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Entries in The Artist (42)


NYFF: "The Artist" Is A Work of Art

The orchestra swells immediately. The retro credits practically shout the glory of the talent "MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS!", JEAN DUJARDIN!" "BERENICE BEJO!" (exclamation points ours -ed.) but the first telling words on the screen in The Artist are actually wittily posted on a sign, urging everyone to keep their mouths shut. 

Please Be Silent Behind The Screen."

George Valentin shows off at his big premiere

We are at the premiere of A Russian Affair, the latest from silent film star George Valentin (Cannes Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin) as he paces behind the screen waiting for the film to end. You can feel the tension as he waits for the audience reaction. The score drops out completely and we hear... nothing (Tension!). Then comes the audience's thunderous applause (Relief!) ... but we still hear nothing. This punchline in the absence of sound gives The Artist its first huge and knowing release of laughter. We can't hear the applause but we sure can see it in the joyous smile spreading across the star's face. That smile is already mirrored and multiplied by anyone watching this new gem.

George meets PeppyThe push and pull between what we expect to hear or see, and what comes instead is one of the great and consistent punchline joys of this silent film about silent films. Again and again the writer/director and his excellent cast (led with infectious verve by the Oscar-worthy Dujardin) will surprise and move us. Sometimes the magic comes through an unexpected camera movement or destination and sometimes through the physicality of the actors themselves and often by both at once. The laughs even come through sound -- though never in conventional ways; The Artist is, from start to finish, an exuberantly inventive homage to the movies such as they were and such as they are.

The story is both charmingly dated, and blissfully universal, which is to say contemporary; technology and tastes will always evolve and change and disrupt the status quo. George Valentin has the world at his (happy) feet in 1927 when the movie begins but by the time the 1929 title card arrives, he's already a dinosaur. He just didn't feel the asteroid's impact and hasn't yet felt the chill. Valentin laughs off his co-star's (Missi Pyle doing an intentional riff on Lina Lamont) sound test even though his director (John Goodman) warns him...

That's the future."

The future arrives, as it always does, through doors opened by the past. In 1927 Valentin gives a leg up to a complete nobody Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo madly winking and, well, peppy, filmed at 20 frames a second) by giving her a big fannish paparazzi moment. She makes the most of this flashbulb spotlight and lands a part in his next film A German Affair . In one of the film's funniest sequences, which sneakily lays dramatic foundation for the second act, we see them do several takes of an inconsequential dancing scene together. I won't spoil the many joys of the unfolding plot but let it suffice to say that it fondly recalls all rise and fall and pick yourself back up showbiz narratives particularly A Star is Born as Peppy's star rises (she's the new "it girl" in talkies) just as Valentin's falls. 

The future is coming

Though the film organically veers towards the sentimental in its second half, it has built such comic goodwill and affection that you don't mind laughing less as George's decline takes the film toward its heaviest dramatic moments. The Artist even risks the maudlin as Valentin keeps uncovering new rock bottoms but there's a beautiful simplicity in its heartbreak imagery. In one scene the once great star stands in front of a projector in his lonely home berating himself for being "stupid and proud"; he's now just a shadow on a smallish screen. Hazanivicious, to his credit, never stops blissfully and obviously cribbing from the best of Old Hollywood like Orson Welles, A Star is Born, Sunset Blvd., and Asta. Regarding the latter, The Artist's not so secret weapon iis its star dog "Uggy" -- a constant companion to Valentin -- who could be a direct descendant from that famous screwball comedy terrier. Best of all, Hazanavicius never settles for just one mood, usually gifting the images and scenes with multiple feelings. To cite but one example, there's a shot that highlights Valentin's disintegrating marraige to Doris (Penelope Anne Miller) which shows you three Valentin's: on the wall hangs a deified Valentin in oil portraiture, standing in front of him is Valentin the actual man realizing his wife is leaving him while holding a defaced photo of his movie star self in his hands (his wife has been scribbling on his headshot). Isn't that the archetypal private life of a celebrity actor in a nutshell?

The Artist in concept could have been a mere spoof, or a pleasant but insubstantial comic homage but Hazanavicius and his gifted team never settle, always reaching for bigger laughs, and delivering unexpected and immensely clever mise en scène. The actors are magicians, themselves. Despite the constant literal winking, as befits the era, they never figuratively wink at the material, which would take you outside of it. It's a movie of sincere and not ironic pleasure.

A retroactive time-travelling note to all selection committees of "future" film festivals in 2011: Always schedule The Artist as your Closing Night movie. It's an impossible act to follow and it'll send your audiences off with hearts soaring. They're return with pleasure the following year eager to see what you've programmed for them. When the movie opens in theaters they'll be returning, too. A

Jean DuJardin and "Uggy", a match made in heaven.

