The Artist just won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It couldn't have happened to a nicer film.
When Brook and I first saw the film, just after it first opened (one of the great things about LA is that limited releases and small films always play here--usually just a few minutes from our apartment), we both immediately thought it was the best movie we'd seen this year.
While it's probably not in the conversation for one of the all-time greats (in my opinion, it was a middling year, at best for movies), there is something genuinely inspirational about it that makes it most deserving, at least in comparison to this years crop. Two things, really.
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about the film isn't the film itself but its format. A silent, black and white movie, produced, directed, and "starring" mostly unknown (in America) French people! That anyone would dare to make a silent, colorless film in this day of ubiquitous sound and gorgeous high-definition color screens everywhere--even in our pockets--is beyond risky, almost lunatic. Yet, there is also something pure and noble about it. There is no possible way that anyone involved in the film could have predicted this success (and they've said as much). This was a film made for love and joy, not profits. It's heartening and inspirational that they were rewarded for that. It's a reminder to all of us to do what we love and feel guided to do, for the best and purest reasons, and to let the rest of it take care of itself. By being true to ourselves, authentic, and willing to take risk, the rest works itself out in the end.
The story, too, is uplifting, though admittedly not original. Of course, in the films' defense, it can't be a really intricate, complex plot since, after all, the actors have to convey virtually everything through mime. It's a story of George Valentin, a Hollywood icon who we meet at the very pinnacle of his profession. He has "everything" one could want in a worldly way--fame, wealth, good looks, even great talent. Yet we also see glimpses that his inner life doesn't match his exterior success. For example, his relationship with his wife is cold and distant behind the scenes. Eventually, through changes in technology--the transition from silent films to "talkies," George loses everything, his fame, his wealth, even his good looks, as he descends into squalor. He becomes an alcoholic, lives virtually alone and forgotten, and eventually comes to the brink of suicide.
Yet, in the end, the genuine, unconditional love of woman, Peppy, that he met at the pinnacle of his fame, saves and redeems him. Peppy is truly kind and selfless. She loves George for who he truly is, not for his fame or wealth (which he no longer has anyway).
There is profound truth to this simple fact. No worldly attainments bring us happiness, generate genuine, close relationships, or bring any kind of light or joy into our lives. It's much more profound things such as unconditional love and selfless service that bringing lasting happiness.