So once again we have survived.

All Ages Cinematic Tryptych #3 of 3: Hugo 3D

tn_hugoHUGO is the new “picture” from Martin Scorsese (GOODFELLAS). Like HAPPY FEET TWO it’s in 3D and like THE MUPPETS it’s a nostalgic revival of bygone popular entertainment and involves visiting a long-since-given-up former legend and getting him to reluctantly think about the old days. But in this case it’s the work of early cinema pioneer George Melies. So the history lesson seems more appropriate here. I wasn’t convinced that we needed to be reminded what the Muppets are, but when it’s silent film, yeah, maybe explain some of that shit, Scorsy. (I don’t feel comfortable calling him ‘Marty,’ so I use ‘Scorsy.’)

HUGO is about a little boy (Asa Butterfield) who secretly lives inside the walls of a Paris train station. I guess in a way it’s like THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS because he’s the despised underclass who got stuck in that situation due to  a cruel adult (Ray Winstone), and he’s kind of afraid to come out. But he’s not mutated or anything, he’s an adorable moppet with a little sweater and jacket and everything.

In a way it’s also kind of like one of Scorsese’s earlier films, BAD. But it’s the train station instead of a subway station and when he goes around committing petty crimes it’s stealing food and mechanical parts, not rollerskating, spraypainting “BAD” on the wall and removing the vents. Instead of trying to assert himself as a man by telling Wesley Snipes to lay off he’s trying to come to an understanding about the death of his father by convincing Ben Kingsley to dream again. And instead of part of it being in black and white all of it is in 3D.

mp_hugoHis name is Hugo though, that is why it is called HUGO, it’s his name.

The movie is based on a children’s book I guess, and the trailers kinda reminded me of that “Lemony Snickets” deal, or a HARRY POTTER or something. But you should know there’s no magical business in this at all. There is an automaton but he’s not alive, it’s not that kind of party. It’s not magical in the “abracadabra” sense, only in the “whimsical” sense and in the “good” sense. It’s about a bunch of sad and lonely people whose lives intersect in a way that ultimately makes them better. And it’s about movies.

Scorsese – I don’t know if you guys know this – likes movies alot. He probly grew up in a bedroom full of lunchboxes and dolls of “the Movies” so this is his love letter to them. Hugo misses his pops and one of the things he remembers fondly is watching movies with him, just like you guys remember your dad bringing you to see DIE HARD or PREDATOR or whatever, but unfortunately he probly died before those movies ever came out and had to settle for seeing silent films. He meets this girl played by the girl who played “Hit Girl” in KICK-ASS. (They all speak with British accents, a metaphor for speaking in French.) She loves books and thinks they take her away on adventures but she’s never seen a movie so he’s like “Oh jesus, this is gonna blow your mind” and he peer pressures her into recreational movie use. I doubt she ever read a book again.

But the story is about how he gets caught stealing by this old shopkeeper (Kingsley) named Papa George who takes Hugo’s notebook with the plans for the automaton that he’s been trying to repair. Now this might be a SPOILER ’cause I didn’t know this going in, but he finds out that Papa George is actually George fucking Melies, whose “rocket shooting into the eyeball of the man on the moon” you’ve seen before and Hugo has only heard about from his dad, who was blown away by it. But Papa George was crushed by whatever happened between then and now and refuses to even talk about it. And Hugo feels he has to get him to in order to come to terms with his dad’s death. So it’s kinda crazy, that’s his goal. Not to find some treasure or destroy a magic rock or something.

What I liked best about this movie is the way each of the characters has some “broken” part to them that they’re trying to fix. It’s not just the kid and the old man, it’s also the train station security dude (ice skater turned Borat Sacha Baron Cohen) who has every possibility of just being a broad slapstick villain. In fact, in his first scene he gets hooked on the side of a train, dragging him and getting him whacked in the balls, and I was worried that maybe they were wasting Cohen’s talents. But then we start to get this subplot about his character’s crush on a woman that works in the station (Emily Mortimer) and his self-consciousness about a leg injury he got in the war. So even though he’s trying to catch Hugo and bring him to the orphanage like a dogcatcher bringing a stray to the pound he’s also a character you want to see everything turn out well for in the end. Or at least I did.