Re: the Oscars
The Artist is the best kind of Oscar contender in that it never once feels like it was built to hook the Academy, but it will surely prove irresistibly delicious bait nonetheless. Expect nominations across the board for what will surely be one of our Best Picture contenders. It's the only film this season aside from Martin Scorsese's Hugo that's so deeply infatuated with the history of the movies themselves, the very thing that the Academy was built to chronicle.


Discussables: Lousy Animated Year, The TV is All Right, The Artistic Cast

Animation Magazine suggests that if the Czech Republic's Alois Nebel (recently submitted for Oscar's foreign language film race) also enters the Animated Feature race there might be over 16 eligible films and then that category could expand to five nominees. Christ, of all years to have enough films for a 5 wide race, this is not the year! That would probably mean that Pixar's Cars 2 got a nomination and who can live with that? NOT I! Can anyone even name 2 animated films that deserve to call themselves "Best Feature" this year? If Best Picture had the same ratio of release to nominees the Best Picture shortlist would be like 150 movies long. And the foreign language film nominees would total like 20. Seriously, the Oscar rules on the animated feature category are an unholy mess! 

Whew, with that off my chest -- sorry, I h-a-t-e-d Cars 2 -- Happier things now!

Deadline I keep forgetting to mention this and I'm sure you already know but they're turning The Kids Are All Right into a TV series. On the one hand TV series thrive on character you'd like to spend lots of time with and on that front it's a total winning idea. On the other hand the movie thrived on how succinctly it captured one crucial timeframe (the summer before college which is a universal Important Time Frame for families when it happens) and plus, how the hell you gonna replace 3 of the best adult actors on the planet and 2 of the most promising teen actors on the planet?

Frankly My Dear... thinks that either Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained or Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby will have to move away from Christmas Day 2012. I dunno. Didn't Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can open right on top of one another for Christmas 2002? It worked out for both those films. Maybe the general public is okay with Leonardo DiCaprio double features.

The Lost Boy says the smartest thing we've heard said about the This Means War trailer. But maybe you should watch it before clicking over. 

Broadway Blog reminds us that "Celebrity Autobiography is back for another season in NYC. In the show famous comedic celebrities read verbatim from the bios of famous self serious celebrities. I must go.

Twitch reminds me that I really should probably see Trespass even though the review is scathing and everyone agrees that it's a terrible movie. I keep putting it off but there is the Nicole Kidman Mandatoryness of it. What to do... what to do...

THE ARTIST TEAM: star Jean DuJardin, director Michel Hazanavicious, and the cast: Bejo, Miller, Grant and Cromwell

The Hairpin talks to character actress Beth Grant (who doubts your commitment to Sparkle Motion). I don't know if you were aware but Beth Grant is in the upcoming Oscar contender The Artist. She has a teensy tiny role in the excellent black and white / silent movie but at the press conference that followed its screening this past Friday, she made no bones about her excitement, calling it the pinnacle of her career even after name-checking No Country For Old Men, Rain Man and Donnie Darko. In short, she's totally besotted with it. A feeling that's easy to come by, actually.

If you believe the theory that SAG Ensemble Nominations go to The Movie That Actors Most Wish They Could Have Been In rather than the movies with the most ensembley of acting (DuJardin and Bejo totally hog this film) than this will be one of your five SAG Ensemble Nominees come January.


Complete the Sentences. If I Could Live...

If I could live inside of one movie I've seen this year it'd be ____________ because ______________ .

I'll start you off. If I could live inside one movie I've seen this year it'd be The Artist because Old Hollywood is so magical. And also: holy hell that is a great movie. Expect it to make a run for double digit nominations at the Oscars.

Okay... one more. And if I could be in one movie from the Hollywood's Golden Age, it'd be _________ because _______________ .


Yes, No, Maybe So: "The Artist"

Sometimes our Yes No Maybe So series is just formality. Who doesn't want to see this big shiny novelty, a silent movie for 2011!?

Nevertheless let's manage expectations with our patented Yes No Maybe So system. Yes (all the reasons we're on board) No (potential issues the trailer suggests we could have) Maybe So (random introspection that's neither positive nor negative exactly)

Yes That Cannes win for Jean DuJardin is tantalizing, especially since the performance in short trailer form looks so deliciously physical and charismatic rather than a traditional 'Master Thespian!' type deal. But mostly the concept alone, the evidence of joyful dance scenes, clever physical comedy and the a heart that beats with the sincere love of cinema promises a good time. 

No Uh.... what to say... what to say... how will any onscreen terrier ever measure up to Skippy who starred in The Thin Man and The Awful Truth?
As you can see I'm failing to come up with a "no" this movie looks so gorgeous and fun. In all seriousness, though there's nothing in any way "turn off" about this brief look, I do wonder how the movie will sustain its gimmick over 100 whole minutes. 

