October 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm #41017
Martin Scorsese’s children-centric 3D film just completed its work in progress NYFF screening – early reaction is mainly positive, although some comments say the film seems like two different movies; comparisons to Cinema Paradiso (a film I loathe, so hopefully not true), but apparently it becomes a movie about loving movies.October 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm #41019
Anne Thompson’s twitter reaction:
So The Artist might not be the only valentine to the movies competing this year? Interesting…October 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm #41020
^Early word is that My Week With Marilyn plays up on the showbiz/movie (behind the scenes and filming) factor.October 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm #41021
For what it’s worth, early reaction includes a lot of praise for Ben Kingsley’s supporting performance.October 11, 2011 at 8:40 am #41022
Anne Thompson’s more fleshed out response:
It’s a $120-million borderline art film aimed at families who may or may not buy into this elaborately 30s period Brit-accented movie set in Paris with two tweens (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz) on an adventure. (This 3-D live action/VFX picture brooks comparison to Steven Spielberg’s youthful The Adventures of Tintin). But while Spielberg stays in the realm of comic book action fantasy, Hugo‘s fantastical mystery leads us to the birth of cinema—which is where Scorsese’s heart lies, and the film takes off. John Logan’s adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel takes a while to get there, though. The Paris sets and the interiors of the giant clocks inside a Paris train station are wondrous 3-D environments. While Butterfield and the first half of the film are awkward and stiff—with occasional comic pratfalls from Sacha Baron Cohen—the film shifts into gear by the finale. (I doubt that the movie will head into Oscar territory outside the technical realm—but cinematography, production design, costumes, sound, and VFX are in the running.)November 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm #41023
Pete Hammond writes that Paramount looks like they are going to push Hugo hard –
By PETE HAMMOND | Sunday November 6, 2011 @ 5:27pm PSTTags: Academy Awards, Georges Melies, Graham King, Hugo The invention of Hugo Cabret, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Paramount, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Slash
Another piece of this year’s Oscar movie puzzle was unveiled in a big way this weekend when Paramount rolled out Martin Scorsese’s 99.9% finished version of his first family film, 3D film and perhaps most personal film. Hugo, an ode to the early days of cinema and the eye-popping possibilities of movies. In an intriguing and highly unusual move , Paramount held a packed screening, with tons of invited press and bloggers included, at Regal’s Downtown LA Live theatres Saturday afternoon. Then that night they also played it at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills for the Academy’s official membership screening. That last move was interesting since most films play either weekend of opening or after for the Acad (although The Weinstein Co. is unspooling their much praised ode to the early days of cinema, The Artist for its official Academy screening Sunday night). But it is extremely rare to show voters something that is still unfinished (one special effects shot was missing and the end credits are far from complete) but this film’s media rollout has been different from the start. It was first unleashed in a much less finished form at the New York Film Festival last month as a “work in progress.” Reaction on the web was all over the place, generally favorable, but did not signal a major awards contender outside of the obvious technical nominations for the film’s stunning look. That screening in hindsight may have been a miscalculation.
This week things began to heat up. Paramount had a couple of “tastemaker” screenings for AMPAS members a few days ago (one evening, one during lunchtime) where the median age range was said to be 60-plus with 50 members reportedly at each. There were also reportedly 80 members who checked in for the Regal screening that was accompanied by a lively post Q&A moderated by director Paul Thomas Anderson with Scorsese and his dream team of much-Oscared collaborators including DP Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, composer Howard Shore and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato. Scorsese received a highly enthusiastic standing ovation when he was introduced just as he did again today after a DGA screening for a Q&A moderated by James Cameron who told him that Hugo was a “masterpiece.” He added “finally there is a Scorsese film I can take my kids to.”Musician Slash was among those also there and he later tweeted “Fantastic movie! NOT just for kids.”
Before now I never sensed Paramount was positioning this film as a major Best Picture contender but apparently with just 2½ weeks to go before its November 23 opening they are letting the cat out of the bag. In fact that is just the description one Par staffer emailed to describe the emerging campaign telling me they now think it can possibly go all the way. “The Oscar pic no one saw coming. Stealthy. It is playing like gangbusters with the Academy. The cat is out of the bag,” it read. Another person connected with the film reported on last night’s primetime Saturday night Academy screening, spinning that there were about 450-500 members with their guests and that it was “looooooved” with solid, sustained applause and appreciation for “Scorsese’s homage to their industry.” This person feels it will now be a solid contender in most major categories and “across the board” in crafts.