Alot of the people doing 3D movies these days are obviously just doing what they’re told or trying to follow a trend and don’t actually give a shit enough to learn how to get real 3D cameras and use them well. Scorsy isn’t one of those guys, he’s a true believer who recognizes this as a legitimate filmatistical tool, so he puts actual elbow grease into it. This is in the higher bracket of live action 3D I’ve seen. The opening actually looks like a (partly) live action version of a Robert Zemeckis mocap movie. Subtract points for not extending much out into the audience (I don’t care what anybody says, that’s what 3D is for), but he knows the proper way to move the camera through and around environments, with layers of objects in the foreground and background. He takes you on a ride through secret tunnels, giant clock gears, up ladders, over rooftops and smokestacks.

Some of the style and the setting made me think a little bit of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and wonder why he hasn’t done a 3D movie yet. Then I came home and read that he was doing a 3D movie. We’re not used to Scorsy doing family movies or 3D or stylized digital worlds or movies that take place in France, but he definitely has his personality in here. I like how preachy he gets about film. He throws in some film preservation propaganda, some early cinema history lessons, some archival screenings. He uses 3D as a parallel to the novelty of the first movies. He shows us the legendary story of the people thinking they were gonna get run over by the train in THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, and later gives us an out of control train coming out at modern audiences in 3D. Also he shows us the Harold Lloyd clock stunt and then the same thing happens to the kid.

I wondered if Scorsese was gonna have the balls to convert the Melies films into 3D, and sure enough he does it. And when he does it feels exactly right. The layers work well with the types of flat cut out sets and props Melies created, and also if the movies were shown flat in the middle of a 3D movie it would make them seem… well, flat and unimpressive. For them to be popping out of the screen while the characters watch it on screen doesn’t make literal sense, but it gives us a symbol for how exciting it looked to them.

HUGO is no GOODFELLAS, but yes, it’s good, fellas. Oh wait, am I not Gene Shalit? I forgot.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 at 10:20 pm and is filed under Family, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

43 Responses to “All Ages Cinematic Tryptych #3 of 3: Hugo 3D”

  1. Vern, was that video at the end supposed to appeal to me? because if so I am flattered

    anyway I foolishly assumed this would be wide release but it didn’t play at my local theater despite it having 3D, I wonder if that has to do with the fact that it came out on the same day as two other 3D movies? so I guess it’s 2D blu ray for me

    by the way I can’t see Sacha Baron Cohen in anything without thinking of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJJyFrnOANQ

  2. I really disliked this movie.

    I did enjoy Ben Kingsley, who did some pristine work, and the lady who played his wife. Also, I liked the guy from A Serious Man and Boardwalk Empire who played the film critic, and all the flashbacks with Melier’s films. I also kind of liked some of Baron Cohen’s scenes.

    But the rest I thought was pretty weak. I felt like Scorsese doesn’t really understand lighthearted and doesn’t have a very good grip of comedy. Some of the comedy was so broad, pointless and silly it almost felt insulting. The slapstick chase in the first scene wasn’t funny, with Cohen bumping into stuff, stepping into a guitar and almost falling into a cake. The comedic timing was all off, it was flat. I mean jesus this film reaches almost Michael Bay-like levels of use of canine reaction shots. Dogs reacting to shit is just lazy man. There’s this one bit (which I admittedly found mildly amusing) where Cohen’s on the phone and then out of nowhere you get a close-up of the dog and a shot of them in the bathtub together. Hahahaha get it? He takes a bath with his dog! What an asshole! I mean what am I meant to do with that piece of information? Is this a scene about Cohen being a jerk? A sympathetic loser? Am I meant to laugh at him or think he’s sweet because he loves his dog? I dunno, because the scene was about him being on the phone (I think) getting told about Ray Winstone’s death (also side note, lots of wasted talent in this film, between Emily Mortimer, Jude Law and Ray Winstone’s minor parts). So much of the comedy was either see it coming miles away or just what the hell? Like when his mechanical leg squeaks really loud and the whole station goes quiet and Emily Mortimer (who hasn’t seen him approach) reacts like she just got shot. Ok, maybe that’s meant to be what it feels like to Cohen, you know the embarassment when you think everyone just heard you fart or something, but if so I don’t get why it felt like the squak-click was played for laughs in that scene.
    “here’s my wife, have you seen her?” “you sure you want her back?” “yes, I really love her” and stuff like that are just examples of the really annoying comedy in this film.

