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Like those in other parts of popular culture, the people who work in and run the movie industry find themselves conflicted over the difference between what is good and what is popular -- especially at awards time.
Should the Oscars, for example, honor the movies that struck a chord with the most people? Or should they focus on smaller, less-seen films that nonetheless appealed to the small core of people who vote on awards? Or should tribute be paid to films that are important regardless of how much they have or haven't been seen?
This all came to mind while considering yet again The Artist, which arrived this week (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray). The mostly silent, black-and-white, full-framed film about a silent-movie actor won the Academy Award for best picture of 2011, as well as Oscars for best actor (Jean Dujardin), director (Michel Hazanavicius), costume design, and original score.
It was not my favorite for any of the major awards. While it was pleasant enough, it still felt slight, a cute bit of cinematic trickery that appealed to the voters in Hollywood because -- like Hugo -- it so loved the magic in making movies.
But neither have audiences flocked to it, before or after its Oscars success. Of the nine contenders for the best-picture Oscar, half a dozen brought in more money at the U.S. box office than The Artist. And that's just among the films considered prestigious enough for Oscar consideration; the biggest box-office performers of 2011, including the final Harry Potter and new installments of Transformers, Twilight, The Hangover, and Pirates of the Caribbean, were not in the running.
Of course, considering the highly varied quality of those movies, you can see the dilemma facing anyone thinking that box-office success should be an indicator of Oscars' glory. But I keep thinking that years from now, people are going to look at The Artist's win and wonder why such a trifle was so lauded.
As for the video release, extras include bloopers, a making-of piece, and a look at the locations used in the film.
Here's something else to ponder: The updated, R-rated version of 21 Jump Street, a genuine hit, made more in the United States than The Artist did worldwide, even though The Artist's international returns were about twice what it gained on these shores. Of course, 21 Jump Street -- inspired by the Johnny Depp TV series -- aimed to be nothing more than a big, loud, funny effort and for the most part succeeded in those terms.
Jonah Hill (who also co-wrote the movie) and Channing Tatum co-starred. Tatum, by the way, seems to be chasing some kind of Jessica Chastain award for most screen appearances in a year; in 2012 he has also had Haywire and the hit The Vow, with another film due in theaters on Friday.
He and Hill played police officers sent undercover into a high school, where they are quickly caught up in a culture very different from what they had known in adolescence. In fact, each finds his role in the high-school hierarchy is much changed.
There is also a plot that allows for some extreme car chases and gunfights, and a great deal of raunchy dialogue and humor -- too much, in fact. But that's to be expected from a script with Hill's name on it.
Extras include audio commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes and a segment with Depp.
Elsewhere on DVD and Blu-ray this week:
Judi Dench fans will want to note the arrival of Love in a Cold Climate, the 1980 miniseries (Acorn, $59.99). It was based on the novel by Nancy Mitford (which was also adapted for a later Masterpiece Theatre presentation) and a DVD has long been sought.
On the family side is Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham and Other Stories Deluxe Edition, a remastered release of a TV special containing Green Eggs and Ham, The Sneetches and The Zax. The stories have been on DVD before, but this is a Blu-ray debut. From Warner Home Video, $19.97 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Down video road:
Paramount has moved the release of Titanic on Blu-ray 2-D and 3-D to Sept. 10 from the previously announced Sept. 14.