February, 2012 Oscar Reviews—

Hugo, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris —three films that center around common themes.


Hollywood Film-Makers: Bringing the Past “Back to Life”


With the Academy Awards just around the corner in February, anticipation is building to see which movie will end up receiving the Best Picture award, this year. Three movies have stood out to me as being among the “best pictures,” and for strikingly similar reasons. These are: Hugo, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris (with the latter being my personal favorite, although I thoroughly enjoyed all of them). The similarities among these three movies can be grouped around some common themes, which in general might include: romance, artists and artistic pursuits, as well as time period. Expanding upon the idea of time as a theme, two of the movies could be said to deal with the idea of time travel;with all three of them seeming to take place in whole or in part, during the early 20th century, and two specifically about Paris in the 1920’s. They also share aother commonality in that they are all in some way, about famous artists from the past, who worked in mediums as film-making or acting; or who were part of a literary and artistic genre. Each of these movies addresses one or more of these themes, but in distinctly different ways, making for some interesting contrasts and comparisons! This year, Hollywood can be said to be “bringing the past back to life,” in terms of its movies and production choices!


Film # 1
:

    Hugo and the Art of Movie-Making

Hugo movie poster

In the movie Hugo, themes include time, artists from the past, as well as the art of movie-making, as it was personified by an early pioneer of the industry, French filmmaker, George Méliès (b. 1861, d. 1938). Méliès produced some of the very first motion pictures which used techniques such as special effects, time–lapsed photography, and hand-colored imagery. His short films became famous during the late 1800’s, after he began his career as a magician, then later translated some of his skillful magic tricks into the innovative special effects seen in his short black and white films. These innovations were in fact, the precursors to many of the special effects seen in modern films today, and therefore Georges Méliès is credited with both the introduction of special effects, as well as the making of the very first motion pictures.

The movie Hugo was adapted from a fictional book written by Brian Selznick in 2007, called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. 1 Produced and directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie is a magical adaptation of the story about a young orphan boy in the late 19th or early 20th century, who lives alone inside of the clock tower of the Paris train station, where he maintains and cares for the clocks, but also has no friends or family. How he came to live there, and what happens with his future is what the movie is about.

In the movie, Hugo Cabret rediscovers a time from the past through tinkering with the clock machinery in the tower where he secretly lives and hides after becoming orphaned, when his father died tragically in a fire a few years before. His father had taught him how to care for the clock machinery, so he continues with this job. Hugo also has discovered that he has in his possession an automaton which is a mechanical machine-person that his father had acquired from a museum, and which he keeps in the clock tower and tinkers with. The death of his father is revealed in flashbacks in the movie, along with other incidents, that help to shape the story. Hugo remembers some of movies that his father had taken him to see before his death; in particular, one called “Voyage to the Moon.” Inadvertently, he finds a way to turn the automaton back on, and it helps Hugo to unlock a mystery that leads to the chance rediscovery of this movie, and eventually to the filmmaker himself, who he discovers is still alive—ultimately bringing both Hugo and the filmmaker together in an unexpected way. Hugo meets a young girl one day in the train station who eventually takes him to meet her uncle, whom she lives with. Her uncle happens to be the owner of a small toy shop, which Hugo has been stealing from. Eventually through this friendship with the young girl, Hugo finds a way to win over the shop owner. He later discovers that the shop owner is actually the filmmaker of “Voyage to the Moon,” the movie he remembered seeing with his father, and which the automaton has directed him to with its message. In events that follow, Hugo is able to help restore the movie and the automaton to the filmmaker. The movie, Hugo, gives the viewer insight into how movies have evolved from a historical perspective, and is a fascinating story for both adults and children alike, about this orphaned boy who finds a new life, and finally a loving family, after dealing with his own life hardships. The movie is filmed in 3-D, a twenty-first century special effect; a feature that further enhances the story from a visual perspective, as well as the world of clocks and mechanical devices in which the young Hugo Cabret lives. At the same time, it is a tribute to the legacy of Georges Méliès, himself, an artist from the past

1.) To learn more about the book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” on which the movie Hugo
is based,
read this article on Wikipedia.

