Oscars and Artists opinion

The 84th Academy Awards marked the end of a largely predictable awards season (predictable for the last month or two, at least) and it threw up few surprises.

Meryl Streep’s thoroughly deserved Best Actress win was a minor surprise, with Viola Davis having been the bookies’ favourite for some weeks following highly significant and usually indicative success at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards. Some also questioned if the weakness of The Iron Lady (Streep aside, it’s a terrible film) would drag down its leading actress while the subject matter of Davis’ The Help tends to be like crack to Academy judges.

A bigger surprise came with a win for Robert Richardson, cinematographer on Hugo. Although it wasn’t a huge outsider, and, well, it does look quite lovely, that prize was largely seen as being fought out between The Artist and The Tree of Life. Without wanting to take too much away from Richardson or Hugo, the failure to recognise Emmanuel Lubezki’s truly gobsmacking, league-apart cinematography for The Tree of Life was, from where I’m standing, also one of the biggest disappointments of the night.

I would also say that, as wonderful as Woody Allen is, his winning script for Midnight in Paris, although by no means bad at all, isn’t as impressive as that for The Artist - one of the most important (and overlooked) contributing factors to the dialogue-free film’s success.

But this remains, of course, The Artist’s year. Its success at the Oscars, on the back of success at every major awards ceremony preceding it, was a foregone conclusion and also one of the least contentious Best Picture winners in recent memory. Although observers may be getting sick of the sight and sound (or silence) of its hype, it’s hard to find anyone who fundamentally disagrees with the Academy’s decision. What is, essentially, a remarkably bold film triumphing at what are usually seen as conservative industry-lead awards ceremonies really should be celebrated, too. Nigh-on universally adored, with its critical acclaim, commercial success and inherent quality The Artist has thoroughly deserved its winning streak.

27th Feb 2012