review of Oscar nominee “The Artist”

Interesting bit of trivia, which happened to be visible on IMDB when I checked out this movie.

Penelope Ann Miller played Edna Purvanice in “Chaplin” as one of the first great silent film actresses, frequently appearing in his films.
I knew the name was familiar when I saw it in the credits cuz she was in that movie, but couldn’t remember which part she played.

In this one, she happened to play the wife of the star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin)

 

I cued up the profile for one reason only: so I would get everyone’s name right who bared mentioning…
except for Penelop Ann Miller, John Goodman and James Cromwell, who played supporting roles and Malcolm McDowall (in my dad’s words “Culigula!”… I don’t even wanna know about what that’s in reference too… another time today when we were talking about “Midnight in Paris”… he was asking if it was that movie with….. I forget the actor, but long story short, he thought we said “Last Tango in Paris” which I know was so explicit in parts that it was maybe banned or at least censored in some countries… but now I’m rambling…) with the briefest of cameos at a movie lot for a casting call…

phew….

the rest of the actors are unknowns, probably more prominent in French films than in America… out of the utmost respect, I don’t want to miss up any of their names… I couldn’t remember Berenice’s last name, but also wanted to give props to the people that needed it…

“The Artist” is nominated for 10 awards including:
Cinematography, Art Direction, Film Editing, Costume

and of course, there are the big awards

Best Screenplay for original writing (for one or two nit-picky reasons, I think “Midnight in Paris” still ought to win for this one)
Directing by Michael Hazanavicius
Best supporting actress, Berenice Bejo
Best actor, Jean Dujardin
Best picture

personally, I’m hoping above all else… no matter what else happens… I would LOVE more than anything for this movie to win the Oscar for being original score (Ludovic Bource)

once again, I do not claim to be a complete expert on silent films or anything relating to that nature… supposing I continue along this path for another 4-5 years, then just maybe I’ll be more of an expert…

but the success of a silent film comes down a number of criteria:
great actors who know how to use body language and facial expressions to get their point across
great writing, i.e. a great story that you want to see from start to finish

and of course, the music isn’t just there as background… it creates a mood, it helps move the movie along, lets you know what direction the tone of the film was going to take…

To me, the musical score was like having another character on set… there were scores that I just fell in love with because they were just so light and happy and uplifting… then there were others that carried the scene along perfectly and let you know where the movie was headed

there were maybe one or two instances, though I have to note… where the music was a little too powerful, almost scary… but this isn’t like what I said about “Rebel without a cause” where I didn’t think the darkening tone of the music was necessary… it was necessary during a couple of the most dramatic scenes in the whole movie

I still think Oscars ought to just go to people, but Uggie definitely deserved recognition as George Valentin’s sidekick and companion throughout the whole movie.

It’s a pretty simple plot line that traces from 1927 to 1932.
We’re in the movie industry in the 20’s starting in the silent film era, but as time passes, talkies start coming and more or less become the dominant art form of film.

for as long as he could manage it, Charlie Chaplin opposed talkies… per his biopic, he figured that his character The Tramp would lose his magic if he started talking :shrug:
“Modern Times” was his last, released in 1935… after that, I think his next big movie was the most controversial “The Great Dictator” (also happening to be my new favorite, lol)…

the biopic was more or less a glimpse into a certain predicament and Michael Hazanavicius made it the key point of his plot:
what would become of a silent movie star if he couldn’t make the transition to talkies? How would it change his life? How would he react to it?

The movie starts on somewhat of a scary note (was kinda nervous that my sister wasn’t going to be able to endure it, but she came out through the movie extremely well… which isn’t too bad, but what can I say other than Uggie was her highlight, lol)… they’re screening a silent film for a large audience and we open into a scene where he’s getting shock treatments, being tortured for information…

and then he stages an escape with his trusty companion, the dog, and they & his love interest manage to get away…
this gives an interesting multi-perspective of things, showing the movie while showing the audience watching the movie and the people who made it backstage watching it to see how its going to roll

all goes well

then we have somewhat of a chanced meeting on their way out… he bumps into a girl and ends up taking a few pictures with her that make the front page of Variety…
John Goodman, who plays the director (hmm… kinda reminds me of another director played by Dan Aykarod, but anyway) isn’t too happy… because of that stunt, the movie didn’t get a mention until page 5…

anyway, the girl is Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), who shows up to a casting call for George’s next movie… there’s this really cute scene where she’s tapping behind a screen and he starts tapping to copy her… they remove the screen and find each other again…