    Also the whole pre-credit sequence. I understand it was meant to introduce us to this character’s world, but there was no climax, it was literally just Hugo scampering around inside walls looking out at people. Then the words Hugo come out. No payoff, no rhythm, just showing him do stuff and bam, “HUGO”. The thing is, you can pull this off if the character is really charming and unique (it worked with Amelie, which I felt this film was trying very hard to be) but Hugo was a bit of a boring character and the guy playing him was extremely annoying. There was this bit where he’s thinking of his father and the flashback is intercut with shots of him sniffling all teary-eyed and I swear I felt no sympathy I wanted to punch him and tell him to grow a pair. That was also weird editing that scene, no progression, no rhythm, what the hell flashback-shot of him crying – flashback – crying – flashback – more crying. Weird. Felt like some messed up music video.

    So I guess it just didn’t click with me. I felt like it was a poor version of Amelie, just without any of the charm, or quirky whimsical nature of that one.

    I think Scorsese should stick to movies where people get stabbed or beaten with bats or play Howard Hughes.

  3. Excellent review, Vern. Lunch boxes of “the movies,” a metaphor for French… So observent yet reverent.

    Also like how you call it a picture. I wonder when that stopped being common lingo. I know people who still refer to movies as pictures and they sound so old.

  4. I’ve noticed Scorsese will say “picture,” so I used it for him the same way you would call it a “joint” for Spike Lee.

  5. My favourite Sasha Baron Cohen moment in general, was when he visited some porn star award show as Ali G. At one point one of the porn stars around him just grabbed his head and shoved his face between her boobs. Afterwards you could see for exactly one second how he broke character and laughed, until he turned into Ali G again. We saw him staying in character during the most fucked up, sometimes even potentially life threatening situations, but not even he could resist the power of boobage.

  6. What shalom82 said.

  7. Guys just saw how massive my comment was,apologies for that. I just ended up stream-of-consciousness-ing a little.didn’t mean to hijack the board.

  8. I went and saw this with the wife last night and can honestly say it was the best theatrical experience I had this year. It might not be my favorite film or the one I go back and watch the most often but it was a unique experience and the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen in a film. Even better than Avatar or How to Train Your Dragon. Scorsese really immersed me into that period of time in Paris, with the bustling crowds of affluent Frenchmen bursting from the screen in every shot. And I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say he didn’t ‘extend” much into the audience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better use of that. Just think back to George teaching his actor how to thrust his sword, or directing the trio of spearmen who walk straight out of the screen, the “hand-painted” films George made that survived, the shot of his wife surrounded by fireworks, the train sequence, the sliding up and down ladders, him hanging off the clock on a starry Paris night, that wrench falling right at your face when he dropped it from the clock he was fixing, the sequence where the girl gets pinned down under the crowd and Hugo has to fight through a thick crowd of adults, and easily my favorite 3D shot in a film to date was showing how George would shoot underwater shots with a camera behind an aquarium while a PA would drop lobsters down to float by the lens.Scorsese has cemented himself in my mind as the director who has best taken advantage of 3D filmaking at this point. I’d say the 3D effects in Avatar were just as good but Cameron was nowhere near as good as setting up his shots like Scorsese does here, every single frame of Hugo was so mind-blowingly good I honestly would drift away from the dialogue and be spellbound by the effectiveness of the shots. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough to people who enjoy good movies and superb filmaking.

