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Thread: Hugo (Martin Scorsese 2011)

  1. #1
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    Hugo (Martin Scorsese 2011)

    Last night on Jon Stewart, Martin Scorsese could not speak, not because he couldn't, because the audience would not let him. To cheers, rather, roars of approval, New York City's favorite film director entered for the interview to thunderous applause. The response nearly overwhelmed Scorsese when the audience leapt to its feet and Stewart had to stop the taping. In the broadcast, there is a sudden "jump cut" to when the interview starts.

    When the crowd finally settled down, Scorsese went into a long diatribe on why he made the film "Hugo" as an homage to one of the original filmmakers, George Melies. Based on the 2007 novel by Brian Selznick (yes, he is related to David O. Selznick) entitled, "The invention of Hugo Cabret" was inspired by the real life of George Melies. Having practically invented the art of cinema in France, long before it became popular in America, Melies company lost money until he was forced into bankruptcy. His company and its possessions were sold off to cover his debts. The French army purchased thousands of film reels to melt down the celluloid into boots. Melies, impoverished and practically homeless, ended up selling toys in a French railway station until some members of a French film society spotted him and offered him a place to live. Nearly all of Melies works are lost. Only a handful of his 500 films survive to the present day.

    "Hugo" makes it premiere on the day before Thanksgiving, November 23, 2011 and will be presented in 3D because, because according to Marty, "my daughter asked me to." Cinematography by Robert Richardson (Shutter Island , The Aviator, Casino, and others) and score by Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings).

    Review to follow after next Wednesday's viewing. Have a great week end. Will revisit this site soon.
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    Hugo – a film by Martin Scorsese


    What may become one of the greatest homage to the art of cinema, the auteur Martin Scorsese has crafted a magical world filled with soulful expressions and precise intricacies. This is a film for the ages.

    We hear a young girl’s voice. She tells us of a boy who lives in the clockworks of rail station. She narrates the piece until her voice is dwarfed by the enormity of the visuals thrown up onto the screen like gauntlets before our eyes: sweeping impossible camera moves, huge moving brass gears, dark steamy pipes, and anonymous feet attached to hundreds of black baggy loose trousers that are constantly on the move. These are the perspectives of a child, looking out and up at a world that towers over it. So a young boy, brought here by a terrible chance of fate, finds that his life has become entwined with a series of old steam-driven mechanical clocks inside an enormous train station in the heart of Paris, France.

    The Great War has just ended. Its scars still cling to the landscape under repair. Europe rushes to fix what is broken – with its buildings, with its people – and wants to move on. Yet some aspects of society never seem to change: the baker, the flower girl, the gens d’armes walking their beat, the bookseller, and the toy maker. We watch their aging faces through the large looming faces of the stations great clocks. For these are the supportive characters that work in the station’s shops as seen through the eyes of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield). Having lost his father in a museum fire, his only relative, an alcoholic uncle, forces the boy to maintain the clocks inside the huge train station. However, the even his uncle disappears. So the boy carries on alone in silence, oiling, winding springs, fixing the clocks to keep them running while he steals food to stay alive.

    The only thing the eight-year-old possesses of his father’s is a mechanical man, a device called an automaton, shaped like a mannequin whose guts of gears make it move and pen in hand with an unknown mysterious purpose. Yet it is missing an integral part, a key shaped like a heart that will give the mechanism life. The boy’s one desire is to make the mechanical man complete, for he believes that once it begins to write, it will spell out a message from his father. He pursues the white-haired toymaker (Ben Kingsley), for the old man possesses many gears of the type used in the device.

    I will not reveal what happens next. I believe it is best not to know. If you read other reviews that go further into the plot, stop, do not read them. They will spoil a great surprise that Scorsese counts on to make his emotional arrow strike home at the heart of the viewer, us. A review should not reveal the key elements of a plot that is meant to unfold and amaze. There are many “ah ha!” moments in this film. I want you to have those.

    Based on actual events that took place in France at this time, the original story ties together real events in this fanciful tale spun with vivid imagination, a special salute to the true focus of this film – a filmmaker par excellence. This is Scorsese’s beautiful tribute to the art of cinema, and as I stated at the start, will probably become one of the greatest films of all time in that regard, for it speaks to the purpose of film, what it can illuminate in our imagination and what its potential has always been – a way to express magic and make believe. Scorsese speaks to the child in all of us, and begs the question; do you suspend your belief?

    Presented in 3D, I highly recommend this film and will be glad to discuss the plot further once our illustrious members have seen it. No spoilers here.
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    Thanks for the posts cinemabon. This looks Marvelous.
    I read a review here in canada that said Scorsese got bitten by the film bug as a young kid and this film is his way of paying tribute to that.
    Melies and Scorsese.
    It's like "bread and butter', "rum and coke", "salt and pepper", "gin and tonic", "coffee and cigarettes".

