Lights, camera, action: The Artist takes home five Academy Awards
I loved The Artist, and am happy it won Best Picture (and just about everything else) at the Oscars last night. I’ve wanted to write about the movie since I saw it during a matinee last week. I’m not a movie critic, nor do I write about movies, but it was just that good.
But after I began thinking about the movie’s five wins, I found myself wondering if it was just another case of a bunch of white men in suits (and with a lot more money) winning out over a group of less well-financed women, for the only category my other favorite movie—The Help—won, was Best Supporting Actress. (Octavia Spencer played the courageous Minnie Jackson, and if she hadn’t won, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only person crying foul.)
That part about the money and men in suits was my second thought, and it could be true. I haven’t researched it to find out.
But this morning, I decided what it comes down to is this: While they’re both about the underdog overcoming, the two movies really shouldn’t have been made to compete against each other. For they were totally different genres. How can a modern day story (Yes, it was set in the 1960’s South, but the racial discrimination and social inequality issues remain.) possibly compete against a 1920’s world that knew no sound? We have sound today, so it’s hard to imagine what it was like then, unless we sit down to watch an old Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film on Netflix.
I loved both movies, but in very different ways, for starkly different reasons.
When I first saw The Help, it was in a theatre full of both black and white women, who cheered when it ended. (And it made me feel that if these same women read my book, they would cheer for it, too.) So we movie-goers obviously shared a bond: we root for strong women who overcome the odds, and will suffer—if necessary—to do so. The lines going in were long, and more than one woman coming out afterward saw someone she knew waiting in line, and said she would go right back in and see it again, if she could. There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine.
The Artist was by its very nature, well, artistic. French actor Jean Dujardin didn’t utter a single word throughout—until the very end—yet I heard every word he didn’t speak, loud and clear. And that’s a feat few actors today can pull off. That’s because they rely instead on obvious good looks, nudity and sex, profanity and violence, or rapid-fire action that makes one’s head spin just watching it.
Whereas in The Artist, the facial expressions and gestures alone tell you exactly what the characters are thinking, feeling and trying to tell you, that their silent words can’t or don’t. And the story line was pretty incredible, too. That there was no sex and no adultery (since George Valentin, Dujardin’s character, was married when the young starlet Peppy Miller—played by French actor Bérénice Béjo—fell for him) is almost unheard of, for a film of today. (Speaking of gestures that speak louder than words, the scene where Miller puts her arm into Valentin’s suit jacket is wonderfully done.)
Further, the ending of The Artist has something especially appealing to me: the heroine saves the hero! That in and of itself is quite profound, in today’s world of movies where the guy saves the damsel, and usually everyone else.
Finally, even though I knew Minnie and her friends were on their way to carving out a well-deserved place in this world, my heart sank at knowing how long and hard their continued battle would be.
Not so with The Artist, which simply left me feeling happy that I’d been taken away from the struggles that still comprise daily life for so many of us.
Editor’s note: Daleen Berry is a national expert in overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment, as well as an award-winning author and an accomplished journalist who speaks at conferences around the country. Berry will one of two keynote speakers addressing a national audience at “The Many Faces of Domestic Violence,” the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of Batterers’ Intervention Programs on March 1, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. She recently spoke to social workers from all over the country at the “Hope for the Future: Ending Domestic Violence in Families” conference at the University of California, Berkeley.
Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. To read 30 five-star reviews, check out this title on Amazon. To see a mock up of the SOS t-shirt, check out Berry’s Facebook page.