“Even The Artist‘s most vocal detractors — who would likely not be vocal at all about it under normal circumstances — would have to confess that the film is not some bloated sop to the Academy, like so many other major studio productions crafted specifically for year-end consideration,” writes AV Club‘s Scott Tobias.

“Its goals are modest, its pleasures refined — not a whiff of self-importance or middlebrow grandeur, no issues more pressing than a general appreciation of love and the cinema, and certainly no ambition to heal a nation a decade after 9/11 or credit white audiences with a behind-the-back, Ricky Rubio-style assist in ending black oppression.

“And yet the resentment is there. Late last year, in a tribute to the absurdity of cinematic riches in 2011, I expanded my Top 10 list to 20 and added another 30 Honorable Mentions. Though even I’m not quite nerdy enough to keep ranking, The Artist would likely fall somewhere toward the back half of the next 50, so quickly did it slip like sand through my fingers.

“But then, the Oscars — and to varying degrees, all awards — are not about greatness, but about consensus. And The Artist is a point of agreement, much like a bill that’s been haggled over, kicked around by powerful special interests, watered down in committee, and passed to the majority’s tempered contentment.”