19. The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle

Come February, when the 2012 Academy Awards brings the ever-exciting cinematic trophy season to an end, don’t be surprised if French director Michel Hazanavicius’ silent film The Artist dominates every ceremony outside of the Independent Spirit Awards. Unlike last year’s dominant The King’s Speech, however, we won’t be mad at The Artist’s takeover. Because, well, all of the hype is well-deserved; sorry, Colin Firth.

Hazanavicius’ experimental triumph is a funny, joyful, and deftly made trip back to the days before “talkies” took over Hollywood. The silent film premise is realized down to the smallest detail, right down to the playful piano soundtrack and the infrequent white-font quotes plastered across the screen. And without the benefits of dialogue or colorful set designs, lead actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo—as a fading star and the ingénue who’s taking Tinsel Town by storm—are asked to relay a complicated romance through mere facial expressions, body language, and wordless chemistry, which they do admirably.