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The Artist (2011)

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From the Oscar Predictions thread: IndieWire thinks The Artist is going to win pretty much everything.

I didn't even recognize the title, so I looked it up, and found a trailer. (From Cannes, so it's written in French, but there's no dialogue.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDY8dfwGQNU

Looks a lot like a Guy Maddin movie. Not sure if that's automatically a good thing, but I like silent films, so I'm intrigued.

The director's IMDB page doesn't turn up anything I recognize. For the search: Hazanavicius.

The cast is impressive, though. Malcolm McDowell, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller. Jean Dujardin, as George Valentin, is Indiewire's pick for best actor.

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I can't wait to see this one. Having seen some stuff from Hazanavicius and read quite a few reviews of the film, I'd say any comparisons to Maddin are probably off-base.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Looking forward to seeing this, but - as I mentioned in the Oscars thread - I think it's wishful thinking that the Academy will recognize a film like this so broadly.

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Saw this last night. It's funny and charming, for sure. Starts off kind of Singin' in the Rain, takes a brief but wild turn into Duck Amuck territory, and then... well, I've said enough already. Anyway, is it Academy material? I dunno, but we'll see.

- - -

'The Artist': The Not-So-Silent Entry

How Michel Hazanavicius' silent feature is angling to become the first non-talkie to win the best picture prize in 83 years.

Hollywood Reporter, October 14

- - -

Incidentally, calling this film "silent" is kind of like calling Schindler's List "black-and-white". But if City Lights or Modern Times can be considered "silent" films...

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NPR:

On the way down is precisely where George Valentin, played by French heartthrob Jean Dujardin, finds himself. He's unable to adapt to the newfangled talkies and his career is about to be ruined. Like so much else in The Artist, the location at this moment is a loving reference to cinema — the Bradbury has appeared in dozens of movies, most famously Blade Runner.The Artist is itself a silent film, and black and white. But in spite of what might seem to be two formidable barriers to mainstream popularity, it's generating some of the strongest Oscar buzz of the year. Hazanavicius convinced producers to invest in The Artist based on the strength of two domestically successful comedies he directed about a 1950s French secret agent.

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I am trying to think of what to say about this film, which I've seen twice (fighting sleep both times), and can come up with nothing. I will be charitable and say that the sleepiness that set in during both viewings was independent of the film, and clouded my view of its, I'm sure, many merits.

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Glen Kenny:

...you know, that Dujardin fella sure is deft and energetic, and his foil Bérénice Bejo, while on occasion a trifle overtly contemporary in her projection, is adorable, as is that dog, or dogs, as the case may be. Nevertheless, the fact that this movie is being proclaimed the Best Film of 2011 by various critics' groups is literally—there's no other word for it—insane. One could make a snide remark or two about the various members of said groups perhaps strongly identifying with the film's title character's entitled indignance at his imposed obselescence, but that would just be mean. However, I will say that any expectation that these proclamations will effect some kind of populist wellspringing on the film's behalf is even more insane. We shall see.

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Glenn Kenny is absolutely right about the film's "inexplicable, anachronistic" use of the music from Hitchcock's Vertigo (a film that was released about three DECADES after The Artist takes place). I've spoken to a few people who weren't bothered by the Vertigo music because they didn't recognize it in the first place, but still... for a film that is pitched, on a certain level, straight at cinephiles (i.e. at people who WOULD tend to recognize that music), it is kind of strange how the movie makes an artistic choice that would make absolutely zero sense to them, and at what is supposed to be an emotional high-point in the film.

Still, that being said, this IS a rather charming film. But it's a trifle, and certainly not "Best Picture" material.

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Glenn Kenny is absolutely right about the film's "inexplicable, anachronistic" use of the music from Hitchcock's Vertigo (a film that was released about three DECADES after The Artist takes place). I've spoken to a few people who weren't bothered by the Vertigo music because they didn't recognize it in the first place, but still... for a film that is pitched, on a certain level, straight at cinephiles (i.e. at people who WOULD tend to recognize that music), it is kind of strange how the movie makes an artistic choice that would make absolutely zero sense to them, and at what is supposed to be an emotional high-point in the film.

Which cue from VERTIGO is used?

Still, that being said, this IS a rather charming film. But it's a trifle, and certainly not "Best Picture" material.

This is how I expect to feel about it.

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Which cue from VERTIGO is used?

Sorry, I'm not familiar enough with that movie's soundtrack to name a specific track or anything like that. One of the more pining/romantic tunes, though.

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Still, that being said, this IS a rather charming film. But it's a trifle, and certainly not "Best Picture" material.

