I recently went to see the movie “The Artist.” I had heard all these raves about how it should get awards that would rank it up with “Gone With the Wind.” Well, I saw it, and I would say it ranks right up there with Godzilla. This movie is bad, really bad. I am a movie aficionado and think I have a good feel for the worth of a movie. Well, if this movie gets so much praise why did I find it so bad.
You should know before you go to see it that it is a silent movie in its entirety. I knew this going in but I think there were several people in the theater who did not know that. They left within the first 10 minutes of the movie. A part of me wishes I had left with them, but not for the same reason. The premise of the movie is how two actors deal with the transition of movies from the silent era to the talking era. That in itself could have made for a great movie but alas, Hollywood, as it tends to be, was so enamoured with itself thought it would be just great to leave out all dialogue. Maybe that kept the script writing costs down? Hard to tell. The movie is not particularly funny, well acted, or riveting. It was just sort of there. You got the entire idea by the time the first 30 minutes had elapsed. But that is not enough for Hollywood. In their self-congratulatory way they had to continue for another hour or so of over-acting, mugging as they call it. It got old, fast. If you have a chance to see this movie on HBO or like television service, don’t bother. It really is not worth it even on the small screen, let alone having to pay to go see it.
I truly get the idea of an “artsy” movie as “The Artist” attempted. But the silent movie era died for a reason, and it needed to stay dead. The reason many actors, mostly men, did not make the transition was their voices. Screen legend of the silent era Tom Mix could not make the transition because of his high voice. He did not sound like the masculine cowboy he had portrayed in the silent films. Other actors were saddled with heavy accents that they were unable to overcome. And some, like the male star of “The Artist,” simply did not want to make the transition. For some unknown reason the producers of “The Artist” got this idea in their head that they could make this wonderful silent movie. They failed. They were so full of themselves that they failed to realize they were mostly full of shit.
Movies of the 1930s and 1940s were usually wonderful affairs. In the naive presentations they seldom gave performances of over-acting. They usually had a fair number of character actors who helped fill out the movie. And their plots did not require a lot of thought to understand. Those movies were made to be purely entertaining. It was not often that movies of that era tried to make a point of some sort. The truly cleaver of that era knew how to make a point and still be very entertaining. The Marx Brothers’ move “Duck Soup” was a full on frontal attack of the land speculators of 1930s Florida. The movie was very clever and very funny too. You did not have to understand the back story to enjoy the movie. It was not until the movies “Citizen Kane” in 1941 and “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946 that audience were confronted with truly thought-provoking plots. But each of those movies was a masterpiece unto itself that endures to this day. “Citizen Kane” was Orson Wells’ parody of publisher William Randolph Hearst and “The Best Years of Our Lives” visited the early after years of veterans who had just returned from World War 2.
The thing about the movies from that era is they did not take themselves too seriously. They were never movies that said “hey look at us” but were either “hey look at this” or “have a good time.”
Another thing about that era is the actors. I have a long list of actors from back then whose movies I will watch. Present day actors who I will always go see is a short list. Sadly, too many of today’s actors think they are a lot better than they are. For example, I have given Will Farrell too many chances. He has made one good movie as far as I am concerned, “Elf.” In every other movie he has made I see him playing the identical character. This says to me he is extremely limited in his ability. At the other end of that spectrum are George Clooney and Meryl Streep who convincingly play a wide area of characters. But who are today’s character actors? What actors are not so full of themselves that they willingly play a particular sort of role in every movie?
I read a lot of books and I can name any number of really well-written books that have never made it to the screen. There is no shortage of script material out there but there is an extreme shortage of good scripts in movies. Why is that? Is Hollywood so lacking in motivation that it choses not to go after these stories? Is Hollywood itself so devoid in talent that it cannot either write a good script or bring a really well written book to the screen? Maybe Hollywood is really lacking in the acting talent necessary to pull of some of these stories. Whatever it is, the product Hollywood produces is mostly disappointing. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if one year at the Oscars the Academy announced that for this year there were no great movies so there will be no “Best Movie” award!