So The Artist duly won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, justifying odds as short as 1/20 on the night. Academy Awards, too, for director Michel Havanavicius and lead actor Jean Dujardin, but what does it all mean for the film industry? The first silent film to be honoured in this way since the talkies became popular, is it a protest against the huge quantity of jingoistic clap-trap that Hollywood produces year-in, year-out – or a real reflection of French genius?
I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t describe The Artist as either ‘enchanting’, ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘riveting’. An appearance from Keaton, Chaplin or, my personal favourites Laurel & Hardy, would have made it much more entertaining. They are the stars that black and white best suits. My wife usually likes this arthouse-type stuff but even she was falling asleep after she’d eaten most of the popcorn bucket. The Artist has also been described as an homage to the golden age of Hollywood but I thought Singing In The Rain did it a lot better and in more style. I’d even put forward the argument that Mel Brooks’ superb Silent Movie had many more magical moments, but silent films just weren’t fashionable in 1976.
The Oscars really are becoming tiresome nowadays. Meryl Streep is rewarded for pulling another new accent out of her repertoire, though some people I know who have been to see The Iron Lady came out convinced it was a comedy. Almost half a century after The Sound Of Music hit the big screen, Christopher Plummer won the ‘what can we give him before it’s too late’ award while most other things were pushed the way of Martin Scorcese. Hollywood does, after all, have to keep a few things back for the old guard and Scorcese‘s reflective look at the film industry was the only thing Tinseltown critics could cling to in 2011.
That’s part of the problem with the Academy Awards and Hollywood in general – the old guard. George Clooney hit the nail on the head when he suggested that there are just too many middle-class white males on the awards committee. The film industry is too diverse nowadays for the plaudits to be handed out by a blinkered minority. The Artist, and to a greater extent Slumdog Millionaire a couple of years ago, prove that.
So what can we look forward to this year? Peter Jackson‘s epic two-parter The Hobbit has a cast list that reads like a who’s who of British film and TV but the first episode won’t be out until Christmas. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter team up again in Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back in Men In Black III. I’ll put forward the brilliant The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as an early candidate for honours but I suspect it’s just a shade too British for Hollywood but, there again, it did take to Maggie Thatcher.