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1:08pm UK, Friday February 24, 2012

Lucy Cotter, in Hollywood

The Artist - the black and white silent film which is the bookies favourite to win Best Picture on Sunday - takes audiences back to a bygone era of movie making.

French actor Jean Dujardin has been thrust from relative obscurity onto the world stage for his role as the silent movie star George Valetin whose career is threatened by the introduction of the "talkies".

Berenice Bejo

The Artist is expected to win big at this year's Oscars

He has already scooped awards in Cannes, at the Golden Globes, the Sags and the Baftas for Best Actor and he is likely to win the Academy Award, even though he has stiff competition in the form of Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Dujardin told Sky News he is surprised at the success of the quirky film but believes its appeal is in its simplicity: "It's not just a silent film, it's also a love story and there's a cute dog, audiences love cute dogs".

The Artist is not the only film to spark a trend for old-fashioned cinema. Martin Scorcese's Hugo tops the list with 11 nominations.

Set in Paris, it is further testimony that the French are very in vogue this season, and it is an ode to the early days of film.

Oscars To Celebrate A Century In Film

Martin Scorsese's Hugo is up for the Best Film Award

Scorsese - most famous for directing classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull - admits he made this fantasy film in 3D for his 12-year-old daughter but also to satisfy his own obsession with the evolution of the film industry: "The whole story revolved around the history of cinema and the magic of imagination."

My Week with Marilyn is another nominated film to capitalise on audiences' appetite for Hollywood's glamorous past. It pays tribute to two of Hollywood's most iconic actors, Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier.

British actor Kenneth Branagh, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Olivier at the Academy Awards, said: "The story is such a fascinating one how he should be able to work with Marilyn Monroe the greatest movie star in the world at that time and the two of them didn't get on."

This year Universal - the oldest studio in America - is celebrating a century in production.

It is home to classics such as ET, Jaws and Back to the Future and to this year's Oscar nominated Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Bridesmaids.

Every year it makes more than 100 productions and it has got an impressive number of awards to show for it, including 697 Academy Award nominations and 150 wins.

Frankenstein

1931 movie Frankenstein is being re-mastered as part of the tribute to cinema

To mark 100 years in the business, it is capitalising on the popularity of nostalgia by re-mastering classics from its archive of a million and half items for a new generation to enjoy.

Universal has selected titles dating back to the 1930s, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein and Jaws, painstakingly restoring each damaged frame.

The Hollywood studio system contributes more than $10bn to the US economy keeping more than two million people in work.

Although the business has changed beyond all recognition in the past 100 years, with changes in technology and the studio system, Universal recognises that the fundamentals of making a hit remain the same.

Universal's co-chair Donna Langley told Sky: "A good script, a good story, engaging characters, with actors who love playing the parts and a great filmmaker will make a good movie, and I think today audiences are looking for escapism.

"It's hard times, tough times and they look to the movies to take them to a different world, or to take them back to a time when perhaps things were more simple, more easy."

The Academy Awards are on Sky Movies and Sky Living this Sunday night from 11pm and you can see all the stars on the red carpet live on Sky News from 5pm on Sunday, February 26, and from 6am on Monday, February 27.

Read more http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Showbiz-News/Oscars-Celebrate-A-Hundred-Years-Of-Golden-Age-Cinema/Article/201202416176359?f=rss