by Bill Chambers Ben Affleck's films as a director are no longer surprisingly good--they're expectedly good. The surprise of his latest, Argo, is twofold: first, put a beard on Affleck and suddenly he's an actor of gravitas; second, that this directing detour his career took may have been born of not just self-preservation, but real movie love. You can see it in his hoarding of genre staples for one-scene (Adrienne Barbeau) and in some cases one-line (Michael Parks) roles, but more importantly, you can see it in the gentle Hollywood satire Argo briefly--perhaps too briefly--becomes. Set in 1979, the picture is suffused with a passion for filmmaking, if also a tinge of wistfulness for that bygone era in filmmaking. Though it may be period-authentic when Affleck shows the Hollywood sign in a state of disrepair, I think it's meant as commentary on the present. Argo is the second Warner release this year to revert to the golden-age Saul Bass logo--it fits better here.