When The Artist won Best Picture at the 2012 Academy Awards, it set an interesting record: it was the first silent film to win that award since the first Academy Awards were presented in 1929. Back then, of course, sound was not an option. With The Artist, however, director Michel Hazanavicius made a conscious decision to forgo sound and create a film that would be an homage to the days of the silent film era.
That means The Artist is also filmed in black and white. It tells the fictional story of a silent film star named George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, who discovers that his days of stardom are numbered when talking films first come into vogue in the late 1920s. As George's star is on the wane, the star of young actress Peppy Miller, played by Berenice Bejo, is very much on the rise.
When Peppy was first starting out in pictures, George was kind to her, and she never forgets that. As George's career takes a dive and he falls into depression, his personal life also spirals into chaos. It is successful Peppy who then gets to take him under her wing, repaying some of the kindness the great man once showed her.
This unconventional love story is also a kind of love song to the days of silent film, with director Hazanavicius showing how much he appreciates the older artistry in the creative ways he appropriates it. Since there is no dialogue in the film, beyond a surprise few words in the final scene, the score is quite important. The music is composed by Ludovic Bource though Bource also pulled on the work of other cinematic composers, including Bernard Herrmann.
Besides Best Picture, The Artist won four other Oscars, including Best Director for Hazanavicius and Best Actor for Dujardin, who became the first Frenchman to win the award.
For nearly a century, Hollywood has had a tradition: once you become a big star, you get your footprints in cement out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater in the heart of Hollywood. Everyone from John Wayne to the cast of "Harry Potter" have made their mark outside the theater, but history was made just this week as the first dog put his prints in stone. Uggie, the charming Jack Russell terrier who starred in "The Artist" alongside Jean DuJardin, got his paw prints set in cement and placed outside Grauman's, making him the first dog to make his mark (no, not that way) outside the theater.
Miss "The Artist" in theaters before its armload of Oscars? Does Mom love art-house cinema, but doesn't have a big Mother's Day outing on the books yet? Then get wise and give the gift of Uggie. The Weinstein Company has announced that their black-and-white French romantic dramedy is headed back to the silver screen for a short victory lap May 11-13. "As summer approaches, we wanted to give audiences across the country one more opportunity to experience 'The Artist' in a theater where it has charmed and entertained so many this year," said TWC Marketing President Stephen Bruno.
It's hard to be bored nowadays with the Internet spitting out stuff like "The Artistifier." This new website, released just in time to take advantage of the success of "The Artist" at the Oscars, will take any YouTube video and turn it into an artsy, black and white silent film, just like "The Artist." Keyboard Cat becomes a tortured pianist playing a lamenting theme. The trailer for "Inception" becomes an old-timey comedy set to ragtime music.
One quarter-nipple cameo and a whole lotta Angelina leg aside, last night's 84th Academy Awards went off pretty tamely and without a hitch. It did to English-only speakers, anyway. Best Actor winner Jean Durjardin just might've been made to mark the occasion by rinsing his palate with France's finest soaps. He might not have emulated fellow European actor Roberto Benigni's antics at the 1999 Oscars when he celebrated his own "Life Is Beautiful" Best Actor nod by leaping atop theater chairs like a crazed adorable menace.