An excellent movie review about Hugo, detailing some of the interesting history behind both the movie and also the filmmaker, Georges Méliès, can be found here: “Hugo:” Broken Machines and Broken People by, Mary Claire Kendall | American Film and Culture Blogspot, January 18, 2012 http://american-film-and-culture.blogspot.com/2012/01/hugo-screen-gem-with-uplifting-message.html.

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Film # 2:

    The Artist—a Modern-Day Silent Film

The Artist is also a fictional movie about the era of silent films, but takes place in Hollywood of the 1920’s in America, rather than in Paris. Like Hugo, however, this film is also an hommage to the past, and to the art of silent film-making. The Artist is also unique, because it is a modern-day silent film, about the silent film era of the 1920's. It is also a very clever comedy, and artistic film in its own right, by today's standards.

The Artist

Both Hugo and The Artist are films that explore the silent film-making era, but approach the topic of the history of film-making, from quite different perspectives. Both movies tell clever stories about movie production and film stars of bygone eras— both real and fictional—who face struggles, and who may rise and fall within their own times. The Artist, produced by the French film director Michel Hazavanacius, highlights the importance of the transition to the more modern movie-making techniques of the early 20th century; specifically, to “talking movies,” and the introduction of sound. But it does so in a lighthearted way as a dramatic comedy, (in contrast with Hugo, whose characters and storyline are much more serious). The Artist accomplishes this mostly through the silent dance movements and acting of the film’s main characters, who tell their story through the silent film medium, in keeping with silent film traditions of the past.

The Artist's
main character is George Valentin, a fictional, yet popular actor of the silent films of his day. As the movie begins, it is apparent that Valentin is a wealthy and successful movie star in Hollywood, who is in demand for every movie being made. He gets left behind though, by the movie industry, when he finds that his silent films are no longer in vogue as the “talkies” come into being. During this transition, he is pushed aside by the movie moguls he has worked all of his career for, after a young starlet named Peppy Miller (whom he helps secure a first acting job after seeing her at an audition), rises to fame to become the most popular actress of the day. Although he is fond of Peppi, her stardom unfortunately has serious consequences for George’s career. (Historically, the talkies took over the film industry between 1927 and 1930.)

The story of George Valentin and Peppy is told through visuals alone, as a black and white film without dialogue, in which the characters portray themselves by interacting through a dynamic chemistry that is created by adept tap-dancing, facial expressions, and expressive movements. The real–life French actors who play both George and Peppy — Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Béjo — seem to have been expressly made for their roles in this movie, with Béjo as a pretty, young girl in the flapper dress whose cute, peppy personality wins everyone's hearts; and Jean Dujardin’s somber, heavy-hearted persona of George, whose pencil-thin moustache seems to embody the life of wealth, luxury, and entitlement he has become accustomed to as a movie star. The silent dance interactions between George and Peppy throughout the film serve to move the story plot brisquely along through various scenes, never losing momentum, all the while building up to the final denouement. The movie effectively captures the transition betwen the silent film era and the rise of the talkies, by capitalizing on George’s own rise and fall as the most sought–after movie actor of his time. It depicts him as someone who refuses to change or to adapt to advent of the talking-film era, stubbornly resisting the direction that Hollywood and his producers are going in, to his own detriment and demise, and the plot unfolds, ironically, alongside his growing friendship with Peppy Miller. The storyline is also dramatically highlighted by the use of the black and white film, captivating the audience with its many delightful and charming scenes between these two dancing characters. In between some of the acting there are occasional plackards with written messages on them, which are held up to the camera, either to convey a passing thought from one of the characters — which serves to give the audience insight into some of the action to come — or to just make a scene transition. For the most part, however, the actors tell their own story simply through their silent gestures, expressions, and dance.