Wishful thinking or based on truth?
The attendance figure at the Acad screening is middling, nowhere near the packed houses for other recent Oscar contenders Midnight In Paris, Moneyball, The Ides of March to name three that nearly filled the place. Despite Scorsese’s name, part of the problem might be that it is currently perceived as more of a 3D kids film by Academy members who generally don’t lavish Oscar attention on that genre. Paramounties are positioning it as something with equal or even greater adult appeal and I would agree, if you can work them to a winter’s passion to see it the way it should be seen. It’s much more ambitious than the average studio family holiday offering. At the very least it’s definitely got HUGE film freak appeal (count me as one of those).
Scorsese working at the absolute top of his game may be key to getting those older butts in seats. From my perspective it is a masterpiece of personal filmmaking along the lines of Fellini’s Amarcord, Truffaut’s Day for Night and Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. It goes without saying that the craftsmanship is as good as it gets and for those who can’t stand 3D this could be a game changer. Critic Leonard Maltin (who loved it) commented after the Regal screening that one extraordinary use of 3D in a scene involving co-star Sacha Baron Cohen’s face moving progressively closer into the audience could be the one that “finally makes the 3D sale” to those who just think it’s a fad.
I talked to producer Graham King in the lobby afterward and he said he was actually nervous that they were “finally” showing the film in its (near) finished state but couldn’t wait to have people see it — and see it on a big screen. “I really don’t want to send out the DVD screeners (to voting groups). I guess I have to but it kills me. It is not the way to see a movie like this,” he said. well aware that screeners are the reality of Oscar campaigning. He’s right, though, and films from master filmmakers that are high on the visually artistic scale of Hugo, War Horse and Tree of Life among others will undoubtedly be diminished significantly on the home video format. With looser Academy rules this year regarding once-verboten attendance of members where there are Q&As perhaps the numbers of voters seeing these films in theatres will increase. That would be a good thing all around, and especially for Hugo.
Based on Brian Selznick’s children’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, screenwriter John Logan and Scorsese have certainly retained those fantastical story elements to which kids will relate, but it is in the film’s second half with a plot involving film pioneer Georges Melies (strongly played by Ben Kingsley) and his lost silent movies that the connection to the wonderment of cinema comes alive in the hands of film aficionado Scorsese. “I’m hoping it will be educational for the audience,” King told me. Certainly it will inspire new generations of movie dreamers as well as those who are already living the dream (in other words, the Academy). I would be shocked if some of Scorsese’s chief competitors in the Oscar race this year, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen and Alexander Payne — film nerds all — aren’t completely in agreement with Cameron’s assessment of the film. The sequence recreating the making of Melies’ classic, A Trip to the Moon is a must for cineastes.
It will be fascinating to see how deftly Paramount can try to steer what on the page is a 3D kids movie, albeit a sophisticated one directed by Martin Scorsese, into a Best Picture race that just got more interestingNovember 6, 2011 at 7:36 pm #41024
@SF- I too have heard that Kingsley is the standout. Most say that the lead kid Asa Butterfield is kind of stiff, especially in his scenes where he’s paired with Chloe Moretz. And most have been saying that the last third is magical, even those who find the film to be quite flawed. I’m looking forward to it now.November 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm #41025
How strange it would be if what might end up being Scorsese’s best reviewed film in many years ends up not getting a BP nomination.
From Todd McCarthy/Variety
The dazzling family friendly film opens Nov. 23 via Paramount.
A passionate brief for film preservation wrapped in a fanciful tale of childhood intrigue and adventure, Hugo dazzlingly conjoins the earliest days of cinema with the very latest big-screen technology. At once Martin Scorsese‘s least characteristic film and his most deeply felt, this opulent adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s extensively illustrated novel is ostensibly a children’s and family film, albeit one that will play best to sophisticated kids and culturally inclined adults. Paramount has no choice but to go for broke by selling this most ingenious of 3D movies to the widest possible public, hoping that critical acclaim and novelty value will pique the curiosity of all audiences. All the same, it remains something of a tricky proposition commercially.
our editor recommends
Like so many of the most popular and enduring fictions centered on children, from Dickens to Harry Potter, this one is about orphans and castoffs, kids who must scheme, fight and resist authority to make their way in life. With exceptional imagination, first Selznick and now Scorsese and scenarist John Logan have found a way to connect their resourceful leading characters with one of the great early figures of cinema, Georges Melies, most famous as the originator of the science fiction film with his 1902 A Trip to the Moon and, perhaps more significantly, the first man to recognize the connection between the cinema and dreams.
