Monday, February 27, 2012

The Artist (2011) wins the Academy Award for Best Picture and a Rant

Wiz Pleazuuure

I hadn’t intended to watch the Oscars last night but I got swept up in the glamour of the red carpet, the glitz of the show and all the love for The Artist. I cheered on as I saw The Artist win for Best Picture, Best Score (take that Kim Novak!), Best Actor (Jean DuJardin, YAY!), Best Costume Design and Best Director. I had hoped that God is the Bigger Elvis would have won for best Documentary Short just so I could see Dolores Hart on stage. Actress Elizabeth Banks tweeted her confusion as to why there was a nun on the red carpet. Reading that tweet (which was RTd, I don’t follow her on Twitter), caused me to smack my forehead. Of course Elizabeth Banks doesn’t know who Dolores Hart is! Because a lot of new actors don’t care about film history. Not even the Academy cares very much about early film. Did you notice that in one of the montages showing “classics” they didn’t go further back then Midnight Cowboy (1969) (or at least that’s the earliest film I spotted)? And the Oscars are notorious for skipping over people in their memorial montage, although this year they did a lot better. Now I understand perhaps skipping over Barbara Kent this year because she had only played minor roles in a few films, her last one being released in 1935. But when Penny Singleton (aka Dorothy McNulty) passed away in 2003, they skipped her over in the 2004 montage. Singleton had a very long career in Movie and Television, much longer than Barbara Kent and she also had the Blondie series in which she was the title character! But no one knows who Penny Singleton is so let’s just skip her. If TCM can pay homage to everyone in a few minutes and do a great job at it, a 3-1/2 hour award show can do the same.

The Academy Awards usually throws in some mentions of a few favorites like Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, some Hitchcock, but for the most part it’s all about new new new. We are lucky if we even see Mickey Rooney on the red carpet or in the audience. I’m sure they shove him in the way back even though he’s been attending the Oscars longer than most of those people have been alive. When Kirk Douglas presented the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last year I near fell out of my chair. Seeing him on stage made my heart fill with joy. But idiots on Twitter and elsewhere had different reactions: 1) Kirk Douglas is still alive? and 2) Oh wow, that’s awkward, take the old dude off the stage. Let’s just forget about the fact that the man survived a stroke and has a legendary career in film. Naw, just get him off the stage. And the honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement isn’t even televised anymore. Sad!

This year I was happy for two things. For The Artist and for Hugo (2011). I haven’t seen Hugo but I own and have read the book it’s based on: The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The author/illustrator is Brian Selznick (and yes he is of the famous Hollywood Selznick family) and I got to meet him at Book Expo one year. For me the book celebrated the magic of early film and knowing Martin Scorsese’ appreciation for film history I’m sure the movie did the book justice. As most of you know, The Artist is a silent film (well mostly silent, there is some sound beyond just music and there is a bit of dialogue but not very much). It’s also black and white. How many of us classic film fans have encountered push back because a film is either silent or black and white? “Ew! I only watch films in color and with dialogue.” Well, congratulations! You are king/queen of the world. Silent films and black and white films are so beneath your excellence. What The Artist demonstrated is that a contemporary film doesn’t have to be American, doesn’t have to be color and doesn’t have to be a talkie. A French black-and-white silent film can be just as entertaining and even more so than the interminable dross that’s out there now.

Now it’s not to say that The Artist is a perfect film but it is really good. So before you buy into the Novak controversy, try watching it first. The only issue I had with it was the lack of 1920s/1930s lingo. “Oh my god” was used twice in the film that I noticed. That’s very much a contemporary phrase. They could have had fun with old slang like “on the level”, “and how!”, “Sheik”, “bee’s knees” and “cat’s pajamas”. But they didn’t which is a shame. However, I could tell that they put a lot of attention to the finer details of the era and stayed as true as they could to the period as possible. I definitely appreciated that.

Someone online stated that people who will watch The Artist will not decide to then watch earlier silent films. I don’t agree with that. It's not that I think people will be lining up to see the most complete version of Metropolis but I think saying no one will be interested in silent films is too general a statement. Whenever I watch a film I like, I try to find other films like it. And whenever I discover an actor or actress I enjoy, I try to watch other films they’ve done. It’s just how I watch films. It’s a chain reaction. One experience leads to other experiences. While The Artist is a silent film that is more palatable to modern audiences, I think that there will be some people who will be willing to take the challenge of exploring the silents of a bygone era.

Sometimes I write these posts and then ask myself, what’s my point? My point is that films like The Artist and Hugo demonstrate to all those haters out there that classic films matter! These films are our champions and we should be their champions too. They are love letters to the past from the present. They express the same love we have for classic films. So hurray for The Artist for celebrating early film, for entertaining us and for winning those awards. Congratulations!


  1. Agreed, and well said. I haven't seen "The Artist" yet, but I will. I was delighted it won, mainly because it's a film that, just by virtue of its being b/w and silent, takes a risk. So many modern films are about "product" and "merchandizing" and "the bottom line". Fine, we all love to make money, but they tend to shovel the same old garbage at us all the time with nothing really artistic. "The Artist" will likely not be a blockbuster, nor its characters found in a Happy Meal, but it's art. It took a chance, it took a peek in a different direction. It did not walk in lock-step with the industry (sub)standards. Good for them.

  2. Jacqueline - your comment is right on the money! You said it better than I did in my post. Thank you.

  3. I loved "The Artist" -- it overflowed with heart and charm. A far cry from the soulless CGI of Michael Bay and his minions.

