Monday, November 14, 2011


JOHNNY CHAZZ: It’s too early for predictions right? Maybe not.

With the Academy Awards just a few months away, perhaps it is time to take a simple look at a relatively simple film, and one that might be right there in the thick of things on Award night 2012.

Without getting too deep into Academy Award ‘contender’ discussions, I will acknowledge here on Cinema: Counterpoint that the early favorites appear to be “War Horse” (Spielberg’s attempt to please audiences), “The Descendants” (Clooney stars in this emotional rollercoaster and tear-jerker), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (I have a feeling Jer will relish this one…..perhaps it’s a Gary Oldman thing – but the film looks quite intriguing) and perhaps even “J. Edgar” (Eastwood and DiCarprio tandem). We will put all that aside for a moment however and throw a film at you this week that could be one of those big surprises that comes in small packages.
For your consideration: Steven Spielberg's WAR HORSE

"The Artist" takes place in Hollywood as films are making that stark transition from silent movies to talkies (sound). Filmed on real locations in Los Angeles (primarily the Hollywood area), director Michel Hazanvicius brought French stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo to Los Angeles and mixed-in American stars such as John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller. As an added note, by the early 1930s, the ‘talkies’ as we say had become, well – globalized.

What is so intriguing to me is that we must ask ourselves (an American audience that has been sadly numbed by trash films over the past 20 years) “When was the last time any of us actually sat down and watched a silent film”? Well, here is one that may keep you on the edge of your seat and you are virtually guaranteed to enjoy. An open mind and an understanding of where film has been and where it is at now remains paramount however.
Judge for yourself, the trailer for THE ARTIST

Cannes loved the film and “The Artist”, but it was just one of the twenty (20) films shown there. What remains in questions is how is will perform at the Palme d’Or. A win there or at least a gain in momentum could secure its’ place in the Academy Awards in 2012. The just film was released in United States on November 9, 2011.

Dujardin & Bejo as George Valentin and Peppy Miller
The plot in essence focuses on character George Valentin – a silent film star (played by Jean Dujardin who may be best known for “99 Francs” and “Contre-Equette”) in Hollywood during 1927. The drama and potential tragedy occurs when the talkies begin to surface on sound stages which immediately spells trouble for George’s career. On the other hand, enter Peppy Miller (played by Bérénice Bejo), is destined to relish in the fact that the films now have sound and stardom awaits.

The costuming is lavish and highly significant and reflective for this period piece. The men of course are in tux and tails and the pearls and gowns dress the ladies. What is fascinating is that a pit orchestra accompanies the action on screen, but the sound we, as an audience, hear is non-existent since the score is, at times in the film – ‘silent’ as well.

Once confronted with the new trend – movies with sound that is, George simply finds the entire idea ludicrous and impractical. As a reaction, George stays true to his heart and decides that only “true art” and “real story telling” can be accomplished in the silent fashion. Thus, he invests a small fortune into a silent film that is scheduled for opening on Oct 25, 1929.

The films will succeed on three (3) counts. It is a classic Hollywood picture; it is the classic story of one man struggling with his career and his ego due to an advent in society; and it is a strong commentary on the media then and even today. If there was a fourth reason for this film to make noise at the Academy Awards next year, it is the unique concept of the film that remains its’ major strength.

“The Artist” is a fairly low-budget film – and extremely low-budget compared to the likes of American Cinema today. Yet, less is more – especially with the minds of the European influence, the concepts, the formidable dialogue and the overall passion and flair. “The Artist” appears both entertaining and rich – and in that sense, it is highly original. The score is also quite entertaining, but a wonderful complement to the film – and it better be since this is really the only sound that we hear. It is charming, witty, vibrant and clever – a true throwback to the Gershwin sounds of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Still, the score is intended to be dark reflecting the melodramatic feel of the film. It is just sensational.

Penelope Ann Miller
Thus, “The Artist” is not only a major contender, but my early choice to take home the top prize at the 2012 Academy Awards. ‘Tis true that foreign-language pictures are at a disadvantage over what audiences are comfortable with here in the States (i.e.: "War Horse" and "J. Edgar"), but “The Artist” has such a unique quality and aura while maintaining a melodramatic feel and timely hints of “surrealism” – that very feeling that always seems to surround silent films. Additionally, the score as well as the inter-titles make the film so charming and reflective of the ‘Roaring Twenties’. The International cast is also a major asset and this very blend of the two promises to lend richness and vivacity to “The Artist”.