As already stated, George and Peppy are the antithesis of each other — with George being a self-absorbed and egotistical movie star; and Peppy as the unheard-of, sweet young girl who gets the lucky break at the dance audition. As her career builds, his continues to tumble in a disastrous way until he has lost just about everything he has (including his wife, who plays only a minor role next to the role of Peppy). George realizes that Peppy has taken over his own place in Hollywood, but he does not hold a grudge against her; rather he holds it against the movie industry and himself in his resistance to change. George's wife finally leaves him, and eventually he is left with nothing, after selling his home and all of his wordly posessions at an auction to pay the bills. Unbeknownst to him, though, behind the scenes, Peppy has come to the rescue by purchasing many of his personal belongings at the auctions, and keeping them hidden away in a storage room in her home, after she has gained wealth and fortune of her own as the new star in town. The movie turns the darkest towards the end, when the demise of George Valentin and his acting career brings all of the action to a tipping point in the plot. There is a happy ending though in store, thanks to George’s clever and talented little dog, an adorable Jack Russel terrier who accompanies him through both thick and thin, and literally saves his life after he has lost it all, having become completely depressed and demoralized. The dog, in his own silent “barking” scene, manages to alert and engage the help of a policeman on the street, who comes to save George from his burning home at the last minute; (a much smaller home which he has had to move into and where he has now tried to kill himself in a desperate attempt, by setting all of his silent movies on fire). However, the insightful dog (played by a dog named Uggie, in real life - pictured below) recognizes his owner needs help, and rescues him with the help of the police and firemen, just in the nick of time.

The dramatic action and plot along with the characters’ expressive gestures and silent tap dancing, make The Artist a work of art in itself. The movie viewer becomes enthralled with each of the characters’ dance movements, and what they will lead to next in the action, as their story unfolds onscreen. And, the ending of the movie involves a happy comeback for George fortunately, after he has been saved by his dog (as well as by Peppy), and he is recovering in the hospital. He discovers that Peppy has saved all of his possessions when he sneaks out of the hospital one day, and finds them stored in her home. At first he is angered and cannot accept the fact that she has purchased his things, but she later helps to restore his morale. In the last scene, as he and Peppy perform a cute dance number together for a new movie shoot they will both star in, it is evident that George has finally been able to compromise and welcome in the era of sound and talking movies, when he discovers (through Peppy’s help) that his own talent at dancing is also “in demand” —even if he still prefers not to do any talking! Now leaving his past as the demoralized, outcast movie star behind, George is finally able to make the adjustment to the more modern times and films in the end, as he and Peppy dance away in the final scene of the movie.

The Artist is very charming and entertaining story, and its unique usage of the silent film medium makes it a real winner! And in fact, it was the winner of The Best Motion Picture, for The Oscars of 2012—a first for a silent film in this modern-day movie era!


Uggie

Uggie at the Golden Globes
Uggie” from The Artist
(Photo credit: Assoc. Press, http://news.com.au)

 

 

The terrier whose name in real life is Uggie, has captured the hearts of movie-going audiences of The Artist, too! It turns out he is quite the starlet himself in doggy terms, and is as well trained in his own acting skill, as are his human counterparts in the film. It is well worth going to see the movie just to see Uggie’s performance. Uggie also has a notable career of his own in real life, with a Facebook following of admirers who would like to see him win an Academy Award for his outstanding performance in The Artist.


Check out the “Consider Uggy” Facebook page, at: http://www.facebook.com/consideruggie for more on his story!


Consider Uggie, Day 63: Martin Scorsese Calls out The Artist Wonder Dog;
Facebook Fans Surpasse 10,000

http://www.movieline.com/2012/01/30/consider-uggie-day-63-martin-scorsese-calls-out-artist-wonder-dog-facebook-fans-surpass-10k/K

The Uggie the Dog Awards Campaign: http://news.moviefone.com/2012/01/06/uggie-the-dog-awards-camp_n_1190244.html

On the making of the movie, “The Artist's Two Stars Talk” by, Reed Johnson for The Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2012. The Envelope at:
http://theenvelope.latimes.com/news/la-en-the-artist-20120202,0,3453573.story

For more about Dogs on Film, visit:
http://iheartthetalkies.com/2011/12/15/dogs-on-film/

