I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Artist, 2011

Rated PG-13 (I’m not sure why…)

I had the privilege of seeing this delightful film on the big screen on a date-night with my hubby before it won Best Picture. It wasn’t as hard as I thought talking him into seeing this with me. After the buzz about this movie, I had a feeling it would win the coveted prize this year, so I started typing out notes before I knew for sure. J

I find it ironically poetic that the year I am challenging myself with this blog is the same year a black and white silent film wins, with the only other one winning as the first Best Picture ever in 1927. I feel like we’ve come full circle in a way. I see this film’s win as homage to the era that started it all. It reminds us why we go to the movies… for great stories and great characters, simple as that.

This story centers on George Valentin (played award-winningly perfect by Jean Dujardin), who is, what else?.. a silent film star. This famous actor literally bumps into Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who is a peppy young dancer aspiring to get her foot in the door of show business. George is asked to come on board and start acting in “talkies” since the production studios feel silent films will soon be phased out. In his stubbornness, he refuses, believing these talking pictures are just a fad. (If we could only have told Valentin to wait 80+ years to 2011 when people WANT to see a silent film and actually vote for it to win the best film that year… He would finally be vindicated!) So he struggles to make money on his silent films no one wants to see, while Peppy really makes a name for herself in the new popular films with sound (thanks to George who got her foot in the door). The two have formed a special relationship though and the story continues to reveal how they help each other. She has a desire to protect him and he wallows around in self-pity for a while before discovering what’s important.

Silent films are known for overacting. After all, without words, we’re forced to rely on the first language we ever learned: body language. Facial expressions and gestures have to be more pronounced in order to convey meaning without dialogue. While I’ll admit there is a bit of overacting in this film, it’s just the right amount. Dujardin’s expressions are fantastic; that man was born to play in silent films. You can’t help but smile along with him.

In a silent film, there is an obvious emphasis on the importance of music. It is imperative that the musical score complements the film, not distracts from it. It should carry us through the actors’ emotions without making us feel slapped in the face with them. We should just be able to say, “Wow, that was a really beautiful scene” instead of “That music sounded really pretty there,” and I believe “The Artist” achieved that, thus earning its award for Best Original Score. Aside from the score, it’s actually not an entirely silent movie which makes it very unique. I urge you to check it out for yourself to discover what I mean. And the ending is simply perfect.

I can only compare this film to the other silent film I’ve seen, “Wings”. Obviously, so much has changed in technology, that even when trying to recreate a film from the late ‘20s, there are still advances that make it noticeably more entertaining… although there’re not necessarily things I can put my finger on. One thing is for sure: the camera is steadier.

This unique film was up against 8 other films, making it the first year for an odd number of nominees: “The Descendants”, “War Horse”, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, “Hugo”, “The Tree of Life”, “Midnight in Paris”, “Moneyball”, and “The Help”. I’ve seen the last two… I thought “Moneyball” was a little long and uneventful and that Brad Pitt didn’t do anything spectacular to deserve a Best Actor nod- he could’ve been replaced by anybody in my opinion; and I thought “The Help” was good (I shouldn’t need to say, ‘not at all as good as the book’) but I felt it was made a little too comical compared to the harsh situations the book described. Plus I felt the characters just stepped out of the musical “Hairspray” with their vibrant-colored costumes and perfectly coiffed bouffants... and don’t get me started on the many differences of Skeeter’s character… I could just write another whole post. Anyways, I intend to see a few more of the nominees now because they sound quite interesting, but for now, I am thrilled that “The Artist” received great recognition.

FAVORITE SCENES:

There’s an adorable scene when Peppy has found herself in Valentin’s empty set dressing room. She spots his suit jacket hanging on the rack and imagines herself in his arms. She acted this delightfully.
The dog in this film has received as much buzz as the movie… In this scene, Valentin mimics the dog’s movements at the breakfast table and their perfect timing had me laughing out loud.

I like to consider myself a tapper (even though I haven’t danced that way in several years), so I especially enjoyed the ending. I don’t want to give too much away because I think it is one of the many things that makes this film so unique. Go see it!

LESSONS LEARNED:

Audiences DO appreciate old Hollywood and were yearning for a unique “throw-back” film to break up the monotony of R-rated (and violent) drama winners. I appreciate that.

Know when to accept changing times. Valentin was reluctant to face the inevitable. In doing so, he spiraled into a depression that caused him many heartaches. Just last year, I realized these “smart phones” weren’t just a fad, so I finally got the Internet on my cell phone…. And a friend of mine said, “Welcome to 2007”. I’m glad I finally accepted the change in technology… although five minutes after I got my phone, it was outdated.

Swallow your pride.

Be careful not to emasculate a man when offering help.

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