If audiences open their mind a bit and let their guard down, they are likely to be pulled into this film while drawn to the overall charm of “The Artist” portrayed in each and every scene. Being well-received at Cannes, this could also be enough to relay to American audiences that they had better take a serious look at the most unique film of 2011.

Now, I eagerly await Jer’s response to perhaps the most intriguing of films audiences will experience in the 2011 season.

JER: Here is where it begins. Dare I mention the possibilities of Martin Scorsese’s adventure/ family 3D extravaganza HUGO being nominated? If the Academy goes another year with bloating the Best Picture ballots to 10 nominations again, there is a likelihood it may fall into an empty slot, but it looks to be a strong contender for some technical nods for sure. Could HUGO be this year’s AVATAR? At a recent sneak preview screening at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles, director James Cameron announced HUGO to be the best 3D feature film he had ever seen. However, in following AVATAR’s footsteps…could this also mean that it may be the dark horse in the potential race to the Oscars? Also, could Scorsese possibly see a second nomination for Best Documentary Feature for GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD to which he served as director and producer of the project? Chances look highly likely, reflecting on his track record and consistent recognition from the Academy for his efforts. The feature focuses on the life, love and spiritual mantra of the ‘silent’ Beatle through a series of interviews with family and friends and archived photographs and various clips.
A double Scorsese feature- Enjoy them both

I will also touch on J. EDGAR; the Clint Eastwood directed drama about the man who would become the Director of the FBI. I must say that I have started to warm- up to Leonardo DiCaprio over the years and he actually looks great as J. Edgar Hoover. The film takes you through a time span of Hoover’s life, including the alleged ‘closet’ homosexual double- life he kept away from the public. Let’s talk possible nods here… the screenplay is by Dustin Lance Black who won a Best Screenplay award for 2008’s MILK starring Sean Penn. Chances are that Black might receive another nomination, however, early previews are showing signs of a lackluster screenplay. Eastwood and DiCaprio are possible shoe- in’s for their respectable categories of Director and Actor. Of course we should also be looking at a Best Picture nod as well. While I am playing ‘Fantasy Academy Awards’, let me bring up some other wishful thoughts… Oscars, are you listening? Here I go…

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Rickman for HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PT II. The subject of ‘supporting’ has always given more slack when it has come to nominations and actual wins. In less serious roles, actors as Cuba Gooding Jr, Kevin Kline, Geena Davis and Marisa Tomei have all walked away with the golden statuette. As Professor Severus Snape, Rickman portrayed the role of a martyr for a cause that would end catastrophically. This final act should get some attention but Rickman should be a must. Is it a far stretch to go by way of a Best Picture nom? I can only imagine what JC would say in reaction to this comment, but let us not forget LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING receiving a vote but also winning Best Picture in 2004.

Best Picture: Thus far I could dream big and place Spielberg’s WAR HORSE, Scorsese’s HUGO, Eastwood’s J. EDGAR and THE ARTIST would be the ‘best bets’ for potential nominations. Minor considerations might include Roland Emmerich’s controversial tale about William Shakespeare’s writings in ANONYMOUS and an even slimmer chance for a nom would be HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PT II and possibly REEL STEEL. . Seven openings filled with three more to go… wait a minute, you don’t think Generation Zero would consider 50/50? I mean, if JUNO meant something to anyone back in 2007...
Clint Eastwood's latest feature: J. EDGAR

Alright, back to the main topic in hand. The main focus is on a little- known film that caught my eye somewhere in the early part of October 2011. I came across an intriguing trailer that I might have normally bypassed if it weren’t for the fact that it took place in the ‘Golden Age’ of yesteryear Hollywood. Our attention is turned towards THE ARTIST.

John Goodman
In today’s vast and highly technological world of the early 21st century, we have seen the introduction to the digital world, high definition television, blu- rays, GPS, smart phones, I-pods and I-pads…just to name a few of the toys our grandparents only read about in science fiction novels. So then, how is it that a blatant black- and- white, silent, foreign film squeaks its way to get some recognition and still cause pre- nom talk?