In an incidental moment that alone justifies the entire recent resurgence of 3D, Scorsese recreates the legendary presentation of the Lumiere brothers’ 1897 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, at which audiences flinched in horror as a train filmed coming into a station appeared to be headed right at them, in a way that astonishingly captures the reaction the brief clip was described as having created. For anyone remotely interested in film history, Hugo must be seen in 3D if only for this interlude, which the director and cinematographer Robert Richardson have pulled off through an impeccably precise combination of framing and timing.
The richness of detail and evident care that has been extended to all aspects of the production are of a sort possible only when a top director has a free hand to do everything he or she feels is necessary to entirely fulfill a project’s ambitions. As has been seen all too many times, this sort of carte blanche has its pitfalls in indulgence, extravagance and waste. In this case, however, the obvious expenditures of time, care and money would seem to have been devoted to matters directly connected to Scorsese’s overriding obsessions with film — the particulars of its creation, manner of presentation, the nature of the people who make it, its importance to the inner lives of those who love it and preservation both of film itself and the reputations of its practitioners.
By contrast, the film’s faults have more to do with less exalted issues such as slight overlength, a certain repetitiveness and the evident fact that Scorsese is not a great director of physical comedy.
The eponymous orphan here is Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a prepubescent youngster who, after the death of his beloved father (Jude Law in flashback), is grudgingly taken under wing by a dissolute uncle (Ray Winstone) who tends to the complicated system of clocks at one of Paris’ major train stations, circa 1931 (as specified in Selznick’s book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, although not in the film). The labyrinth of gears, cranks, shafts and stairs that comprise this hidden chamber is explored in an extraordinary shot that winds up through it, and when the old man expires, Hugo, with nowhere else to go, surreptitiously takes charge of the clocks, unbeknownst to the vigilant station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen).
When the coast is clear, Hugo slips out of a wall grating to snatch something to eat and runs afoul of a sour old man (Ben Kingsley) who tends a toy shop in the station. He also meets another station dweller, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who’s been raised by the old man, her godfather, and his wife. A precocious lass who, in a nice invention of Logan’s, likes to use big words, Isabelle is a bookworm with bright eyes and a wonderful smile who has no complaints except that her protectors won’t permit her to see movies. Hugo remedies this by taking her to a showing of Safety Last, famous for the image of Harold Lloyd dangling over the streets of Los Angeles from a clock. Thus is born a new cinephile.
Having found his first friend, Hugo dares to bring Isabelle to his private lair, albeit with an ulterior motive; a heart-shaped key she wears around her neck looks like just what he needs to activate his primary inheritance from his father, an elaborate, unfinished automaton he’s been tinkering with that he suspects might provide him with vital information.
The upshot is that Isabelle’s guardian is none other than Melies, the film pioneer thought to have died during World War I. Embittered and forgotten, Melies destroyed his own work, melting the celluloid down to be used as heels for women’s shoes, and the children, in league with an early film historian (Michael Stuhlbarg) set about engineering the resurrection of the old gent’s reputation, while also restoring his sense of purpose in life.
This impulse to recognize and rehabilitate a filmmaker and his work lies at the core of Hugo and has perhaps never before been so lovingly and extensively expressed in a narrative feature. As the film pushes into its second hour, Scorsese and his team imaginatively and exactingly recreate the shooting of scenes from several notable Melies films, replicating the extraordinary sets, costumes and “special effects” they employed, and which often featured the director’s wife Jeanne (Helen McCrory). A particular point is made of how Melies’ films were hand-colored, frame by frame, the results of which are vividly rendered through the fortuitous recent Lobster Films color restoration of A Trip to the Moon. In related contexts, many other silent films — some famous, others not so much — are sampled in an enormously expressive but admirably disciplined manner.
Compared to Scorsese’s fundamental achievement in so eloquently articulating his abiding passion in a fictional context, the melodrama surrounding Hugo’s precarious existence in the station and his persistent, if easily distracted, pursuit by the station inspector feels overextended and indulged. The kid-in-peril interludes feel both obligatory, as something to potentially engage younger audiences, and padded to give more screen time to Cohen, who delivers an arch performance that is faintly amusing and slightly off-key. The director works overtime to give the station scenes cinematic life, letting the camera loose to prowl amid hordes of extras and dense scenic detail, but overkill eventually sets in after one or two too many chases. An under-two-hour running time should have been a goal.
