On 11.30, or a day after the New York Film Critics Circle voted to hand The Artist its Best Picture prize, I got down on my rhetorical knees and pleaded with the nation’s critics not to “tumble for The Artist like dominoes…please, I’m begging.” But that’s exactly what’s happening, to judge by this morning’s critics award voting. The Boston Film Critics Society has given The Artist its Best Picture trophy, and so has the New York Film Critics Online.
Update: Thank God on bended knees that the Los Angeles Film Critics Association has resisted the domino effect and given its Best Picture Award to Alexander Payne’s‘s The Descendants. A critics group finally realized what was happening, stepped up to the plate and said “enough! We have to choose something else! And incidentally better!”
All I know is that I’ve never before felt such contempt for the BFCS and the NYFCO. Because despite the LAFCA Descendants win, their championing of The Artist today makes it almost certain that the Zelig impulse will manifest across the nation in critics group after critics group, and then, in all likelihood, in guild after guild and then among Academy members.
The Artist — a pleasingly thin and insubstantial entertainment, a French-made and produced That’s Entertainment! for the 21st Century — has become the soft consensus choice that will probably sweep across the land like Genghis Khan and take the Best Picture Oscar.
Unless, of course, fate intercedes and The Descendants or Extremely Loud or War Horse gains ground among SAG and Academy voters, etc. Which would be worse, War Horse or The Artist winning Best Picture? The former, I think.
I don’t hate The Artist. I rather like it. It’s a very engaging and pleasing little film (as long as you don’t see it twice, in which case it does a big fade). But I’m starting to hate all those soft-bellied, default-minded critics who’ve paved the way for its Best Picture coronation.
We’ve known all along that 2011 hasn’t been the strongest year. And so the hope, I wrote two weeks ago, was that critics would show a little bravery and spread the love around “with a little mixed award salad — a little love for Moneyball a sprinkling of Artist bits, a few Descendants olives, a little Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close vinaigrette, etc.” No such luck.
On 11.30 I wrote that “with The Artist having taken yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture prize, there will be a natural tendency for critics groups around the country to regard this Weinstein Co. release as a safe and likable default choice for Best Picture in their own balloting. Plus any critic voting for an entertaining black-and-white silent film is sending a message to colleagues, editors and especially readers that he/she is willing to embrace the novel or unusual, which indicates a certain integrity.
“I understand how celebrating a film that mimics how movies looked and felt in the 1920s is a way of saying that you respect classic cinema and Hollywood’s history, blah blah. And by doing so critics will get to lead at least some of their readers into the past, and seem wise and gracious in the bargain, and all the while supporting a film that’s mainly about glisten and glitter and decades-old cliches.”