  4. I thought it was so cool Jean Dujardin not only thanked Douglas Fairbanks, but gave the Academy a lesson in its own history! That was very classy. I also have to say it's rather sad when a Frenchman loves and cares for American movie history more than the American Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences apparently does!

  5. I also haven't seen "The Artist," but you definitely have piqued my interest--far more than an Academy Award would! (I don't watch.) An excellent post about cultural memory--if every thing becomes of "the now," there is no past at all, & what a sad state of affairs--at the very least. Thanks to you & Jacqueline & Terry & all the other great bloggers who write so eloquently about why films--even those in black & white & with captioned dialogue--matter a great deal!

  6. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who was put off by the "oh my god"-type anachronisms in "The Artist". I feel like if they're going to go to so much trouble to get the look right, then learn a bit more about how people behaved and spoke at well! The Peppy character often acted like a modern girl, not very 30s. I loved all the actors though. Dujardin embodied the time best, but Bejo has a special sparkle in her eye. They're both delightful and I really want to see the first OSS-117 film again now!

  7. i'm actually trying to remember the last time i watched the oscars....i think it was when Kirk Douglas won his lifetime achievement award O_o

  8. The success of the Artist shows that it is not necessary with deafening explosions, tsunamis of blood and violence in "real 3D". No need for CGI or flashy effects. The film doesn't even need to have color or sound to get its point across. That is very refreshing. I sincerely hope film makers across the world will learn from this unexpected success and concentrate on telling a story.

  9. VP - CGI is fine, it's the sign of the times, but it's definitely not necessary for enjoyment of a film. I'm glad that you enjoyed The Artist!!! :-)

    Mercurie/Terry - Thanks for your comment. I agree that Dujardin's acceptance speech was a highlight of the evening. The audience definitely needed a history lesson! And yes it is sad that a Frenchman knows more about the history than the other people in the front row. I bet the people in the back like Mickey Rooney were like YEAH!

    John - I do hope you see The Artist soon. I think you will like it. And thank you so much because "cultural memory" is the perfect term. I wish I had thought of it. I think a lot of what us bloggers do, as you say, is to keep that cultural history alive!

    KC - Oh I'm so glad I'm not the only one who noticed it. It bothered me and I felt like a Whiny McWhine Face talking to my friend Kevin about it. I also didn't appreciate the engagement scene in one of Peppy's movies. Down-on-one-knee and ring style engagements didn't really happen in films from the 1930s. In terms of Bejo, I'm glad that a Hispanic woman (I'm a proud Latina!) was able to pull off the role of a 30s starlet. It's pretty much a given that starlets were either White Americans or White Europeans during that time. And she's Argentinian!!!

    Paul - Did Kirk Douglas go on stage for that one? They don't even do those at the actual Oscar ceremony anymore. Ugh! I think you would have liked to have seen him at last years Oscars. I can see why you don't watch though.

  10. Hey Jonas - For some reason your comment got stuck in the SPAM filter. I liberated it! I totally agree with what you said. It's spot on. We don't need violence, destruction, special effects, 3D or anything other than real good story telling. And The Artist demonstrates that beautifully. Thank you!

  11. Quelle - yes Kirk accepted his speech during the evenings ceremony. he was introduced by Speilberg, followed by a great montage of clips and then he came out on stage. this was shortly after his stroke and he had a hard time speaking.

    heres a link minus the montage....have a tissue handy!

  12. I want to say "there, there." Not because I diagree with you, but only because I have made a similar rant so many times over the years and it exhausts me. Frankly, you are a good reason to give me hope. You are much younger than I am, and to see your enthusiasm for classic movies tells me that all is not lost.

    Of course, you are in the minority among your generation, just as I am among mine. But there are enough of us that classic movies are made avaialble on DVD and Blu-Ray, perhaps not as many as we would like but at least they recognize that the catalog is worth something. And there are true believers like Scorsese who support reclmation and preservation of film. Again, it gives me hope.

    I just watched Hugo, and it was wonderful. My teenaged daghter watched with me and it was great that she recognized some of the scenes of silent film. It really was a sweet movie.

    Hang in there, you are not alone.

  13. I am so happy The Artist won. I agree with you--I think there will be some people who might seek out other silent films. Honestly, I would love it if some of the Douglas Fairbanks films were re-released in theaters--especially since Dujardin mentioned him in his acceptance speech!

  14. Paulie - Thanks! I'll check out the clip when I'm emotionally prepared. Hey, didn't you learn anything from Ginger's post about how I don't know how to link on Blogger comments? That link is unclickable! Ha.

    BradK- Thanks for your kind words. I think those of us who really do love classic movies and do realize their worth are the ones that keep film history alive! It's nice to know there are others who feel the same way I do. :-)

    Jill - Thanks for your commenting support! I always appreciate it when you stop by. And yes to more Douglas Fairbanks! I would love to see The Mark of Zorro (1920) on the big screen, esp. since it was featured in The Artist.

  15. haha Quelle i KNEW you were gonna say that but i couldnt remember how to make it clickable and i was running usual!

  16. What a wonderful post! :) Unfortunately I have not watched The Artist :( I'm an extremely poor student and cannot afford to go to the cinema but I'm patiently waiting for it to come out on DVD so I can bug someone to buy to for me :D I love silent films (massive Lousie Brooks fan here) and I was so pleased to hear that this was the second silent movie to win an Oscar (don't quote me on that but I heard something along those lines). It's about time silent films became appreciated =]

  17. Realllyy need to see both The Artist and Hugo - they sound brilliant! Totally agree with you, classic movies are under-appreciated :(


Leave me a comment! If it is a long one, make sure you save a draft of it elsewhere just in case Google gobbles it up and spits it out.

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook