If there were any doubts before, there are no doubts now. The black and white silent French film, The Artist, has taken the lead in this year’s Best Picture race, according to we Gurus of Gold and of course, over at Gold Derby. There is always that point in the year when you just know. And there is no stopping this movie. If there had been any stopping it it would have happened months ago. But the hype is not destroying it. If anything, it’s helping it. It reminds me of the Slumdog Millionaire year, where there was just this one movie that took everything in front of it. If we go by Anne Thompson’s branch-by-branch theory, The Artist has it all: actors, check. Director, check. Writers, check. Art directors, check. Cinematography, check. Costume, check. Score, check. Editing, check. Sound, mais bien sur! Well, let’s say imaginative sound mixers would nominate the Artist for its clever and specific use of sound. What it’s missing: gravitas. That old song Oscar requires so that something feels bigger and more “important.” Of course, Chicago didn’t have it and that movie had what the Artist had (yes, Weinsteins pushing it but also) it was just a good time to be had by all. The universal appeal of The Artist is what has it winning critics, industry and audiences alike.
Universal appeal is what gets the big house votes, the 9,000, the 6,000, the 100,000 guild voting blocks – ain’t no way they’re going to grow a pair and pick something outside that realm of “you can sit anyone down in front of it and they will get it if not love it.” What can override that, of course, is love for the filmmakers (Coens, Scorsese), or the desire to push forth real change (Bigelow). But mostly, yeah, you get the idea. What pleases, massages, comforts the most people wins. It’s as simple as that. As far as those kinds of movies go, if the Artist wins it will be one of their better choices.