The Artist and The Dictator

The Oscars are over and, since some time has passed, I must say it was another evening in contrasts. “I just want to watch some really sick stuff,” said trickster Sacha Baron Cohen (Bruno, HugoBorat) in a pre-taped segment when he was asked to comment on movies for the 84th annual Academy Awards.

The man who dressed in character as a dictator in his usual asinine “performance art” routine, who has apparently been cast as Thenardier in an upcoming adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables, upstaged the Oscars, trivializing totalitarianism with absurdist schtick. Also on the downside, we were given Tom Cruise congratulating Best Picture Academy Award nominees as though it is his personal endowment. Tracing last year’s awards debacle, old-fashioned live performance gave way for a segment directed by Bennett Miller (Capote) with actors talking about acting and bits of bizarre humor. The rest of the worst reflect today’s cultural nihilism: the annual spectacle of crude and disgusting women courtesy of the cast of Bridesmaids and other low antics, including nonsensical Will Ferrell and a foul-mouthed acceptance of the Best Documentary award from those who made Undefeated.

On the upside, Joe Celli’s art direction, the music and host Billy Crystal exuded a general sense of classic Hollywood glamor. As with last year’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, the best of the Oscars – the closest Tinseltown has to a celebration of the art of making movies – fell to its Best Picture winner. Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, who also won for Best Director, spoke gently of grace, joy and happiness, observing that “life is wonderful and today is one of those days.” Yes, Monsieur Hazanavicius, let us have more movies to rally the best, such as The Artist, a charming and moving film, as we face the worst. And less of the other kind.

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