Oscars 2012: France hails The Artist's triumph

Jean Dujardin and Uggie the dog Best actor winner Jean Dujardin is already a major star in his home country

France has been celebrating its Oscars triumph after silent film The Artist picked up five awards in Hollywood.

The country's president Nicolas Sarkozy hailed it as "a great success for French cinema and for quality cinema".

The Artist was the first French film to win best picture and Jean Dujardin was the first Frenchman to win best actor.

Outside France, many commentators said Meryl Streep's best actress win came the closest to an upset, but were largely damning about the ceremony.

The Artist won five golden statuettes including best director for Michel Hazanavicius. That total was matched by Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

Mr Sarkozy hailed Dujardin, already a major star in his home country, as "an immense actor".

"The effort that he is making is exceptional and it should reinforce in us the idea to defend creation, to defend film-makers," said Mr Sarkozy.

Director Michel Hazanavicius (left), actress Berenice Bejo and producer Thomas Langmann Director Michel Hazanavicius (left), actress Berenice Bejo and producer Thomas Langmann posed with their awards

The Artist also has a strong American theme, being set in Hollywood in the 1920s and filmed entirely on location. It features American actors including John Goodman and had its US release and Oscar campaign orchestrated by veteran studio mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Other French reaction was triumphant. Newspaper Le Parisien opened its Oscars story with the words: "The name of Jean Dujardin shines bright on Hollywood Boulevard."

Another newspaper, Liberation, wrote: "After his Hollywood coronation, no-one is wondering if the actor will be tempted to pursue a career in the US."

Eric Garandeau, president of the French film body, the Centre National Du Cinema, said Hazanavicius and producer Thomas Langmann had "made The Artist the stuff of Hollywood legend".

"Last night's ceremony in LA was the best 'happy ending' you could possibly have hoped for this adventure," he added.

Hollywood bible Variety said it was not a foregone conclusion that the night's most prestigious award, for best picture, would go to The Artist.

"Sunday's ceremony marked the culmination of a season that was notable mostly for its lack of consensus," it said. "Other films like The Descendants, Hugo and The Help continued to maintain momentum throughout the [awards] season."

'Predictable'

The Los Angeles Times, though, declared that "much of the night was predictable" and that The Artist's victories "marked a fitting if unsurprising conclusion" to the ceremony.

The biggest surprise of the night was Streep's success, playing former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, the LA Times wrote.

"Many Oscar-watchers had expected that trophy would go to Viola Davis from The Help," according to the newspaper.

Billy Crystal The Hollywood Reporter said the ceremony, hosted by Billy Crystal, was a "safe, unfunny, retro-disaster"

The Hollywood Reporter, which described the ceremony as a "bore-fest", wrote: "About the only thing to raise a pulse was Meryl Streep winning again (in what most people will consider an upset)."

The Associated Press said the ceremony "was a rather safe, predictable affair all around, with the winners who've heard their names throughout awards season being called up on stage one last time Sunday night".

Referring to Streep, it added: "The energy she brought to the show was a rarity."

Host Billy Crystal was in charge of the ceremony for a ninth time after being drafted in when original host Eddie Murphy pulled out. Murphy quit in November following the departure of producer and friend Brett Ratner.

'Cruise ship' show

The Washington Post said Crystal "seemed to be overseeing a cruise ship dinner show designed to appeal to the over-50 travel club".

The Hollywood Reporter declared that last year's "colossal hosting disaster" - presided over by actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway - was eclipsed by this year's "safe, unfunny, retro-disaster", which amounted to "an Oscars telecast that was as poorly paced as any in recent memory".

Variety said that when 2005 host Chris Rock appeared to present the prize for best animated feature, "there was a temptation to plead with him to stick around awhile, if only to infuse the joint with some energy".

But The New York Daily News gave Crystal its approval, saying he "recaptured smartly the formula that worked for him in the past: a quick-hit opening montage, a song-and-dance number, then a sprinkling of jokes that had an edge but never drew blood."

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