Provisionally granting everything that went before it (and which I've cut) ... why is being a trifle disqualifying as Best Picture material?

I for one would rather see a successfully charming trifle win out over the parade of High-Minded Humanism that usually dominates the Oscars.

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Provisionally granting everything that went before it (and which I've cut) ... why is being a trifle disqualifying as Best Picture material?

In an ideal world, the Best Picture would go to films that are Greater Works. Rarely works that way, of course.

I for one would rather see a successfully charming trifle win out over the parade of High-Minded Humanism that usually dominates the Oscars.

I'm not sure that I'd suggest that High-Minded Humanism as a consistent Oscar-winner trait. Particularly when the last decade's Best Picture winners includes such titles as CHICAGO, CRASH, THE DEPARTED, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and THE HURT LOCKER.

And, truth be told, I think film these days doesn't have much to offer in the way of genuinely High-Minded Humanism. Wish they did, actually. It would be a nice relief from all the vacuous, cynical flicks we have to sit through these days.

Edited by Ryan H.

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vjmorton wrote:

: Provisionally granting everything that went before it (and which I've cut) ... why is being a trifle disqualifying as Best Picture material?

Well, to borrow one of Overstreet's buzzwords, the Academy is supposed to be rewarding "excellence" -- and "trifles", almost by definition, are not "excellent". I might quibble with Kenny's breakdown of the film (according to which 40% of the film is really good, 40% is tolerable, and the rest is inexplicably anachronistically bad, or however he described it), but I'm sympathetic to it, and I don't think a film with those kinds of stats can really be called "excellent". It's charming and entertaining for what it is, but it's a "trifle" compared to films that are 100% really good or even 75% really good.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Okay, even though I’ve refused to place The Artist on any of my lists of end-of-the-year favorites, I’ve just finished reseeing it, and I have to admit that if I were a member of the Academy and could offer write-ins, Uggie the dog would be somewhere near the top. . . .

Above all, I’m flabbergasted by the performance of Uggie the dog, mutt extraordinaire, which has got to be one of the best canine turns in the history of cinema. Even if I’ve never seen any of the Rin Tin Tin features or more than a handful of the various Lassies, and notwithstanding the undeniable pizzazz of Cecil Hepworth’s Rescued by Rover (1905), Uggie is surely and plainly more deserving of an Oscar nomination than any other individual associated with The Artist, including the diverse Douglas Fairbanks and Gene Kelly impersonations of Jean Dujardin and the undeniable technical polish of Hazanavicius. . . .

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Glenn Kenny is absolutely right about the film's "inexplicable, anachronistic" use of the music from Hitchcock's Vertigo (a film that was released about three DECADES after The Artist takes place). I've spoken to a few people who weren't bothered by the Vertigo music because they didn't recognize it in the first place, but still... for a film that is pitched, on a certain level, straight at cinephiles (i.e. at people who WOULD tend to recognize that music), it is kind of strange how the movie makes an artistic choice that would make absolutely zero sense to them, and at what is supposed to be an emotional high-point in the film.

Yes, it is an odd selection to use VERTIGO's "Scene D'Amour" there, especially since the original score used in the rest of the film has been doing the job pretty well up until that point, even if it's not the equivalent Herrmann-in-peak-form.

Still, that being said, this IS a rather charming film. But it's a trifle, and certainly not "Best Picture" material.

Perhaps a trifle. But if it's a trifle, then so is, say, HUGO.

THE ARTIST is a charming, lightweight entertainment, not a grand artistic statement. But it's so lovingly made and so exuberant that it's nevertheless a film I admire more than the alleged Oscar frontrunners (the ones I've seen, at any rate).

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Some comments I found from Hazanavicius, and he touches on the use of the cue from VERTIGO, and also how the title wasn't his choice:

The film’s lineage also traces back to several other Hollywood classics. “I stole an entire segment — the breakfast montage — from ‘Citizen Kane.’ And there are touches of ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ I think it’s more ‘Sunset’ than ‘Singin’, actually.”

Plus, there’s an extraordinary sequence near the end, for which he used Bernard Herrmann’s famous “Scene d’Amour” theme from Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958). “The ‘Vertigo’ music is here to help shape the emotional structure of the climax,” he said. “But it’s also heard in the finale [of ‘Vertigo’], and the theme worked perfectly here. It helps to create a sense of resolution.”

As for a resolution, there’s a happy ending, a la Ginger and Fred, for George and Peppy. But one question remains. Why “The Artist”?

