Oscars 2012: Especially a Review of The Artist

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This year, I actually managed to see a good number, for me, of the Best Picture nominees.  I know I’m late to the party, but it’s time for an Oscars’ reaction blog post:

Of the nine nominees, I’ve seen Midnight in Paris, Hugo, The Help, and most recently the winner, The Artist.  I had wanted to see The Artist before its nomination even, intrigued by its concept: a silent film for the 21st century.

The Artist’s main character is a silent actor who is shunted aside with the onset of talkies and struggles to find a place in a world where Hollywood suddenly doesn’t want him.  It actually reminded me a lot of Stage Beauty, and I actually feel that Stage Beauty, if less artful and less creative, is the better movie, though certainly less of a family picture.  But then, my attention to history does tend to dwindle in the 1600s.

The Artist, though it uses 21st century filming and special effects, suffers from 1920s over-the-top acting.  I found this especially true of the Peppy Miller.  While I applauded her efforts to help the struggling George Valentin, and in that she seemed sincere, she seemed insincere in every other aspect.

Stage Beauty is an exploration of sexual and gender identity.  The Artist laments the fall of a bygone era of film, replaced by technological advances.  Stage Beauty critiques the style of which it illustrates the downfall and advances towards more realistic theater.  The Artist argues that silent film was replaced because it could be, and its step forward is towards the lighthearted dance film; I think I’d rather watch a silent film.  I feel as though Stage Beauty has the more broader, nobler intention.

There were certainly aspects of The Artist that I enjoyed.  The concept did not disappoint.  To tell a story to a modern audience without words is a feat worth applauding.  I was especially fond of the dream sequence in which Valentin begins to hear sounds, but finds himself silenced like his films and is plagued by images of moving mouths that swirl around his head.

Of the other nominees that I saw, only The Help was really any competition for The Artist for Best Picture.  The Help, though, certainly deserved its Best Supporting Actress, especially over Bérénice Bejo of The Artist, who played Peppy Miller.

Hugo deserved its awards for Cinematography over The Artist; Art Direction over The Artist, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, and Midnight in Paris; and I can understand Visual Effects over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2Hugo also won Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Midnight in Paris deserved its award for Best Original Screenplay over The Artist.

The Artist also came away with awards for Actor in a Leading Role; Costume Design over Hugo and Jane Eyre (I might have given this to Hugo for Méliès’ films’ costumes); Directing over Hugo and Midnight in Paris; and Music (Original Score) over Hugo (neither score left much impression on me, but I suppose I would have given that to The Artist too, since its score had more to do than Hugo’s).

On a side note: I’ve also seen The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, winner for Short Film (Animated).

This review is not endorsed by anyone at all connected with any of these films, including but not limited to Michel Hazanavicus, director of The Artist (2011, Le Petite Reine, La Classe Américaine, and JD Prod) and Richard Eyre, director of Stage Beauty (2004, BBC Worldwide Ltd. and Lions Gate Films).  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

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