Looks like this one may have been taken off the Internet, unfortunately:
* And
here is one of the best parodies of "The Artist" — from Saturday Night Live:
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/French-Dance/1384638

Jean Dujardin, interview on Jimmy Fallon: http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/video/jean-dujardin/n18492/

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   More about Hugo and Midnight in Paris—Films that
    “Bring the Past Back to LIfe”

Beyond film-making techniques and film stars of bygone eras, the movie Hugo also shares some similarities with Midnight in Paris, in that both movies take place (at least partially), in the Paris of the early 20th century, and also deal with "artists from the past." These two movies can also be said to deal with a another theme, that of time and the past, and time as an abstract ideal.

For the orphan boy Hugo Cabret, it is about taking care of the clocks in the train station, and also trying to fix his automaton (the mechanical person that his father found in a museum before he died, and which Hugo still has and cares for, discovering by accident one day that it holds a secret to his past). In caring for the automaton, Hugo maintains an emotional connection to both his past and to his deceased father, who taught him about the workings and mechanics of the clocks, as well as about some of Georges Méliès’ films, before being killed in the fire. Hugo continues to care for the clocks after the death of his only other living relative, an uncle who also lived in the train station, but is no longer. By living a secretive life stowed away alone in the train station’s tower, hidden from the world, Hugo works on repairing the automaton which he believes contains a message from his father after it draws a picture of a moon face, once wound up with a key. Hugo’s life and fortune both change when he by chance meets the actual filmmaker, Georges Méliès himself, who now owns a toy shop in the train station, and whose own life was altered drastically as well, when he lost his film studio and business— which were destroyed during the war. Hugo doesn't know at first who he is, but is stealing things from his toy shop to fix his automaton when he gets caught by Georges. At the same time, Hugo has also been befriended by Georges’ niece, who is close to his age one day when he meets her in the train station, and she tries to help him from getting into more trouble with her uncle. She eventually brings him to her home, where he gets to know the real Georges Méliès better, and not just the mean storekeeper who caught him stealing from his shop. Hugo is eventually accepted into his friend's family. One day, he returns back to his room in the clock tower to retrieve the automaton, so he can share it with her, and together they work to unravel the mystery of where the automaton's picture of the moon came from. After visiting a library and searching through an old box of Georges' movies at her house, they turn up more evidence as to what the moon picture refers to, learning that it came from a movie called, “Voyage to the Moon” — one of Georges’ original movies, and one that Hugo presumably may have seen with his father too, when he was younger. The past is painful for the filmmaker to revisit because he had lost all of his prized movies, as well as his film business, due to events associated with the war. But “Voyage to the Moon” is one of the few films that has actually survived, and now has been rediscovered through the help of Hugo and the automaton. Finally, Hugo and Georges’ niece, with the help of his wife, are able to persuade the filmmaker to show them the movie, and seeing it helps to restore some of his faith in himself, and also to revitalize his interest in his film business. Eventually Georges hosts a movie showing of the film to a much larger audience, which further helps him to bring some of his own past back to life. Once again, he is able to make a connection with his audience, which allows him to restore his reputation and his belief in himself as a great filmmaker. This makes for a magical, happy ending for both the filmmaker, and for Hugo too, who has now been accepted into Georges’ family and is able to find new meaning in his life as well, with this new family.

—Voyage to the Moon (1902) can be seen on this YouTube video, along with a brief history of its making and the filmmaker, Georges Méliès.