Maybe So I've successfully read nothing about the plot of this picture but the trailer suggests A Star is Born style plot yes? I understand that we're dealing with Hollywood homage and archetypes and tropes so it's appropriate and all of that but my god that's been done hundreds of times already.

Here's the trailer...

are you a yes, no or a maybe so? does the trailer justify (for you) the Oscar buzz?


The Link-Up

Ultra Culture "the stills photographer is here? fetch me my viewfinder at once!" HEE
Movie|Line on the weirdly surprising colors of the new EW issue featuring The Help. (More on this film right here very soon.)
Wet Asphalt "how to write a book in three days" regarding Michael Moorcock (of Elric of Melnibone fame. Weird that Hollywood's never managed to make that into a franchise)
Scott Feinberg thinks The Artist will be a good case study for Oscar. Will a silent film catch on in today's marketplace?
lemonwade doesn't mind the lack of Supes' spit curl but don't get him started on those cape pleats.
Show Blitz Game of Thrones director Brian Kirk in discussions to helm Thor 2. er... i worry about this. Thor's saving grace was its humor and Game of Thrones biggest problem as a series is its humorlessness (believe me the book has humor... admittedly of the gallows kind. But still)
Scene Stealers h-a-t-e-s on The Change-Up consider this opening bit about that trailer moment where infant poo flies at Justin Bateman's face. 

I know how Dave feels. In its opening moments “The Change-Up” took a dump in my mouth, and did not relent until the credits rolled.

Ouch. But then the film really does look terrible. Let me know if you see it and can verify.

Anomalous Material top ten movie roles Lady Gaga could have played. (I myself suspect she cannot act. But I'll hold my tongue.)
Socialite Life look i love Neil Patrick Harris but should he and David Burtka really be yachting with Elton John? Shouldn't NPH be doing penance for Beastly and The Smurfs? And by penance I mean: searching tirelessly for scripts that are actually worthy of his talent? Because, awards-show hosting aside, isn't it going to waste?

Unearned vacation! Find a good movie NPH.

Off Cinema
Daily What "Internet Filtration System" I'm lol'ing despite the fact that i've screwed this up myself in moments of speed typing. (sigh)
Tom Shone wonders if Sarah Palin is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It sounds far-fetched until you actually read what he has to say. 
The Onion "Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican Opposition" hee. 

I'm loving this video called "Trim"

Trim from Petey Boy on Vimeo.


It's amazing how a change in hairstyles affects your perception about someone. People don't talk about this but that's the #1 thing that's most depressing about losing your hair -- if you're someone who is visually oriented that is -- it really cuts down on the number of ways you can modulate your own look and persona. I am my hair ♪

Judy Fest
Stirred, Straight Up With a Twist has a detailed look at The Pirate, which is one of the films I sadly missed at the current Judy Garland retrospective here in NYC. Weirdly I've never seen it despite the fact that Gene Kelly and Judy are both among my top dozen or so favorite movie stars of all time. I absolutely disagree with the comments about Gene Kelly's screen persona though since they directly contradict what I wrote in my For Me and My Gal review about his sexual allure. 
Enthusiasm has notes on the The Pirate and its camp value.
Towleroad In this week's column I wrote up a short bit about Presenting Lily Mars (1943) which is my new favorite that I hadn't yet seen from the Garland canon. Let's raise this film's profile, people. It's really funny and quite fresh. I was tempted to slap it in the face and then take it to bed like some prim but randy 40s heroine. Loved Van Heflin in it. 


Oscar June Predix Update. What We Know Now...

... can fit into a thimble or a wee baby's hand. Sometimes by May's end one or two fairly-sure things have become clear, but the closest we have to that, still, is Rango in the animated film department. Old news.

What did the Month of May teach us suggest to us?

1. The Weinsteins, who finally won their first post-Miramax "Best Picture"  with The King's Speech, will not likely be satiated by that triumph. It'll just make them hungry for another. They have been beefing up their competitive slate. They either have faith in both Phyllida Lloyd's Thatcher bio The Iron Lady (which sounds typically "prestige" enough for Oscar play, even if it turns out dull) and the crowdpleaser The Artist (which sounds accessible enough for Oscar play, despite being a silent film) or they didn't want anyone else to have one or both of them. You never know with them. And you won't know till the last minute; the Weinsteins are notoriously patient about waiting it out, either because they like to see what the awards air is like, or just because they believe more strongly in the "ONLY DECEMBER!" Oscar strategy than any other distributor. We'll find out more about their plan towards the end of the year. 

