There are some serious holes in my Best Picture and Best Director filmographies and I was given the idea to go through and watch them. I have seen most of the post 2010 Best Picture winners but I even have holes there. The latest film in my Best Picture/ Best Director journey in order from newest to oldest is Michel Hazanavicius’s 2011 film The Artist. This film took home both awards at the 84th Academy Awards.
When looking back on The Artist, seeing it as a best picture winner seems obvious. It’s a movie about the movies, and Hollywood loves that. However that does not mean the film itself is good. Unfortunately that is the case here. The Artist is a great showcase in how weird/ experimental movies can still thrive in modern film society. However the film has major plot issues. Any attempt at trying to appeal to the audience’s emotional state fails spectacularly and in hilarious fashion. Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor for his performance is just one of many examples where The Academy fell for the Oscar bait hook, line, and sinker. There is very little substance to his performance, and even in the more somber moments of the film, I could never take what was going on screen seriously.
The Artist, while having great cinematography and costume design, is a failure on every other aspect of filmmaking. As well as very frustrating when looking back on what was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director that year. My picks for Best Director and Best Picture that year would have been Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life for Best Director and continuing with The Tree of Life winning Best Picture.
Call For Dreams is the directorial debut from Ran Slavin. While I believe there is serious talent behind the camera, I found the film became bogged down in an attempt to be profound. Forgetting one of the most fundamental parts of filmmaking – storytelling. The film itself is about a woman who publishes an ad. Requesting a “Call For Dreams”. People leave dream descriptions on her answering machine, and she realizes them in real life. All the while, a murder investigation is taking place in Tel Aviv.
As stated, the film deals with 2 parallel storylines, neither of which are fully formed or explored. In an 80-minute film this is already a bad idea, but when you add in robotic acting the films plot and pace screech to a halt, then speeds up, then halts again. This uneven pacing makes the films plot even less coherent than it was before. The acting in this film is no less than horrendous and stale. The lead Mami Shimazaki is nothing less than mechanical, and takes you out of the film even more.
The cinematography of Tel Aviv and a rain-soaked Tokyo is truly gorgeous. Ran did a fantastic job on the production design on the film, combining neon and futurism together for fantastic sets, and framing the camera in a way that allows the viewer to take in all of the great work he did. Unfortunately, those select direction choices do not save the film. This is a film that values the style over the substance. Properly done it can lead to a great film but this accomplishes neither and left me very disappointed.