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Academy Award

THE ARTIST—Everything Old Is New Again

 

Who would have thought that a little known French director and his two French stars could do a silent movie and turn it into a hit in the days of everything electronic and computerized? The Artist turns the world upside down and proves that you don’t need 3D, CGI, and other fancy electronic tricks to make a spell-binding movie.

It is refreshing to sit in a darkened movie theatre and be at one with your senses and emotions. We learn there are other ways to communicate rather than with words. Between the actors’ expressions and the mood of the music we have no problem understanding what is happening on the screen. The audience is taken through a wide range of emotions and by the end of the movie we realize we have experienced hubris, joy, happiness, sadness, fear, tragedy, pathos, loyalty, and much more without a single word ever spoken.

The Artist parallels the decline of a silent movie star with the rise of a young starlet at the beginning of talkies. The movie begins in 1927 when George Valentin, a dashing and somewhat narcissistic silent movie star, literally bumps into Peppy Miller, a young woman eager to break into the movies. They are immediately attracted to each other and he becomes responsible for her big break by insisting she be in his next movie.

The Artist then jumps ahead to 1929 when the whole world changes. George Valentin is informed by the studio head, Al Zimmer (played by John Goodman), that talkies are the future. Valentin laughs at this prospect and walks out to write, direct, and finance his own movie. As fate (and old movie melodramas) would have it, his movie, and that of his protégée’s, Peppe Miller, both premier on October 25. Her movie is a big hit while his flops drastically leaving him financially ruined. In addition, we all know what else happened the end of October 1929. The great depression hits sending Valentin into a deep alcoholic depression of his own.

I won’t go into any more plot detail because I would like the reader to go see the movie for yourself, however, it is safe to say that, as in any good old-fashioned movie, we have to have a happy ending.

The movie has already won a lot of awards and is guaranteed to win more before the awards season is over. It is nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a leading role, and Best Actress in a supporting role. Jean Dujardin, who plays George Valentin, seems to have a rubber face as he goes through a wide range of emotions. Berenice Bejo is appropriately perky and peppy in her portrayal of Peppy Miller. And, John Goodman is bigger than life as he plays the cigar- chomping, studio boss. Although each actor is excellent, I must say my favorite is Uggie the Jack Russell dog. He is Valentin’s faithful companion and provides the comic relief.

The director, Michel Hazanavicius, has successfully made a beautiful homage to movies. He said he had fantasized about making a silent film for years because many of the filmmakers he admires emerged in the silent era and because of the image-driven nature of the form. He chose the form of the melodrama because he felt that many of the films that had aged best were melodramas. He did extensive research about 1920s Hollywood and studied films to find the right techniques to make the story comprehensible without having too many intertitles to explain the actors unspoken words.

Throughout the movie I couldn’t help but make comparisons to famous actors and scenes from the past such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Valentino, Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, and many more. The Artist is a visual masterpiece with just the right amount of highlights and shadows to make a scene memorable. It is also a joy to sit back and listen to the score which dances around our emotions evoking every feeling possible and then crescendoing to an unforgettable climax.

The Artist is more than just a work of art it is a work of genius. It is a must see for any serious movie buff, lover of the arts, or anyone tired of loud crash’em up, bang’em up movies. It is a breath of fresh air in today’s hectic world.

 I give it an A.

A STUTTERING KING, A PSYCHO BALLERINA, AND A FIGHTER’S FAMILY TOP OSCARS

It is now the morning after the night before and most of Hollywood is probably waking up with a hangover. The gowns are hanging in the closet or hung over a chair, the jewels are tucked away, the upswept hair-dos brushed out, and newly crowned stars are staring in disbelief at a little golden man.

I was pretty accurate in my predictions. I successfully predicted that Colin Firth and Natalie Portman would win Best Actor and Actress. I also called the Best Supporting Actor race with Christian Bale winning. Also, my favorite movie topped the list with The Kings Speech winning the honor of Best Movie. The only category I missed was for Best Supporting Actress. I should have gone with the majority of the critics who said Melissa Leo had the lead in that category.  

The hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, were young and hip, as they pointed out in their introductory remarks, and designed to appeal to a younger demographic—also expressed in their dialogue. Anne was beautiful, energetic, and enthusiastic and kept the evening moving with her youthful exuberance. Sorry I can’t say the same about James Franco. Just standing there looking gorgeous isn’t enough. He could have been more animated to match Hathaway’s energy level. Their promo spots looked promising but nerves must have gotten the better of Franco (or the fact he lost in the Best Actor category).

A bit of old Hollywood was represented by Kirk Douglas who relished the spotlight and the audience loved it. Also, more in the traditional vein was the appearance of Billy Crystal. The audience broke out in a spontaneous applause showing their respect for the eight-time Oscar host.

