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The Undeniable, Unshakable Charm of The Artist


Kenneth Turan writing about the Oscars for the first time in a long, long while, talks about The Artist. Yesterday, as I sat at a press table at the Four Seasons for the press day for the film, it dawned on me that it’s been a while since a movie like this enthralled so many, people who have no business being enthralled, you know, poker faced press people and the like. It was such a powerful feeling being there, around the director and cast, that it dawned on me finally and without reservation that The Artist (probably) can’t lose Best Picture.

I know it defies logic. I know it’s a black and white silent film. I know Dave Karger called this one a long time ago and so I can’t take first person credit. And I know there are movies yet to come who could obliterate it. Although I’m not so sure anymore any movie can challenge it. I’m trying to keep an open mind but the force is becoming too big to ignore. This is a movie you fall in love with and movies like that, my friends, win Oscars.

Turan has been tracking the film from 2010 and he knows it’s on track to become the first silent film to win the Oscar in oh, 83 years?

Almost every year, the run-up to the Academy Awards features a film no one has heard of, a film like “Slumdog Millionaire” that seems to have come out of nowhere to become a possible best picture nominee. This year, that film is an especially unlikely one: a black-and-white silent French film called “The Artist” that festival audiences have simply adored.

While most years I’m as surprised as anyone at this kind of emergence, “The Artist” is a different story for me. Because of a combination of happenstance and luck, I have been tracking this unusual film from before the beginning, and I’ve been in a position to observe it win hearts and minds across a wide spectrum. What follows is a timeline of small events that has added up to some serious award season momentum.

September 2010: I hear from a young actor I know that he’s gotten a small role in what sounds like an atypical film. A French director, Michel Hazanavicius, has come to Los Angeles with his French cinematographer and two French stars, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo. He’s making a silent film set in 1927 about Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound pictures and wants to do it where the story took place. As a partisan of silent films, I’m especially interested. The film’s name is “The Artist.”

The rest of the saga unfolds here. I will be posting my Four Seasons adventure momentarily. This Oscar season is bringing many new surprises – Mark Harris, Stu Van Airsdale and Kenneth Turan among them. It’s finally feeling like a subject people are starting to take more seriously and to dig in more deeply — as opposed to the usual bemusement that follows the Oscars around.