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Movies that were indeed worth seeing last year

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The evening of the 2013 Academy Awards has come and gone, but memories leading up to it both amuse and haunt me still.


Argo, the Oscar-winning film with its high-speed action and rapid rattling of speech, proved highly entertaining. Who can forget the white-knuckle moments leading up to the getaway plane’s escape from the Iranians? Once known as the Canadian Caper, this hostage rescue story was only partly recognizable to long-time watchers of current events like myself and, hopefully, some of my former students from social studies classes at Varennes School. Director Ben Affleck candidly admits that the movie is ‘creative non-fiction.’


The gentle French film Amour earned an Oscar as best foreign film. It deals with the dire consequences of aging — as well as love for and steadfast loyalty to one’s spouse. This love story is based not on sexual exploits but on mutual understanding between their very souls.

 
Director Kathryn Bigelow’s factual production of Zero Dark Thirty was the most startling of the Oscar-nominated movies. Not since The Silence of the Lambs have I watched a movie through the spaces between my fingers as I covered my eyes to protect my sensibilities.


The intriguing surprise was that the chief hunter for Osama Bin Laden was a good-looking young woman; since 9/11 she had devoted her whole career in the CIA to bringing him to justice. Who knew?


While the rest of the manhunt’s inner circle were only 60-to-70% sure they would find Bin Laden in the compound, she stood out by saying she was 100% sure.


She proved to be right; but only her quiet tears when it was over made her seem less robotic and more human.


Why does Kathryn Bigelow choose such difficult topics for her films? First The Hurt Locker, about bomb disposal in Iraq for which she earned an Oscar, and now this story. Bigelow studied, she researched, till she felt she had it right.


What are we to make of the use of brutality by the CIA to get information crucial to the safety of the U.S.A.? President Obama is shown in a TV clip saying torture of prisoners will not be tolerated.


So what does this make Bigelow — a betrayer? A troublemaker? Or an honest moviemaker?


The movie reminded me of a story that impressed itself on me way back in public school. It was called "A Message to Garcia," in which orders were given to take a message to a certain place without instructions on how to get there. All the time I watched Zero Dark Thirty I thought of Garcia — no one connected to this hard-to-watch manhunt had a road map to follow either. Yet they got the job done!

Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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