2. Cannes elevated the intriguing possibility of Kirsten Dunst Best Actress traction for Melancholia -- something we've long hoped for for one of our favorite actresses -- but what's yet more delicious than her Cannes win is the myriad ways this could play out with a complicated mix of voting factors (actual high quality performance, off-performance sympathy votes, career comeback of sorts, Lars von Trier's unpredictable track record in US distribution); Those moviegoers who love to follow the politics of Oscar, not just the movies, are bound to enjoy this particular story as it unfolds. 

3. The warm reception for Midnight in Paris raised the distinct possibility that Woody Allen could see his 15th Best Original Screenplay nomination. Pundits, including myself, have regularly sold the idea that Mr Allen is always a threat in the Original Screenplay category but in truth, that "always" is quite an overestimation given that he hasn't been a  "regular" since the 90s. (He only received one nomination in the Aughts making him less an always then a 10% kinda guy these days). He didn't even get much Oscar traction for Vicky Cristina Barcelona despite a Golden Globe  Picture win and an eventual Oscar for Penélope Cruz. But Midnight, might be a different story. Firstly, there's no individual performance that awards bodies can latch on to -- the showiest work is done by the people with the teeniest parts -- and if anyone reaps the benefits of the love for the film, it'll be Allen himself. Midnight is quite light on its feet despite a theme with melancholy resonance, and it's performing well at the box office. As The Film Experience has always maintained, Oscar voters tastes are basically a figurative amalgam of critics + moviegoers + media; if those three groups like something (even if they do so for entirely different reasons), Oscar will join them.

4. I'm not sure what we know about The Tree of Life. I feel lost here. At first one heard "mixed reviews" than it won the "Palme D'Or" and then it opened. It's been a whirlwind of activity. If the random stories of older audiences walking out are true -- can one ever trust "stories" about certain demographics loving or hating any film? Said stories always seem rife with possible agendas and/or horse's mouth biases -- than it might be dead in the water for Oscar. BUT. It just opened. Let's see how it plays as it expands. If Malick teaches us anything he teaches us patience, right? See you at his next film in 2019! (I'm kidding. Supposedly the next film has already completed shooting... but I'll believe back-to-back Malick releases when they happen and no sooner.)

5. My guess is that Pirates of the Caribbean bombed too badly with critics to win it much heat in the technical categories where it's previously done fairly well for itself. Thor wasn't a big enough deal financially and in the passion-meter of its fans to score any technicals (though it's worth noting that its production designer Bo Welch is an Academy favorite), so the next two superhero tests are X-Men First Class and Green Lantern. For some possibly silly reason, I've convinced myself that it's Captain America that might get the tech nods that you know at least one of the comic book films will win.

Eventually comic book films will invade Oscar. Though it seems improbable now it's a matter of percentages. As more and more of them get made, Oscar will have less and less ways to avoid them.

Here's something we don't know...

What the hell is going on with The Eye of the Storm? It's one of those titles, an adaptation of a novel, that I only discovered in researching potential Oscar players (and talking in the comments to you!) but I never hear a peep about it in terms of "official" anything. Nevertheless it looks promising and actressy, and maybe Geoffrey Rush's post-Speech heat and general hammy deliciousness (to AMPAS palettes at least) can help it out? I've tried everything I could think of to embed the teaser (everything I could think of = copy and paste) but nothing works so you'll have to go to Twitch to see it.

Fly away, pigeon. Just say your farewell and go.

Dying Charlotte Rampling theatrically dismissing bitchy Judy Davis is my new two second obsession. Enjoy it with me!

Click on the individual category titles to explore further.


Cannes Check: "The Artist" Charms and Endears

Alex here (Nathaniel's back tomorrow).

Cannes has its first darling. My eye has been on The Artist ever since it was announced to join the competition at Cannes this year (I love when they add latecomers. It feels like it'll be a ringer for sure).  From filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius of the amazingly hilarious OSS:117 films (best spy spoofs ever!), this movie has garnered a lot of buzz since its screening last night.  With a cast that includes Jean Dujardin (star of the OSS:117 series), James Cromwell, and John Goodman among others, no wonder this film was snatched up by The Wienstein Company before its premiere.  Harvey even called the film, " a delicate flower."  Sensitive guy, eh?

Todd Macarthy, Guy Lodge, Indiewire and pretty much every review gush about its homage to the silent and golden eras of filmmaking, but emphasize how it's so much more.  Sasha Stone of Awards Daily had this particularly sweet closing comment in her review.

But as the credits rolled for The Artist I already knew I didn’t want it to end. I knew that I didn’t want the lights to come up and I certainly didn’t want to face the world outside. I had no idea it still existed: The magic of the movies.

Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly is the first to start speculating on its Ocscar chances.  Cannes isn't even over yet! I guess with the Wiensteins backing it, it is a fair question.   Can't wait to see it. Us regular folk will just have to settle for the trailer for now. 

 People have also pegged the canine costar as a shoe for the Palm D'og. Yes, its real, people.

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