I'm not a big fan of The Artist, but I'm also not a big fan of the Academy Awards. The two are probably meant to be together. And after winning an unspeakable amount of critic awards over the weekend (Peter Martin mentioned some yesterday) and nominations for Critics' Choice Awards today, Michel Hazanavicius' homage to Hollywood's golden age (not just the silent era) is on fire as the apparent frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar. It's closest competition seems to be from Hugo and The Descendants, though War Horse could also race into the lead.
Of course, there's been a backlash against the film for a while from those of us who think The Artist is just okay, not the best of the year. Still, backlash hasn't kept a whole lot of hated films from taking the top honor. Right now, and I doubt this will change, I anticipate the French film to be the first silent Best Picture winner since the very first Academy Awards. It will be a fitting bookend just before the world ends next year, won't it?
What are people saying about The Artist as the Best Picture frontrunner? Here's The Conversation heard around the blogosphere and Twitter:
It's looking like we may be in for a best picture Oscar battle between the movies about the movies, The Artist and Hugo, which have looked like two of the strongest contenders for weeks (along with The Descendants), and solidified that standing with a field-leading eleven nominations each this morning. Neither film was built to win Oscars in the way that, say, The King's Speech was last year -- indeed, the former is a silent black-and-white film and the latter is a kids' movie -- but if even jaded critics and pundits are susceptible to their emotional wiles, then it's hard to imagine that Academy members won't be. - Scott Feinberg, The Race (The Hollywood Reporter)
The Artist and Hugo have dominated the early critics prizes so far — the question in my mind at this point is, Can Hugo actually win? It certainly has a lot going for it: a prestige director, a lovely screenplay, gorgeous technical attributes. But will it have enough support from the actors’ branch, the largest unit in the Academy? No film in the last 15 years has won Best Picture without at least scoring a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Cast, so I’ll be looking closely at tomorrow’s SAG Award announcement. If Hugo makes the cut, then it’s within striking distance for the win. - Dave Karger, Inside Movies (Entertainment Weekly)
At this point in the Best Picture contest, The Artist’s biggest problem is Hugo, Hugo’s biggest problem is The Artist, and Midnight in Paris' biggest problem is that these two newer, higher-profile movies are now vying for the “let’s go on a magical journey to a more inspirational time” voting demographic that Allen has had to himself for most of 2011. A lot of advertising dollars are being spent on the proposition that this mood, which propelled The King’s Speech to a very 1980s-ish win over The Social Network last year, still prevails. - Mark Harris, Hollywood-Prospectus (Grantland)
As far as the movies up for Best Picture, it's certainly looking like the big race is being led by two relatively small movies, Michel Hazanavicius' silent movie The Artist and Alexander Payne's touching dramedy The Descendants. Steven Spielberg's War Horse and Martin Scorsese's Hugo has gained quite a bit of support, and crowdpleasers like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris and The Help are sure to get in, but none of these have the sort of overwhelming support to pull out a victory. - Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net
It's a three-horse race for Best Picture, with "The Artist" still leading the pack, more contemporary voters leaning towards "The Descendants" and a small, cultish following developing for "Tree Of Life." The absence of "The Help" and "War Horse" in any major categories could spell doom for those once-frontrunners. - Gabe Toro, The Playlist
People voting to support the latest by dear, beloved Martin Scorsese -- keeper of the cineaste flame -- is understandable despite 75% of Hugo being a mostly tedious sit. But support for The Artist is pure Zelig thinking -- a vote for pleasantness and taking the easy schmoozy way out and sparkling, silver-toned good vibes. - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
The fact that this movie is being proclaimed the Best Film of 2011 by various critics' groups is literally—there's no other word for it—insane. One could make a snide remark or two about the various members of said groups perhaps strongly identifying with the film's title character's entitled indignance at his imposed obselescence, but that would just be mean. However, I will say that any expectation that these proclamations will effect some kind of populist wellspringing on the film's behalf is even more insane. We shall see. - Glenn Kenney, Some Came Running
I've spoken to several film-buff friends who came away from the film feeling disappointed. I can understand why: at this point it's been praised to the skies, and people--especially old-movie aficionados--are going to see it with outsized expectations. "The Artist" isn't the Second Coming, or a reinvention of silent-film techniques: it's a charming story that successfully emulates the look and feel of the late 1920s. I don't think filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius has any pretensions about his work: he just wanted to make an entertaining movie that paid homage to the silent era. In the same vein, I've talked to other savvy moviegoers who haven't been won over by "Hugo" and "The Descendants." They're perfectly entitled to their opinions, but I fear they have gone to see these films all too aware of the awards and lavish praise they've received. - Leonard Maltin, Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy (Indiewire)
The Artist is so clearly the Oscar frontrunner that it could face backlash and ultimately lose its grip on the lead spot. [...] The Artist is out there in front, the most powerful position but also the most vulnerable. Any narrative shift would certainly shift away from The Artist. However, the interesting thing about this season: there is no diametric opposite to wrangle votes away from the presumed favorite. - Jason McKiernan, Next Projection
Long pegged as an awards frontrunner by the critics who saw it and loved it at festivals, this French-made love letter to silent movies made good on its potential last week in a big way, winning the top prize from the New York Film Critics Circle, scoring a handful of Independent Spirit Nominations, and opening to strong box office in limited release to boot. It's still a smallish movie, which might make it hard for the Best Picture win to happen, but at this point it would take something very, very strange for The Artist to miss out on Best Picture. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
I guess it’ll be interesting to see how the guilds swing this year, though last year it didn’t matter. The Social Network snapped up just about every award in sight, but Oscar didn’t listen. Regardless of how the guilds pan out, I still think its The Artist’s to lose. - Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
@metacritic: The Best Picture race so far: 1. The Artist 2. Tree of Life 3. The Descendants; more at our Awards Scorecard -> http://ow.ly/7XanN
@BretEastonEllis: The Artist will win best picture, best director and best actor at the Oscars next year. Good night.
@suzanneellis: Love seeing all this Oscar buzz surrounding The Artist -- such a wonderful film, here's hoping it wins big!! #favefilmof2011
@joezorry: People over at #OscarBuzz does not seem to have an idea what makes a good movie, or seen one. Calling it now "The Artist" for Best Picture.
@Matthew_Lucas: Watch it pull a SOCIAL NETWORK. I still think Daldry is in it to win it.
@Jeffrey_Archer: Went to a screening of War Horse yesterday - if it doesn't win the Oscar for best picture, I'll be fascinated to see the film that beats it
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.