The Oscars Showdown: ‘Argo’ vs. ‘Skyfall’

Sarah Contreras

The 85th Academy Awards will take place on Feb. 24. As per usual, a slew of films have earned nominations – who has time to watch every one? In part four of this series, columnist Sarah Contreras will wade through the river of films and tell you what is worth seeing and what simply isn’t worth your time.

Break out the popcorn or don’t waste your time? This week’s reviewed films are Ben Affleck’s “Argo” and Sam Mendes’s “Skyfall.”

“Skyfall”

Category: Best Cinematography

Watch It?: Watch It

Sam Mendes, the acclaimed director behind “American Beauty” and “Revolutionary Road,” helms the third installment of the latest 007 trilogy, and he does it well. “Skyfall” is a gorgeously shot and engaging piece of film. Working the Bond mythology for all it is worth, Mendes creates a world for James Bond (the dashing Daniel Craig) to fail and triumph in with great focus and style. In Mendes’ world, the dialogue is witty, the Tom Ford suits are beautiful and the villain (Javier Bardem) could be a facet of Bond’s own personality.

The plot is simple enough not to warrant description–everyone knows that when taking on a Bond film, there will be schemes, explosions and a poisonous villain. However, Mendes ensures that aside from the plot, Skyfall is unlike the by-the-book Bond films of yore. “Skyfall” explores hard-hitting themes of guilt, honor and home–themes viewers will find very relatable, even if they aren’t secret agents.

A thrilling and satisfying ride, “Skyfall” is worth the two-and-a-half-hour watching commitment. Craig, Judi Dench and especially Bardem bring the acting skills. Their performances are true testaments to the new Bond era’s dedication to substance over schlock.

“Argo”

Category: Best Film

Watch It: Watch It

If it loves anything, Hollywood loves films about Hollywood. This was evident last year, when Michel Hazanavicius’s lovely “The Artist” swept the Oscars, and it is evident this year in the multiple trophies taken home by Ben Affleck’s “Argo.”

A dramatization of 1979’s “Canadian Caper,” Argo tells the story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative who organized the rescue of six American hostages in Tehran through the making of a fake Hollywood film. The details of the rescue were kept secret until 1997, when the story–truly, a story made for the big screen–finally was revealed.

Affleck has proven himself a talented writer and director over the years, with films like “Good Will Hunting” and “The Town” under his belt.

“Argo” is another testament to his skill. Well-acted and tightly written, the movie is the sort of gripping experience often missing in today’s films. It helps that most of the events depicted actually happened. Indeed, real life is usually stranger than fiction.