    This is one that film buffs can deliciously smell, miles & miles away...
    Can't wait to check it out.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    If this film is not nominated for Best Picture of the Year, then you may remove "art" from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for I can think of no effort this year that does not utterly symbolize the very essence of cinema art than this film.
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    Then you haven't seen The Tree of Life.

    It should win Best Picture in my opinion.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    I'm not sure the Academy will agree. "The Tree of Life" is a great acting film, but parts of it are very difficult to watch. That may not sit well with some of the voters. While it might be nominated, to me the film in the running is "Hugo."
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    We may need a new thread on 2012 Oscar predictions.

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    A 3-D Masterpiece

    While 3-D still has a way to go, Hugo under the direction of Scorese has presented a movie that captures the essence and the potentiality of 3-D as a fixture of cinema, ironically by way of using the setting of the beginnings of cinema itself. The use of 3-D in two remarkable scenes (train guard and the vendor) firmly suggests that 3-D has a place in cinema.

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    cinemabon- you may be right about the Academy voters. They don't seem interested in EXCELLENCE, just what tickles their fancy.
    Sometimes they get it and then sometimes....you just go "Wha??"
    The Oscars should be objective, not emotional.
    Either way you'll never see me gripe about Martin Scorsese winning an award.
    He's been overlooked for most of his career and deserves any accolades that come his way.

    We'll see if Tree of Life is even nominated.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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    Both films should stand on their merits. I happen to think that "Hugo" is an excellent film by any standard. However, when it comes to the Academy, it has everything that the film industry likes in a film: history, great emotional story, beautiful photography and music, incredible supporting cast; good moral lesson. While the Academy often puts up controversial films, "Silence of the Lambs" for example, they do love a good story... and this film has a great story that is beautifully told by talented artisans.
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    Martin Scorsese: HUGO (2011)
    Review by Chris Knipp


    BEN KINGSLEY AND ASA BUTTERFIELLD IN HUGO

    A boy film historian

    Martin Scorsese's Hugo is a serious, lush movie made for children and would-be children from a book (by Brian Selznick) that follows from the director's own long preoccupation with preserving the fragile artifacts of film history. It concerns a studious and mechanically adept French orphan in 1930, an ambitious recluse as he himself may have been as a boy, who discovers that right in the Paris Montparnasse railway station where he himself lives, maintaining its clocks, there is a lost hero of early cinema, Georges Méliès, who made delirious little fantasy and science fiction movies and then was forgotten and wound up running a train station toy shop. In solving the mystery little Hugo finds himself and finds a purpose in life.

    Hugo is a celebration of fantasy and an ennobling of a shy child's dreams. It may provide the same kind of pleasure that Powell-Pressberger's Tales of Hoffman gave me as a youth, though the 3D and elaborate CGI of Hugo, yes, and even the location shooting in Paris, for me lack the magic of that earlier film's more artisanal effects, its ballet dancing, and Offenbach's music. More is, as so often, a little less. And in abandoning his sexy and violent earlier style of Taxi Driver and Goodfellas Scorsese has lost much of the raw energy his movies had in his heyday. Hugo is delightful (or what adults think is so for kids), but unlike Scorsese's gutsy best work, it's old-fashioned and blatantly artificial. There's nothing earth-shaking or exciting here. (Made on one fifteenth the budget, The Artist evokes old film more adeptly and touchingly.) The children I saw walking out of the theater were quiet, entranced, perhaps, but not energized. At least Scorsese has produced something lovely and nice for the holiday season, not a waxworks monstrosity like Eastwood's J. Edgar (whatever the latter's Oscar possibilities for its ambitious star). Besides numerous valuable documentaries, Scorsese has had many missteps since his glory days. This isn't one of them.

    Hugo is not without its passé conventions. Everybody in the 1930 Paris train station (a huge, elaborate indoor set) speaks English with a posh British accent, including the excellent (and suitably pallid) Asa Butterfield, as the boy, and the superb Ben Kingsley as the initially unrecognized and grumpy, later proud and mellow Méliès. And the film is also not without its children's-lit banalities. There is something clichéd from the start about a lonely boy who fixes clocks and then has to fix an automaton he dreams is himself. And in 3D: would Ingmar Bergman have jumped on the band wagon for this obvious and old-fashioned (but contemporarily money-making) effect? (Méliès' primitive ones are more imaginatively stimulating). You can call the story touching. That's diplomatic. Or you can admit that, however glossy and tasteful, it's treacly and sentimental, and at two and a half hours, plenty over-long.