James Cromwell is worthy of mention and I doubt I’ll get another chance to do so… he plays George’s faithful butler and most likely the only friend he has in the world… he’s really good, a great companion even when the movie gets dark later on

without giving too much away, I’ll just go onto the basic crux of the plot

talkies are coming and George is let go by the movie studio… they want new voices for the talkies… one of those new faces happens to be Peppy… she becomes this huge movie star and he becomes a has-been…
going into the predictable, expected downward spiral… his wife kicking him out of the house (okay, how in the world does that make sense, he was the one making all the money, how come she got the house?) was probably the last straw

he and Peppy remain in contact throughout the movie although there is once or twice where he thought she was taking for granted he helped her get her big break… and it seemed for a moment that she become complacent because of her newfound fame and fortune

it’s the expected Hollywood pattern… it starts out light and fun and definitely funny… worthy of the comedy category at the Golden Globes…
in the middle, though, when nothing seems to be going right for George Valentin… it gets really dark and depressing… there were two instances where I nearly lost it cuz I found it so sad… the music was partially to blame on that

he also needs rescuing a couple of times…
after a bout of hilarious hallucinations brought about by drinking (right out of a film he wrote/directed/funded that didn’t make any money), he falls unconscious at a bar and his butler/chaffeur gets him back in bed.
there’s a fire and Uggie fetches a policeman (after a little convincing between him and a woman close by, seeing the dog’s urgency) to rescue his master

and where it’s most necessary, Peppy comes to his rescue as well…
how everything more or less panned out, it was one of the most clever instances I saw in the entire movie and there was a lot of great stuff… let’s just say that it looks like its going one way and the audience is led astray by one of the cue cards, let to believe a tragedy occurred, but it was something else entirely

there was also a really interesting scene (a nightmare or less) that happens after he hears about the coming talkies… he arrives back in his dressing room and everything around him is making sounds, but he can’t hear himself speak… it gets pretty chaotic and becomes kinda obvious that he was imagining it… (dude has a vivid imagination in this movie)

there were so many great parts in this movie, but one of my favorites was naturally the end… I haven’t seen any of their movies in full, but one or twice I saw the scenes referenced elsewhere… George and Peppy performed a scene like something that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did… their love of and skill in dancing really showed here… and there I’ll just leave it like that… the more surprises and loose ends I leave the better…

but more or less… it takes maybe a little too long (like maybe 10 minutes too long), but we do get a happy ending here… aside from that and the music being a tad overdramatic once or twice… the movie was just so good…

Silent films are special and it takes those 3 things I mentioned above to make it as good as it was back then…
the best of the Chaplin films I’ve seen have me wishing sometimes that the world was still in black and white and they did more silent movies… it’s so retro and old school that I think it’s pretty cool

I can’t say for sure if I’ll get a chance to see “The Descendants”… it might be a little much wanting to see all these movies… I’ve got my sights set on “The Vow” come February 10th… “Snow White & the Huntsman” comes out in March I believe…

and I’m willing to bet my sister would be interested in seeing “The Lorax”… I am as well because… well, duh, Taylor Swift is doing a voiceover for it… as is Zac Efron, Betty White (yeah I know, I’m lame, lol) and Danny DeVito as the title role (dude… that’s perfect casting )

it’s a tough call as to whether I preferred this or The King’s Speech as not only Weinstein films, but as Oscar-worthy films…

The King’s Speech was well made with great acting with their great cast… but it lags once or twice and it’s not a subject I take a whole lot of interest in where I could see it multiple times…

The Artist was very entertaining, very fun, a lot of great comedy… but I don’t care to revisit the moments where I was ready to tear up

shoot…

before I absolutely forget… I just so wanted to give props to Berenice Bejo in this movie… she was so amazing, she really shined, brightened up the screen… and yeah, she’s really pretty…

Jean Dujardin really put himself into the role… I guess 😕 I hadn’t seen him before so I can’t see… but I’m not sure if he’ll get the Oscar for this… for the same reason why Joaquin Phoenix didn’t get one for playing Johnny Cash… maybe a little too overdramatic in parts

sure you felt bad for the guy when he was down on his luck, but after a while… I dunno… just wasn’t as willing to stick along for the ride if it went longer than it had to

most definitely, this is worthy of winning Best Picture, but I can’t 100% say that it will win…
but it does prove that the art of silent film isn’t completely dead, and its something people still appreciate very much… as in, silent film is still enjoyed by this current generation who grew up with so many luxuries in the movie industry… ugh, god help me if 3D becomes a “luxury”… it’s still quite a bit of a liability

as for a grade… I dunno…

I think I’d be willing to give “The Artist” an A-… whereas I believe I gave “The King’s Speech” a B+

 

also something else before I completely forget this…
I believed it was going to be definitely considered for the Oscars when I first heard of this movie, but I was really interested in seeing it since the moment I heard it was a silent film… curious to see how it was going to go… cuz you know, Charlie Chaplin got me interested, got me started

I think for the most part, he’d approve of this venture into this territory… approaching that idea of the silent movie star becoming obselote after the arrival of the talkie and where it’d go from there

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