Wednesday, September 4, 2013

62. The Artist (2011)

Code-name: Uggie

Director: Michel Hazanavicus
Type: Silent film, Dramedy, Hollywood

George Valentin- Jean Dujardin
Peppy Miller- Berenice Bejo
Al Zimmer- John Goodman
Clifton- James Cromwell
Doris- Penelope Ann Miller
The Butler- Malcolm MacDowell

Notable Music: Ludovic Bource

Notable Awards and Nominations:
OSCAR- Best Picture
OSCAR- Best Actor- Jean Dujardin
OSCAR- Best Score- Ludovic Bource
OSCAR- Best Costume- Mark Bridges
OSCAR- Best Director- Michel Hazanavicius
nomination- OSCAR- Best Supporting Actress- Berenice Bejo
nomination- OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay- Michel Hazanavicius
nomination- OSCAR- Best Art Direction
nomination- OSCAR- Best Cinematography
nomination- OSCAR- Best Film Editing
Golden Globe- Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)- Jean Dujardin
Golden Globe- Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
Golden Globe- Best Original Score- Ludovic Bource
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actress- Berenice Bejo
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Director- Michel Hazanavicius
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Original Screenplay- Michel Hazanavicius


[Oscar Buzz]

Yes, I'm quite aware of how much a handful all of that was to include. Thankfully, this movie actually won a bunch of those awards. And it earned every single one of them, I think.

Because this was only a couple years ago, I DO remember it like it was yesterday.
I heard a lot of buzz about The Descendants so I kinda pegged it for a lot of awards that "The Artist" ended up winning...
You never know what's gonna happen between the nominations and the actual awards.

It marked the 2nd year in a row that a) I essentially picked the best picture winner by seeing it in theaters and b) the Weinsteins were behind the winning movie. 
...Then my reign ended after two when "Les Mis" didn't win. But I will be seeing "Argo" this weekend on HBO, so I'll find out just how good it was.

Finally, regarding that, I'm still sorry they could give out one Oscar for supporting actress... it was an amazing selection that year and all of them deserved a shot. I loved Berenice Bejo in this... so I gotta wonder why she was "supporting" when she was the female lead. I still find that a bit confusing


before getting into that, I'll say what I meant to say at the start: Say what you will about the French. This is proof that they know how to bring a touch of class to Hollywood with a picture as impressive as this one.

Considering I was coming off a year full of exploring Charlie Chaplin's pictures, it seemed so fitting that such a movie was released to cap it off... and that it ended doing so well.

It should be noted (while I'm still on 2011) that Penelope Ann Miller played Edna Purviance opposite Robert Downey Jr.'s Charlie Chaplin in the Richard Attenbourgh biopic.
I certainly didn't pick it out and I saw that movie half a dozen times that year-- it's a long story.
Sadly, her character doesn't stick around long for her to shine and show off what little silent movie acting skills she picked up prior.

On the premise alone, "The Artist" drew me in. Attempting a silent movie during this day and age when blockbusters and CGI rule the movie industry... I didn't know if people would buy into it, but I knew I had to check it out.
My sister also wanted to see it because of Uggie. We went with my mom to see it in the community theater downtown and it was a great experience [at least] I didn't want to leave.
We now own it on DVD and it was her idea ;)

[Hollywood in its Heyday]

Be cautious, there are spoilers afoot

Because I'd seen "Chaplin" fairly recently, I understood the context of "The Artist" better than I would have otherwise. As amazing a story it is, it's somewhat tragic because several silent film stars went through this process. That gave it a sense of realism kept it grounded, no matter what shenanigans ensued.

Jean Dujardin (just wanted to say how much I loved listening to this guy at the Oscars both this year and last, what a great voice) plays silent film star George Valentin.
A fictional sort of homage to Douglas Fairbanks.

Once again reminding me that I really should find the time to see "The Thief of Bagdad"... the only Douglas Fairbanks movie that I'd seen make landfall on TCM.

A few months later, they had a Jeopardy question about how the first words in [fill in the blank] movie were "You can't make me talk"... gotta love the irony of that 8-)
The opening actually gave me a shock because it showed our hero being tortured with shock treatments... nothing else from that point was quite that jarring, so it's likely a good part of why this movie was rated PG 13.

