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Have the Oscars jumped the shark?

We’re in for a deadly show! Out-of-touch Academy Award noms include a silent French black-and-white flick and a Scorsese box-office flop

Last Updated: 4:22 PM, January 25, 2012

Posted: 10:19 PM, January 24, 2012

headshotKyle Smith
Blog: Movies

The Oscar nominations spoke yesterday, and they said, “Shh!” ABC’s response? “Sh - - !” The list made it clear that the Feb. 26 ceremony will be among the least-watched editions of the collapsing telecast.

Silent, black-and-white and made by obscure Frenchmen, “The Artist” was nevertheless established as the overwhelming favorite to sweep the Oscars, having landed 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Director and Original Screenplay.

So: Give it up for old Hollywood faves Jean Dujardin (“The Artist” star), Michel Hazanavicius (the director) and Bérénice Bejo (the starlet).

Three out of 20 nominees never say a word in their films. They are Max von Sydow (bottom right) as a mute in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and the silent film stars of “The Artist” (top). Meanwhile, Best Pic nominee “Hugo” (bottom left) is an homage to silent movies.

Who? In theaters since November, “The Artist” has sold fewer tickets than “Red Tails” sold last weekend, proving wrong anyone who argued that what multiplex crowds really want is a no-star B&W movie whose entire complement of dialogue could fit in a fortune cookie.

In keeping with the academy’s ruthlessly efficient mission to destroy its own relevance and viewership, the overall leader in nominations, with 11, was “Hugo,” a sumptuous Martin Scorsese box-office flop that’s also obsessed with things Frenchy and silent — it’s a fantasy about the mood swings of the greatest moviemaker of 1902, France’s Georges Méliès.

The two acting nods for “The Artist,” combining with the honors for Max von Sydow, a Best Supporting Actor nominee as a mute elderly man who somehow manages to listen to an incessantly prattling little Upper West Side twit without throttling him in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” means that three of the 20 acting nominations were for silent acting.

Maybe Billy Crystal, who is old enough to have gone to film school with Méliès, will mime his hosting duties?

Stung by entirely correct accusations that it panders to the sweaty hordes, movieland has in recent years decided to set aside 1/365th of its calendar to make an unconvincing statement about its devotion to Art. Oscar’s 2009 pick, “The Hurt Locker,” registered as the single least-seen movie ever to win top honors, which until the past couple of decades almost invariably went to a big hit.

After the debacle of 2009, when “The Dark Knight,” despite uniting critics and audiences in rapture, failed to get a Best Picture nomination (yeah, nominee “Frost/Nixon” was much more culturally significant), the academy dumped a 66-year tradition and announced it was expanding the field from five to 10 nominees. Surely a blockbuster would make the shortlist and bring back TV viewers? Yet for two years, voters complained they couldn’t find 10 great movies. This year the academy said the number of Best Picture hopefuls would be flexible depending on merit, and delivered nine nominees. Despite massive critical and audience acclaim, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” wasn’t among them. Oops.

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