Like Singin' in the Rain, a film to which it's often compared, The Artist is an example of the kind of mythic history Hollywood tells about itself in order to promote its own survival in times of trouble. When Rain was released in 1952, studios were struggling to adapt to both a 1948 court order that forced the studios to give up ownership and management of movie theaters, and the growing lure of television. The Artist has been released into a similar period of transition, as celluloid technology is being replaced by digital, and theater attendance is threatened by the habits of a new generation born into an on-demand world. If the Oscars truly are Hollywood's way of telling us what it's thinking about itself, then the dominance of The Artist reflects the paranoid uncertainty of a contemporary movie industry barreling toward an uncertain future, and looking to the past for reassurance.

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