 

Film # 3:

   The Concept of Time Travel in Midnight in Paris

In the Woody Allen comedy, Midnight in Paris, the stroke of midnight becomes a magical hour, in which a doorway to the past opens up for Gil (who is played by Owen Wilson), as the star of this movie. Gil who is a screenwriter, has come to Paris on

Midnight in Paris

vacation with his fiancée and her family, in the present day 2011. Gil is a dreamy, intellectual type who is interested in learning everything he can about the artwork and artists of the city of Paris; while his fiancée, Inez, (played by Rachel McAdams) is more interested in sightseeing and shopping with her parents for the material things that Paris has to offer. As the movie progresses, we learn that Gil’s ideas of romance, as well as his politics, are quite different from Inez’s and her family's—a fact which begins to pull them both in very different directions while they are on vacation in Paris. Inez and her family are caught up in superficial ideas about how to enjoy their Paris vacation, and they are also more conservative in their political leanings. Gil's ideas on the other hand, are much more liberal and intellectual, and his sightseeing goals in Paris involve discovering its past artistic culture instead of shopping and sightseeing. This is first evidenced when he provides an extensive analysis of a painting at the Louvre when the family and some of their other American friends visit the museum on tour, at the beginning of the movie, and Gil attempts to impress everyone with his knowledge of the famous artist and the painting.

As the vacation progresses, Gil decides not to participate in any of the family outings with Inez. Instead he goes out to explore the city alone, by himself. One night while Gil is out walking the streets, marveling at the city and looking for inspiration and ideas for his screenwriting, he becomes lost in his thoughts, and finds himself on a hillside overlooking Paris unaware of how late it has become. He sits down by the side of the road, and as he waits for a taxi to come along at this late hour, he realizes that he has wandered too far. Shortly however, he hears a clock chime midnight, and in the next few minutes after the road seems completely empty, suddenly, an old-fashioned taxi full of men who have been partying, arrives. The men in the taxi stop and invite Gil to join them, so he hops in and drives off with them. In the taxi, the men introduce themselves to Gil who realizes that the men are actually famous writers from the past. In fact, they appear to be the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, based upon listening to their conversation in the taxi. It soon becomes apparent to Gil that he has in fact, entered another time period, and is embarking with these famous authors on an adventure with them, to the Paris of the early 20th century. The men are on their way out for a night of drinking and fun, and take Gil with them to a party where he also meets and mingles with several other famous artists and writers of the past who, as it turns out, are all members of Gertrude Stein’s artistic and literary salon of the 1920's.

The movie is a fanciful, yet briliant tribute to the Paris of the ’20’s and the “City of Light,” as it was called during this time period, where Gil, in effect, becomes an interloper between this artistic and literary world of the past, and his own, present–day Paris as a tourist, where he must also face the realities of his relationship with Inez and her family. He quickly becomes fast friends with the men, seemingly oblivious to the impossibility of his experience; and having had such fun with them on his initial evening escape, he returns the next night to the same spot on the street, where he awaits the stroke of midnight when the taxi comes along, once again. This time, as Gil joins up with Fitzgerald and Hemmingway, he is able to gain more insight into their lives and their era, as well as their writings. With them, he visits Gertrude Stein's parlor, and over the course of a few more nightly sojourns, he also meets and interacts with one famous artist after another, including not only these famous authors, but also T.S. Elliot, as well as painters like Picasso, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Salvador Dalì. On one of these nightly visits to Gertrude Stein's parlor, Gil meets with Gertrude Stein herself, and seizes the opportunity to ask her if she would mind reading over and critiquing his own screenwriting manuscript that he has brought with him on the vacation. Stein volunteers to do so, and so he brings it with him the next time, where she provides him with some constructive advice on how he can improve upon his own writing! By this time, Gil is completely enthralled and mesmerized by the writers and famous artists of the 1920's whom he has befirended, and cannot get enough of them.

However, back at the hotel room, upon his return from his nightly travels, Gil is becoming more and more distant from Inez and her family. He has tried to keep his other worldly visits a secret from them, but by this time they have begun to question his aimless nightly wanderings, and have grown increasingly suspicious of his illogical behavior, in addition to his lack of interest in going out with them to sightsee in Paris, even though he is their guest. Inez has totally lost patience with him, and has also become suspicious as to where he is going each night, which just contributes to the humorousness of the situation, as Gil tries to invent explanations for his whereabouts. He soon loses all rational contact with Inez and her family however, as he anxiously looks for ways to escape them and the reality of the present, to go back again to visit his newfound intellectual friends, who are the expatriates of “The Lost Generation.” 2

