Why the Coming Backlash Against 'The Artist' is a Good Thing For You
"Repeat after me for the 17th or 37th time -- 'The Artist' is all about re-creation, backward visitation and reflective surfaces," wrote an irate Jeffrey Wells after 'The Artist' won Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle on Tuesday. "It possesses and radiates nothing that is truly its own, except for a desire to give entertainment-seekers a nice pleasant time. And that's not nearly enough to warrant a Best Picture prize. Shame on the NYFCC in this respect ... shame!" A movie that wants to give "entertainment-seekers" a "nice pleasant time" winning an award for Best Picture from the NYFCC? That's unheard of! (Or not.) Regardless, Wells -- who currently has 'The Artist' ranked fifth on his Best Picture charts over at GoldDerby.com and doesn't dislike the film -- is far from being alone in his head-scratching over the deafening Oscar buzz for Michel Hazanavicius's silent-film curio. Which means the backlash to the charming indie -- about a silent film star coming to terms with his dwindling fame -- has already begun, less than one week after its release.
Make no mistake: 'The Artist' is doing well financially. Through Nov. 28, the film has earned a very respectable $224,366 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Assuming $13 ticket prices, that means just over 17,000 people have paid to see 'The Artist.' Congratulations, 17,000 people! You know the film is heartfelt, sentimental, sweet and funny -- a throwback that honors classic Hollywood conventions in a new-old way. The Oscar heat surrounding 'The Artist' -- and Hazanavicius, as well as stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and ... Uggie the dog! -- is deserved and very real. After all, in a year with few favorites, 'The Artist' could be the one film that everyone winds up agreeing on; it appeals to the old Academy voters who want to remember the past, and the new Academy voters who want to honor a young mind like Hazanavicius, the 44-year-old director behind the hipster-approved 'OSS 117' films. It's like 'The King's Speech' and 'The Social Network' in one movie! Good luck overcoming that combination, 'War Horse' and 'The Descendants'!
So, how can you avoid being wildly disappointed by 'The Artist' when you see it at some point during the next three months? (And if you like movies, you will see it; this thing is basically locked in for seven or more Oscar nominations.) Simple: by reading the backlash! Wallow in it, if you can. Since debuting at the Cannes Film Festival in May, 'The Artist' has been hailed by critics as a marvel to the point of near unanimity. That writers like Wells and some other brave souls are coming out against the film's Oscar bona fides is just what needed to happen for general audiences. After all, if decide to see 'The Artist' after reading its fawning reviews, and then realize it's only ("only") a silent film with a story as old as Hollywood itself, you'll probably be pretty upset. (File that under: There's nothing worse than inflated expectations.) Now, you might plunk down money to see 'The Artist' with a bit of trepidation. That's good! It alleviates some pressure.
"Americans are more relaxed," said Dujardin in a recent interview with Moviefone about the film's box-office potential in America. "Films are a spectacle [to Americans]. Entertainment. Here, people comment live. They laugh. They live it. That's the best gift you can have." That, and some well-timed backlash.