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Entries in The Artist (40)

Saturday
Nov052011

European Award Noms (Shades of Oscar, 2011 AND 2010)

Our Oscar chart updates are underway (much more coming at you tomorrow) and now The European Film Award nominations are out. The Film Experience always enjoys their attempt at boiling down so many countries into one group of "best of"s. The American and British Film Academies don't have it so hard, you know, each generally only dealing with the best of Hollywood and London with the occasional embassy outreach to a hot foreigner. (That'd be The Artist this year).

Melancholia vs. The Artist at the EFAs

For our Oscar discussion purposes the most amusing thing about this year's lineup is that two Oscar winners from 2010 (the UK's The Kings Speech and Denmark's In a Better World) are competing against one of the presumed frontrunners of 2011 (France's The Artist) with a few arthouse madman (The Melancholia) and French language side dishes (The Kid With a Bike -- not submitted for this year's Oscar race -- and Le Havre, which is an Oscar submission for in Best Foreign Film).

FILM

  • The Artist
  • Le Havre
  • In a Better World
  • The Kid With a Bike
  • The King's Speech 
  • Melancholia

Sigh. The King's Speech. At this point it's like an unstaked British vampire, sucking the life from Gallic beauties and crazy Danes. 

DIRECTOR

  • Susanne Bier, In a Better World
  • The Dardenne Brothers, The Kid With a Bike
  • Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre
  • Béla Tarr, The Turin Horse
  • Lars von Trier, Melancholia

It seems absolutlely bizarre to snub Michael Hazanavicius for direction (The Artist, more than most movies, would've been a disaster without its careful but exuberant guiding hand). Meanwhile Tom Hooper probably won't lose sleep over his snubbing here. Once you've won the Oscar...

ACTRESS

  • Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
  • Cécile de France, The Kid With a Bike
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melancholia
  • Nadezdha Markina, Elena
  • Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

Melancholia's sisters (Dunst & Gainsbourg) each get half the movie. They also share the EFA nom.

We're literally revisiting Cannes jury deliberations for this lineup since all of the women were there. Remember when everyone was all: will it be Kiki or Tilda in "Best Actress"? I wish the EFA had a higher profile just to give Dunst another boost and get back into the Oscar conversation.

More after the jump including actors, composers, and dreamy unsettling production design.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct232011

Naked Gold Man... Now With Golden Globes

Late last week I went out for a drinks with an old friend of mine who introduced me to a friend of his I'd never met. They had just seen Jesse Eisenberg's new play and were arguing about how much to tell me about ("spoiler alerts!" and all) though they both highly recommend it.

Once we sat down for drinks and dinner, the topic turned to Oscar. You know I felt immediate kinship when this new insta-friend told me a hilarious story of his teenage self absolutely freaking out on the night of March 29th, 1989 when Jodie Foster's name was read out and his beloved Glenn Close was shunned again. Inconsolable he was!

Let's just say his breakdown was less composed than the Merquise de Merteuil's when she met her ignoble end in Dangerous Liaisons.

After the story, he requested an article on Golden Globe predictions. "You haven't written about that," he says. He's right. So, let's ditch the sword and pick up the globes.

Let's focus on Comedy/Musical ...AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct172011

NYFF: Second Opinions 

Serious Film's Michael C. here. The New York Film Festival just wrapped up its strongest year in recent memory, so I thought it was worth tossing in some additional thoughts on titles that Kurt and Nathaniel already weighed in on. We'll follow this up with a podcast. (coming soon!)

Carnage - Although it is difficult to spot any instance of Polanski's Carnage stepping wrong, it is just as hard to shake the empty feeling that follows in its wake. Deprived of the electricity of live performance the source material is revealed to be a sharply crowd-pleasing exercise in presenting obvious truths in the most entertaining way possible. The skill that went into the production from top to bottom cannot be dismissed, but still, for all the polished craftsmanship Polanski brings to the table he can't quite hide the artifice of the whole production. One never really believes it. Read my full reaction.  

A Separation - Asghar Farhadi's deeply absorbing drama ranks as the best film I saw at the NYFF. Farhadi recalls the best of Krzysztof Kieslowski with his ability to depict how our choices reverberate and ricochet through the world with consequences that could never be anticipated. Having secured a qualifying release date A Separation demands to be included on the Best Picture roster. Read my full reaction.

My Week With Marilyn - A waste of a great Michelle Williams performance on a shallow coming-of-age story with no real insight about the real person behind the image. The only thing that separates the protagonist from the rest of the people who want a piece of Marilyn is that he has a better seat from which to gawk. Read my full reaction

Pina - I was more excited for the idea of Pina than the execution. A 3D tribute to a brilliant dancer seems like a great use of the gimmick for once, but Wim Wenders insists on frequently interrupting the dance sequences with underwhelming info segments just as they are gathering momentum. Alright for what it is, with many memorable images, but it could have been much more.

Martha Marcy May Marlene - A strong debut from writer/director Sean Durkin with a very fine lead performance from Elizabeth Olsen as the escapee from a cult with a psyche as fractured as the title suggests. Durkin attacks the potentially sensationalistic material with an intelligence that impresses. He never once goes for the easy melodrama and as a result this foreboding story has a ring of truth and a tension that never lets up. As good as Olsen is in the lead, the performance that wowed me is John Hawkes in his second great supporting role in two years as the seductive cult leader. 

The Kid With a Bike - I second everything Kurt said. An extraordinarily moving film and the best child performance since The Sixth Sense.

A Dangerous Method - The big disappointment of the festival for me. Not an terrible film by any stretch, but a disjointed one, which never gathers any momentum as it continually leaps forward in time. As a result, the actors are left struggling to create believable character arcs the script doesn't support. Keira and Viggo fair the best playing characters that range from wildly hysterical to quietly enigmatic, respectively. It is Fassbender who suffers the most as the movie is never able to connect to the torrent of emotion supposedly churning under his surface.

The Artist - One of the biggest outpourings of cinematic joy since Amelie hit theaters a decade ago. If I have one minor complaint that prevents me from doing Donald O'Connor backflips off the wall (like Nathaniel did) it's that the story of the washed-up silent film star is simple in the extreme. But when the filmmakers tell this simple tale with such an explosion of creativity, and all the story beats go over like gangbusters, why quibble? Jean DuJardin is so charismatic in the lead role I wouldn't be surprised for him to get the Oscar just so everyone can have an opportunity to see him smiling on stage.

*

We hope you enjoyed our NYFF coverage.

Sunday
Oct162011

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.

Saturday
Oct152011

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.