There are a whopping nine films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. And between your work, family, and constant USA marathons of Law & Order: SVU (when will those ever stop being addictive?!), you simply do not have time to catch all nine in the theaters or on DVD. But never fear, dear PopWatchers — that’s why we’re here! Each day leading up to the Academy Awards Feb. 26, we’ll be providing you with a deep dive into one of the nine Best Picture nominees. Fear showing up to your Oscars party unprepared to discuss the year’s most notable films? We’ve got you covered. (Just beware: Spoilers ahead!) And if you’ve already seen all nine films, even better — our inside look at each nominee will serve as a handy guide to remind you of the best and worst moments from every Best Picture candidate this year. First up, the beloved (almost) silent movie The Artist. (And be sure click here for more deep dives into this year’s Best Picture nominees!)
Name: The Artist
Release date: Nov. 25, 2011
DVD release date: April 2012 (Estimated)
Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes
Box Office: Opening weekend (Wide): $2.4 million; Total box office (so far): $24 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97 percent
The Artist’s movie math: A Star is Born + Singin’ In the Rain + (The Jazz Singer – Birth of a Nation) + Firehouse Dog
Tweetable description of The Artist: Fallen silent film star saved by peppy girl and adorable dog. Turns out he’s French. #TakeThatMNight
What EW’s Owen Gleiberman said: “The Artist is delightfully old-fashioned, but it’s also poppingly contemporary, with a puckish spark of self-awareness. As it opens, we’re watching an audience watch a silent adventure film, and in a funny way we spend the rest of the movie watching ourselves get swept up in conventions we can see through … A-”
Number of Oscar nominations: Ten. The Artist nabbed nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), Best Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo), Best Original Screenplay (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius), and Best Original Score (Ludovic Bource).
Cast/Director’s Oscar history: This year’s Oscars is the first for Hazanavicius and almost every member of his cast. James Cromwell — who plays George Valentin’s butler in The Artist — was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1995’s Babe.
What The Artist has won thus far: The Artist‘s trophy shelf is quite full — the film has picked up Best Picture awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, the Golden Globes, the London Critics Circle Film Awards, and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, among others. Its producers also picked up statues at the Producers Guild Awards and Hazanavicius finished on top of the Directors Guild Awards. (The former award is especially notable, since the PGA winner has won Best Picture at the Oscars for four years running.)
Why The Artist should win Best Picture: With film audiences growing increasingly impatient in the theaters (put away those cell phones, kids!), it’s an achievement to create a film that manages to captivate audiences without 3-D bells and whistles… and without even sound. But captivate The Artist did, and made us even nostalgic for the days when someone could tell a complete, mesmerizing story through facial expressions and a score of moving music. The Artist helped remind us, quite simply, that movie-making is indeed an art.
Why The Artist should not win Best Picture: The film delivered nearly two hours of throwback fun, but didn’t quite pack the same emotional gut-punch as other nominated films like The Descendants. Plus, though The Artist was certainly creatively innovative, nominees like Hugo managed to wow audiences with both their stories and technological prowess.
Betting odds: 1/7, according to Las Vegas Sports Betting.
EW’s Dave Karger’s odds: Very good. A week and a half ahead the Oscars, The Artist is Karger’s No. 1 pick to win Best Picture.
Moment most worthy of an Oscar: Strangely enough, the silent film’s finest moment centered on noise: George, feeling the pressure to adapt to talkies, has a nightmare in which everything makes sound… but him. It might be the slowest scene in the past-faced, lively film, but it’s also the most effective one: After spending so much time in a silent universe, you hang onto every punctuated bang, hiss, and ring, and feel tapped into George’s isolation. The minutes-long segment could stand alone as a modern museum piece — it’s no wonder Oscar came calling.
Best line from The Artist: The final, and one of the only, lines of dialogue in the film: “With pleasure,” spoken in a thick French accent by George, who we assume was American up until this point. Twist!
Worst line from The Artist: Does “The End” count? Since there were so few spoken words in The Artist, we can’t condemn one single line — but we did expect to be a bit more wowed with Peppy and George’s tap routine at the movie’s end. George might have the charm of Gene Kelly… but not quite the feet.
MVP (Most Valuable Prop): Many would point to Uggie, but, come on, people, don’t call the adorable pooch a prop! Instead, we will salute George’s jacket, who was lucky enough to cuddle up close to Peppy. Never has anything so inanimate looked so alive.
Best fashion moment: If Dujardin’s eyebrows were an accessory, they’d pick up the prize. But, instead, we’re going to have to go with Bejo’s perfectly accessorized adorable long-sleeved dress. It’s no wonder Hollywood noticed Peppy that day.
Best music moment: If it wasn’t Uggie that led you to shed tears during George’s suicide attempt, it was the hauntingly lovely “My Suicide,” off Ludovic Bource’s Oscar-nominated score.
Best movie extra: The Artist‘s “betisiers.” Otherwise known as the most refined blooper reel you’ll ever watch.
The moviegoers most hoping The Artist doesn’t win: Some grumpy Brits in Liverpool, who asked for a refund because they didn’t realize the film was silent. Let’s hope they used that leftover money to purchase themselves a soul.
The Hollywood star most hoping The Artist doesn’t win: Well, besides 2012’s competing cast members, actress Kim Novak, who took out an ad in Variety condemning The Artist for using portions of Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo songs in its score. “It is morally wrong for the artistry of our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what they were intended,” Novak wrote. The Artist‘s Hazanavicius responded, “The Artist was made as a love letter to cinema … I love Bernard Hermann and his music has been used in many different films and I’m very pleased to have it in mine.” Trying to decide which side we’re on is making us dizzy.
Non-nominated actor we’d give an Oscar to: Duh, Uggie, who saved owner George from his self-inflicted fiery flames and stole our hearts in the process. He’s retiring at the old age of 10, for pup’s sake — doesn’t that usually warrant a Best Supporting Oscar nomination?! Still, we can settle for a Golden Collar nomination… and a walk down the red carpet. In a bow tie, please.
Five Oscar Party talking points:
1) If George is the Don Lockwood, Peppy the Kathy Seldon, Constance the Lina Lamont, Clifton the Cosmo Brown, and Al Zimmer the R.F. Simpson, who is George’s dog?
2) Is The Artist really just a whimsical early 20th century-set retelling of Misery? Peppy was George’s No. 1 fan…
3) Which perennial supporting actress from this year’s Oscar-nominated films is more under-appreciated: The Artist‘s Missi Pyle, or The Descendants Judy Greer? Never give up, ladies! Never surrender!
4) What kind of world was it in the 1920s when neighbors standing outside George’s fire-ravaged home trusted a dog to save a man’s life? Talk about reckless pre-Depression Era optimism.
5) If we could allow Stomp and Riverdance to happen, why can’t we revive tap dancing as a popular art form?
EW Special Coverage: Oscars 2012