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Iran slams Hollywood over 'Argo' Oscar win

By Mohammad Davari

TEHRAN (AFP)— Iran on Monday criticised Hollywood for awarding its top honour to the Iran hostage drama "Argo", with a senior official saying it "lacks artistic value" and media poking fun at US first lady Michelle Obama's surprise appearance at the Oscar ceremony.

"This anti-Iran movie lacks artistic value," Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"It was awarded the top honour through a massive financing and advertisement campaign ... so that it attracts more attention worldwide," said Hosseini, who also accused Hollywood of targeting the Islamic republic.

Iran's state television earlier slammed the 85th Academy Awards as "the most political Oscar ever," as it reported the news that "Argo" had won the coveted best film Oscar.

The broadcaster accused "Argo" director and star Ben Affleck of specialising "in exaggeration, blowing things out of proportion and creating false scenes."

"Argo" recounts the long-classified CIA plot to extract six US hostages out of revolutionary Iran, who managed to evade Islamist students storming the US embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979.

The other 52 hostages were held for 444 days in an action that caused the rupture of diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran.

Although "Argo" takes liberties with history by its makers' own admission, the movie has racked up a rash of honours on the awards circuit.

The movie's Oscar win was announced by the US first lady in an unprecedented satellite appearance from the White House.

Iran's state television said her involvement "increases speculation that awarding this movie was politically motivated."

The Fars news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, branded "Argo" as an "anti-Iran movie" financed by a "Zionist company" -- in a reference to the California-based Warner Bros. which produced it.

Fars was also critical of Obama and her silver low cut gown, which would be banned in the Islamic republic under its strict dress code for women.

Fars' photo of Obama announcing "Argo" as the winner appeared to have been altered -- her dress is shown covering her shoulders, in contrast to the original which shows her bare-shouldered.

Doctoring of pictures is not uncommon in Iran.

In 2011, Iranian newspapers published an altered picture of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that covered up her cleavage. She was at the time heading the P5+1 group of United States, Russia, China, Britain, France plus Germany in talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear drive.

Those talks are to resume after an eight-month hiatus on Tuesday in the Kazakh city of Almaty.

Iran and the United States are locked in a tense showdown over an array of issues, including Tehran's nuclear ambitions which the West and Israel suspect are aimed at military objectives, despite Iran's repeated denials.

Iran's contempt of Hollywood is no secret.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last Wednesday criticised it as a "totally political" machine that propagates policies brewed in Washington.

"Hollywood is totally political. Otherwise it would have let our anti-Zionist movies participate in film festivals," he said in remarks reported by his Khamenei.ir website.

"Producing political anti-Iranian movies and giving awards to anti-Iranian movies is a clear sign that politics is mixed with art in the US," Khamenei added in an allusion to "Argo."

Hollywood in 2007 drew the wrath of Iranians for its Spartan war epic "300," a smash hit in the United States for its gory tale of the Greco-Persian wars which depicted Iranians as bloodthirsty.

The relationship between the entertainment industry and Iranians however was somewhat repaired in 2012 when Iran won its first ever Oscar, with "A Separation" in the best foreign-language category.