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Silent, B/W 'Artist' Achieves Film Milestone

It has a strong chance of winning Best Picture at Sunday's Oscars. While I had to get used to the lack of dialogue, it's an original and breaks Hollywood conventions.

Following the lead of cable TV channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which screens Oscar winners for a month preceding the Academy Awards with its "31 Days of Oscar" promotion, I am doing "Five Weeks of Oscar."  The reviews are running up until Sunday's telecast.

Well, this week, I’m choosing the film I think will walk away with Best Picture on February 26…The Artist.  Does it deserve it?  Well, it deserves it based on being the most original, revolutionary film in years…maybe decades. 

Steven Spielberg has always said that he had a lot of trouble making Schindler’s List in black and white, as George Clooney did when he made Good Night and Good Luck.  Both of those men are Hollywood moneymakers so if THEY have trouble making a non-color film, imagine a French director who has never made a Hollywood movie? 

Also, on top of the black and white factor, The Artist is also a SILENT movie.  Yes, that’s right…silent.  Meaning NO DIALOGUE.  And, for the most part, ONLY MUSIC as sound.  To convey story, characters need to rely on facial expressions, body language and a few interspersed title cards (or intertitles) with written tidbits of dialogue on them.   So, for that reason, yes, I feel this film deserves to be the Best Picture.  My personal pick for the BEST film of 2011 would have to be Woody Allen’s gem Midnight in Paris, which I reviewed in June

But sometimes, the favorite is not the most deserving, which is the case here.  Woody Allen has won Oscars before…and probably will be nominated again.   French director Michel Hazanavicius’ silent and black and white film took a chance that another film probably will not ever be able to duplicate. 

The film itself is a timeless story…man cannot keep up with the modern changes in his profession so he gets replaced by someone who can.  And his downfall is hard and fast. 

This time, the “modern changes” are the advent of sound into movies in the late 1920s.  And the man is silent film star George Valentin, who believes sound in movies is just a passing fancy.  George’s popularity is usurped by newcomer Peppy Miller, a struggling actress whom he discovered. As George falls further and further down into despair, Peppy continues her meteoric rise, which only adds salt to George’s wounded ego. 

I have to admit that it did take a while for me to get used to The Artist.  I am not the biggest silent movie fan and haven’t seen one in years, but I do love black and white films (actually, I prefer them).  Once I got used to the lack of dialogue, I was able to sit back and admire exactly what Hazanavicius accomplishes here…which is a milestone in modern filmmaking: making an unconventional movie in an industry that has become WAY too reliant on conventions. 

Will I be happy to see The Artist win Best Picture on February 26th?  Most definitely.  Will I secretly be pulling for Midnight in Paris?  You betcha! 

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