A few months back, a number of my Oscar blogging colleagues had been pointing out that no movie about Hollywood or the movie business had ever won Best Picture at the Oscars, which at the time was more of a disclaimer for what was already looking to be the frontrunner. Now it’s a few months later and two of the top Best Picture contenders are movies about making movies that either celebrate Hollywood as a whole or celebrate the earliest filmmaking pioneers. Clearly, this is the year when Hollywood is ready to celebrate itself in a big way and the trend of movies about moviemaking not being considered Oscar-worthy is coming to an end.
As far back as November, when I interviewed The Artist director Michel Hazanavicus and Hugo producer Graham King, I was already asking both of them about the fact these two complimentary movies were being released not only in the same year but the very same week. As you probably know by now, The Artist is Hazanavicius’ tribute to the Hollywood of yesterday, the silent movie era and how things changed with the introduction of sound, while Hugo is a tribute to one of the early filmmaking pioneers, Georges Méliès, by one of America’s living legends, Martin Scorsese, something that’s elevated the film above its roots as a family film based on a children’s books.
Obviously, it’s just a huge coincidence that these two movies were being made at the same time but surely, it’s not a coincidence that both films have struck a fancy with Academy members and that these are the movies with the most Oscar nominations. The funny thing is that the love for one of the movies has often meant vehemently opposed to the other, as if one deserves that Best Picture win more than the other, which makes absolutely no sense to me. If anything, both films deserve the recognition they’ve been receiving because they do make an effort to honor the history of filmmaking.
It’s long been reported that the average median of Academy members is somewhere around the age of sixty- face it, if you’re invited to join the prestigious organization, why on earth would you choose to bow out before the grim reaper comes knocking at your door? If there really are that many older Academy members, it does make sense that they would be charmed by the two films that honor the moviemaking of yesteryear and remind them why they got into filmmaking in the first place.
It’s fairly obvious there are a lot of hard-working people in the movie business making the movies we all love, so why not use movies like The Artist and Hugo to remind moviegoers about all those people behind the scenes and what they’ve brought to the table? And what better way to do that then to tack an Oscar winner label in front of one or both?
Even having two less Oscar nominations, we still think The Artist has the clear advantage if proven by nothing else than its two acting nominations, which shows support from the largest branch of the Academy. They didn’t even nominate Sir Ben Kingsley who was excellent in Hugo as Meiles himself.
Either way, 2011 is likely to be remembered as the year when the film industry finally decided to give itself a pat on the back rather than embrace some big world issue or some historic epic or some feel-good musical. Since it’s been 84 years since the very first Oscars honored filmmaking, surely it’s about time that the current generation of Oscar voter pays homage to those that came before them and passes on the torch to the next generation, right?