The 2012 Oscar nominations are out and The Artist is already my big winner
This past Friday I went to see The Artist. In a very short post I declared it “grand and beautiful,” but such a small description certainly doesn’t do the film justice. And considering it just received – by my count – 10 Oscar nominations, I thought it fitting to expand my views on it just a bit more.
About five years ago I went to see a movie that I thought looked quite interesting called There Will be Blood. I was immediately and eternally blown away by everything about it. I still consider it one of the finest film-making achievements of the last 50 years. And it’s on my list, which includes films such as Citizen Kane, Seven Samurai, and Lawrence of Arabia, of the most visually engrossing and viscerally beautiful films of all time. It is easily one of a handful of the best movies that I’ve ever seen.
Rarely, and not without much consideration, does a film join the others on this small list of mine, but I’m prepared to say that The Artist has just done so. I’ve been thinking about this movie a great deal over the last few days (itself an indicator of its impression on me), and with each passing hour I enjoy it even more. My impression just after I saw the film of it being both “grand and beautiful” remains, though I can’t help but feel that such a comment might understate what the movie truly accomplished.
The Artist was, for lack of a better word in the English language, perfect; and perhaps the limits of the language (even for me) to describe this film are fitting. It is, after all, a silent film in the truest sense. Virtually no sound is generated by the actors in the film or the events on screen. And nearly all the drama driven by performance artists at their very best. Certainly the two stars of the film, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, are deserving of their own personal Oscar nominations for the emotions they so clearly expressed without words; but the other actors in the film, including John Goodman and James Cromwell, also showed us how sometimes subtraction in art really can be addition.
Of course, if the silence of the actors in the film is a deterrent for you, than the score (also Oscar nominated) must be an attraction. Rarely do movies use the emotional underpinnings of music so delicately and yet so appropriately. The score would be art of the highest form whether attached to a movie or not. But that it is a part of such a wonderful film makes it even more beautiful and worth your time and effort to take in.
Almost lost for me in the visual and musical beauty has been the directing credit that must be given to Michel Hazanavicius, though I think this is somewhat intentional on his part. The film, after all, is a silent film about silent film actors. That, in this day in age, such a movie could be so well recieved is obviously a tribute to the directing in and of itself. But beyond that, Hazanavicius has managed to highlight performances in way that I don’t think any director has in a very long time. Each shot seemed designed to give life to silence, and in doing this it drove emotion in a way I’ve never felt sitting in a movie theater before. That a director could bring us such feeling without us contemplating the direction is, to me, the true perfection of this film. I didn’t need to think about how wonderful what I was seeing actually was, I only had to experience it and I knew.
Back in 2007, There Will be Blood was nominated for a few Oscars as well; but it lost Best Picture, in my opinion, to a vastly inferior film. I can still remember the disappointment I’d felt even though I hadn’t even yet seen No Country for Old Men, the actual winner. At the time I felt that no film could have been better that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s masterwork. It was an impossibility that was confirmed when I finally did see No Country for Old Men later on. Such may be the fate of The Artist this year too, I suppose. But even if it is, I cannot encourage you to see it enough. You will not see a better film this year, or likely even this decade – no matter what the Academy might decide.