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Oscar made a safe, if little seen, choice
February 29, 2012 - Keith Frederick
In the last few days, you've no doubt heard all you could ever want to hear about this year's Oscars. Commentary, analysis, lists of snubs, surprises, best dressed, worst dressed, worst joke, best joke... it's everywhere.
But only in a few pockets of hipster-ish shunning of popular opinion will you find complaints about the night's big winner, "The Artist." I'll admit that I haven't seen the film - I'm hoping to see it soon, since it's finally getting a wider release - so I can't judge on its merits versus the other films nominated. But there must be a reason that it won so many awards.
It is, by all accounts, a fine film with a good cast and an interesting approach. I don't like when I see people refer to the silent film premise as a gimmick. 3-D for the sake of 3-D? That's a gimmick. Rebooting a beloved cartoon as a live-action film? That's a gimmick. But I hardly see a tribute to film's roots as a gimmick. Pretending it is, well, that's just a way of letting everyone else know that you don't understand.
There's no reason silent film can't be recognized with a loving tribute. In fact, one of the films likely to be a favorite if it weren't for "The Artist" was "Hugo." And what and who did "Hugo" pay tribute to? The early days of film and silent film director George Melies.
In all honestly, "Hugo" may have been a better choice for Best Picture. But it had two things going against it:
1) It was marketed as a kid's movie. No matter what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences thinks of itself, it's all about appearances. And no film marketed toward kids - no matter how layered and nuanced, even if Scorsese is directing it - will win the big award. Not in this self-important Hollywood environment.
2) It was 3-D. Even if Marty Scorsese did it, even if it brought the technology to the forefront of what it could mean, a 3-D film wasn't going to win. If "Avatar" couldn't win - the film that made eleventy billion dollars - then not even Marty could make them change their minds.
"The Artist" had a big problem in the court of public opinion - no one had seen it. But such a thing was no problem at all to Hollywood. It had everything a Best Picture winner needs: critical approval, a charming cast, a tribute to Hollywood itself - hell, it even had a cute dog!!!
So, no, "The Artist" may not be the most popular Best Picture winner ever. But look at it this way: It'll always be better than "Crash."
You haven't seen it, but Hollywood did, and that's all that matters.