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‘The Artist’: Can a silent flick speak to Oscar today?

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Oscar voters’ love of art-house flicks will get the ultimate test with ‘The Artist,’ a black-and-white silent film. We know that it’ll be a serious rival in the next derby because (1) it’s being ballyhooed by the Weinstein Co., (2) it reaped huzzahs at Cannes, including best actor laurels for Jean Dujardin, and (3) it’s a heart-tugging riff on ‘A Star Is Born.’ Two past ‘Star Is Born’ versions reaped top nominations. William Wellman’s 1937 rendition starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor scored seven bids, including best picture, director, actor and actress. George Cukor’s 1954 classic earned six bids, including nominations for James Mason and Judy Garland, but it came up with scratch.

‘The Artist’ is set in 1920s Hollywood as a swashbuckling fading star (Dujardin) resists the advance of talkies while flirting with a pretty girl (Berenice Bejo) who becomes a superstar of the new medium. It’s directed by celebrated French helmer Michel Hazanavicius, whose ‘OSS’ spy movie parodies featured Dujardin.

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— Tom O’Neil

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