With the 85th Academy Awards this Sunday, ÉCU decides to take a look back at the indie films which rocked the Oscars last year. Independent films accounted for twelve of the wins – and as ÉCU film festival is so chuffed to be part of the indie film world, we think it’s worth celebrating these films again! The ArtistBeginners, The DescendantsThe Iron LadyMidnight in ParisA Separation and Undefeated were the independent movies that took home prestigious Oscar awards. Why not check out these gems if you didn’t get the chance last year!

The Artist is obviously high on our list of recent indie triumphs, as it is French, with a French director (Michel Hazanavicious), French leading man (Jean Dujardin) and a leading lady who grew up in France. But we aren’t biased – the movie speaks for itself, ironically with no words. It has also become the most awarded French film of all time. The Artist was nominated for ten Oscars and impressively won five of those awards. Hazanavicious had previously directed spy spoofs, and earned himself the award for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay with The Artist. Dujardin was also notably the first French actor to ever receive the award for Best Actor.

In case you aren’t aware of this fact it’s also in black and white (which confused many an audience member last year that were not expecting a silent black-and-white feature).  The story is based on the emergence of talking films and how a successful silent film actor named George Valentine realises that his time in the lime-light is coming to an end. A young woman bumps into him (literally) one day and ends up attracting attention from the movie world and becoming a starlet of “talkies”. As Valentine watches his career get sent down the drain, he winds up bankrupt, is kicked out by his wife and takes to drinking. Considering how accustomed we are to plots which are driven by rapid-fire dialogue (take Woodie Allen’s films for instance), it is amazing how The Artist absorbs your attention as you are forced to rely on other methods of interpretation to follow the story. It reminds us of the strength of great acting and directing in evoking emotion and mesmerising an audience.

Again, we aren’t picking favourites because of our location (ahem…), but if you still haven’t seen Midnight in Paris then perhaps it’s time to check out why it was nominated for four Academy Awards – of which it won Best Original Screenplay. It was also awarded Best Screenplay at the Golden Globe Awards. Directed by Woodie Allen, it stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen. It is set in Paris and features an engaged couple who seem to be at odds with what they both want in life. The city proves to be a place which rouses aspiring writer Gil Pender (Wilson) out of his melancholy as an unfulfilled, though successful, Hollywood screenplay writer. On a midnight stroll he finds himself transported into the past and in the company of famous writers and artists in 1920s Paris – another evening he is brought to La Belle Époque of the 1890s. The film brings to life some of Paris’s wonderful history but also looks at our idealisation of the past.

The final countdown to the most famous event in the film world begins now, with only two days left. We look forward to tuning in on Sunday and are crossing our fingers for an indie film sweep!

Gill Gillespie

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