Oscars mean excitement

People go the movies for a wide variety of reasons.

Some get caught up in action movies as a way to get that adrenaline going. Others like to immerse themselves in a good mystery. Many enjoy horror flicks and science fiction, and some just enjoy getting lost in a good romance.

In today’s day and age, the term “going to the movies” can be applied rather loosely. It can still mean making the trip the theater, sitting back and watching the story enfold on the big screen, but it can just as easily mean dropping a DVD or blu-ray into a player and watching from the comfort of your living room. We can even download films to watch on our computers, smart phones or tablets.

The bottom line is, we love to watch movies. And, we love to read and talk about them.

That’s what will make this evening special for fans of movies of all types – it’s the night the Academy Awards are presented.

Residents of the Tri-State Area will have a couple of extra reasons to watch this year’s Oscars. One, of course, is that longtime area musician and Weirton resident Rick Witkowski scored original music for “Inocente,” one of five films nominated in the best documentary, short subject category.

Another is that the man who actually lived the story dramatized in the film “Argo,” former CIA officer Antonio Mendez, is coming to Steubenville to speak on April 9 as part of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Herald-Star Concert and Lecture Series.

“Argo,” one of the nominees for picture of the year, is the story of how the CIA helped rescue six Americans from the Canadian embassy in Tehran in early 1980. Canada had provided refuge for the six after they managed to escape capture as the U.S. embassy in Iran was overrun in November 1979. Without giving away too much, the operation involved fake official documents, disguises, fake identities and a fake production company working on a fake movie called “Argo: A Cosmic Conflagration.”

Fans around the country already have determined that the real “Argo” is a very good movie. It stood in 12th place when last week’s box office receipts were totaled. The film took in $2,625,357, which is not too bad when you consider that it was released a little more than 19 weeks ago.

The movie is based on Mendez’s work as a CIA officer and has earned seven Oscar nominations. It is considered to be the front runner for film of the year. Its director, Ben Affleck, also could walk away with best director honors. And, while it’s always fun to predict what movie or which individual will win in each category, we’re absolutely sure that Affleck, who portrays Mendez in the film, will not win the best actor award – for some inexplicable reason, he was not even nominated.

That means he’ll have to be happy knowing he was named as the least convincing CIA guy in the Alternate Oscars presented in the latest issue of Esquire magazine. That publication did recognize “Argo” as the winner in the best beards category.

“Argo” the real movie has all the elements of a classic thriller – spies, clandestine operations and a climactic chase. It’s interesting, though, to contrast the way the book Mendez wrote about his role in the operation, “Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History,” details the work with the way Hollywood portrays it.

That element, of actually hearing the story from the person who really lived it, is what area residents will have the chance to experience on April 9 when Mendez comes to town.

As for the Oscars, this year’s best picture nominees include two that look at actual history (“Argo” and “Lincoln”); one that may or may not look at actual history (“Zero Dark Thirty”); one whose story is set during a period of history (“Les Mieserables”); and a modern romance (“Silver Linings Playbook.”)

Enjoy the Academy Awards, put your money on the thriller – “Argo” – and then make plans to hear Mendez describe his life in the CIA, and how he actually pulled off the rescue, on April 9.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)