Everyone was beautifully and appropriately attired for the evening. There weren’t any real disasters. Even Helena Bonham Carter was, in her own way, elegant but funky. You have to hand it to her for being true to her style. Russell Brand was the only one on the edge of good taste wearing a plaid (subtle but still plaid) shirt with his tux and very tight pants. There were so many beautiful dresses it is hard to pick a favorite. As Whoopie pointed out today on The View, no one wants to be raked over the coals for their choice so more are going with a stylist.

In my opinion, what stole the show was the stage. It was decked out with crystals and the back drop was capable of showing scenes and special effects in a multi-dimensional way. I miss the large production numbers for best song and soundtrack nominations. That was always a highlight to me.

However, I loved this year’s ending with the YouTube sensation kids from New York PS22 singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with all the evening’s winners coming back on stage for an encore bow. Hollywood is a town of dreams and make-believe and for one night once a year a very special few get to have their dreams come true.

AND THE OSCAR GOES TO………

Sunday is the 83rd Annual Academy Awards presentation. This, according to my husband, is the super bowl of awards shows. We will cozy up next to the TV and eagerly wait to see our favorite movie stars in all their glam and bling.

I am married to a movie junkie and thus we have seen most, but not all, the nominated movies. This was a dry as desert year for good movies until November and December with the flood of good movies held back until the end so they would be fresh in the minds of the Oscar committees. The movies nominated for best picture are:

Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

The movies I did not see were: Inception (although my husband did), 127 Hours (sorry, just couldn’t sit through a couple of suffocating hours watching someone cut off his own arm), Toy Story 3 (just missed it—don’t know how), and Winter’s Bone (must not have received much play here—don’t know much about it). However, two movies stand way above the others to the point that I don’t see how the ones I missed could come close to competing. Black Swan and The King’s Speech were outstanding. The Fighter, The Social Network, and True Grit were also excellent movies and would be strong contenders in any other year. All three were well-directed with excellent performances from the actors and above all very entertaining; all hallmarks of an award-winning movie. I must say that even though The Kids Are All Right was an entertaining movie with a touching story line, I just don’t get all the hype. I don’t feel it belongs in this year’s lineup.

The Black Swan and The Kings Speech are both riveting movies. There are scenes from the Black Swan that are so vivid and dramatic that they will stay with me forever. It is a very powerful movie and gives an excellent view into the competitive world of dancing. However, my vote for best movie is The Kings Speech. It also has some very touching and compelling scenes. I can’t explain why but I came away from the movie with a good feeling. Perhaps it was watching a world leader overcome a personal handicap, or the fragile but growing relationship between King George and his therapist, or the fascination with the British royals, or maybe it was the fly-on-the-wall view of major events prior to World War II. Whatever the reason, I just loved The Kings Speech.

The nominees for best actor are:

            Javier Bardem, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth, James Franco

My vote goes to Colin Firth not just because I so loved The Kings Speech but his acting and charisma is what makes the movie come alive.

The nominees for best actress are:

            Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams

Natalie Portman is my favorite here. Her descent into madness is so convincing I don’t see how she was able to keep her sanity during the filming of this movie.

The nominees for best supporting role are:

Christian Bale, The Fighter; John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone; Jeremy Renner, The Town; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right, and Geoffrey Rush, The Kings Speech.

Although I would like to go with Geoffrey Rush, I think Christian Bale will win it for his complete transformation in this role.

Finally, the nominees for best supporting actress are:

Amy Adams, The Fighter; Helena Bonham Carter, The Kings Speech; Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit; and Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom.

Most critics are saying it will be a fight between Melissa Leo and Amy Adams both from The Fighter but I think these two will cancel each other out. Helena Bonham Carter might get caught up in the wave if The Kings Speech sweeps much of the awards. However, my favorite is Hailee Steinfeld. At fourteen, this is her first movie but she holds her own with last year’s best actor winner Jeff Bridges. She was a delight to watch portraying innocence and grit at the same time. If she doesn’t win, I nominate her as girlfriend for my 13 year old grandson. She is tall (5ft.7in.), beautiful, intelligent, and athletic; all a perfect match for my grandson who is tall, good looking, intelligent, and athletic.

So pop a big bowl of popcorn and grab a favorite drink and join me beside the TV to watch the Academy Awards on Sunday, February, 27th at 8 EST. Check back next week to see if I got any of these right.

NOTE—A bit of trivia:

Q.        Who won the most Oscars for best actor?

A.         Nine men have won twice:

  • Spencer Tracy (1937,1938)
  • Fredric March (1932, 1946)
  • Gary Cooper (1941, 1952)
  • Marlon Brando (1954, 1972)
  • Dustin Hoffman (1979, 1988)
  • Tom Hanks (1993, 1994)
  • Jack Nicholson (1975, 1997)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (1989, 2007)
  • Sean Penn (2003, 2008)

 

Q.        Who won the most Oscars for best actress?

A.         Katharine Hepburn won four Oscars.