December 07, 2011

The Artist- Paris Theater

Mike: After seeing Coriolanus on Saturday afternoon, we headed to the Paris Theater on West 58th Street to finally watch The Artist, one of my most-anticipated films of the year. I have never been to the Paris Theater - it's a cool, big place, and I think the only big single screen movie theater left in Manhattan aside from the Ziegfeld. Seats are pretty small, though - Broadway theater style, so you get to know your neighbors pretty well. There are two levels, and whenever there are two levels we usually head upstairs. So that's what we did, and sat in the very front row of the mezzanine. Looking down, we quickly realized that we should have instead sat downstairs in the very front row. The front row at the Paris is pretty far from the screen (because there's a small stage in front of the screen) so if you're tall like me, it's probably the best place to sit and stretch your legs and you'll still have a good view. It wasn't terrible sitting upstairs and I survived the 100 minute movie, but it would have been tough to sit through anything longer than that.

The audience at the Paris Theater is much like what you'll see at a Broadway play. The audience was quiet and respectful, but the average age was probably over 60. We heard one cell phone go off during the movie.

I was really looking forward to the The Artist, and while I liked it, I felt somewhat disappointed. And that's only because the film has been overhyped. The Artist is a fine film, but in my mind not deserving of all the honors it's been getting. It's not a film that should get any Oscar nominations. Jean Dujardin is very good, but I don't think it's a Best Actor performance. The film is very clever and entertaining, but the only award it deserves is some mid-tier film festival Best In Show or something like that.

I'm a pretty big silent film enthusiast. I got into them maybe about ten years ago. I devoured the filmographies of Lloyd, Keaton, Chaplin, etc. I used to watch TCM's Silent Sunday every week. Or tape it least, since it didn't actually start until early Monday morning. I still get excited whenever a new restoration is done, especially when it's a film that has gone unseen for decades. And discoveries of films thought to be lost give me hot flashes. I even once flew out to LA for a silent film festival. So, I've seen many, many silent films. I'm by no means an expert or authority on silent films, but I think I know them pretty well - the style, the tone, the mannerisms, the humor. The Artist captures it all extremely well, while at the same time being very moving and entertaining. But it's really just telling a story the way all stories were told on the screen in the 20s. Films were evolving very fast back then, and the way silent pictures looked in the late 20s is amazing considering the age of the artform. It went from stationary clips of just a few seconds to brilliant epics like The Wind and The Big Parade and Greed and The Crowd and Napoleon and The General and so on in like 30 years. Is making a film like that now, with eighty years of technological advances and hindsight, such a grand achievement?

All that said, it was nice to see a new silent film, and The Artist is a fine film, sound or not. But I'm baffled that it's an Oscar frontrunner.

Erica: I really liked this movie. I think it definitely deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. Jean Dujardin did a fantastic job in the lead role. Uggie (the dog) did a great job as well. I want a dog like that. The Artist captures the feel of 1920s-era silent films with extreme perfection. From the actors to the wardrobe, it is spot on. For 100 minutes, I felt like I was in that time, until I heard a cell phone ring. That kind of ruined it for me. With all the crap that is in theaters nowadays, it is refreshing to see a movie like The Artist. I think this is exactly what we need right now, a movie that reminds us that we don't need special effects or 3D, we just need good acting and great entertainment and I think the Academy will be all over this movie.

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