“The Artist” is Present

This week’s MSN DVD column takes a look at my conflicted response to “The Artist”.

You may remember that I included it among the honourable mentions on my 2011 ten-best list, and then spent the next few months talking smack about its Oscar chances in a series of increasingly obnoxious media appearances. (Oddly, none of those seems to be kicking around online.)

Which seemed entirely reasonable to me — it’s a perfectly enjoyable film, it’s just not a movie that deserved to win Best Picture, and wouldn’t have even been considered if not for Harvey Weinstein’s non-stop marketing campaign. So that’s what I dug into in the column; hope you find it at least a little enlightening.

And if you do bring “The Artist” home, just try to put the whole Best Everything out of your head, and enjoy it as the fluffy little macaron that it is. ┬áMacarons are very nice, you know.

Also: Nora Ephron, huh? Dammit.

2 thoughts on ““The Artist” is Present”

  1. I would argue that you let yourself get caught up in the hype about The Artist as much as those you accuse of doing so. The only difference is that your reaction against the hype drove you to dislike the movie. If you could have seen it outside the context of all the Oscar talk, you probably would have enjoyed it more. Really, it’s a very charming, clever, funny and wholly entertaining film.

    Is it a “trifle”? Maybe. You ask, “Aren’t the movies that win Best Picture supposed to be, you know, transformative and memorable?” That basically implies that comedies are not as important and dramas and should never be considered Best Picture material, which is exactly why the last comedy to win Best Picture (before this one) was Annie Hall more than 30 years ago. Unless you consider Gladiator a comedy, which I kind of do. (I derisively laughed all the way through it, anyway.)

    How many of the Best Picture winners have honestly been transformative cinematic experiences? Chicago? Forrest Gump? Driving Miss Daisy? Around the World in 80 Days? A lot of times, the movies that strive to be transformative overreach, and you wind up with self-important drivel like Crash taking home the big prize.

    The Artist was the most purely enjoyable film that I saw last year. That counts for a lot in my book.

    1. I saw “The Artist” a few months before the Oscar hype got rolling, and I did enjoy it, honestly. And there’s nothing wrong with a lighter movie taking the top prize — frankly, I’m still pissed “Tootsie” lost to the cookie-cutter epic that was “Gandhi”.

      But “Tootsie” has a story to tell and a point of view, whereas “The Artist” isn’t about anything at all; it’s a pastiche from beginning to end, with no ideas (or soul) of its own. It evaporates the moment the lights come up. I know we don’t always honor films that are transformative or memorable, but I’d settle for “substantial”, you know?

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