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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: The Artist

Cannes 2012: Can any film reproduce 'The Artist' magic?

May 16, 2012 |  2:09 pm


CANNES, France -- It was exactly a year ago in this coastal town that much of the film world first heard about a quirky movie from a French director who has a peskily unpronounceable name. On the eve of the world's most prestigious cinema gathering, the movie landed an unexpected competition slot and a sizable distribution deal from an aggressive U.S. company.

That film was of course "The Artist," directed by Michel Hazanavicius, and its acquisition by Weinstein Co. at the start of the Cannes Cannes Film Festival began a magic-carpet ride that would take the movie and many of its principals all the way to the Oscar-night podium.

It's impossible to hazard a guess as to which film will catch fire that way this year, if any. Not every edition of Cannes produces an award-season breakout of that magnitude, and an "Artist"-size success should hardly be the yardstick by which Cannes debuts are measured.

INTERACTIVE: Cheat sheet guide to Cannes films

Still, the attention that fall-season movies receive here can prove surprisingly telling of their ultimate  fortunes. In 2007  "No Country for Old Men" premiered to the kind of hype a festival finds only a few times a decade. Sure enough, when the fall rolled around, the Coen Bros. serial-killler film became a crossover smash and swept through the Oscars.

Events unfolded similarly with "Inglourious Basterds" in 2009, which after a very favorable reception on the Croisette did big business in the late summer and early fall and earned its share of Oscar plaudits. And last year proved a reliable crystal ball even below the "Artist" level -- the festival offered hints of the amount, and type, of attention that was to come for Oscar contenders "Midnight in Paris," "We Need To Talk About Kevin" and "The Tree of Life."

Several films at this year's festival -- which is kicking off with Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" and a twee opening ceremony as we type this post -- are already poised to make their case.

Many of them come in with more expectation and name recognition than "The Artist" did: David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" and Walter Salles' "On the Road" on the (unusually deep) English-language front, and Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" and Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills" on the foreign one.

Less prominent but potentially with just as much upside is "Mud," a coming-of-age story from young American director Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter") that industry types who've seen it describe as "Stand By Me" meets "Huckleberry Finn."

All of these contenders could yield the kind of buzz that "The Artist" began to build here last year, though it should be noted that, as movies that have been primarily shot in color and with sound, none have quite the same level of formal ambition or gimmickry.

The Cannes hype machine is a funny one. More than any other festival, the combination of global media and tony pedigrees works to crank up expectation -- and then, just as often, grind it down. Yet despite the festival's eat-its-young tendencies, and even with the tweet-from-the-bathroom level of social media, a genuine discovery and breakout is possible. "The Artist" proved that in spades.


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-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from Jeff Nichols' "Mud." Credit: FilmNation

Awards season comes early: Directors Guild OKs movie screeners

May 7, 2012 |  1:08 pm

Michel Hazanavicius

Hollywood's award season might not kick off for another few months, but when it does, campaigners will have some new names to add to their movie screener mailing list: The Directors Guild of America has reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited its members from watching on screeners films in contention for the organization's annual awards.

The DGA will follow the actions of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild and other industry organizations, which allow their voting members to watch eligible films on DVD or online screeners.

"There's nothing better than watching a movie on the big screen, exactly as the director intended," DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement. "But it's not always possible for our members to get to the theater to see every film in awards contention. For that reason, the national board has decided to allow members to receive 'for your consideration' screeners."

The DGA was the last holdout in allowing members to view screeners (though, in truth, a certain percentage of its members, those who belong to other guilds or the film academy, likely had already been receiving the DVDs in the mail). The group crafted the policy to counter any potential bias in favor of larger studio films with more marketing means, fearing those movies would have an advantage over smaller, independently made films unable to spend the funds necessary to distribute DVDs.

The guild said it changed course to appease its membership, both those living outside metropolitan areas and others unable to attend theatrical screenings.

The DGA's national board made the decision at its meeting Saturday.

The guild said it would continue to operate its theatrical screening program in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London and Washington, D.C.


Fox to put awards screeners on iTunes for SAG members

Weighing the success of SAG's iTunes screener experiment

--Nicole Sperling

 Photo: "The Artist's" Michel Hazanavicius won the DGA's top prize at the body's 2012 awards ceremony. Credit: Chris Pizello /Associated Press.

'The Artist' to get re-release over Mother's Day weekend

May 7, 2012 |  1:00 pm

The Artist will be re-released in theaters this weekend

Good news for those moviegoers whose ears are still ringing from all the noise of "The Avengers": "The Artist" is making its way back to theaters this weekend.

