Hugo (dir: Martin Scorsese; Nov 23, 2011)
I wrote this for my school newspaper (I'm the film critic), so lemme know what you guys think. It hasn't actually gone into the paper yet, so there's room for editing.
If you had told me that Martin Scorseseís most ambitious project in years would be a PG-rated family film, Iíd have called you crazy. The man who directed the incredible 1976 character study Taxi Driver (which also happens to be my favorite film of all time), the legendary 1980 sports biopic Raging Bull, the excellent 1990 crime film Goodfellas, and most recently, the mind-bending 2010 neo-noir Shutter Island, making a family film? I was lost at first, but my rampant Scorsese obsession would keep me excited for this film. After all, how could it go wrong? Scorsese has crafted period pieces, biopics (short for biographical pictures), crime epics, and a slew of documentaries. There is absolutely no genre this man canít conquer, and the family film is no exception. I had my doubts but I mostly stayed positive, and as it turns out, Hugo (adapted from Brian Selznickís The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is one of the best films of the year.
Hugo takes place in the early twentieth century and follows Hugo Cabret (played by Asa Butterfield), a Parisian orphan whose late father was an inventor. Hugo very much shares this enthusiastically inventive spirit with his father, and spends most of his time in a train station trying to unearth the mysteries of a humanoid automaton he and his father spent so much effort attempting to operate. When he meets Isabelle (played by ChloŽ Grace Moretz), he discovers that their paths intertwine exponentially more so than he initially thought and that she may hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the aforementioned automaton. Gandhi himself, Sir Ben Kingsley, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Isabelleís grandfather, a bitter old toymaker with a troubled and tragic past. The rest of the cast includes Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame as Inspector Gustav, a station inspector with a knack for catching thieving orphans; Christopher Lee of Star Wars prequel fame as the kind bookshop owner Monsieur Labisse; and Jude Law as Hugoís father (shown in flashback).
Unfortunately, I was unable to see the film in 3D but Iíve heard nothing but positive commentary on Scorseseís use of 3D, which doesnít surprise me at all. Thereís a scene in Goodfellas in which Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) goes into a restaurant named Copacabana with his wife. Scorsese makes great use of steady cam, a technique that involves the camera following the actors through the scene as opposed to just standing there, motionless. Hill crosses the street, descends down stairs, makes his way down a hallway, through a kitchen, and into the main dining room where he shakes hands with all of his less-than-reputable acquaintances, all while the camera follows closely behind. The shot adds great depth to the visuals, and it was that innovative scene alone that convinced me that Scorsese had the ability to pull off 3D in a day and age when strong 3D can only be found in animated films.
Hugo is not for everyone. Despite the PG rating, children may not enjoy this film due to its slow pacing. Hugo is a movie for movie lovers. Itís a celebration of cinema in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the dawn of motion pictures. In that day and age, filmmakers used cameras with handles that they had to crank in order to use. Films were on reels, and black-and-white was the standard unless the filmmaker painted over each individual frame. In addition, you may as well have talked during movies, because there was no sound. It was a simpler time, when the shortest films lasted mere seconds and were still able to inspire awe in moviegoers. Most people see film as a hobby when, in fact, it was and still is a groundbreaking art form. Hugo appreciates film for what it is. Itís smart and has a lot of heart and passion weaved in it, and I would even say that itís one of Martin Scorseseís most personal projects due to the parallels one could draw to his life (one being that Scorsese, like Cabret, spent most of his childhood in isolation). Those who view films as a hobby should enjoy this for its excellent British cast, great use of visual effects, and whimsical yet heartfelt story, but Hugo is really meant for those who love movies to an unhealthy degree.
I'm not sure if I have an adequate ending sentence so any suggestions would be nice. Nothing corny please.