  9. One of the first movies I ever saw in a theater was some Gary Coleman vehicle where he lived in a coin locker in a subway station. Probably this film is better than that.

    shalom82: The only Scorsese film I like without any reservations is AFTER HOURS. His command of comedic tone is perfect in that film (aided, of course, by a flawless cast and a meticulous script). Also, CAPE FEAR is hilarious. If HUGO doesn’t work, maybe it has more to do with the whimsical aspects.

  10. The first film I ever saw at the cinema was the “Care Bears Movie”. I still have nightmares.

    I was considering seeing this, but it’s all afternoon matinees at the multiplexes and I suspect the film will be full of kids. I’m gonna pick it up on DVD or download instead.

  11. The MY LITTLE PONY movie was better. There was this scary-ass demon tornado that fucked shit up all over the place.

    Or so I have been told. I don’t know personally because I was busy doing chainsaw sculptures and making my own beef jerky that day.

  12. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve studied historic film in college (yeah, I’m that guy!) but I just found myself geeking out over all the little nods to classic film. The train bursting through the second story of the the station (more of a classic photography reference), or the way the camera would act during certain cheesy jokes straight out of a Keaton movie (like the station guard guy getting hooked onto the train; the camera doesn’t track him, rather it jumps from setup to setup to follow his movement). And the whole “George making his movies” flashback was outstanding.

  13. Loved the flashbacks, too, but that’s because they held value as a historical text, not because of sentimental nostalgic geeking out. Same reason I love MASTER & COMMANDER, for example — great period piece that shows a particular famous moment’s details that I’d never seen or properly imagined before.

    I’m not nostalgic about Keaton’s THE GENERAL. I find it fresh and funny. It’s awesome on its own merits; I don’t need the filter of sentimentality to appreciate it. Referencing it is nice, but I don’t find Mr. Isla Fisher’s situation favorably humorous, so it angers me to think of Keaton’s classic film sullied by Scorsese’s lesser work.

  14. Also, STEP UP 3D’s spot on the 3D perfection throne is safe.

  15. Paul – after my review and Dieselboy’s post about the importance of the 3D you say you’re gonna stream it? Thanks for the vote of confidence buddy.

  16. Vern- How do you think this stacked up against Avatar or other 3D films that weren’t just post converted? I thought it was by far and away the best 3D yet, as i gushed in my previous post. Like the quality of depth in Avatar was probably just as good but didn’t you feel Scorsese really figured out to tap into it’s full potential in virtually every shot, even just an actor staring into the camera reading dialogue. One little disclaimer, this was the first 3D movie I’ve seen since getting my first pair of prescription glasses at 28 years old which seemed to bring my vision from the quality of seeing the world like an old VHS tape to everything being as clear as Blu-Ray, it was that big of an improvement. Maybe if I had the vision I have now when I saw Avatar I wouldn’t be so sure of Hugo being the best but I still don’t remember Cameron having anywhere near the inventiveness as Scorsese demonstrated throughout Hugo.

  17. Zombie Paul- there were zero kids in the theatre when I saw this. I’d say the average age was upper 30’s lower 40’s range. I really feel like this isn’t a movie for kids, it’s a love letter from a man who clearly loves cinema and the escapism they can provide when in a masters hands.

  18. Vern-“He uses 3D as a parallel to the novelty of the first movies”
    How long you think will it be before someone makes a 3D movie about the invention of 3D called “ANOTHER DIMENSION: THE STORY OF 3D(IN 3D(AND IN 2D NOWHERE AT ALL))”?

  19. Dieselboy – After seeing it I considered whether or not it was better 3D than Avatar. I don’t really know a way to measure it for myself so I’m content to say that those two movies are the best uses of modern 3D I’ve seen in live action. But I also like the super-gimmicky throwing shit at the audience type of 3D so I also rank My Bloody Valentine 3D pretty high.

    But the very best uses of 3D I’ve seen are without a doubt Robert Zemeckis’s notorious mocap movies, so it’s a compliment when I say that this reminded me of a live action version of those.

