Oscars 2012: The Artist’s win is a glorious fluke

Oscars 2012: Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist rightly won Best Picture at the Oscars, on a night the Academy celebrated world cinema, says Robbie Collin.

This year’s Academy Awards are a salutary lesson to anyone who has ever complained that Hollywood does not do enough to celebrate world cinema. Providing that piece of world cinema is an hour-and-a-half-long celebration of Hollywood, it might even win Best Picture.

It’s a mark of just how gloriously daft the Oscars has become when the ceremony can make a victory for a French film – and a silent, black and white one, come to that – feel like a predictable self-administered slap on the back for the American film industry.

In fact, both of this year’s most garlanded films have been described as ‘love letters to the movies’, and last night was unquestionably a reciprocal billet-doux from the Academy. The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s irrepressibly charming celebration of silent cinema, received honours for Best Picture and Best Director, along with awards for its leading man Jean Dujardin, its score and its costume design. Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a moist-eyed, 3D tribute to film’s French founding fathers, won the expected raft of technical trophies for its visual effects, sound editing, sound mixing, art direction and cinematography.

As someone who found Scorsese’s first foray into three dimensions coolly impressive if not particularly moving, and who tap-danced around Leicester Square with unfettered glee after first seeing The Artist, this feels like an entirely fair result.

Infuriatingly, this year’s Oscar ceremony offers very little scope for real disgruntlement: most of the winners are no less deserving than they were inevitable. Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer’s rightful triumphs in the Supporting Actor and Actress categories cap a long winning streak for both that took in the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. A Separation, a justly buzzed Iranian drama now riper for the remaking than ever, was a laudable choice for Best Foreign Language Film.

Even the night’s surprise result wasn’t particularly surprising: Meryl Streep’s roundly deserved victory in the Best Actress category, which brings her personal Oscar tally to three, astonished no-one apart from the alleged experts such as myself who had somehow become convinced that Viola Davis would win it.

It’s easy to be cynical about the Academy Awards – over the years, the Academy has made sure of that – but there’s no harm in celebrating when they get it right. The Artist’s victory, much like the film itself, is an unrepeatable trick; a one-off, glorious fluke; a triumph of pure, unadulterated cinema disguised as a cosy exercise in nostalgia. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure that Oscar voters realised quite what it was they were voting for, but I’m nonetheless delighted that they voted for it.

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