I give strong kudos to JOHNNY CHAZZ for haven beaten me to the punch and spread a little more publicity to a movie that sparkles and shines, if ever so briefly, during its 2- minute trailer. You will not read a ‘counterpoint’ objective on my part to what has been already written by JC. I am looking forward to seeing this film ever since I previewed the trailer.

Director Michael Hazanavicius
 After reviewing the trailer, the film speaks volumes with the irony being that it is a silent picture. Director Michael Hazanavicius is believed to have always wanted to direct a black and white silent film but couldn’t find any studios willing to finance or release that type of film in this day and age. The success of two of his native French films, the OSS 117 series (reminiscent of the James Bond films) allowed him to call the shots on his project and do it as he wanted to. As JC had previously mentioned, it is a foreign film first and foremost. It was made on Euro- dollars and produced by French companies starring French actors in the protagonist and antagonist’s roles. Yet, it was shot in and around Los Angeles and Hollywood USA and has a supporting cast of American actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller.

THE ARTIST had its premiere in France on May 15, 2011 during the Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for two awards including the Palme d’Or Award and won Best Actor (Jean Dujardin).

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Ok - it looks as though we do share interest in the upcoming film "The Artist". Yet, how - and I am still wondering...well, how did "Hugo" and "Harry Potter" even begin to get into the mix of the blog this week? Additionally, DiCaprio is such a "tired" subject and every year we have to endure his films over and over whilst the general public makes it a front-runner to win it all.

It really comes down to this for me these days: If I have to bear through another movie trailer dealing with vampires, the Harry Potters of this world or Leonardo DiCaprio, I am literally - and I mean LITERALLY going to cash in my chips and avoid the cinema all-together. It is completely meaningless and exhausting - and it goes on and on and is just wretched.

Theater front from THE ARTIST
 "The Artist" is a little-known film as you mentioned Jer simply due to the fact that American audiences just are not ready for this type of film or subject matter. The very fact that it is little-known speaks volumes and volumes. American audiences are lost - lost in a haze of Deathly Hallows, Vampires, DiCaprios, and Hugoland - how incredibly feeble.

A film (whoops - a movie / cartoon) such as "Hugo" has little chance of winning Best Picture. "The Artist" as discussed in detail this week will absolutely tower over this film in virtually every single category. Also, come awards night, "Harry Potter" has an even slimmer to zero chance of winning the top prize. As a matter of fact, it really has no business being nominated in the top-10. Why in the world are we even discussing these two movies?

Realistic long shots to win at this point may include the up and coming "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (deals with a real issue such as 9/11); "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."; or even "The Ides of March"(a tremendous cast and a hot issue). Now those are quality films that actually have a shot at winning next year. Realistic front runners remain "The Descendants"; "The Artist" and "'War Horse".

So, let's stop kidding ourselves, and let's also quit playing around. The best films deal with real people with real problems; real drama; real dialogue, and real issues. This is what cinema is about, and this is precisely what it takes to win Best Picture. Nothing will change this year - - -

JER: Normally, I would close the topic by the ending statements made by the person who begins it…however, I will not keep my mouth shut without firing off a few rounds! Now, let me now ‘counterpoint’ some statements made by my associate and partner in cinema crime!

I must admit that this blog topic was going to primarily shed light towards THE ARTIST and it took it as a vehicle to bring up Oscar predictions as well... that was my fault entirely... however...

Hmmm, could it be? NAH!
My remarks about what are MY thoughts and mine alone came from comments you actually began when introducing possible films taking position for the Oscar race. As you were allowed the chance to chime- in your opinions…so am I. Mere mentions of my first- run thoughts such as HUGO or HARRY POTTER are my guesstimated predictions. I hold no crystal ball or Ouija board as to what will ultimately fill the emptied ten slots for Best Picture… so I will be allowed my guesses until I get to actually view these films for myself.

Another point needing clarification is that I do not hold THE ARTIST any less a film nor do I give grandiose implications to either HUGO or HARRY POTTER… where did you get vampires from? Are we anticipating TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN a little too much? You know how I feel about that tripe myself!

Taking a look back at what has historically won Best Picture throughout the years… I don’t know if I can go with your statement of “…real drama…is precisely what it takes to win Best Picture”. Can you argue your views on such films as AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, TOM JONES, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH or YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU as “real people with real problems; real drama; real dialogue and real issues”? I am not apposed to these films, just using them as contradictions to your statements.