One aspect that takes a bit getting used to is the across-the-board use of British accents by the, admittedly, mostly English cast for characters who are all French. It was a perfectly pragmatic decision, in the end, as having the actors employ French accents would likely have proved annoying and universal American accents would have been no more logical than British ones; it’s probably just the vast difference in speech and temperament on opposite sides of the Channel that somewhat jars.
Although he ultimately comes through with a winning performance, Butterfield, previously seen in Son of Rambow and The Wolfman, seems a bit stiff and uncertain in the early-going; there are scenes in which he seems over-manipulated, right down to the slightest gestures and the direction of his glances. By contrast, Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In), with her beaming warmth and great smile, is captivating as a girl who leaps at the chance for some adventure outside of books. Refusing to sentimentalize, Kingsley catches both the deeply submerged hurt and eventual pride of an artist long but not forever erased from history, while McCrory invigorates as his younger wife, who first protects but then crucially helps liberate his secret.
The film’s craft and technical achievements are of the highest order, combining to create an immaculate present to film lovers everywhere. It would be hard to say enough on behalf of Richardson’s cinematography, Dante Ferretti’s production design, Sandy Powell’s costumes, Rob Legato‘s extensive visual effects, Thelma Schoonmaker‘s editing, Howard Shore‘s almost constant score and the army of technical experts who made all of Scorsese’s perfectionist wishes come true.
One amusing detail is that the view from Hugo’s clock tower seems to vary in height from scene to scene, as judged in relation to the Eiffel Tower across the city; at times it’s level with the second deck of the landmark, at others is even with the very top and at least once provides a perspective actually looking down upon it. A work of great imagination indeed.November 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm #41026
If this keeps getting similar reviews, this might not only be a BP nominee, but might even contend to win:
By Peter Debruge
Sacha Baron Cohen plays the Inspector in Martin Scorsese’s 3D ‘Hugo.’
Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz star in the kidpic, based on Brian Selznick’s illustrated children’s novel ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret.’
OTHER RECENT REVIEWS:
A Paramount release presented with GK Films of a GK Films/Infinitum Nihil production. Produced by Graham King, Tim Headington, Martin Scorsese, Johnny Depp. Executive producers, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, David Crockett, Georgia Kacandes, Christi Dembrowski, Barbara Defina. Directed by Martin Scrosese. Screenplay, John Logan, based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.
Georges Melies – Ben Kingsley Inspector – Sacha Baron Cohen Hugo Cabret – Asa Butterfield Isabelle – Chloe Grace Moretz Uncle Claude – Ray Winstone Lisette – Emily Mortimer Monsieur Labisse – Christopher Lee Mama Jeanne – Helen McCrory Rene Tabard – Michael Stuhlbarg Madame Emilie – Frances de la Tour Monsieur Frick – Richard Griffiths Hugo’s Father – Jude Law
In attempting to make his first film for all ages, Martin Scorsese has fashioned one for the ages. Simultaneously classical and modern, populist but also unapologetically personal, “Hugo” flagrantly defies the mind-numbing quality of most contempo kidpics and instead rewards patience, intellectual curiosity and a budding interest in cinema itself. Given the sheer expense of this lavish production and its marketing, Scorsese’s playfully didactic, nouveau-Dickensian adventure could spell a money-losing gamble in the near term; wind the clock forward half a century, however, and “Hugo’s” timeless qualities should distinguish it as an achievement with the style and substance to endure.
Based on Brian Selznick s illustrated children s novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the story couldn t be more different from Scorsese s previous efforts, not least of all because it reps the director s first “deepie,” to resurrect a bit of vintage slanguage for 3D pics. Still, anyone familiar with Scorsese s obsessions will instantly recognize why he felt compelled to adapt such a unique book, enlisting his usual team of powerhouse craftsmen to realize his vision, while working once again on a scale enabled by producer/champion Graham King (“Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator”).
“Hugo” tells the story of a wide-eyed orphan (Asa Butterfield, more wooden than he was in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”) who s desperately alone in the world until he discovers a father figure in ornery old toy seller Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), whom cineastes will recognize as one of the fathers of film itself. How the great Melies who created the indelible image of a rocket embedded in the eye of the moon came to spend his retirement selling toys in a Paris train station, and what role young Hugo can play in giving his life meaning, are among the urgent mysteries revealed in the film’s second half, which Scorsese uses to inspire audiences on the importance of remembering how the medium began.
