only film to include Matt Damon alongside a cast full of A-list actors that also won the Oscar for Best Picture is that of The Departed (2006). Of course, partly because of the large cast of excellent talent, Damon was not nominated for an acting award for his part in this film.

Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has come a long way since his childhood in South Boston. As he proved his reliability in the Massachusetts State Police, eventually he was placed on a task force to rid the city of organized crime. What his supervisors do not know is that this position is a conflict of interest for him, since the mobster they are trying to catch, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), is the man who helped raise him. Soon Colin is trying to use his connections to find a mole in the mob while also trying to not be found out as the mole in the police. Both moles eventually learn each other’s identities, but when it comes down to loyalties, each one has to determine for themselves which side of this fight they want to be on. Unfortunately, with secret identities now revealed, the conflict explodes in a hail of bullets, leaving few alive.

Good Will HuntingGood Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

While The Departed did not garner Damon an acting Oscar, he has been nominated a number of times. This comes as no surprise as Matt Damon holds the eponymous role for such films as the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan, , as well asThe Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and Jason Bourne (2016). His most recent nomination comes in the form of another eponymous role: The Martian. Before this, he was nominated for Invictus (2009), but merely in a supporting role. The real trick is, even though he didn’t win an Oscar for his acting in Good Will Hunting, he did earn one for this film. Along with Ben Affleck, the two of them wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age film, immediately launching both of their careers for decades to come.

The titular Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works as a janitor at MIT where he comes across a mathematics problem posted for graduate students. His solution to the problem piques the interest of the professor who posted it. Realizing the genius who solved the problem isn’t one of his students, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) gets Will out of some jail time by promising to mentor him. While this allows Will to avoid punishment, it also comes with a catch: Will must receive therapy. With Lambeau’s attempts to coach Will through his problems being unfruitful, Lambeau decides to hand him off to Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). Despite initial coldness, Will eventually opens up to Maguire, learning that they share some of the same struggles. At the same time, Will’s blue-collar friends gradually convince him that he’s meant for greater things and to take the opportunities he’s given.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 magnificent Matt Damon roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Rainmaker / Mickey Rourke -> Diner / Kevin Bacon)

#300. Crime in Boston

Cities are known for many things. We associate Paris with art, New York with theater, and Washington D.C. with politics. Unfortunately, sometimes cities can be known for their less-wholesome aspects. Despite Boston’s numerous tourist and cultural attractions, many people associate it with crime. While the Italian-based mafia tended to be based out of New York City, the Irish-based mafia usually congregated in Boston. As a result, there have been a number of films which use the crime-filled underground of Boston as their backdrop and main conflict. That’s not to say that every film about crime in Boston is about the mafia; in fact, Spotlight (2015) highlighted the Boston Globe’s uncovering of a sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. Still, the “exciting” action films tend to focus on the mafia. This week’s two films examine mafia crime in Boston.

The TownThe Town
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Because the mafia is outside the law, sometimes they can perform actions to bring about their own form of justice. Especially with a tight-knit group like the Irish-Americans who control the mafia in Boston, the ties that bind them together are based in their nationality. This notion of an extended family means that members will do whatever it takes to look out for one of their own. Sometimes the legal process is too slow, so they’ll take matters into their own hands. The Boondock Saints (1999) is a prime example of this, as two brothers take on the Russian mafia in order to clean up Boston. Similarly, the friendships built through growing up in some of Boston’s tough neighborhoods, like Charlestown, can lead people to join the mafia as their only means of making a living. In The Town (2010), we find how difficult it can be to escape this life of crime.

Fergus Colm (Pete Postlethwaite) is the leader of an Irish-American crime ring that runs out of the Charlestown section of Boston. Four childhood friends work underneath him, including Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy MacGloan (Slaine), and Dez Elden (Owen Burke). These four rob a bank and take the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage, eventually releasing her unharmed. Unfortunately, not only does she live in the same neighborhood and could potentially identify Jem, but Doug develops feelings for her as well. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) is closing in on the group and manages to kill or capture most of them during a heist at Fenway Park. Not wanting to put Claire in danger, Doug flees to Florida to try and find his estranged mother, leaving Claire with the stolen money and the wish to meet up again.

