The Artist, a nearly silent movie that earned Jean Dujardin the Best Actor Award at Cannes 2011, and rave reviews at film festivals throughout the fall, is generating much talk among industry observers and movie lovers that it is a strong candidate for Best Picture at the Oscars. If “The Artist” does win over Academy voters, it would be the first silent movie since “The Patriot” in 1928 to be a candidate for the Best Picture award.
The Patriot, a semi autobiographical movie about the life of Tsar Paul 1 of Russia, was also the only silent movie nominated for best picture in 1928, won the Academy Award for Best Writing Achievement, and earned nominations in three other categories – Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Art Direction, and Best Director.
“The Artist” is set in 1928, almost entirely silent, black and white, has music like most silent pictures did then, and the then standard screen ratio of 1:1.33. Film critic Roger Ebert describes the movie this way in his journal in September: “It is a loose retelling of “Singin’ in the Rain,” another film about a silent star failing to make the transition to talkies.“ Ebert goes on to say how a good silent movie provides an enchantment that can lead the movie goer into a state of dreamy reverie not possible in “talkies”. Ebert, who has not yet written his review for the film, expressed admiration for it and affection for the character, noting the audience in Toronto was equally engaged in the story.
Scott Feinberg, a blogger who writes for The Hollywood Reporter, calls “The Artist”: “the stuff Oscar dreams are made of”. The film may have an edge over other contenders because voters love to recognize films about show business, like the 2002 musical “Chicago” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002 and five other Academy awards.