“I didn’t choose that title,” he said, laughing. “The working title was ‘Peppy and George,’ and then it was ‘Beauty Spot’ [referring to the trademark look that Valentin gives Peppy]. I like that concept. The producer asked me what I thought of ‘The Artist.’ To me, [Valentin] is proud, selfish, egocentric. I don’t see how he’s an artist, but he thinks he’s an artist. Thomas said just try [using the title], just to see. Maybe the title is to convince other people. I think it works, but also it reminds me of the way they used to introduce characters in silent films [with title cards]. But I think maybe for him, it’s a very meta title, just in a way.”

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Well, I don't see why a trifle can't be excellent for what it is. I used to report to a lady who made trifles at Christmas, and I wouldn't have hesitated to call them excellent (and not just because I reported to her).

I also find The Artist charming and exuberantly made, but I'm also sympathetic to Kenny's breakdown. I thought Valentin's Star is Born-esque downward spiral mired the film in gloom for way too long, and the happy ending was too brief to make up for it. There's so much to like about it, but as Valentin crashed in slow motion I was with the picture for awhile, and then I was going along with it, and then I was tolerating it, and finally I reached a point where I said "Okay, enough is enough, do something else." And it didn't. And then it didn't some more.

The film’s lineage also traces back to several other Hollywood classics. “I stole an entire segment — the breakfast montage — from ‘Citizen Kane.’ And there are touches of ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ I think it’s more ‘Sunset’ than ‘Singin’, actually.”

Yeah, Sunset Boulevard was one of the three pictures I kept thinking of, along with A Star is Born and, yes, Singin' in the Rain. I did think of Kane during the breakfast montage, but I must not have been paying enough attention because I didn't see enough of a connection to regard it as "theft." Must have missed something.

Edited by SDG

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I thought Valentin's Star is Born-esque downward spiral mired the film in gloom for way too long, and the happy ending was too brief to make up for it. There's so much to like about it, but as Valentin crashed in slow motion I was with the picture for awhile, and then I was going along with it, and then I was tolerating it, and finally I reached a point where I said "Okay, enough is enough, do something else." And it didn't. And then it didn't some more.

I, too, thought the melancholy went on for too long, but I didn't have as strong a reaction against it as you did, perhaps because I admired the craftsmanship of these scenes, even if I felt there were too many of them. It's in these moments where some of the film's strongest images lie.

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I thought Valentin's Star is Born-esque downward spiral mired the film in gloom for way too long, and the happy ending was too brief to make up for it. There's so much to like about it, but as Valentin crashed in slow motion I was with the picture for awhile, and then I was going along with it, and then I was tolerating it, and finally I reached a point where I said "Okay, enough is enough, do something else." And it didn't. And then it didn't some more.

I, too, thought the melancholy went on for too long, but I didn't have as strong a reaction against it as you did, perhaps because I admired the craftsmanship of these scenes, even if I felt there were too many of them. It's in these moments where some of the film's strongest images lie.

Yes, I appreciated that, but in a way that was part of the problem for me: These striking images—Valentin's shadow walking off the screen, for instance—were embedded in scenes that hinted at a turning point that kept not coming. Those images did keep my interest, though.

Edited by SDG

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Ryan H. wrote:

: Perhaps a trifle. But if it's a trifle, then so is, say, HUGO.

I find Hugo a bit too overcooked to be a "trifle", but anyhoo.

SDG wrote:

: Well, I don't see why a trifle can't be excellent for what it is.

Exactly, for what it is: that's the rub.

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: Well, I don't see why a trifle can't be excellent for what it is.

Exactly, for what it is: that's the rub.

Why? An excellent trifle is an excellent thing. I can't say one has ever rubbed me the wrong way for not being an excellent filet mignon.

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SDG wrote:

: Why? An excellent trifle is an excellent thing. I can't say one has ever rubbed me the wrong way for not being an excellent filet mignon.

I dunno, how often does it really make sense to give the Best Dish award to the dessert? (Especially when the dessert in question has some notable flaws, and is basically in the "pretty good" category rather than the "great" category?)

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For the record, I don't know that I can be bothered to say much more than I did on Twitter:

THE ARTIST: Lots of playful fun. Oscar all but guaranteed. But it takes certain things so lightly that, well, I cannot take it lightly. ... This riches to rags to riches story affirms all of Hollywood's fractured values from glamour to hormones-over-responsibilities. ... And so it goes. One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

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Full agreement that The Artist's use of the Vertigo score is a big "Huh?" that takes you out of the movie and renders The Artist's claim to greatness somewhat suspect, but still... "rape"? Did Kim Novak really have to use that word?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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My review.

I don't recall that I've been in such a small minority on RT before.

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