The point of the matter is that the views of film and cinema are like those opinions on politics and religion… everyone has their own thoughts and one can talk until their eyes bleed out to their standpoints! One view that I am sure everyone can agree with is that great film and cinema is what one thinks is great film and cinema. I can argue about TWILIGHT and movies by Tyler Perry but there is a fan base for them as well… all we can do, the lovers of quality films, is remain true to the art and not give the high- signal to the power-s that- be to make movies like PORKY’S 9 or THE LOST BOYS 2 1/2 : THE SMELL OF FEAR! Oh, as a final closing thought, let us remain factual to one last true statement…as the scene comes to a close… one last glimpse left as we fade to black… JC, HUGO is not a &%$@ cartoon! Put that in your pipe and smoke it! LOL and Hahaha...

So, after taking the kettle off the stove and letting the steam out…we want your opinions and comments on either THE ARTIST or other films we have talked about. What about your views on cinema or the race to the Academy Awards? We look forward to your words and keep the age open to our audience! Keep it right here as I take my turn at the jukebox and drop a quarter to play my tune…SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

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  1. Hi Cinema C- this is another really good topic this week and I agree with you that the new movie The Artist looks like something from the golden age of Hollywood and old movies. The movie looks so unique and really different from anything else this year and I cannot wait to see it. I just hope people can appreciate it. - Maricela(San Marcos, TX)

  2. Hi Maricela- yes, we both hope that this film catches the needed attention it deserves and that it hopefully gets some recognition. If it makes it to the Academy Awards, it will! Glad you enjoyed the topic this week! Thanks for your comments

  3. The Artist film looks great to me. I saw a preview a week ago and thought it looked so interesting. I really like older movies and The Artist really does appear to have what it takes to win the Academy Award this year. I do not think there is any doubt that it will be nominated to win the award. SARAH from Long Island, NY.

  4. Hi Sarah,

    Thank looks like we are all on the same page as far as how see THE ARTIST as a nomination!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Iwill agree that 'Artist' looks like one of the better movies of the year. I also kind of agree that J. Edgar Hoover will be an overrated sort of film and I see other movies, and maybe the 'Artist being one of them having a chance to win the academy award. (Becca, AZ)

  6. Hi Becca and thank you for your comments!

    J. EDGAR seems to not be getting a lot of love... it is a quiet opening with not much talk yet...but the Academy may keep hush until we start seeing those Golden Globe nominations. :)

  7. Hello cinema counterpoints.....
    Truly speaking, this is a wide open field for the best picutre award this year for movies. You guys talked about the ARTIST maybe winning the best picture award but that is only one of about ten movies that could win. I really do not think that any of the fantasy movies will win (Harry potter or Hugo) but War Horse does look like a disney and fantasy type of movie that could get lots of buzz during the next couple months. *Greg*

  8. I made a couple comments on your site before and am visiting again to read what you both are discussing this week. Johnny Chaz recommends "The Artist" movie and I can see why critics are really liking this one. Some of the other movies you talked this week look ok, but I do not think they have the power or the merits that "The Artist" has. I like what both of you had to say this week. It is still a cool site u guys, keep up the good work!(Gerald, Astoria, Oregon)

  9. Hello to both Greg and Gerald!

    Greg: thanks for your comments... perhaps it's a bit too early to start placing bets on what will win much less what will get nominated! We can both be wrong on our predictions so far but the year isn't over. We both highly agree that THE ARTIST stands a strong candidate at this point.

    Gerald: thanks for coming back and sharing your thoughts as well... we will keep posting new predictions as we get closer and closer to the big day~ always feel free to comment and we will raise the issues and see what we collectively come back with!

  10. The 'Artist' looks excellent from what I have seen based on the previews. I want to see it for sure and it does look like a movie that could be nominated for some strong awards this year. There are other movies that have not come our either and I would like to see 'J Edgar', 'War Horse' and 'Albert Nobbs' since they all look good based on their previerws also.
    Emily @ COLORADO

  11. Hi Emily,

    Thanks for sharing...I had not heard of ALBERT NOBBS, which means I will need to watch the trailer and take a good look at this one closely. Thanks for the tip!