As Gil becomes more familiar with the writers and aritsts that he has met on each of his visits, they share with him some of the details of both their personal lives, as well as of their artistic works and thinking, and he begins to see himself as a confidant and an advisor to them, offering them his own critiques of their artwork based upon what he already knows from history, about each of them. Gil effectively plays the role of both an observer from the future, as well as a participant in the past, with them. He finds himself not only providing advice, but in some cases, affecting the course of their own life histories as well! In one scene, he actually prevents F. Scott's wife, Zelda, from jumping into the Seine River in a suicide attempt, by persuading her not to do it, because he knows that her feelings are wrong. Each of Gil's encounters with these artists of the 1920s also allows the movie viewer to recall a familiar historical or literary incident too, with regard to the era, which further enhances the humorous aspects of the movie experience, and of Gil's own situation—especially when one reflects on the idea as to whether or not any of his visits to this bygone era could even be a remote possibility!

On one of his escapes, Gil meets and falls in love temporarily, with one of Picasso’s fictional muses—a girl named Adrianna, whom he is introduced to while visiting Gertrude Stein’s parlor. When Gil meets Adrianna, (convincingly played by the French actress, Marillion Cotillard) she immediately captivates his heart. They soon become good friends as she helps him to learn more about this enchanting Paris of the '20s. He continues to seek her company during each of his nightly visits, as they traverse the Roaring Twenties. Eventually, Adrianna suggests that they should leave this era, and transport themselves through another time passage to her favorite era, La Belle Epoque. Gil agree to go with her, as he also learns more about the true meaning of love from Adrianna, and is seemingly inspired to become a greater writer and person himself, through his interactions with her.

In the meantime, Inez and her family have grown more irritated and frantic over Gil's whereabouts, and have just about written him off as both rude and crazy. Inez’s father finally decides they need to investigate where he has been going on his nightly disappearances, and what he is up to, after they catch him rummaging through some of Inez’s jewelry in the hotel room. (Gil had decided to use a pair of Inez’s earrings as a gift for Adrianna, in his upcoming visit with her that evening). After becoming furious with him, Inez’s father decides to hire a detective, and sends the detective out to spy on Gil after this last incident in their hotel room. Once the detective follows Gil to the street where the taxi appears, however, he disappears too. In another very humorous scene in the movie, the viewer sees the detective after he has been transported through another time passage, running through the Palace of Versailles (and the era of King Louis the XIVth or XVth), where he is being chased down the Hall of Mirrors by palace guards! It is not clear whether, or when, the detective ever makes it back to the present!

After several of these nightly visits to the past, Gil finally comes back to reality. He decides the next day to to spend time in the present-day Paris, while Inez is out with her family. On this outing he discovers a book in a Paris flea market which is historically significant to the time period of the 1920s. He also meets Carla Bruni - the French President's wife, (played by Carla Bruni herself), and as they sit down on the sidewalk together, he flips through the pages, reading some excerpts from the book. He suddenly finds a passage that recalls Picasso’s muse. The text seems to provide some evidence for Gil that he has actually been to the past himself with Adrianna, when he reads his own name mentioned in the text near her's. His eyes grow wide with amazement, as this dusty old book somehow verifies for him that his experiences with both Adrianna and the other artists and writers were not just a figment of his imagination but a part of recorded history in Paris! Of course this is all very humorous for the movie viewer, as we know it is highly unlikely that the book passage was real, but suffices to further Woody Allen's imaginative plot, involving time travel back to this era of famous artists and writers.