The 5-10 scene showed him escaping the fortress with his dog and "the girl"... and the audience applauds. Apparently it's a movie premiere because he shows up with Uggie on the stage to receive applause.
On his way out, budding actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) accidently bumps into him. 
He's very kind to her in laughing it off as no big deal and their picture ends up splashed all over Variety magazine, asking who she is.

The two meet again on the set of his next movie where she was cast as an extra.
This was one of my favorite scenes. The two of them are separated by a piece of poster board and he sees her footwork. He does some dancing of his own and they recognize each other when the poster board is removed.
We see them shoot the same movie scene multiple times where he makes his way through the room of people and they hit it off, but they take turns breaking character either forgetting "lines" or just cracking up.
He takes her under his wing, gives her the beauty mark that becomes her trademark and she ends up becoming the break-out star of the picture.

A couple years pass.

Talkies are coming, George Valentin is skeptical (I immediately thought of the quote from Chaplin: "it'll never catch on"), but the revolution is upon Hollywood.
Unfortunately, silent film stars like George Valentin are being phased out in favor of new faces... like Peppy Miller.

Another scene of note is one of only two where there's any sound (other than musical score).in the entire film.
It's a dream sequence where he doesn't have a voice, but there's sound everywhere around him... kinda freaking him out a bit.

Determined to solider on, George Valentin puts his own money into a film he played on writing and starring in.
Sadly, it's all for nothing... Peppy's first big talkie steals any possible audience he could have had and his career is over. His wife Doris kicks him out.
He finds himself a bachelor pad with only his dog and his ever-present driver Clifton for company.

The majority of this movie centers around his personal degradation and Peppy's rise to fame. With the exception of an interview (where he hears her say nobody helped her get where she is), she maintains her humility throughout and wants to do right by him.

Pride is George Valentin's greatest flaw. He doesn't know when to quit (when it comes to his defunct final venture into silent film making) and after he does, he's unwilling to let people help him out of his despair when they have a true shot of helping him.
Lucky for him, he has good friends like Peppy, Clifton and his dog because without them, he wouldn't have made it to the end of the movie... for multiple reasons.

Uggie steals the show throughout the picture as George Valentin's trusty companion. He knew so many gestures that it's unreal, but his greatest moment is the rescue scene. His master set fire to his film reels and (as anyone who grew up around old films or saw "Inglorious Basterds" in the past couple years knows) the fire went so out of control. If not for Uggie finding the cops and bringing them to the scene, he wouldn't have survived it.

Although it took a little more convincing (a little more than I thought was necessary, but like I said, pride is his greatest flaw), Peppy finds something that she and George Valentin can do together:

I loved how it was such a fitting ending for the movie. They met each other on set when they see each other's footwork... so they end up doing a Hollywood musical together, the way Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did it.
In fact, it was shot on the same stage as "Singin' in the Rain".

Given all the drama that's taken up the past several minutes of the movie, this was the best possible pay-off because it was just so much fun to watch. And the degree of skill they had in their tap dancing, just WOW.

[Final Comments]

Before i check into this scene again, I wanted to say again how much I loved the music in this movie. So much that when the nominations came out, I knew that the music HAD to win. It was light and whimsical when it needed to be for the lighter comedic scenes. The transition between scenes was seamless and there was such poignant, tangible emotion for the darker scenes. For me, the illusion we were in the end of the silent movie era wouldn't not have been there without the movie.

And word is Ludovic Bource didn't have any professional training before doing this movie... again, WOW.
I applaud you, dude. J'adore le score de cinema...
at least I think that's the French translation (I only took 3 years).

After it ended and it ended up winning all those awards, I wondered if this was the start of the return of silent movies. If there was a chance we could see a bunch more just like it. Its success definitely showed that people would pay to see them.

So far, nothing yet.

I used to think of Gene Kelly when I thought about tap dancing. Mainly from his work in "Xanadu." Now, in addition to him, I think of how much Nigel Lythgoe of "so you think you can dance" loves it and how he doesn't want that art form to disappear.
I think about the exclusive club of tappers that have made landfall on my favorite dance show.

This season, we had at least a couple of them and one made it all the way to the finale. After Aaron missed on making the top 20 TWICE and got in this season as an alternate when one of the guys got injured.
For the most part, he's made a good transition to all the genres. My eyes just aren't on him a lot because the girls are SO strong this year.

But when it came to yesterday's show, as much as I've loved Fik-Shun all season, thinking about doing this review while watching Aaron got me thinking that he'd be perfect for something like this. He has the personality, the skill and presence. The possibilities right now seem endless.

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