The DepartedThe Departed
Year: 2006
Rating: R
Length: 151 minutes / 2.52 hours

As mentioned earlier, the connections of the Irish-Americans in Boston lead to some strange bedfellows. The famous mobster, Whitey Bulger, was portrayed by Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015), a film that showed how he was able to evade capture for so long: a South Boston friend involved with the FBI keeping Bulger a few steps ahead of the feds. Similarly, the connections between the Boston mafia and those who are tasked to take them down are often tightly tied together. These familial connections muddle the waters of characters’ moral intentions. Should they remain faithful to the group that gave them their identity and heritage, or should they bring these criminals to justice? This complex and twist-laden plot is best attributed to Martin Scorsese’s only Best Picture win, The Departed (2006). After all, the best director to handle a film about the mafia is none other than Martin Scorsese.

Growing up in South Boston, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is brought under the wing of Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a mobster who uses Colin to infiltrate the police. Years later, Colin has joined a task force focused on bringing down the very mafia that raised him. Meanwhile, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is recruited by the police to go undercover into the mafia because he too has family ties to the seedy world of organized crime. As Billy and Colin interact in their different spheres, their loyalties are questioned as each tries to figure out who the respective moles in their organizations are. The back-and-forth game of cat and mouse (or rat) continues until they eventually learn of the true identities of the other. In a bloody string of murders, both the police and the mafia are left with losses, revealing the harsh reality of crime in Boston: nobody gets out alive.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mafia movies in Massachusetts

#299. Ben Affleck

Have you ever tried to be something you’re not? Do you know someone who has succeeded at one talent, only to try and capitalize on the success by attempting a different talent? While Hollywood is filled with actors who want to be directors and directors who want to be actors, very few of them can succeed in both realms at the same time. Take Clint Eastwood, for instance. He was a great actor back in his heyday, and now he’s a great director, but there wasn’t much time where he was both. Somewhat similarly, Ben Affleck has shown he is an excellent director as of late, but his early acting efforts were not quite as exemplary. Perhaps Affleck has finally found his niche after being lauded for his writing skills early in his career. Of course, he still enjoys his time in front of the camera as well. This week’s two films look at the directing and acting of Ben Affleck.

ArgoArgo
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours

At age 25, Ben Affleck (along with his friend, Matt Damon) won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997). While he had acted in a few films before, including two by director Kevin Smith (Mallrats (1995) and Chasing Amy (1997)), none of his roles could ever be taken seriously. Instead of pursuing his writing, Affleck ended up appearing in numerous films, most of which were forgettable or terrible (most still say Gigli (2003) is the worst film ever made). And yet, when he started directing full-length films, his acting seemed to improve almost overnight. Within five years from his directorial debut, Affleck would win his second Oscar, this time for the Best Picture, Argo (2012). While he also appeared in the leading role of this film, his performance was much better than most of his previous attempts.

Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is astounded to learn that there are no viable plans to rescue the six escapees of the Iranian hostage crisis. While his exfiltration skills are top notch, he doesn’t have any better ideas. After a phone call with his son while Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) is playing in the background, he is struck with inspiration. Using the cover of a Canadian film crew performing site surveys for a sci-fi film, Tony heads to Iran to help coach the six individuals through his plan. Even though all the prep work in Hollywood has been done to make the film look like it is real, the hoax only works on the ground if the six diplomats can manage to convince the Iranian security forces that it’s truly what they’re there for. In the moment of truth, the group head to Tehran International Airport and attempt to leave the country the only way they can.

The TownThe Town
Year: 2010
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