Finally, after his last visit with Adrianna in La Belle Epoque, she meets some other people from this era, and wishes to remain here because this is her favoriate “time,” and Gil who understands that Adrianna belongs in that era, decides that he must return to the present, so they say goodbye as they stand on a bridge overlooking the Seine. Gil eventually returns to Inez and her family at the hotel, calming their fears that he has totally lost his mind, and is able to iron out some of the bad feelings. Gil has gotten much more out of his trip to Paris however, than Inez and her family have — by discovering who he is, as well as discovering what he believes to have been the real Paris — which was the Paris of the 1920s, filled with amazing artists and their intellectual pursuits. The time travel and visits (whether real or imaginary) have enriched both Gil’s viewpoint of his life in the present, and his own literary endeavours, as he is inspired by the memories of Gertrude Stein's parlor and all of the literary and artistic figures whom he came to know so intimately. (It is unclear though, as to what happens with his relationship with Inez at this point, or her family, but it appears that he decides to stay in Paris, while she returns home with her family as the vacation comes to an end and Gil has resolved his personal desires.)

Midnight in Paris represents Woody Allen at his best, as the witty, sophisticated and brilliant film director he is, while exploring the themes of romance, art, literature, and of course, time travel, in a tremendously humorous, yet inspiring way. Its all-star cast is also notable, including a cameo made by the French President’s wife, Carla Bruni. When juxtaposed with the present-day Paris and America, and some of the trivial values of the 21st century, the movie’s message about values becomes all the more significant in terms of its history and connection to some of the world’s greatest artists and writers, of all time. Midnight in Paris is an uplifting film that also allows the viewer to fantasize, like Gil, and to also question one's own ideals in the present-day world, where we are perhaps like him: viewers or interlopers who have been given a mirror into both the past and the present, that is held up for our own reflection, or comparison. In my opinion, Midnight in Paris is one of the best movies of the year, as well as perhaps the most imaginative of Woody Allen’s films. It was just awarded the WGA Award for Most Original Screenplay, and I hope it will be awarded Most Original Screenplay, if not Best Picture, at the Academy Awards! Either way, it is both a masterpiece and a feel-good picture about art and life, in general.

Footnotes:

2.) The Lost Generation was a term coined by Gertrude Stein, and referred to some of the artists of the period between World War I and the Great Depression, like Ernest Hemingway, with whom she became acquainted and whose literary works she critiqued. Hemingway also used this term in his book, The Sun Also Rises.
See: Wikipedia for more information.

Links for further reading:

1.) A great review from a writer at The New York Times, which details some of the real history behind the famous artists of the 1920’s, and their works who were portrayed in the movie, which also explains some of the nuances in the film:
Decoding Woody Allen's Midnight in Parisby Joseph Boerger. The New York Times, May 27, 2011.

2.) Midnight in Paris was awarded the Writer's Guild Award for Most Original Screenplay:
http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/movieawards/story/2012-02-20/midnight-in-paris-writers-guild-of-america/53178686/1

3.) Predictions from The Huffington Post on this movie and others: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/19/writers-guild-awards-midn_n_1288171.html

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SUMMARY
Midnight in Paris, Hugo,
and The Artist are all movies that capture the artistic era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in both America and abroad, in unique and creative ways. Hugo was a very touching and spellbinding movie in its portrayal of the life of the orphan boy Hugo Cabret, and also the life of the master filmmaker, George Méliès whom he meets and eventually becomes friends with. It has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is noteworthy for its special effects as well, in deference to the historic filmmaker. Similarly, The Artist is a feel-good movie, and, although it is about a fictional character it takes an interesting look back at the artistry of the silent film era; in the process, rediscovering the medium itself, which makes for an interesting form of artistic movie-making even in today’s world of high-tech effects. Midnight in Paris is a fanciful movie also about the 1920's era, which uses a lot of imagination, mixed in with real historical references to create a uniquely humorous and artistic film, that along with the other two movies, also brings something very special to this year's Oscar contenders.

Two other movies that I also enjoyed seeing this year were The Help (click for website), and The Descendants (click for website), which both had great casts as well as acting, and were based on novels too. The Help provides an interesting look at race relations in the deep South during the Civil Rights Movement, which we can all learn something from, today. The Descendants is a humorous story about a dysfunctional family that lives in Hawaii, the father being played by George Clooney. It will be exciting to see which of these movies and actors will win in the categories of Best Actor & Actress, as well as Best Supporting Actress, at the Oscars next weekend!


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© 2012-’13 - Jacquie Apel