- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — American master Martin Scorsese journeyed to France, putting Hollywood’s newest technology to work for his dazzling 3-D re-creation of 1930s Paris in “Hugo.” French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius came to America, reviving old-time Hollywood with his charming resurrection of early cinema in the silent film “The Artist.”

The two films now head a 21st century Academy Awards show whose top nominees offer loving looks back to the infancy of moviemaking, when flicks really flickered and cutting-edge visual effects amounted to actors jumping out of the frame while the camera was stopped so they would seem to magically disappear.

Scorsese’s Paris adventure “Hugo” led contenders Tuesday with 11 nominations, among them best-picture and the latest directing honor for the Oscar-winning filmmaker.

Hazanavicius‘ “The Artist” ran second with 10 nominations, including honors for the director and Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, the stars of the film that could become the first silent movie to win the best-picture prize since year one at the Oscars.

Also nominated for best picture: Alexander Payne’s family drama “The Descendants”; Stephen Daldry’s Sept. 11 tale “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”; Tate Taylor’s Deep South drama “The Help”; Woody Allen’s romantic fantasy “Midnight in Paris”; Bennett Miller’s sports tale “Moneyball”; Terrence Malick’s family chronicle “The Tree of Life”; and Steven Spielberg’s World War I epic “War Horse.”

Jean Dujardin (left) and Berenice Bejo star in "The Artist." (Weinstein Co. via Associated Press)
Jean Dujardin (left) and Berenice Bejo star in “The Artist.” (Weinstein Co. ... more >

Arguably the world’s most passionate moviemaker for preserving old films and the heritage of cinema, Scorsese tried his hand at 3-D filmmaking for the first time on “Hugo” and crafted a look with such depth that the images are almost tactile.

“Hugo” follows the adventures of a boy and girl caught up in a mystery surrounding French silent film pioneer George Melies (Ben Kingsley), who stretched the boundaries of cinema with fantastical short movies in the early 1900s.

Today’s digital technology made it possible for Scorsese to create his elaborate illusion of long-gone Paris. But the process he describes sounds as experimental and innovative as the work Melies did a century ago.

“It was harder to do because every time we put the camera in a position I wanted, we discovered new ways to do things or wrong ways to do things. We were, in a sense, constantly breaking new ground,” Scorsese said. “We had to rediscover how to make movies every day, every setup.”

Among the nominations for “Hugo” are adapted screenplay, cinematography, musical score and visual effects.

“The Artist” is a throwback to black-and-white silent days as a superstar of the pre-sound era (best-actor nominee Dujardin) falls on hard times when talking pictures arrive, while a rising star (supporting-actress nominee Bejo) becomes guardian angel for the former screen idol.

“Who knows? It might be possible that he’s set off a chain reaction, and we’re off for 100 years of silent movies,” Dujardin said. “I would love it. It’s really fun for an actor. It’s very playful, and it’s pure emotion. In the end, you only see what is essential. You take away the intellect, and what’s left is life.”

Along with his directing honor, Hazanavicius was nominated for original screenplay on “The Artist.” The film’s other nominations include musical score, cinematography and costume design.

While “Hugo” and “The Artist” are testaments to early filmmaking, another key nomination is a tribute to the big-screen’s most famous sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, a superstar who was never nominated for an Oscar. Michelle Williams earned a best-actress nomination as Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.”

“I would like to think that the recognition our film has received by the academy is a testament to Marilyn’s legacy,” Williams said.

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