No contest: 'The Artist' is 2011's true Best Picture
The single most delightful thing about seeing "The Artist," 2011's Best Picture Academy Award-winner, on the big screen at Regal Downtown West last night is it reminded me of the reasons why I lost it at the movies, with apologies to Pauline Kael.
At their best, movies shake you, take you tripping, re-create nostalgia for something you've never known.
Such is the case with writer/director Michel Hazanavicius's triumph. Prior to last night, my favorite silent movie was the Greta Garbo/John Gilbert classic "Flesh and the Devil." Prior to last night, my favorite movie about the transition from silents to talkies was "Singing in the Rain."
"The Artist" beats them both.
For a film like this to be made at all, much less made so well, in 2011 is nothing short of a miracle. And for all you jokers who don't think you can watch either a silent film or -- God help you -- a black and white film, "The Artist" will demolish that wall, too.
Briefly, the film is about a superstar silent actor named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), sort of a cross between Gilbert and Gene Kelly's character in "Singing in the Rain." His hubris and insecurities won't let him make the jump from silents to talkies. Meanwhile, he is both taken with and somewhat resents beautiful up-and-comer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who worked with Valentin in her first film. She secretly loves him. The feeling, despite some ambiguity on Valentin's part, is mutual.
Oh, what a joy. The sound, the score, the cinematography. This is a triumph.
Bonus points go to an extraordinarily talented cast of supporting players: James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Ed Lauter, Malcolm McDowell and the incomparable John Goodman.
During the Academy Awards, I was rooting for "The Descendants" and "Moneyball" and "J. Edgar."
Forget it. The best picture of the year is indeed "The Artist."
It is one of the best motion pictures I have ever seen.
Special kudos to Regal Cinemas and Downtown West, which do it better than any other movie theater in town.