For roughly the first hour, however, Melies true identity doesn’t factor, leaving the film to focus on the plight of its young protagonist. Lurking out of sight within the walls of the Gare Montparnasse (a massive set elaborately designed by Dante Ferretti), where he works as unofficial timekeeper of the station’s many clocks, Hugo escapes every so often to snatch a hot croissant or nick the odd widget needed for his pet project, repairing an automaton his late father (Jude Law, seen only briefly) rescued from the attic of a nearby museum.
Scorsese introduces Hugo’s world via a series of virtuoso camera moves, seamlessly enhanced by 3D and state-of-the-art CG (notice how Scorsese uses steam and floating particles to create a sense of dimension throughout). In one shot, Richard Richardson’s dynamic camera swoops down from the skies and between rows of passengers disembarking the trains outdoors, pushing its way confidently through the crowd, into the station and up to a clockface, where a pair of big blue eyes peer down on the scene below.
Those peepers, which at times seem to fill the entire frame, invite auds into a spirit of shared voyeurism, as Hugo spies on the characters passing through each day with the same fascination with which we all watch movies. In perhaps the film’s trickiest feat (just one of many expertly navigated by editor Thelma Schoonmaker), “Hugo” manages to alternate between its central story and a series of neat subplots among the station regulars.
There’s the ruthless inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) determined to keep his domain free of fatherless urchins, yet smitten with Lisette (Emily Mortimer), who sells flowers a few paces from the pastry shop where Mme. Emilie (Frances de la Tour) sits, her dachshund a constant obstacle to the amorous M. Frick (Richard Griffiths). Cohen in particular brings the vaudevillian quality of early silent comics to his role, as in a bit that finds him swerving to avoid upsetting a six-tier cake, only to plant his foot in the nearest cello.
Howard Shore’s whimsical score sets the tone as Hugo surveys these dynamics, playfully taking its cue from the resident cafe musicians. For fear of discovery, Hugo keeps his distance from the adults, until the day Melies catches the young thief red-handed. Kingsley plays the old man as a genuine misanthrope, embittered by years of neglect and haunted by secrets he keeps bottled up.
Nearly all the adult characters come across as forbidding authority figures to Hugo, further accentuating the young orphan s isolation in the world. Hugo’s only ally is a girl named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who holds the key to his broken automaton. An avid reader, Isabelle takes pride in her multi-syllable vocabulary, introducing Hugo to the station s intimidating book lender (Christopher Lee). In return, Hugo drags Isabelle to the movies, specifically “Safety Last,” in which silent comedian Harold Lloyd hangs from the hands of a giant clock — an image soon to be repeated in Hugo s own life.
Hugo overflows with allusions, both cinematic and literary, reflecting the combined passions of Scorsese and writer John Logan, whose screenplay feels as alive with love for words as Scorsese is passionate about pictures. Invigorated by the use of 3D, the helmer tips his hat to the masters of silent and 1930s French cinema, innovating all the while. At one point, he re-creates the apocryphal early screening of the Lumiere brothers’ “L’Arrivee d’un train en gare de La Ciotat,” in which audiences are so startled to see a train approaching onscreen that they leap out of its path. Scorsese builds on this image, featuring dreams within dreams as a sleeping Hugo imagines an actual train crashing through his station, quoting everything from the wreck in Abel Gance’s “La Roue” to the photo of an actual 1895 rail catastrophe at Montparnasse in the process.
Far from indulgences, these respectful nods echo the film s central theme, which concerns the plight of all those who never knew the attention filmmakers experience today. Although many will connect “Hugo’s” message with Scorsese’s film preservation work, it more closely matches his role in creating a late-career rediscovery for director Michael Powell, whom he helped to rescue from obscurity. Here, his young protagonist acts on behalf of all the medium s artists manquis.
Though Melies enjoyed great success innovating many of cinema s first special effects (look for side-by-side cameras in one of Scorsese s giddy restagings of these early productions, indicating that Melies was also among the first helmers to work in stereo), he was eventually bankrupted by film piracy and bad luck. His story is among the great tragedies of film history, reaching its lowest point in 1923, when Melies burned all his own negatives. “Hugo” supplies an alternative more in keeping with Scorsese s film-preservation message, as well as a resolution possible only now, in 2011, with the restoration of the only surviving hand-tinted color print of Melies’ masterpiece, 1902’s “A Trip to the Moon.” Astonishingly, Schoonmaker manages to condense this gem to just 100 seconds within the great tapestry of Scorsese s rhapsody to an unforgettable art form.