  20. I was a bit underwhelmed by this. I think part of it had to do with the artificiality of the environments. Scorsese has always been able to give a wonderful feel for place, but here, and in his last few movies in general, I just didn’t buy the milieu at all. The movie doesn’t really come to life until the Melies section, it’s clear that’s where Scorsese’s real interest lies.

    As for how it stacks up against other 3D films, for my money, Henry Selick’s Coraline remains the sharpest use of the form I’ve seen yet.

  21. Roger Corman also says “picture.” I think a lot more producers say it, maybe because a picture is something they own.

  22. insert name: Yeah, the production seemed a bit fake to me too, somehow less persuasive than DR PARNASUS, and leagues removed from the meticulousness of a Jeunet film.

    But the bigger problem I had with HUGO was that Scorsese felt he had to lay on the nostalgia with a trowel. Manoel de Oliveira’s film THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA from earlier this year managed to evoke nostalgia without Scorsese’s heavy-handedness. I swear at times Scorsese was employing visual cues that amount to closed captioning for the cinematically impaired. But then it’s probably not fair for me to expect too much subtlety from Scorsese.

  23. Subtlety is overrated.

    I am interested in what you mean by “visual cues that amount to closed captioning for the cinematically impaired” though. Do you have some examples?

  24. ya know what would be funny is if you went to a showing of Hugo and during the slapstick scenes you lit up a giant cigar and starting laughing extremely loud

  25. The cartoonish release of drawings & sketches, floating in the air, could have been handled more subtly, I thought. Of course it sets up the heavy contrast with Melies & wife’s dour reaction.

    I never did fully understand the source of his pain, and I didn’t appreciate being led on by the forced mystery of it.

    Oddly, if you buy the idea of Jareth’s “closed captioning” comment, then I’d say the best film & narrative technique with which to make a comparison might be Oliver Stone’s PLATOON.

  26. Griff – I did think about standing up at the end of the film and slow clapping.

    Mouth – I thought the point of that scene was to be unsubtle. It’s an explosion of his past and a celebration of all the amazing creations and ideas he had. I don’t see how that would have been improved if they, say, gently got the box down and leafed through the drawings like they were some dusty museum pieces.

  27. I’m rarely in the mood to see fake British children get all wide-eyed and proclaim their excitement for an “adventcha.” And the whole heart-shaped key thing is (do I even have to finish this sentence? Jeezus christ, a heart-shaped key? That’s the kind of schlock that belongs in a 4 year old’s bedtime story. Or, better, in a satire of a toddler’s bedtime story.)

    And the end, when Melies and Hit Girl show up at just the right spot at the train station for no reason, is just as bad as the mysterious island transportation continuity error in THE EXPENDABLES.

    And I didn’t feel any sense of danger when the kid looked like he was about to fall off the chair, and I didn’t get any sense of relief or surprise when the chair toppled harmlessly.

    I also thought the stampeding crowd scene, when the kids go against the flow and one has to “save” the other, was an unearned, poorly executed trifle of emotion. I suppose it reminded some of E.T., maybe, as we see the kids clearly but do not identify any of the adult faces.

    I was reminded of THX 1138 and THE MATRIX, 2 highly stylized, unsubtle films that earn their emotional impact rather than force & manipulate its existence by visual shorthand and childish displays of exuberant emotion.

  28. I agree, drawings floating about in that “magical” moment was IMO very poor. And the saving of Hit Girl from the crowd was equally weird. Funny that I neglected to mention those because they were the two parts that actually made me feel the most awkward and uncomfortable by how corny they were.

    The first was schlock of the worst kind, indicating that Scorsese has a poor grip on this kind of material and is going through the motions because this kind of effect is exactly what happens in a “magical” moment in a kids’ film. Instead of creating some real magic, he merely replicates “visual cues” (I like that definition a lot) from other movies because this is the way such a scene would be played in those movies. Magical wind, stuff floating and stopping in front of people’s faces and whatnot. You can forgive it if it’s earned (although it would still be a bit cliche’) but in my opinion this wasn’t the case here.

