Silent French-movie The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin dominated the top awards at the 84th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday (February 26, 2012). As expected, the surprise hit took home the award for Best Picture, while Dujardin won Best Actor and Hazanavicius scooped Best Director.
The movie takes place in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932 and focuses on the relationship between an older silent film star and a rising young actress. Most of the movie is silent, and it was shot in black and white while using a 4:3 aspect ratio. Despite the unconventional nature of The Artist, it began garnering high praise from critics in 2011, and Oscar-talk intensified when Dujardin won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, where the movie had premiered. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes and won five, including Best Picture, Best Original Score and Best Actor. Following its American release, critics lauded the movie, with Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com describing it as, "A project so idiosyncratic, so unlikely, so simultaneously innocent and sophisticated that it could only have been devised by the French". Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "The Artist is the wonder of the age, as much a miracle as "Avatar," though it comes at things from the totally opposite direction". Dujardin and Hazanavicius are household names in France, but were generally unknown to American audiences until The Artist opened in theaters in the United States late last year, and began sweeping the major award ceremonies. Though Martin Scorsese's Hugo dominated the early technical awards at the Oscars, The Artist still won in Costume Design and Original Score.
Elsewhere at the ceremony - which veteran comedian Billy Crystal hosted with aplomb - there were wins for Meryl Streep, who beat Viola Davis to the Best Actress honor. Viola's 'The Help' co-star Octavia Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress, while 82-year-old Christopher Plummer became the oldest man ever to win an Oscar after picking up a supporting gong for his role in 'Beginners'. Though this year's awards was low on shocks and surprises, Woody Allen's win in the Screenplay category would have pleased fans of the reclusive New Yorker - who chose not to attend the ceremony.