Home Media “The Artist” Scores Higher Than “Social Network” or “King’s Speech”

Wednesday brings the release of “The Artist,” the most satisfying and unusual film of 2011. Michel Hazanaivicius’s black and white homage to silent films is hilarious and poignant. It features, I think, the potential Oscar nominees: Best Actor for Jean Du Jardin, Best Supporting Actress for Berenice Bejo, and Best Supporting Actor for Uggie the Dog.

A dog? Yes! I see no reason why Uggie cannot be nominated and win, frankly. His work on “The Artist” is superb. More audience members will exit theaters talking about him than about any other supporting actor this season. Plus, the director says he was easy to work with. “It’s all a matter of sausage,” says Hazanavicius. Certainly, Uggie could get Golden Globe and National Board of Review citings. And unlike Ricky Gervais, he won’t bite the hand that feeds him.

“The Artist” also has a 97% ranking on rottentomatoes.com. This is just about the highest rating of the year. It’s higher than either “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech.” It’s also a movie built for publicity stunts. This week, Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughters hosted a screening in Hollywood. How long before the descendants of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton also show their approval? “The Artist” is full of riffs on silent films, recalling all the old masters. At the same time, Hazanavicius creates new iconic moments–and you’ll see them.

When we saw “The Artist” in Cannes last spring, everyone wanted to know who the main actors were–they are French and unknown to us. DuJardin is the star of a popular French TV comedy with his wife. Bejo is well known in movies and married to Hazanacius. All of them are studying English quickly, getting ready to meet Americans. They are a wordly, sexy, fun bunch. By the time they start picking up gold trophies, I think they will be well versed.

“The Artist.” I predict will become the must-see movie of this season very quickly. And then everyone can start guessing which movies it’s riffing on. (Hint: there’s a lot of “Citizen Kane.”)

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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