The Artist vs. Hugo

The Artist vs. Hugo

Worth It
Mar 4, 2012

So, eczema the Oscars have come and gone for another year. I found this year’s nominees and winners to be an interesting collection. Most of the acting awards were awarded to people in films that didn’t win anything else. That’s rare. But most fascinating was the rivalry between the silent-film, one health  The Artist and Scorsese’s Hugo. Both were nominated for 10 awards each and those statuettes were divided in half and sent home evenly between each film. To recap, The Artist won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Costume Design and Music (Original Score). (That last one was a no-brainer — there was no speaking, so music filled the film from beginning to end…the music better have been that freaking amazing to pull it off). Meanwhile, Hugo was awarded Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Even though the films received 5 Oscars each, it is clear that the Academy considered The Artist to be an overall stronger film, as it won not only Best Picture but also the highly coveted Directing and Acting awards. Having seen both, I thought I’d take this opportunity to throw my two cents in on how these two movies compare…

I admit, I saw Hugo twice. The first time I was spellbound by it’s cinematic beauty, the unpredictable flow and ultimately the respect it pays to the early days of cinema. That last element was completely unexpected. To find out later that the whole film was a fictional work connected to the real life of film pioneer, Georges Méliès, made the experience even more remarkable. So, I went and saw it again. Hugo is definitely a magical film. The way in which it is shot, the art direction (an award that it rightly won), the arc of the plot and the depth of meaning behind the tale had me near breathless as the credits rolled…even the second time watching. If you haven’t seen Hugo, you’re missing out on a unique and beautiful film. It’s hard to find fault with it, other than it’s a little long and could have been tightened up a bit in the editing process. Otherwise, Hugo is truly a special movie worth multiple-viewings.

Then there’s The Artist. It, too, is completely refreshing and unlike anything else out there. I will say, I was a little apprehensive to watch a silent movie. I have seen several in my day (Nosferatu, Metropolis, etc…) and end up loving them. But still, I find myself working up the resolve to watch them anyway. I guess I’m a product of my time. What can ya do? As I started watching The Artist, the anticipated awkwardness of sitting through a silent film quickly dissipated with wonderful acting and an emotionally captivating plot-line. Jean Dujardin, I thought, was a shoe-in for the Best Actor award. His performance is compelling and pitch-perfect for the era in which he is representing. Even though Hugo won for all the technical awards, I found The Artist to be almost as good in that department. The cinematography (filming in black and white is an art unto itself), the art direction, etc…all worked together to create a world that immerses the audience in the late 20’s/early 30’s Hollywood. The performances are brilliant (Bérénice Bejo should definitely have won Best Supporting Actress), the story is simple and elegant while the whole experience captivates the senses and emotions.

Ironically, both Hugo and The Artist take place at the same time in history and both revolve around the evolving world of cinema. An interesting, serendipitous pairing, I’d say. While I was stunned that Martin Scorsese lost Best Directing to The Artist‘s, Michel Hazanavicius, I felt the rest of the awards made sense. Even though Hugo was a tad more meaningful for me, I do recognize The Artist as being a more concisely devised piece of art, worthy of the Best Picture award. Regardless, both movies are refreshing, artistically unique and definitely deserving of all film-lovers’ attention.

About the Author

Craig the Critic


  1. I agree with both reviews and would add that HUGO was considerably more satisfying because I connected emotionally with several characters, whereas THE ARTIST (if you have seen Sunset Boulevard and a dozen other B&W movies about fading stars) was predictable and redactive.

    Also it rankles me how the Academy is in love with itself. THE ARTIST did have a terrifically winsome period performance by the female lead, but the lead male was a bit of a git. (WHo’s that stupid?) HUGO, although distended by two competing metaphors (people as broken clockwork and movies as magic, the mechanical man Vs. the missing films), was about community and grace, and THAT I connect with. JUst like the Youth Arts Faith Festival in Toronto Sat. March 31, with the Gala SHowcase for all ages…:) http://www.yaff.CA

    • I totally agree about Hugo. I think it simply resonated with the heart much more than the Artist did. For that reason I feel it is the overall stronger film.
      But I’m not sure I’m with you on your thoughts on George Valentin. I thought he was believable in the context of the film. Imagine being so immersed and worshipped within one artform only to be told your universe is radically shifting. I found the character believable. Not to mention, Jean Dujardin was PERFECT. Regardless, thanks for your thoughts and I’ll be sure to check out the film fest 🙂

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