Camera (color/B&W, 3D), Robert Richardson; editor, Thelma Schoonmaker; music, Howard Shore; music supervisor, Randall Poster; production designer, Dante Ferretti; supervising art director, David Warren; art directors, Rod McLean, Luca Tranchino, Christian Huband, Stuart Rose, Martin Foley; set decorator, Francesca Lo Schiavo; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/Datasat), John Midgley; supervising sound editors, Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty; re-recording mixer, Tom Fleischman; special effects supervisor, Joss Williams; visual effects supervisor, Ben Grossmann; visual effects, Pixomondo, Lola VFX, Uncharted Territory, Industrial Light and Magic, Matte World Digital; stunt coordinator, Doug Coleman; assistant director, Chris Surgent; second unit director/camera, Rob Legato; casting, Ellen Lewis. Reviewed at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live, Nov. 5, 2011. (In New York Film Festival — Surprise Screening, Work in Progress.) MPAA Rating. PG. Running time: 126 MIN.November 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm #41027
I love what I’m hearing about this movie. A cinephiles wet dream directed by Marty Scorsese? I couldn’t be more excited for this.November 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm #41028
Honestly it’s the first Scorsese film I’ved looked forward to seeing with any degree of enthusiasm since Reagan was president.November 19, 2011 at 8:12 am #41029
Richard Corliss/Time raves
(I wonder if this should be added to the list of leading NYFC best film possibilities; Goodfellas is his only previous winner from them in this category)
Martin Scorsese made his rep as the fierce bard of American gangster machismo. From Mean Streets to The Departed, he has sung the body choleric. So why would he make a film of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick’s rhapsodically nostalgic children’s book? Because Hugo is fascinated by artistic contraptions that cast spells over the audience. And Scorsese, a lifelong lover and promoter of classic films, has never lost his infant wonder at the spectacle of giant images in a darkened movie palace. So Hugo is not only an act of devotion from a modern movie artist to the wizards who inspired him; it is also Scorsese’s imaginary autobiography.
An orphan since the death of his beloved father (Jude Law), Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in Paris’ Montparnasse train station, where he keeps the clocks running perfectly — a job left him by his absent, alcoholic uncle. Fearful of being caught by the pompous station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and with no way of cashing his uncle’s checks, Hugo lives furtively inside the clock tower, surviving by stealing food from local shops. Obsessed with assembling a mysterious automation his father had been working on, Hugo also filches machine parts from teh toy store of stern, gloomy Papa Georges (Ben Kinglsey). The boy’s friendship with Georges’ god-daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) will help him unwrap sensational secrets, including the invention of movie magic.
Scorsese and screenwriter John Logan share Selznick’s belief that movies are both the stuff dreams are made of and the product of supreme technological expertise. It’s a machine that makes art. That’s evident in the two amazing tracking shots that open Hugo. The first traversing the Paris skyline to alight inside the train station, the second scampering after Hugo through the building’s clockwork innards. Shot in 3-D (a format that dates back nearly to the dawn of cinema), these images impart a vertiginous ecstasy.
Scorsese, no less than Selznick, wants to open viewers’ eyes to the sacred sorcery of the earliest works by the Lumiere brothers, Georges Melies, Harold Lloyd — the whole fabulous parade — and to show how these masterpieces were birthed by tinkerers of genius. But Hugo is more than a love letter to film preservation. It gives full Dickensian heft to its sad, tender story of a lost boy on a mission. Bursting with emotion and exquisitely inhabited by Butterfield and the rest of the cast, this beautiful film is a mechanism that comes to life at the turn of a key in the shape of a heart.November 19, 2011 at 8:43 am #41030
I wonder how much the film’s chances will hold up after it underperforms or flops when it opens at the box office next weekend. It is up against four other family films and will likely gross far less than all four of them. Adults will need to turn out in force and generate plenty of good word of mouth to keep this film on the radar. For the most part, Oscar doesn’t embrace a dud film.November 19, 2011 at 8:53 am #41031
That is a concern, but it can be mitigated.
Not all films are judged by placement in opening weekend grosses – there is WOM that can help keep a film going and sustain a better than normal hold.
Its bigger problem will be holding on to 3D screens through Christmas.