When it comes down to it, the Academy Awards aren't always exactly fair. Especially when it comes to Best Picture. Both The Artist and Hugo were nominated for best picture, and both were a love letter to cinema. From there, it should've been obvious one of these two films would win; it just came down to choosing the better picture. And while I personally believe Hugo deserved the honors, The Artist was more than a worthy rival, and was full of charm and spunk.
It's 1927, and George Valentin is on top of the world. He's starring in film after film after film. He was an idol. But things change, and change is precisely what stops George Valentin's career. After pushing a former nobody named Peppy Miller into the acting world, things regarding films begin to change. Silent films are no longer acceptable. Only films with talking can survive the box office now. But George refuses to give in to "talkie" films. So while George suffers, Peppy thrives. And while Peppy only wants to be friends, George is determined to stay away from Peppy and talkie films.
Essentially, The Artist is riding on it's retro feel. Everything from the visuals, to the costumes, to the score is all very retro and nostalgic. And while this is The Artist's primary selling point, The Artist boasts many other attributes.
The story is not entirely original. The apprentice surpassing the master, change, etc. The Artist's story consists mostly of things we've seen before. The trick, though, is that The Artist takes these worn elements in a whole new direction. And of course, the old-fashioned feel helps with that.
The score (composed by Ludovic Bource) is much more important in this film than most others. Due to the lack of dialogue and sound, the music is all you hear. So if the music isn't fantastic the whole way through, it's up to the visuals to impress. Thankfully, the music is not only good, it's superb. With it's cheerful and old-fashioned feel, it's jazzy beats, and heavy (and appropriate) emphasis on the piano, The Artist's score is one the best of 2011.
Yet of course, The Artist won the Oscar for Best Original Score. Frankly, it's hard to say whether it deserved it. This is mostly because my other favorite scores of 2011 (Hugo and The Adventures of Tintin) are so distinctly different from the others, it's unfair to compare them. Ultimately, the score for The Artist is the most broadly appealing, which boosted it's odds at winning (plus, the audience was paying more attention to the music, being a silent film).
The acting was fantastic. There were a couple recognizable names in the mix, but a majority of the cast are unknowns. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, whom is constantly conflicted with what he wants, and what the world wants. This was a difficult role to play, but Dujardin nails it, and received a well-deserved Oscar for his efforts. Berenice Bejo also does a fantastic job with her role as Peppy Miller, likewise for the rest of the cast.
Conveying gestures into understandable actions (with surprising minimal subtitles) was not an easy task, but the actors have accomplished this well. Some scenes are so brilliantly acted and executed, they deserve a moment's appreciation.
Mixing drama with comedy, and adding some old school flair makes for a fresh and thoroughly entertaining film. The Artist doesn't quite reach the dramatic heights that the Academy would like us to believe, but it comes close, and serves as a funny and moving depiction of accepting change.
And the dog was cute too.