Feb 27

Why “The Artist” won big at the Oscars

Jean Dujardin stars as an aging actor in "The Artist," a cinematic love letter to the silent film era.

As “The Artist” proves, Hollywood is obsessed with its own history

Nostalgia reigned at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, as the black-and-white period drama “The Artist” walked away with five Oscars.

A nostalgic tribune to Hollywood’s golden age, “The Artist” became the first silent film to win the Academy’s Best Picture prize since 1929′s “Wings.” Meanwhile, director Michel Hazanavicius, actor Jean Dujardin, composer Ludovic Bource and costume designer Mark Bridges also picked up statuettes.

“The Artist’s” success came as no surprise to the scores of critics who remarked on the movie’s industry appeal.

After all, the film focuses on a critical period in Hollywood history when silent movies were replaced by talkies. And there’s no subject Hollywood loves more than Hollywood itself.

In honor of “The Artist,” here are 15 titles that take viewers behind the scenes of the film industry.


“Show People” (1928)

This classic comedy about an up-and-coming starlet (Marion Davies)  offers a lighthearted look behind the scenes of the Hollywood film industry during the end of the silent era.]

“A Star is Born” (1937)

A starry eyed starlet (Janet Gaynor) marries an alcoholic leading man (Frederic March), only to watch his career crumble and their romance disintegrate. A favorite among cinefiles, this influential film was remade in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

This film noir classic stars William Holden as a struggling Hollywood screenwriter who accidentally stumbles upon the home of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a silent film star clinging desperately to the shreds of her faded beauty and failed career.

“The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952)

An actress (Lana Turner), a writer (Dick Powell) and a director (Barry Sullivan) look back on the life of ambitious, ruthless Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) in this drama depicting show business’s seamier side.

“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)

Former child star Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) shares a decaying Hollywood mansion with her sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford), a talented actress whose career was ended by a disfiguring auto accident. Their intense sibling rivalry leads to horrible acts of physical and psychological abuse.

“The Last Tycoon” (1976)

Studio executive Monroe Stahr (Robert DeNiro) struggles to stay afloat during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Directed by Elia Kazan, this drama draws its inspiration from the life of “boy genius” producer Irving Thalberg.

“Postcards from the Edge” (1990)

Recovering drug addict/actress Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep) is forced to move in with her mother (Shirley MacLaine), a manipulative, self-absorbed star who treats her like a child. Based on the semi-biographical novel by “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher.

“The Player” (1992)

Hollywood types will appreciate all the inside jokes in Robert Altman’s dark satire about an arrogant young studio executive (Tim Robbins) who is blackmailed by a screenwriter whose script he rejected. Terrific.

“Ed Wood” (1994)

Tim Burton’s quirky biopic looks at the cross-dressing director (Johnny Depp) behind some of Hollywood’s worst movies, including “Glen or Glenda” and “Plan 9 from Outer Space.”

“Get Shorty” (1995)

Miami mob enforcer Chili Palmer (John Travolta) travels to Hollywood to collect a debt, only to discover that the movie industry operates much like the Mafia. An entertaining show business comedy with a twist.

“American Movie” (1999)

Directed by Chris Smith (“The Yes Men“), this documentary offers an affectionate, funny portrait of oddball Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt and his struggles to finish his low-budget horror movie.

“Adaptation.” (2002)

Tasked with adapting  Susan Orleans’ nonfiction bestseller “The Orchid Thief” for the silver screen, struggling screenwriter Charlie Kauffman (Nicolas Cage) turns to his more successful, less talented twin brother (Cage again) for help. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper co-star.

“Entourage” (2004 to 2011)

Movie star Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) navigates the Hollywood film industry with the help of his cutthroat agent, Ari (Jeremy Piven), and his best friend/manager, Eric (Kevin Connolly).  This popular HBO show is inspired by movie star Mark Wahlberg and his posse.

“The Artist” (2011)

At the end of the silent film era, one movie star (Jean Dujardin) fades into obscurity as another (Bérénice Bejo) enjoys growing fame. A stunningly beautiful, movingly acted drama, “The Artist” effortlessly recalls Hollywood’s romantic past.

“My Week with Marilyn” (2011)

Cribbed from the memoirs of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), this lovely Marilyn Monroe biopic chronicles the constant clashes between the American star (Michelle Williams) and British acting legend Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl.”

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