Sheep Eating Artist Grass

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.”

  • Alexander

    If Artist wins in LA, the next Wells heading needs to read, “Listen you fuckers, you screwheads, here’s a man who would not take it anymore.”

    Just kidding. I haven’t even seen The Artist yet, and I intend to do so in the next 72 hours or so, but I am willing to think that the emerging herd-like onslaught isn’t completely warranted.

  • K. Bowen

    It’s the new Shakespeare in Love.

  • C.C. Baxter

    ^ That’s exactly what it is. The thing is, it’s one of those films that would be easy to like on its own terms if it wasn’t so ridiculously overpraised.

  • Kit Sung

    Goodness, get a grip!

    Last year the Social Network won all the critics award and it didn’t win the oscar. So theres still a chance that War Horse will win..oh wait, you hate that as well…ah, poor Wells…

  • ModernLifeIsRubbish

    I wonder if Midnight in Paris could have won Best Picture had it come out later in the year. Doesn’t it hit those same feel-good, feel-a-bit-cultured, sentimental notes? And even if it has a bit of anxiety about nostalgia embedded in its DNA, it still has that complete romantic-fantasy ending.

  • ModernLifeIsRubbish

    Oh, and obviously The Artist or War Horse will win Best Picture because the Movie Godz are not pleased with Wells turning on Steve McQueen. They told me so.

  • Alexander

    It’s The Descendants!

  • K. Bowen

    But Midnight in Paris actually has one really good thing to say that’s relevant to our times: it’s self-indulgent to live in a fantasy of the past. Our times are overloaded with romanticized history. Look at, for example, The Artist.

    FIlm critics spend all year lecturing the public about eating their cinematic spinach. Now it’s their turn and suddenly they don’t like spinach, either.

  • AnnaZed
  • Rashad

    K Bowen: That point would have been made better if Wilson’s character didn’t have everything go right for him in a romanticized outlook of Paris

  • actionlover

    Christalmighty you’re a drama queen. In the above words of Kit, get a grip.

  • CinemaPhreak

    @actionlover – after all this screeching, I’m pretty sure when I finally see THE ARTIST Jeff’s histrionics over this is going to be like when your girlfriend screams about a bug and you find her cowering in the corner over some harmless spider.

    Sheesh, man the fuck up and get a grip indeed.

  • the400blows

    Agreed, this was a weak year. And the LA film critics have taste.

  • lazarus

    San Francisco Critics Circle also weighed in today:

    Pic–Tree of Life

    Director–Malick

    Actor–Oldman(!)

    Actress–Swinton

    Sup. Actor–Brooks

    Sup. Actress–Redgrave

    Foreign–Certified Copy

    Animated–Rango

    Orig. Screenplay–Margin Call

    Adapt. Screenplay–Tinker Tailor

  • lindsey

    Could it be that the majority of critics actually know what they are doing and have a mind of their own when it comes to who is deserving of the best picture and that the best picture might actually be “The Artist?” I just find it funny that JW has such a high opinion of himself and that he alone is the only person with integrity in a nation full of “Sheep eating “Artist” grass. What an ego! How do you carry that thing around every day? It must weigh a ton.

  • Kakihara

    Baxter: Shakespeare in Love was a piece of shit. I actually do enjoy The Artist, though. And frankly, it’d be a great middle-finger to Hollywood to see a black and white silent film getting more attention and awards than all these over-produced CG wank-fests with political undertones and/or overtones.

  • dayXexists

    It’s just sad to me that our choices this year come down to “The Artist”, “The Descendants”, “War Horse”, and “Extremely Loud”. These are all such sentimental, PC, “feel good” films… There’s no edge. It’s just coddling audiences… That whole need to be uplifted… we got that last year with King’s Speech. There’s so many darker, more adult films that could be in the conversation… Dragon Tattoo, Shame, Drive, Blood & Honey, or even lighter but less cookie-cutter fare like Hugo or Moneyball.. I’m not saying a film has to depress you to be best picture worthy but these choices are all so typical and safe.

  • Rashad

    Darker =/= adult.

    Hugo isn’t cookie cutter? Blood and Honey would be labeled with the typical Oscar bait tagline if people weren’t so enamored with Jolie

  • dayXexists

    Rashad, IMO Blood+Honey would be getting alot more awards’ attention if it wasn’t directed by her. It might get a couple Golden Globe nods but that’s about it.

    Hugo is unexpected, and a huge departure for Scorsese. That he did such a great job with it is an accomplishment. The above mentioned titles are all more the same from these directors, minus The Artist whose director people weren’t familiar with before.

  • bill weber

    The Artist is not a silent film. I wish it had been, when it suddenly appropriated six or seven minutes of the “Vertigo” love theme for its climax.

    To the degree that it is a pastiche of one, it does not particularly feel or look like a 1920s film, either.

    2011 was a terrific year, but not for Hollywood studio films.

  • bluefugue

    >These are all such sentimental, PC, “feel good” films…

    I have no idea in what sense The Descendants is “politically correct” (or even what that would mean), but I would say it’s a pretty simplistic reading to call it a feel-good film. Yes, in the end, the characters are learning and growing, but there’s a lot of darkness there too.

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