Mirror images

I couldn’t help noticing an odd symmetry at the Academy Awards in February 2012.

  • Two films won equal numbers of awards (Hugo won five, as did The Artist)
  • Both films concern the early decades of cinema
  • One film is set in Paris while the other is set in Hollywood
  • The film with French stars (Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo) is the one set in Hollywood, while the one with English stars (Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law)  is set in Paris

Having heard the buzz I saw The Artist a couple of weeks ago: because I wanted to see the film that was likely to win all the awards.  I passed up Hugo because the trailer didn’t inspire me, and nobody I knew seemed very interested.

Now, having finally seen Hugo, I confess I am surprised.   I don’t understand why Hugo didn’t have more impact.  While The Artist was clever, I think it was over-rated.  Perhaps Jean Dujardin did deserve his best-actor award, even if his job in this film is complete unlike the task facing the other nominees.  I feel disappointed that the Oscar for best original score goes to a film whose composer arguably opts out of the most climactic moment of all: employing a passage from Bernard Herrmann’s score to Vertigo.  While we’re at it why didn’t Stanley Kubrick win for best original score, for 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Maybe I am old-fashioned, a sucker for sentimentality, although in that case you might wonder why The Artist didn’t move me more: a film with several moments to tug at the heart-strings.  And as an opera fan who loves to cry at absolutely any opera (including operas where nobody else cries), why am i resisting the film?   I suppose I felt manipulated, and not in a nice way.  Overall I wasn’t especially impressed.

In the next few years I know I will see both films again.  I will try to keep an open mind.  But I doubt The Artist will ever move me as much as Hugo has already moved me.  I believe that it’s common knowledge that Scorsese has an interest in the preservation of old film stock.  Does that somehow make Hugo less impressive: knowing that the director was attempting to persuade us that film is precious and irreplaceable?  I came into this film knowing his beliefs and still came away a complete convert to his cause.  Is there perhaps some resentment that the film is trying to convert its viewers?  I don’t understand why Scorsese wasn’t given more credit.  It’s not the first time I have been dumbfounded by the Oscars, and I am sure it won’t be the last.

So much for symmetry.

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