US master Martin Scorsese journeyed to France, putting Hollywood’s newest technology to work for his dazzling 3D re-creation of 1930s Paris in Hugo. French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius came to the US, reviving old-time Hollywood with his charming resurrection of early cinema in the silent film The Artist.
The two films now head a 21st-century Academy Awards show whose top nominees offer loving looks back to the infancy of moviemaking, when flicks really flickered and cutting-edge visual effects amounted to actors jumping out of the frame while the camera was stopped so they would seem to magically disappear.
Scorsese’s Paris adventure Hugo led contenders on Tuesday with 11 nominations, among them best picture and the latest directing honor for the Oscar-winning filmmaker.
Hazanavicius’ The Artist came second with 10 nominations, including honors for the director and Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, the stars of the film that could become the first silent movie to win the best picture prize since year one at the Oscars.
Also nominated for best picture: Alexander Payne’s family drama The Descendants; Stephen Daldry’s Sept. 11, 2001, tale Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; Tate Taylor’s Deep South drama The Help; Woody Allen’s romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris; Bennett Miller’s sports tale Moneyball; Terrence Malick’s family chronicle The Tree of Life; and Steven Spielberg’s World War I epic War Horse.
Arguably the world’s most passionate moviemaker for preserving old films and the heritage of cinema, Scorsese tried his hand at 3D filmmaking for the first time on Hugo and crafted a look with such depth that the images are almost tactile.
Hugo follows the adventures of a boy and girl caught up in a mystery surrounding French silent film pioneer George Melies (Ben Kingsley), who stretched the boundaries of cinema with fantastical short movies in the early 1900s.
The Artist is a throwback to black-and-white silent days as a superstar of the pre-sound era (best actor nominee Dujardin) falls on hard times when talking pictures arrive, while a rising star (supporting actress nominee Bejo) becomes guardian angel for the former screen idol.
Along with his directing honor, Hazanavicius was nominated for original screenplay for The Artist. The film’s other nominations include best musical score, cinematography and costume design.
Another key nomination is a tribute to the big screen’s most famous sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, a superstar who was never nominated for an Oscar. Michelle Williams earned a best actress nomination as Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.
Williams’ competition includes Meryl Streep, who extended her record for most acting nominations to 17 with a best actress honor as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
Also nominated: Glenn Close for the Irish drama Albert Nobbs, Viola Davis for The Help and Rooney Mara for the thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Dujardin will be up against George Clooney for The Descendants, in which the Oscar-winning superstar plays a down-to-earth role as a dad in crisis.
Demian Bichir was a surprise nominee as best actor for A Better Life, an immigrant drama that few people have seen. Bichir said he had been ill the night before and learned he was nominated when his girlfriend called with the news.
“I thought it was part of my hallucinations from the fever,” Bichir said. “A nomination helps. I feel a lot better already.”