That's right -- less than three months after the almost entirely silent black-and-white film was named best picture at the Academy Awards in February, the movie is returning to the multiplex for a limited engagement. The Weinstein Co. said Monday that it would re-release the movie over Mother's Day weekend, calling it "the perfect family outing" for the holiday.

While that may be marketing spin, the gambit actually could pay off this weekend, when mothers typically get to choose which movie the family goes to see in theaters. With "The Avengers" and the new Johnny Depp-Tim Burton team-up "Dark Shadows" competing for the attention of young males, "The Artist" may prove to be a popular choice with older women.

Although "The Artist" was a critical success, also scooping up Oscars for lead actor and director, it wasn't a massive hit at the box office. After its domestic release in November, the film went on to gross $44.2 million in the U.S.


'The Artist' wins three top Oscars, including best picture

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'The Avengers' are box office superheroes, with $200.3 million

-- Amy Kaufman


Photo: Jean Dujardin stars in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Tony Curtis documentary to open the L.A. Jewish Film Festival

May 2, 2012 |  8:30 am


"Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom," a new documentary on the late actor born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx, opens the 7th annual Jewish Film Festival on Thursday evening at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

Several participants in the documentary, including actresses Theresa Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Sally Kellerman, and Curtis' widow, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, will participate in a discussion at the screening. 

The festival, which attracts some 4,000 people, will screen 26 features, documentaries and shorts through May 10 at various locations.

"There is something for everyone and in every area," said Hilary Helstein, executive director of the festival.

She admitted that people often confuse the L.A. Jewish Film Festival and the Israel Film Festival, which took place in L.A. in March.

"The Israel Film Festival showcases works from Israel. Our mission is to showcase works that deal with Jewish subjects, Jewish issues, Jewish culture, Jewish matters," she said. "They can come from anywhere."

But she said her goal is to program films that will be of interest not only to a Jewish audience but also to a broad group of filmgoers.

One of the anticipated films in the festival -- at least for cineastes -- is Michael Curtiz's 1924 silent Austrian epic on the exodus of Jews from Egypt, "The Moon of Israel." The director came to Hollywood shortly after making the film and went on to make such classics as "Casablanca," for which he won the Oscar. Penelope Ann Miller of "The Artist" will introduce the film Sunday evening at the Saban in Beverly Hills.

Other films of note are "Shoah: The Unseen Interview," which features interviews and outtakes not featured in Claude Lanzmann's nine-hour epic documentary "Shoah"; the documentaries "The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres" and "Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story"; and the drama "Wunderkinder," about gifted young musicians during World War II.

There will also be comedies, including 2009's "OSS-117: Lost in Rio," (from "The Artist's" Oscar-winning team of director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin), and "Dorfman" with Sara Rue and Elliott Gould, which closes the festival.

For more information on screenings and venues go to lajfilmfest.org.


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--  Susan King

Photo: Tony Curtis, left, appears with Sidney Poitier in a scene from "The Defiant Ones." Curtis is the subject of a new documentary opening the L.A. Jewish Film Festival.

'The Artist' is the buzz at the TCM Classic Film Festival

April 16, 2012 |  2:52 pm

TCM Classic Movie Festival at Grauman's Chinese Theater

The TCM Classic Film Festival highlights decades-old movies, but one of the most buzzed-about titles at the event in Hollywood over the weekend was 2012 Oscar winner "The Artist."

A silent black-and-white homage to Hollywood's early days, "The Artist" was name-checked several times at festival Q&As, in concession lines and in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel where attendees mingled between films.

The ubiquity of "The Artist" at the festival, which was attended by more than 25,000 people Thursday to Sunday, suggests the symbiotic relationship the movie has had from the beginning with ardent classic film fans. Outlets like TCM, which plays silent films on Sunday nights and programmed several silents at its festival, have helped stoke the fan base, while a well-funded Oscar campaign for the French movie about a silent era star (Jean Dujardin) having trouble transitioning to talkies brought newcomers into the fold.

At a sold-out screening of Douglas Fairbanks' "The Thief of Bagdad" (1924) on Sunday night at the Egyptian theater, Fairbanks' biographer Jeffrey Vance described meeting "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius at a party and learning that Fairbanks had inspired the character played by Jean Dujardin.

"Thanks to 'The Artist,' people are curious about Douglas Fairbanks now," Vance told the crowd, seeming almost stunned to be newly hip.

Continue reading »

Oscars 2012: ‘The Artist’ producer tops final Heat Meter rankings

February 29, 2012 |  2:25 pm

Tom Cruise and Thomas Langmann: Click for full Oscars coverage

Sure, “The Artist” won best picture at the Oscars on Sunday. But who was the hottest personality during the entirety of the award season just ended?

According to Heat Meter, The Times’ data desk's analysis of the race that used a sophisticated point system to rank contenders, it was "The Artist" producer Thomas Langmann, who topped all other personalities, including his own director, Michel Hazanavicius (who came in second). Langmann had 235 points to Hazanavicius’ 231.

The hottest non-“Artist” personality was Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady"), who with 207 points landed in third place and set a personal best, topping even the two previous seasons in which she also won Oscars. Alexander Payne, who at the Academy Awards picked up an adapted screenplay win and a director nomination, edged out Jean Dujardin for fourth place.
On the film side, "The Artist" trounced the competition with 715 points. Coming in a distant second was "The Descendants" with 409 points, followed by "The Help" with 370 points.

Not surprisingly , Weinstein Co. won the race for hottest studio. But more dramatic was the race for fourth place, which saw Paramount edge out its former corporate sibling, DreamWorks, by just one point, 355-354.

You can see the top five personalities, films and studios after the jump.

Continue reading »

Oscars 2012: 'Artist' director doesn't expect wave of silent films

February 27, 2012 |  8:30 am

Michel Hazanavicius at Oscars 2012: Click for full coverage
“The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius thanked filmmaker Billy Wilder three times in his acceptance speech, but backstage at the Oscars, the best director winner said he would have thanked him “thousands of times” if he could.

“He’s the perfect director. He’s the soul of Hollywood,” Hazanavicius said of the “Some Like It Hot” and “Sunset Blvd.” filmmaker.

As to whether his awards-sweeping black-and-white, almost entirely silent film will influence future filmmakers, he claimed that “The Artist” alone couldn’t make a change in the film industry because “one movie doesn’t change things … 10 movies do,” but if it did, “I would be very proud of it.”

PHOTOS: Red carpet arrivals | Quotes | Winners | Best & Worst

Taking home best picture to cap a successful awards season, “The Artist” wasn’t held back by its throwback format and didn’t have trouble getting acclaim once it started screening at festivals such as Cannes.

“It’s not selling, not promoting. You just smile and say, ‘Thank you,’” Hazanavicius said of what he called a “not difficult” process of spreading awareness about the film.

“The Artist” producer Thomas Langmann, meanwhile, gave the majority of the credit for the film’s best picture win to Harvey Weinstein. Langmann recalled inviting Weinstein to France a month before Cannes to view the movie — one with a French director and cast the producer had barely heard of.

“I was supposed to leave him alone in the screening room, and I checked to make sure that the beginning was going OK, and I heard him laugh and laugh, so I stayed through the whole screening,” Langmann said. “He loved the movie, and I knew that Harvey could sometimes be very enthusiastic. But I saw in his eyes and his attitude that he really cared for the movie, and he believed that maybe we could be here today. I must say I think he’s the only distributor, even with this very special movie, to be able to take it to where it is today.”

“The Artist,” which won five Academy Awards on Sunday night, also took home statuettes for original score, lead actor and costume design.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

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— Emily Rome and Amy Kaufman

Photo: Michel Hazanavicius backstage in the press room at the Academy Awards on Sunday night. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.

Oscars 2012: Woody Allen wins for original screenplay

February 26, 2012 |  7:30 pm

Woody Allen

"Midnight in Paris" writer-director Woody Allen won the Oscar for original screenplay at the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday night.

The Paris-set film stars Owen Wilson as a successful Hollywood screenwriter who roams the streets of the French city encountering literary and artistic megaliths of the past in his present. Allen directed the love letter to Paris, which also stars Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Tom Hiddleston and Kathy Bates.

Allen's original screenplay won the Golden Globe and Writers Guild of America award and earned a nod at the BAFTA Film Awards. At the Oscars, Allen was nominated for director and the film was nominated  for best picture and art direction.

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Key Scenes Ballot | Cheat Sheet | Winners

The director previously won Oscars for "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Annie Hall."

"Midnight in Paris" bested "The Artist" writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, "Bridesmaids" writers Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig, "Margin Call" writer-director J.C. Chandor and "A Separation" writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

The Academy Awards are taking place in Hollywood and are being televised live on ABC. They are presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose membership was recently examined in depth by the Los Angeles Times.

For more Oscars breaking news and analysis, check back on 24 Frames.


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

Follow the Oscars live on Twitter

Timeline: Eight decades of Oscar history

— Nardine Saad

Photo: Woody Allen in November 2011. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times

Spirit Awards: Oscar preview as 'Descendants,' 'Artist' vie

February 25, 2012 |  9:15 am


“The Artist” and “The Descendants” will be competing for the best picture Oscar on Sunday night, but in just a few hours, the black-and-white homage to silent cinema and the Hawaii-set family drama also will be vying for the top prize from the independent film community, the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which will hand out trophies in 14 competitive categories in a relaxed beachside ceremony in Santa Monica.

Also nominated for best feature are “50/50,” “Beginners,” “Drive” and “Take Shelter.”

"The Artist" and "The Descendants" are facing off in other categories too, including the director contest in which French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius and Alexander Payne, respectively, will compete with Mike Mills ("Beginners"), Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") and Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter") for the award. In the best screenplay contest, Hazanavicius and Payne, with his writing partners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, will go up against Mills for his "Beginners" script, Tom McCarthy for "Win Win" and Joseph Cedar for the Israeli film "Footnote." 

FULL LIST: Nominees

In terms of the acting contests, Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is also nominated at the Spirits for her portrayal of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn." Competing against her in the female lead category are Lauren Ambrose for "Think of Me," Rachael Harris for "Natural Selection," Adepero Oduye for "Pariah" and Elizabeth Olsen for "Martha Marcy May Marlene."

Two of the men nominated for lead actor at the Academy Awards are nominated for Spirit Awards as well: Demian Bichir for his work in the immigration-themed drama "A Better Life" and Jean Dujardin for his turn as a charming movie star in "The Artist." They're up against Woody Harrelson for his role in the drama "Rampart," Michael Shannon for "Take Shelter" and Ryan Gosling for "Drive."

Bad news for Gosling watchers, though: The actor is shooting a movie and is not expected to attend the ceremony.

Check back soon for details on the winners at the ceremony, which gets underway at 1:30 p.m.


Full coverage: Oscars 2012

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Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot | Timeline

— Gina McIntyre

Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Nick Krause in "The Descendants" (Fox Searchlight);  Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist" (The Weinstein Co.).

Oscar predictions: 'The Artist' to take picture, director races

February 25, 2012 |  7:00 am

The Artist

The Envelope's Gold Standard columnist Glenn Whipp is sweeping through all 24 Oscar categories this week, predicting the winners. Check previous posts for tips on marking your Oscar pool ballots for the music categories; short films; sound races; animation, documentary and foreign films; visual crafts; and the screenplay and editing races.

Here, a look at the final two categories -- picture and director -- which will likely bring some serious noise for “The Artist.”


The nominees:

“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“The Help”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

And the winner is … “The Artist.” It became ridiculously popular to compare this year’s best picture race to the Republican presidential primary, casting “The Artist” as the middling Mitt Romney-like candidate that nobody particularly loves but who will somehow end up winning, much to the consternation of True Believers across the land.

The problem with this analogy is that while you might be hard-pressed to find a passionate Romney enthusiast outside his own immediate family, quite a few people truly love “The Artist,” among them folks who aren’t easily won over by nostalgia or charming trifles. The New York Film Critics Circle gave it best picture, as did numerous other critics groups. Those Cannes snobs nominated it for the Palme d’Or and gave the dog, Uggie, a special prize. Yes, the movie’s box-office has been slight, unless you consider that it’s a silent movie imported from France! Given those peculiarities, it has practically put up “Harry Potter” numbers.

The Producers Guild win all but sealed the deal. Back-to-back best picture winners for Harvey Weinstein. And he has Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino lined up this coming fall. Let the backlash begin!

Unless … The backlash swings into action early. Then maybe enough voters thought that the pitch-perfect, contemporary family dynamics at the heart of “The Descendants” merited a win. Hey, it is the only nominee not set in the past.


The nominees:

“The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius
“The Descendants,” Alexander Payne
“Hugo,” Martin Scorsese
“Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen
“The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick

And the winner is … Since the Directors Guild winner has taken this Oscar 57 times in its 63-year history, relative newcomer Hazanavicius (he’s practically a toddler compared with most of the rest of this field) wins over the worthier likes of Scorsese and Malick. Too bad last year’s bridesmaid, David Fincher, won’t be at the bar to offer consolation.

Unless … Voters name “The Artist” best picture, but decide there’s room enough to honor that other nostalgic love letter to Hollywood’s past, "Hugo."


New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

DGA names 'The Artist's' Michel Hazanavicius best director

Oscars 2012: Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist." Credit: Weinstein Co.


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