The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius)

Leisurely-paced, straightforward story of silent film star George Valentin and early talkie star Peppy Miller. He’s struck by her early on, helps her career get started, and they stay acquaintances, but he’s more focused on his career. He sinks his savings into a big film, written produced and starring himself, which comes out and flops the day after the stock market crash and the same day as Peppy’s massive hit Beauty Spot. After she becomes famous she stalks him, buying up his pawned and auctioned belongings, and putting him up in her mansion when he’s hospitalized after burning up all his films and nearly himself. Another suicide attempt, with a gun this time (punchline provided by George’s dog) before Peppy manages to find him a worthwhile job as a film dancer.

Good supporting cast. John Goodman is the film producer, James Cromwell is Valentin’s extremely loyal chauffeur/assistant, Penelope Ann Miller (who played Edna Purviance in Chaplin) is Valentin’s wife (then ex-wife), and a weird little appearance by Malcolm McDowell, who must’ve been spotted near the set that day and hastily recruited. Writer/director Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo made the OSS 117 spy comedies before this.

It’s been commonly reported that The Artist is the first silent film since the first academy awards in 1928 to win best picture. But it’s also the first novelty film since 1929’s weak (but with sound! and in color!) Broadway Melody to win the award.