Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Artist (2011)

I was pretty busy the last couple of weeks and just didn't have time to get any posts out. I really want to get caught up so future posts after this one may be shorter than usual just to get them out and move on. There are a few movies I saw in December and January I still need to write about! Here is my post on the Best Picture Winner at 84th Academy Awards, The Artist.

The Artist
Back around the time of the Academy Awards I made a few posts about the Oscars and talked a little about The Artist even though I had not seen it at the time. I saw The Artist about a week after it won its five Oscars.

The Artist is basically a mix of Sunset Blvd., Singing in the Rain, and A Star is Born. While its probably not fair to compare it to those films since The Artist is a far more recent movie, I actually liked it more than Singing in the Rain. While I enjoyed that movie, I could never shake the feeling that I was watching a 1950s musical. With The Artist I often forgot I was watching a movie made in 2011. And to quickly touch on the other two movies I mentioned Sunset Blvd. is one of my favorite movies ever. I actually haven't seen any film version of A Star is Born yet.

The Artist got a lot of hype in the months leading up to the Oscar and of course after it won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor in a leading role, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. However, like anything that gets a lot of buzz, I was worried that it would not be as good as advertised. I was glad that although this is a silent film, its not just a gimmick but works perfectly with the story. Will The Artist be well remembered 10, 20, 30 years from now? Who knows, but I'm guessing it won't be one of the more well-known Best Picture winners. However, I think it will still stand out as a silent movie made in this era. I would be surprised if the success of The Artist causes more black and white films, let alone silent movies, to be made. But it would be awesome if we get more really good movies about film history.

The Artist
is a silent film, but as I said before the style works very well and it never feels forced. If you have never seen a silent movie I don't think you will have trouble getting through the movie as its accessible to everyone.

The dog (Uggie) in this movie is simply fantastic. Uggie the dog was so good in fact that he won the Palm Dog Award for best canine actor at the Cannes Film Festival! I didn't even know there was an award like this until now, but Uggie certainly deserved it. I just wish he could've had an honorary Oscar!

While the basic story in The Artist has been told many times before (a famous celebrity loses his/her popularity and tries desperately to stay relevant despite continued failures), The Artist puts a new spin on this tale by the way it chooses to tell its story. Obviously this is a silent film, but we have a lot of imagery and symbolism focused on talking and speaking including an incredible dream sequence. There is also a nice scene with some great camerawork in which our main character, silent film actor George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), bumps into rising star Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo who is underrated in this film) on a staircase. Valentin is going down and Peppy is going up, which is exactly what is happening with their acting careers.
I won't give away the ending but I'll just say that it is satisfying and a perfect fit.

Although The Artist is about Hollywood and making movies in the 1920s and 1930s, it does not use real names of studios/movies/actors. However, there is a cool scene where George Valentin, is watching one of his movies. The footage he is watching is from The Mask of Zorro (1920) starring Douglas Fairbanks with spliced in close-ups of Jean Dujardin.

The two leads were pretty much unknown to American audiences before The Artist won some Oscars, but this movies does feature some actors most people will recognize such as John Goodman and James Cromwell who are both great in supporting roles. Goodman shines as a fat cat Hollywood producer who is shifting his studio to the production of sound films. Goodman is perfectly cast as he is an actor who does a great job with facial expressions, physical humor, and has great comedic timing. While James Cromwell is a very different actor than John Goodman, he also puts in a nice performance as George Valentin's chauffeur, and perhaps only true friend. Cromwell, like the rest of the cast, have no problem with the lack of dialogue which I think is a testament to the directing and acting in this movie as I doubt most of them have done something like this before. There is even a brief cameo by Malcolm McDowell!

Here is an odd piece of trivia I noticed. The Artist and Hugo each won five Academy Awards this year. Both of them featured an actor who plays a significant role in the movie Borat! Ken Davitian (Azamat in Borat) has a small role as the owner of a pawn shop in The Artist. Meanwhile Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen, played the Station Inspector in Hugo.

It's debatable if The Artist should have won the Oscar for Best Picture (I didn't see all the movies nominated this year but personally would have picked The Tree of Life and the Oscars are always controversial no matter what they pick) but regardless The Artist is still a great and enjoyable movie.

I now have seven more posts to catch-up until I'm finally back on track. Each post is a wrap-up featuring three movies so that is still 21 movies to go! Six of these seven posts are a random grouping of movies while the last one will be on three films by a certain director.


  1. Yeah, I really enjoyed this. Great homage and love letter to the early days of Hollywood. I can see why it won over the Academy.

    Both leads are excellent and yeah, I love the reveal at the end about George. The only thing that would have made me love it more is if they'd got more unknowns. Like you say John Goodman is perfect to play an old time movie mogul but he took me out of the illusion that this was an old movie.

    Also, why the hell get Malcolm McDowell and give him one scene?

  2. I can see what you mean about using unknowns but thought Goodman did a great job. A lot of actors nowadays would probably struggle with silent acting.

    I didn't understand why McDowell had such a brief cameo but found an interview with his that explains it: On The Artist "It's an amazing film. I'm really sort of a little abashed because I'm not really part of it very much. But, you know, I couldn't do it. They wanted me to do something else in it and I couldn't because of work."