    And the human stampede was just what the hell. No sense of danger, all of a sudden she falls, dramatically thrusts her arm towards the camera in a plea for help and he just saves her by strolling back and pulling her 6 inches to her left. I know that this is all meant to be heightened reality, but asking me to engage emotionally with that moment would require me to actually either feel for those annoying (and slightly underdeveloped) characters or to actually feel the sense of oppression and suffocation you would feel in a similar situation. Instead it felt contrived and it certainly didn’t look like she was having much trouble moving, Hugo seemed quite fine when he went back towards her.

    I wonder how Alfonso Cuaron would have shot that scene.

  29. HUGO has a 94% on RottenTomatoes and awards buzz, but the jaded Verniverse talkbackers are again proven to be my cinema criticism soulmates.

    Gotta give Scorsy credit, though. This is the rare film that I dislike but understand other people liking. There’s nothing about HUGO that offends me, so I hope we don’t shit all over it and ruin someone else’s enjoyment of it. That wouldn’t be very Christmassy.

  30. I’m told the stampede scene was done in the style of THE RED SHOES, with the weird superimposed shots. I don’t know because I haven’t seen THE RED SHOES, another classic on my to do list (it’s on Netflix.) I would have liked it more if I’d known the reference.

  31. I just flat out don’t GET not liking Hugo. If you love films, how can you not love this? I know, I read all that stuff several of you guys said, but I disagree SO emphatically that I just don’t even understand it.

    Hugo is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the theaters in a long time.

  32. It’s not a very good article, probably not worth your time, but these words from this article
    http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/38646/oscarmetrics-hugo-the-artist-and-2011s-faux-nostalgic-race-for-best-picture
    make my point:

    **”…there is something slightly self-adoring about the story it tells. HUGO is not a valentine to the dawn of movies — it’s a valentine to people who send those valentines, a halo placed lovingly atop the heads of cinephiles and film preservationists. (And, not incidentally, film critics and Oscar voters.)

    I’m all for venerating old movies, and if I’m a bit resistant to the allure of THE ARTIST and HUGO, it may be because they practically grab you by the lapels and order you to feel a childlike sense of wonder, goddammit! But as the plot of a third Best Picture contender, Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, reminds us explicitly that nostalgia for values you never actually held from an era you yourself didn’t live through isn’t really nostalgia — it’s sentimentality.”**

    TREE OF LIFE does “childlike sense of wonder” much better than HUGO, and I don’t do sentimentality unless I’m privately remembering girlfriends from years ago.

    Didn’t Vern recently write something about audiences not actually being nostalgic for something, but rather being nostalgic for the feeling of being nostalgic? Something like that applies here.

    I’d like to think I, as a frequent active movie watcher, have more than a distant, technical connection to Melies and his art. We all love cinema here, thus we all have love for filmatistic pioneers of 100 years ago. But I don’t get anything special out of Scorsy’s attempt to enhance my connection to those dudes by depicting them as bitter older men whose hearts are warmed by the determined spirits of little kids and a fucking heart-shaped key.

  33. “HUGO is not a valentine to the dawn of movies.” I wonder if he got distracted by something outside of the frame and missed the two solid hours of runtime where it was a valentine to the dawn of movies.

    Here’s a piece by John Irving on Dickens and sentimentality. I think it can apply to HUGO as well.
    http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/06/15/lifetimes/irving-sentimentality.html

    I did look down on sentimental movies back in the day, when I was younger and knew everything. Now that I’m older and know nothing I just enjoy them. I find that I prefer this approach since it means I get to like more movies. Even ones with heart-shaped keys. Which is, of course, very on-the-nose thematically (which I like) but it does make logical sense within the story world. (SLIGHT SPOILER) If a young, romantic inventor was going to make a key to give to the love of his life it seems unlikely he would choose any other shape.

  34. “I wonder if he got distracted by something outside of the frame and missed the two solid hours of runtime where it was a valentine to the dawn of movies.”

    I wonder if you got distracted by something outside your browser and missed the subsequent words explaining his position.