In 2007, Ben Affleck put on his writing cap and wrote the screenplay for Gone Baby Gone. Despite having directed a short film much earlier in his career, Gone Baby Gone was his first feature-length film as a director. While he did not appear in the film, leaving the leading role to his brother, Casey Affleck, when 2010 rolled around, he was back in front of the camera (as well as behind it) for The Town. Once again, audiences could see that Affleck does have talent for writing, as he wrote the screenplay for The Town as well. Despite the uproar of his casting as Bruce Wayne / Batman in the DC cinematic universe, this role, along with Nick Dunne in Gone Girl (2014), have shown that Affleck takes his acting much more seriously now, perhaps as a result of his directing. Time will tell if his most recent writing and directorial effort, Live by Night (2017) will be as well received as Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is just one of a group of friends who grew up together and are now partners in crime. Along with Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Gloansy MacGloan (Slaine), and Dez Elden (Owen Burke), the four friends rob a bank and take the manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage. After they release her, they realize she lives in their neighborhood and could potentially identify them to the police. In order to find out what she knows, Doug starts following her, but eventually the two of them develop feelings for each other. Unfortunately, since the four friends are still deep in the world of crime, they continue to make robberies. Because these heists still occur, they eventually find that the FBI has figured out who they are. The Feds perform a sting at Fenway based on intelligence they received from a jilted ex, with few of the crew managing to escape.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 deftly directed pieces by Ben Affleck

Bacon #: 2 (Shakespeare in Love / Colin Firth -> Where the Truth Lies / Kevin Bacon)

#298. Iran

Let’s face it: most movies today are made in America. Sure, there are plenty of Chinese, British, Japanese, and Indian films made, but it seems the vast majority come out of Hollywood. Partly because Iran isn’t necessarily in a friendly relationship with the United States, very few films are set in this Middle Eastern country. This doesn’t mean Iran doesn’t have its own film industry, it just means the films most likely to be seen by a wide audience are Americanocentric. After all, people want to watch films with characters they can relate to, and one of the ways we can relate to characters is to have them come from similar geographic areas. For people who live in Iran, films set in Iran can be quite relatable. However, sometimes Iran can be set as the “enemy’s territory” in order to provide conflict to a story. This week’s two films examine Iran as a setting.

PersepolisPersepolis
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

There is an intrinsic innocence in the point of view of a child. Because of their trusting nature, they often don’t question the events happening around them. That is until the events start to affect their lives. Since “winners” get to write history, the stories of the losing side often become lost. The somewhat recent Iranian revolution certainly affected plenty of children, but few have been able to tell their story as well as Marjane Satrapi. While technically based off of her memoir, a French graphic novel, the French film Persepolis (2007) gives an intimate look into the lives of Iranians during the most turbulent stage of political unrest their country has ever seen. Through young Marjane’s eyes, we see a family forced to succumb to the changing tide of Iran’s society and a child who is helpless to do anything about it.

In the capital city of Tehran, Marjane Satrapi (Chiara Mastroianni) is raised by parents who support the revolution to give the citizens of Iran more freedom (via communism). Unfortunately, when the Islamic Fundamentalists take control of the government, many of her freedoms are constrained. No longer can Marjane publicly enjoy her love of punk rock, heavy metal music, and other musicians contributing to her Western-leaning influence. Because of her vocal qualms with the government, she is sent to Europe by herself. Growing up away from her family, she finds that the rest of the world is prejudiced against her because of her Iranian origins. After a sickness nearly kills her, she returns to Iran to recover, only to find that the state of the country has gotten worse. With no other options available to her, she emigrates from Iran, leaving her loving family behind.

ArgoArgo
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes / 2.0 hours

Part of the reason many Iranian films are unknown to American audiences is because they have rarely been nominated for Best Foreign Film. Around 1994, Iran has submitted a film for consideration for almost every year since but has only been nominated twice. Children of Heaven (1998) was their first nomination, but their second nomination, A Separation (2011), resulted in a win. It’s difficult to know when they’ll be nominated again, but with increasing globalization we can assume the competition for the nominee spots will certainly become more difficult in each successive year. Of course, these are merely films made by Iran. The 2012 Best Picture winner, Argo, was set in Iran, even if it was an American film. As a result, the Iranians in Argo are seen as antagonists instead of protagonists.

Based on real-life events, Argo follows CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he uses his expertise in exfiltration to rescue six individuals who managed to escape the hostage crisis of 1979. With the help of some Hollywood contacts, Tony starts putting together a cover for the diplomats to use and escape Tehran with little to no hassle. Posing as location scouts for a fake science fiction film, he manages to coach the six on their roles as Canadian filmmakers. Meanwhile, the Iranian revolutionaries are piecing together shredded personnel files and soon learn of the identities of the six missing hostages. Now at the airport, the Americans manage to exhibit their cover identities and board the plane toward freedom.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Iranian settings