Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Monday, 27 February 2012

Oscars Analysis: How has The Artist Triumphed so Utterly?

A few months ago, The Artist's success was unimaginable. How has it come to pass?

It has become easy over the last few months, as The Artist has been celebrated by every single awards ceremony in existence, to forget quite how extraordinary its success is. To remind us of that fact, let’s put it in plain terms. A black and white,almost completely silent film has just won the Oscar for Best Picture. Had someone predicted this 12 months ago, they would have been laughed out of Tinseltown.

Yet, this morning, it is a cold hard fact. In a year when there was no film which managed to truly combine critical and commercial success, when there was no great family film nor any greatly appealing, conventional, King’s Speech-esque movie going, the Academy, and everyone else, has been seduced by the undeniable charms but unexpected success of a throwback to the silent era.

This is, indeed, a curious turn of events. How has this happened? For all of my analysis over the last few months of what was going to happen last night, (Oscar-ology being an inexact science which nevertheless produces frequently accurate results), I may have been able to tell you that The Artist was going to win a long time ago, but I am still a little baffled as to why.

I think it’s a great film, as does everyone else apparently, but that is not a qualification for it to win the Best Picture Oscar. The Academy is, of course, the body which recognised How Green was my Valley over Citizen Kane, Chicago over The Pianist and Driving Miss Daisy over every other film that year. Quality has never necessarily been the Academy’s guide.

Then, when you get down to examining the sheer facts of this year’s contenders, and recent Oscar history, the success becomes even more baffling. Two out of the previous three years, Oscar has given out his biggest awards to non-American films. The Academy is an American body and it does like to celebrate American films, just as BAFTA likes to celebrate British ones. So, it would have made sense, perhaps as a backlash against the preferring of The King’s Speech over The Social Network last year, to have given the award to a US production, with Hugo or The Descendants being the obvious contenders. However, not only did Oscar go abroad, but it went to France, in an act which will probably do more for Franco-American relations in the short-term than Monsieur and Mr President could ever do.

Bearing this in mind, one looks at the start of the season when there was no front runner, but a lot of critical goodwill toward The Artist, you would have been hard pressed to have selected that as the obvious film to sweep the awards. Yet, from ceremony to ceremony, it won award after award. This was meant to be George Clooney’s year. It became Jean Dujardin’s. It was meant to be Martin Scorsese’s second Oscar. It became Hazanavicius’ first. It was meant to be the year of 3D. It became the year of silent and black and white. The only explanation for this turn of events is that Hazanavicius prodcued a cineaste’s film which was so charming, so bitter when it had to be yet so joyous at its core, and so bold in its conception, that the vast majority could not deny it every success.

My instinct is that this will be a one off. The Artist works in and of itself. It uses silence, monochrome and Academy ratio to tell a particular story. Perhaps we shall see other silent films in the near future. They shan’t work. The secret of success was not silence but storytelling.

Congratulations to all connected with The Artist and all the best. One final word for Oscar: you did well last night, but could next year’s nominations include more of the like of Tinker Tailor and none of the like of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, please?

Many thanks and I’m still rather charmed by you,
Reel 6

1 comment:

  1. So not a fan of Stephen Daldry, I take it.
    I've reviewed some of the nominees in my blog:

    Feel free to stop by and leave me a comment