Sunday, February 17, 2013

Best Picture Backwards: The Artist

I do not own the above image.  For entertainment purposes only.  Copyright The Weinstein Company.  All rights reserved

                The idea: To watch every Best Picture Oscar winner, mainly to say that I have.  Also, I want to compare them to its fellow nominees (if I have seen them) and to compare them to each other.  And, in a little twist, I will be watching them starting with the most recent, THE ARTIST and finishing sometime next year with WINGS.  I will also keep a running tally of how the movies rank against each other on the bottom of each article.

                For the first few months, I will be re-watching movies (the most recent Best Picture I haven’t seen is 1992’s UNFORGIVEN) some for the second time, some for the tenth plus time.  THE ARTIST falls into the former category.
                THE ARTIST opens with a movie within a movie.  A silent movie starring George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the biggest star in the world.  But not only is the movie within the movie silent, THE ARTIST is a modern silent movie.  While the movie is silent (almost) the whole way through, the movie industry isn’t.  “Talkies” are taking over, much to the disbelief of Valentin.  What’s worse: Valentin’s popularity is being taken over by Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo), who Valentin “discovered”.  Can Valentin transition?  Or will he stay behind & tough it out?
                THE ARTIST is ambitious to say the least.  All credit goes to writer/director Michel Hazanavicius for having the audacity for trying something different and not having it blow up in his face.  Jean Dujardin is pitch perfect as the overconfident then defeated Valentin.  Valentin could have gone down the depressing or the self-sorry road but Dujardin never allows that to occur.  Bejo, Hazanavicius’ wife, is solid as the rising star who never forgets where she came from.  And all the supporting players, from John Goodman’s studio executive to Uggie the Dog, are wonderful.
                That said, THE ARTIST ultimately fails at what it wants to accomplish: paying tribute to silent film.  The movie within the movie looks like a silent film, faded & fuzzy with the right amount of titles cards.  The rest?  Not so much.  The movie is silent for sure, but the story gets lost in the lack of title cards.  And the picture?  Just looks like color was turned off.  Note to young filmmakers: If you want to pay homage to something, GO ALL THE WAY!  Don’t half-ass it.  THE ARTIST is silent but not really a homage to the silent era.  And with that…

Did it deserve to win?

No.  For the first time I can remember, my top three movies of a year were each nominated for Best Picture: HUGO, TREE OF LIFE, and THE DESCENDANTS.  MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was the best written movie of the year, even if it was too short.  MONEYBALL was also wonderful.  So, at best, THE ARTIST was the 6th best Best Picture nominee, despite being around my number ten of the year.

THE ARTIST is far from terrible, but what it fails to do in homage makes it just OK.  

**** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment