Indie Dominates Again with The Artist's Oscar Win

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By Bruce Edwin

After being nominated for ten Academy Awards, The Artist took home five awards, including best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Costume Design, Best Director, Best Music for Original Score, Best Lead Actor, and Best Picture. The win of The Artist continues the trend of more independent, smaller pictures, rather than blockbusters winning best picture. Other films including Kings Speech, Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire, Crash, and Million Dollar Baby are but a few of the other lower budget, smaller screen released motion pictures that have won an Academy Award for best picture recently, without having blockbuster status. This indicates perhaps three things to consider; Academy members' overall shift in thinking, a culture wanting films more daring, and a change in global, sociopolitical landscapes.

One, The Academy's views seems to have shifted to that of being more liberal and daring in their tastes over the years, as those who used to be Hollywood's younger star players reach greater status and have taken more involvement in producing, filmmaking, and voting. Two, the Hollywood blockbuster formula - while perhaps tried and true, can get boring. The Academy and audiences are ready to embrace new ideas and pictures that are more of an underdog status. Further, while we still have a long way to go in this regard; gender, racial, and gender preference minorities are gaining more power politically- which is being reflected cinematically. And thirdly, Hollywood, like the world at large, is becoming more interdependent globally, with less of a tendency to adhere to isolationism with regard to financing and shoot locations - due to shifts in the American economy- which in turn has opened up expansionism of more ideological migration from other countries into America in unity with such economic shifts inside of and outside of America.

Regardless of the premise of the aforestated, or any of the precursors' arguable negative consequents, the cultural impact on Hollywood and America due to these tendencies have led to several positive things including fostering a spirit of more international harmony, more artistic diversity outside of the mainstream, and more balanced compensation of independent motion picture creators. In consideration of these facts in more detail; First, it has opened the door to new ideas, and new considerations of thought outside of our traditional American paradigm, fostering a spirit of potentially greater understanding between nations through healthy and / or realistic depictions of other races and nationalities. Secondly, it has exposed audiences to great new films that otherwise may not normally have ever been talked about our seen beyond by a small arthouse fringe. And thirdly, it has opened the doors widely to a daring group of auteur filmmakers and artisans to profit more largely from the labors of their craft- which they so rightly deserve.

Congratulations to the creators of The Artist - Best Picture of the year. The following is an excerpt of a backstage interview with one of the films two stars, Jean Dujardin, who won The Academy Award for Best Lead Actor.

Q. (...) I would like to know what was the process of creating this character and was it any different from the way you created other talking characters?

A. Jean: It was not really intellectual, and I'm not an intellectual. No, I watch I watched a lot of movies. Douglas Fairbanks movies, Gene Kelly movies. I had fun pretending to be a movie star in 1920's!

The following is an excerpt of a back stage interview with The Artist's director Michel Hazanavicius, who won The Academy Award for Best Director.

Q. (You) thanked Billy Wilder three times and not once...

A. Michael: Yes. So I I thanked Billy Wilder three times, because I had to make it short, but I could (...) thank him a thousand a thousand times, because I think he is the perfect director. This is the perfect example and he's the soul of Hollywood, and (he) most of all, I wanted to thank him. And I love him.

Q. What was the most challenging for you to make it here in Hollywood, if you can give us a little bit some kind of anecdote, what it is the most difficult to make it here?

A. Michael: Actually, it was not so difficult, (...) I think because of the movie and because of the connection between people and the movie. I mean, from the very beginning, it was (... the) end of August and September. I've been in three festivals; Telluride, Toronto and New York. And then I realized that people really enjoy the movie and really love the movie. So when people love the movie, it's not very difficult because you are not selling, you're not promoting. You just smile and say "thank you," and it's not so difficult. (...) Maybe the most difficult thing was the back and forth and being here while the kids were in Paris. But this is a personal difficulty- I mean, (... for a) professional part it was not so difficult.

Q. (Is your) next step Hollywood?

A. Michael: It's not (the) next step. I mean, this movie brings me some opportunities to meet people and some of them propose to me sent scripts, or told me that they wanted to work with me. And if there's a chance to make a good movie I will do it really with honor and great pleasure, because people know how to make movies here! So there's some beautiful actors, beautiful scriptwriters and, yes, I hope I will make a movie here once. It won't be the next one. And also, I I have a wonderful producer who is French and I want to work with him again. And when you have that kind of producer you don't drop him off. You stay you stuck to him. You stick to him! That's better I think.

Q. With the popularity "The Artist" and "Hugo," what would you say is your favorite silent film or silent films that you helped guide you through the process of making the film in that era?

A. Michael: It's very difficult to say one, because silent movie is not a genre, you know, (...) it's just a format. I would say that Murnau's movies, the American ones "Sunrise" and "City Girl," I think I prefer "City Girl", because I think it's more simple, but both of them are really great. King Vidor's, "The Crowd." It's a wonderful movie. Everybody can see it. It's easy to watch. It's very touching. It's moving picture and very modern. Tod Browning's, "The Unknown Gypsy Circus," (...) it's a great, great covert and sexy movie set in a gypsy circus, and it's really great (...) Borzage's movie(s), Von Sternberg movies like "Underworld" and "Docks of New York." "Underworld" is a great, great movie. "Docks of New York" is written by Ben Hecht who wrote "Scarface" after that (picture). It's a great movie. The great (...) Charlie Chaplin. You can you can spend a good week with that!

Q. Now, that you've made an accomplished silent film, what is the next door you're going to open? Are we talking about documentary, action, love story and will your beautiful wife be in this next movie?

A. Michael: (...) What I want to make now is an adaptation of an American movie named "The Search." It's a Fred Zinnemann movie movie from 1947 (close, it was 1948- editor) I think with Montgomery Clift, and I would like to make an adaptation of this movie and it's a melodrama with a political background and it would it would be a modern movie (...) and it will be with Berenice.

(To be continued in the next issue of The Hollywood Sentinel).

©2012, The Hollywood Sentinel. Interview transcript is provided with kind courtesy of The Academy, and is ©2012, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Oscar® in all forms is ©2012, AMPAS. All world rights reserved.