    I for one have nothing against movies that can be described as sentimental. In fact the term might well fit some of my favorite movies (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg comes to mind). The question is whether or not it works, and whether or not the artist means it. As far as Hugo is concerned I’m not convinced Scorsese really does. I have no doubt about Scorsese’s love of film and concern for film preservation. Critic Keith Uhlich almost aptly described the film as “an odd combo of “Babe: Pig in the City” and Godard’s “Histoire(s) du cinéma,”” but I think Scorsese’s real interest scews more toward the latter, making much of the rest of the film prefunctory at best, and disengenous at worst.

  35. Maybe I’m mistaken on his position, but it seems to me he is saying that the film is a valentine to cinephiles and film preservationists INSTEAD OF a valentine to early cinema. To me that is ridiculous. How are subplots and camera setups straight of early silent movies a love letter to cinephiles and not to the movies he is emulating?

    If he had just said it was a celebration of early cinema IN ADDITION TO a celebration of film preservation and cinephilia I wouldn’t find it so laughable. Though I would still object to his implication that it is designed as such to suck up to Oscar voters. But that’s only because I am incapable of reading Scorsese’s mind. If this guy is capable of reading his mind then I would of course retract my objection.

  36. Hey, I just referred to UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG in the paltry DANCER IN THE DARK thread.
    http://outlawvern.com/2000/10/16/divided-dancer-in-the-dark-and-bamboozled/#comment-1897325

    Lars von Trier manipulates emotions, arguably, in a kind of brutally cloying way. Why does that work but not HUGO’s cloyingness?

    We could say it is because HUGO trades in whimsy. Okay, but why do I love AMELIE but not HUGO, if they share a sense of whimsy and similar themes & beats?

    We could say it’s because one is rated R and one is PG, but then why do I love UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG if it’s also sentimentalish and friendly to the sensibilities of kids & movie magic lovers?

    Hard to articulate further, but I seem to have a logical, step-by-step proof, a gradation of movies I like and their best cinematic elements, and for some reason HUGO, other than the excellent flashback sequences (which do service my sentimentalist movie-lover heart), fails to compare to these superior films.

  37. I tend to avoid the guessing games of the authors intentions for the most part, because a: it’s beside the point, and b: intentionality is never a cut and dried issue. Someone can do something without intending to or even work in a certain direction without being conscious of it. Hugo is as cinephillically oriented as a 170+ million dollar film can be. The reviewer’s statment didn’t seem as ridiculous to me since it’s clear at this point that the Oscars have been on Scorsese’s mind for years, just like box office returns, and any number of concerns that a filmmaker in his sort of position holds.

  38. Did I just see Stiffler get blown up wearing a flame thrower in Windtalkers? Does Cage go mega in it?

  39. My biggest problem with Hugo was it felt contrived, and ungainly, like a mashup of Scooby Do and a biography channel re-enactment of the life and times of George Mielies. I found it hard to care about the boy, and wtf I should totally feel sorry for an orphan kid eking out an existence in a train station…but I didn’t and why is that? Because it was so phoney baloney.

    The 3D stuff was nice to look at, but the story lost me. And I liked the film history stuff. Actually, I think I’d have found a movie that focused on the film history guy tracking down Mielies more interesting.

  40. The script was bloated, to be sure, and required severe tightening but it’s heart was certainly in the right place and, visually, I went, “Wow”, a bunch of times. I’m not sure what everyone’s problem is with the heart shaped key. As someone above noted, it would seem an appropriately whimsical gesture for a young romantic inventor to include.

    The part that made me go, “Huh?” was just after the Station Inspector has a chat with the boy and the girl. That conversation is followed by a quick shot of the Inspector climbing up a wall using just his arms and disappearing into a hatch in the ceiling. WTF was that about?

  41. If anyone’s interested, another lost Georges Melies film has been found:

    'Lost' movie by silent film pioneer unearthed at Czech film archive

    Researchers discover mislabelled 1904 Georges Méliès film Match de Prestidigitation, which had been thought lost forever

  42. Thanks for the headsup, Curt! This is great news!!

  43. Thanks!

    Melies is one of those guys I point too when some film-fans complain that watching silent film-making is the same as doing homework.

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