This Oscar season, PG-13 for Ugly Cast will be flipping a cordial bird to the arbitrary practice of rank-ordering movies. Instead, we will highlight a handful of Movie Things We Loved, with no pretense of objectivity or internal consistency. Deal with it.
Well, it’s Oscar Day. And it’s time to address the elephant in the room, tonight’s inevitable victor, the thing that’s black and white and written about all over.
Depending who you ask, The Artist is an exquisite work of cinema, an overhyped piece of trifle, or a weird silent film that nobody wants to watch. The sugar-craving masses have written it off as pretentiously artsy; the pretentious, artsy types have written it off as a candy morsel for the masses; and the Oscar voters, ignoring both camps, will soon crown it their favorite film of the year. It has ignited a massive critical and cultural debate that we here at PG-13 for Ugly Cast view – and please quote us on this – as a stupid waste of everybody’s time. Like The Artist. Don’t like The Artist. But don’t expect that an emotional investment in the fickle, flawed Oscar process will pay one penny of dividends.
For what it’s worth, The Artist gave us one thing we loved: the boundless charm of French people flirting.
First of all, the stars are gorgeous. Viewers don’t need to worry about this silent film losing their attention, because it would be captivating just to watch Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo bat their eyelashes at each other.
Second of all, the language of flirtation is wordless and universal. When she slides her arm into his empty coat, and pretends that the sleeve is him embracing her, it’s hard not to melt a little. In the film’s best sequence, the silent film actor played by Dujardin keeps blowing a ballroom scene in which he dances briefly with Bejo. He tries the scene again and again, take after take, but each time that they touch, he loses himself and forgets about the movie altogether. As irresistible as each of the actors are, the moments they share together are even cuter.
While I’ve already forgotten much of the film’s rocky second half, those early scenes of courtship are delightful and iconic. The Artist wasn’t my favorite movie of 2011. (That, you’ll find out tomorrow.) But it had attractive French actors playing star-crossed lovers, and really, what more can you ask?