Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Artist

2011. 100 min. PG-13. Simultaneous double bird-flip, one pistol handled in an unsafe fashion. So parent, you are strongly cautioned.
IMDB says... A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions.

The 73rd Virgin says... Best Picture. Really? The entire story is summed up in the sentence above. This is a pleasant, fun little slip of a movie that isn’t nearly up to the hype. The description and the title and the previews might have you expecting an energetic tragedy like “A Star is Born” but it owes more to "Singin’ In the Rain" without having anything like that movie’s level of humor or energy.

There is no reason this should have won Best Picture other than Hollywood loves to genuflect (or wank off) to its own false history from a safe distance. It’s even better when foreigners are the main wankers, but are filming in Los Angeles. These are almost reasons enough to dislike the movie, but I must admit, it is awfully entertaining at its best. Except for minutes roughly 50 through 80, when I was starting to reflexively check my watch and sigh. Needed some excuse for more dancing in here somewhere. And if you’ve seen any of the half-dozen variations on the theme of “A Star Is Born”, then the only tension is whether the aging star will walk off into the surf at the end.

The producers appear to have hedged their bets by stocking the supporting roles with recognizable stars of a certain age and salary range, perhaps hoping to catch boomers' attention with John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell, etc. Goodman is perfect. As much as I like McDowell, he’s hardly there.

Some cool music; some energy; a little - not enough - nice dancing; and winsome actors are all that this has going for it. And the dog nearly steals the show.

But if some young fans of Step Up Revolution were hoping to see some of that cool dancing that Grandma used to watch, they won’t really see it ‘til the final 10 minutes. They’d be better off seeing “Top Hat". That said, the finale is a big payoff and so is the final aural, not oral, punch line.

I’ll go four sheep so I don’t look like a crabby old codger, but the black and white film and the silence are the only new things here.

I’m not foolish enough to think YouTube would allow any clips so here’s the trailer, in case you’ve been living under a rock under a prison.

And here's Fred Astaire in Top Hat (no embed allowed). He gets to cookin' at about 1:20.

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