Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weekly Movie #6

The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Released: November 23, 2011
Viewed in theaters: February 8, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Michel Hazanavicius (won)
Best Actor - Jean Dujardin (won)
Best Supporting Actress - Berenice Bejo (lost to Octavia Spencer for The Help)
Best Original Screenplay - Michel Hazanavicius (lost to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris)
Best Score - Ludovic Bource  (won)
Best Art Direction (lost to Hugo)
Best Cinematography (lost to Hugo)
Best Costume Design (won)
Best Editing (lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The Artist is not only a black and white movie, it's also a silent film. It looks like it belongs in the nineteen-twenties rather than in the twenty-first century. I've never seen a silent movie and I can only think of a handful of black and white movies I've seen, so this was a first for me. Many critics have been describing The Artist as a love letter to the Golden Age of cinema and it's easy to see why. Jean Dujardin (super famous in his native France; I had never heard of him before) and Berenice Bejo (she was in A Knight's Tale! She played Shannyn Sassafrass's hand maiden!) are 39 and 35 respectively, but they look like they could be stars in the 1920s.

Dujardin (which means "of the garden"; thanks high school French!) plays silent film star George Valentine whose co-star in every movie is a cute terrier named Uggie. He needs a new leading lady and that's where newcomer Peppy Miller (Bejo) steps in. Pretty soon she becomes just as big a star as he is, if not bigger and even though he is with another woman, the two become quite close. When Valentine's manager (John Goodman) tells him that talkies are going to be the next big thing in cinema, Valentine refuses to leave the silent film medium even though Peppy has already started starring in talkies.

This movie may have no sound, but it is still easy to follow what's going on in the story. There are title cards and even when there's not, all the actors faces are so full of expression it's easy to understand what they're emoting. For the majority of the movie, the only sound is the score. Even when they show people applauding, you do not hear any clapping sound. There is one dream sequence where you can hear sound effects and is there any talking at all in the movie? Well, you will have to go and see (hear?) for yourself!

Going to the movies in the twenties must have been a much difference experience than it is now! At the beginning of the movie, one of George Valentine's films is playing at a lavish theater (complete with a balcony) and all the seats are filled and the entire audience is dressed up to the nines. These days when I go to a theater, unless it's a really popular movie on opening night, it's usually not that full and everyone just wears their everyday clothes. And there's certainly no balcony! (Although I have once been to a theater that had a balcony). The movie going experience has certainly changed in the last 90 years!

The Artist
will most likely (okay, who are we kidding, of course it will!) win the Oscar for Best Picture this Sunday and it will be well deserved.

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