'The Artist' is Not invincible

6:00 AM PST 01/17/2012 by Stephen Galloway

Rivals, are you listening? Here are five ways to check the Oscar momentum of the film fresh off its Golden Globes triumph.

Score one for the Punisher, as Madonna just dubbed Harvey Weinstein -- well, more than one: With six Golden Globes (including a best picture nod for The Artist and wins for Iron Lady's Meryl Streep and My Week With Marilyn's Michelle Williams), Harvey approaches the Oscars energized in a way he hasn't been since, um, last year, when he led The King's Speech to its triumphant finale. So is there any way to slow him down -- and in particular his front-running The Artist? Unlikely, but here's how.

PLAY DIRTY

Whoever told The Artist's Ludovic Bource to laud fellow composer Bernard Herrmann in his Globes acceptance speech made a brilliant move, defusing The Artist's biggest stumble when Vertigo star Kim Novak said she felt "raped" by Bource's use of Herrmann's music. But another sort of stumble -- one with more subtle consequences -- occurred at the ceremony when one Frenchman after another came up to the podium (first Bource, then actor Jean Dujardin, then producer Thomas Langmann and director Michel Hazanavicius), reminding audiences this is very much a French movie despite all the Americans involved. The Academy has never named a foreign film best picture; indeed, it has a category for foreign entries (only some of which qualify for the main picture race). Subtle reminders that this is Hollywood's night may be below the belt, but what Oscar consultant hasn't resorted to such a low-blow strategy?

SPLIT THE NOSTALGIA VOTE

Everyone marveled at Harvey's skill in getting the Academy to show a restored version of silent 1929 Oscar winner Wings (in fact, the Jan. 18 event was arranged by Paramount as part of its 100th anniversary celebrations), not to mention having Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters Carmen and Dolores host a November screening of his movie. But Hugo is just as much an homage to the silent era as The Artist, magically reworking Georges Melies' 1902 A Trip to the Moon in 3D -- and it comes from the man who's made film preservation a lifelong cause. Get Martin Scorsese out there with silent movie historians pushing Hugo as this year's real love letter to the past.

DON'T FEAR THE RACE CARD

The Help should be lining up endorsements. True, Oprah Winfrey proclaimed "That is my story" at the Governors Awards, drawing tears from Help co-star Octavia Spencer. But where are the other towering African-Americans defending the importance of a film that celebrates the black experience? Where's author Kathryn Stockett's real-life maid, Demetrie? Why hasn't someone pointed out that black-oriented movies such as Do the Right Thing, The Color Purple and Precious consistently have been overlooked by the Academy when it comes to best picture? Rally the troops.

MILK THE ACTORS

The Academy's acting bloc is the biggest and carries real weight -- as Crash showed in its 2006 upset of Brokeback Mountain after Lionsgate paved the way by spending $250,000 to mail DVDs to SAG's 100,000-plus voters. Fox Searchlight's The Descendants and DreamWorks/Disney's The Help have the most acclaimed ensembles of the year. Remind the actors it's their work that truly counts; after all, that's what they want to hear.

REMEMBER THE ACADEMY'S AGE

The average Academy member only gets into the organization after a lifetime of effort, which means most are 60 and older. They value an entire career and are skeptical of one-trick ponies. That could give a huge boost to Scorsese, Steven Spielberg (War Horse) and Woody Allen, back in contention with Midnight in Paris. Woody is 76; his only best picture win came in 1978 with Annie Hall. Isn't it time the Academy forgave his transgressions and let him go out with the big one? Strategists might argue the Academy has a history to uphold and should support auteurs whose work will be remembered forever.

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PGA: PSYCHIC FRIEND TO OSCAR?: The Producers Guild sticks with selecting 10 nominees for its Jan. 21 best picture prize and in doing so just might remain a reliable Oscar prognosticator

Ten remains the operative number as the Producers Guild of America holds its 23rd annual awards Jan. 21 at the Beverly Hilton. In 2009, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanded its best picture field to 10 movies, the PGA followed suit. But this past year, when the Academy introduced a new voting procedure that could result in five to 10 nominees, the PGA declined to follow the Academy's lead. "We did discuss it," says PGA co-president Mark Gordon. "But we found that [having 10 nominees] is a great way to honor more films and have a more diverse slate." This year, the PGA nominees range from such indie movies as The Artist, The Descendants, The Ides of March and Midnight in Paris to studio movies like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Help and Moneyball. They include Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Steven Spielberg's War Horse and even the raunchy comedy Bridesmaids. "We've picked an interesting group," says Gordon. Whichever film emerges, the victor could well be on its way to Oscar glory. Two years ago, the PGA was one of the first groups to opt for The Hurt Locker instead of Avatar. And last year, it launched the winning streak of The King's Speech. Says Gordon, "We've been a pretty good barometer." – Gregg Kilday

2012 PGA Honorees

  • Milestone Award: Leslie Moonves
  • David O. Selznick Achievement Award : Steven Spielberg
  • Norman Lear Achievement Award: Don Mischer
  • Vanguard Award: Stan Lee
 
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