Sunday, February 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Artist

It's that time of year again: Oscar Season!  In precisely one week from the very moment millions of Americans will be sitting down in front of their television sets to see what movies and what actors will walk away with the most coveted awards in the entertainment industry.  2011 was a good year for movies, and one does not have to look farther for evidence thereof than looking at this years nominees.  One of the titles America will hear not once, not twice, but TEN times next week is a movie simply called The Artist.  Due to its high number of nominations, I just had to go and see it before the Academy Awards, and it certainly lived up to expectations.

In an era of high technology and intense special effects, it is extraordinarily rare that a movie such as The Artist receives the kind of acclamation that it has thus far.  You see, The Artist is quite simply an artful movie, a throwback to the days of silent films and family-friendly entertainment.  There is no bloody fight scene, no scandalous or controversial sex scene, and the worst word used that the audience could hear/read was "damn."  In fact, although the audience could see the brilliant chemistry and love story building between the two main characters, there wasn't even a kiss!  Any other movie today with such "lack of interesting content" would be either cast aside as an overly conservative push to bring morality back to Hollywood or a cute children's movie (which today contain much more unpleasant material than The Artist; and that says an extreme amount about the decline of moral standards in America, but that is a separate issue).

What was there not to love about this movie?  Well, if you like talking there is a lot not to love.  It's a silent movie.  Do not be like the fools in Europe who went to see it and demanded their money back because "they couldn't hear the dialogue over the music."  If you can get past the lack of voice dialogue and submit yourself to a retro attitude towards movie-watching, then there is nothing that you won't love.  While sitting in the audience, I realized that I was watching a recreation of what made Hollywood great, of what actors used to be capable of (it's a helluva lot more than today's actors), and why Americans have gone too see movies for nearly 100 years.

Due to the fact that it is a silent film, the actors were required to do much more facial and physical acting than they normally do.  Sound and voice can add a great deal to a character, but when that is unavailable actors must make up for it in other ways.  There are a select few actors out there than can do this, but the majority of actors today rely on physical appearance or their voices to help create their characters.  In The Artist, the actors displayed perfectly their characters' feelings, emotions, and even thoughts without the audience being able to hear them.  This is no small feat, making Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo most deserving of their nominations as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role respectively.

Also due to the fact that it is a silent film (and in black and white), there needed to be great cinematography and directing in order to make The Artist a success.  The camera work and transitions between scenes were superb throwbacks to the way silent movies of the past used to be made.  It would have been easy for a modern movie-goer to become bored with the lack of special effects, but the camera work helped keep the attention of the audience and created a most entertaining production.  This is perhaps why nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Director are among the 10 Oscar nominations this movie has received.

The Artist has also been nominated for Best Picture, and it certainly deserves the nomination.  Whether it will win or not, or for that matter whether it should win or not, I cannot say because I have only seen one other movie that is up for Best Picture.  I can say, however, that it is one of the most original and creative movies that I have seen in a long time and that I do hope it does well.  I am of the opinion that Hollywood has become stuck in its ways and that there is not much originality being produced.  While The Artist is a throwback to an earlier film style, it is at least something different for today's generation of movie-watchers and there is something to be said for that. Hopefully this movie's success will influence movie makers to "return to the basics," as it were, to create a movie-going experience that is new and different for today's viewers.

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