Instead of going into my predictions among all Oscar nominees, I’m just going to focus on The Artist. The public (the universal “they”) speculates this movie will sweep the Oscars in several categories. I’m going to tell you which categories The Artist should and should NOT win. In my humble (insert: biased, subjective, and often contradictory) opinion.
The Artist is not original, earth-shattering, or resonant enough to win BEST FILM. But then again, I said the same thing last year about the nominee The King’s Speech and it won Best Picture. Back then, I said, “Please, a stuttering king overcoming his speech problems and forming a meaningful relationship (friendship in this case) with his speech coach, this is just My Fair Lady without fun musical numbers in cockney accents.”
The Artist DOES make you think about the stage in life when you’ll feel obsolete, whether that’s because of new technologies demanding new skills or just general aging. This theme is especially relevant in a time when the best E-Readers have replaced books and online videos made on top-rated digital cameras replace newspapers, but the events of the movie enforce this theme in the same way every time: a silent actor feeling down about the talkies and a woman reaffirming his self-worth with attention and fluttering eye-lashes.
Emulating 1920s cinematography isn’t exactly groundbreaking. It just makes us appreciate the advent of sound added to visuals. Sure, beautiful, black-and-white, and grainy aesthetics prove very reminiscent to the silent film era’s cinematography, but that doesn’t mean 2012 should reward emulating the past. Would we reward someone who created a tipi that looked authentic just because it recalled another time? No. Well, I wouldn’t.
Best Actor: The Artist’s central character, a silent film actor becoming less relevant in a talking film world, relied on physical slapstick acting and facial exaggerations that were done convincingly. They emulated the silent era’s style well, and I enjoyed seeing a modern actor pull this off. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say he should win Best Actor.
Best Screenplay: No! A Best Screenplay movie needs to provoke, pull, and resonate! It needs to evoke a feeling and stay in your mind for days and weeks and then hit you again in a few years on an idle Tuesday in the middle of slurping your tomato soup. The Artist has stock characters that have about as much dimension and motivation as a clown at a fourth grade birthday party and its plot is less complicated than a Disney channel original movie. While this calls back the simplicity of silent films, this doesn’t mean we reward a screenplay for imitating the past. See above.
Sound Design: I want this mostly silent film to win for sound design! Yes! The irony! But it’s not just to be cheeky. It’s because, this movie has an excellent scene in which the main character, the silent actor, has a nightmare in which an onslaught of sound effects torment him in his dressing room. After going about a half-hour without sound, the sudden advent of dropping plates and footsteps make us audience members see how much more we BELIEVE a movie with sound design. We’re so much further immersed in a world with sound than we are one with a band playing while people slap each other. That it makes us see how far we’ve come is worth a reward in itself! The Artist makes you watch other Oscar nominees like Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and My Week With Marilyn with even more appreciation!