    Hugo fixes the station clocks at night, using parts he's stolen from "Papa Georges," the shopkeeper who later turns out to be the lost giant of silent film history. By day he gets to know a girl his age, Isabelle (the winsome Chloë Grace Moretz), who lives in Papa Georges' household. In a Rube Goldberg set of interlocking sub-characters adroitly folded in by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Hugo also dodges a Jeunet-esque station cop (heavy-handedly played by Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen), who's humanized by his crush on flower-seller Lisette (Emily Mortimer), several steps off from the the pastry-shop of Madame Emilie (Frances de la Tour), whose dachshund wards off the amorous M. Frick (Richard Griffiths). Privately Hugo remembers how his dad (Jude Law), who died suddenly under mysterious circumstances, found the half-human sized automaton, and his aim becomes to find the heart-shaped key that will start it. He thinks if he can get it to work its hand will write a message that will tell him about his father. Instead, it draws a famous image from Méliès of a rocket crashed into the eye of the moon, which leads him to the filmmaker.

    At this point the film stops to deliver a mini-documentary about the life and career of Méliès, how he began as a carnival magician at the turn of the century, started a studio and made over 500 films, and pioneered in special effects like dissolves, multiple exposures, and time lapse photography, all joyfully incorporated into short films marketed as sideshow attractions. But then moving pictures moved forward, his work became unfashionable, and most of the prints of Méliès' films were melted down by the French army to make boot heels. And so on. Though the film Hugo becomes and is intended as a loving evocation of and encomium to early film, it unfortunately treats it all, in this context, as a charming artifact, not something serious and intense that a little later would produce works like Metropolis and The Cabiinet of Dr. Caligari. Scorsese introduces allusions to Melies' A Trip to the Moon, Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery and the Lumières' La Sortie des usines, but this is not a good introduction to film history, and only a passing reference to the ongoing need for the kind of film preservation work in which Scorsese is so actively and influentially involved -- though it may be better at that than at telling an original coming of age story. Hugo's own personal journey gets somewhat derailed by the celebration of Méliès, and finally lacks real emotional resonance, despite the sentimentality surrounding his situation and its resolution.

    And yet Hugo is already heavily lionized and mentioned as an Oscar Best Film. It's a safer choice than such contenders as The Descendants, The Artist, or Moneyball, its issue (film preservation) less troubling than the one of The Help (racial discrimination), which in turn are all safer than The Tree of Life or (god forbid) Melancholia. James Cameron hosted a showing of Hugo at the Directors Guild, where he heralded it as a "masterpiece," and said, "finally there is a Scorsese film I can take my kids to." He's right about the second part. Since it's not even December yet, it's too soon to make Oscar predictions; the best may be yet to hit theaters. But when has that ever stopped people?

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    " unlike Scorsese's gutsy best work, it's old-fashioned and blatantly artificial. There's nothing earth-shaking or exciting here. (Made on one fifteenth the budget, The Artist evokes old film more adeptly and touchingly.) The children I saw walking out of the theater were quiet, entranced, perhaps, but not energized."

    I disagree. This film does not call for raw energy of the kind Scorsese used in "Taxi Driver," a different kind of film with a completely different messege aimed at a completely different audience. Or do you believe that a film should have universal appeal to everyone? And how does one exit a theater energized? What kind of observation did you make of the children that you could not spell out in your review but seem so adroit to mention.

    Simply because you are well educated in the cinema arts, do not presume the general public knows the same level of history. I found the revelations about Melies enlightening to say the least. Like his character in the film (wonderfully portrayed by Ben Kingsley), we discover little known facts about the filmmaker lost to the advent of time. Scorsese's tribute to the beginnings of film (or rather his adaptation of the novel) brings these facts to light in a delightful way. You sound like a man, sitting at his desk, saying "humbug!" to those who would wish him "Merry Christmas."
    Last edited by cinemabon; 12-01-2011 at 07:22 AM.
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    Of course, I know you disagree!

    And how does one exit a theater energized?
    I regret if you have not had this experience of being electrified and excited or upset or otherwise gotten an adrenalin rush from film, but I bet you have, probably plenty of times.

    What kind of observation did you make of the children that you could not spell out in your review[?]
    I saw that they were quiet. I thought that would be enough. Anybody knows what quiet children look like and everybody knows what excited, lively children look like.

    Simply because you are well educated in the cinema arts, do not presume the general public knows the same level of history.
    I didn't presume that at all. I just said this is not a good introduction to film history, and I implied that it destroys the momentum of the coming of age story.

    You sound like a man, sitting at his desk, saying "humbug!" to those who would wish him "Merry Christmas."
    I'm not trying to spoil anybody's fun. I'm just evaluating the movie. I enjoyed Harold & Kumar more--what can I say? Nobody is rushing Harold & Kumar to an Oscar nomination. That's the difference, and why I'm raining on your parade a little.

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    Chris, you make me smile. Besides, I've been out holiday shopping all day, so I'm in a good mood. I'm looking forward to the rush of good end-of-the-year films, although some won't make it into general release until January. I suppose that someone, meaning probably you, needs to start that "Best of 201" list unless I've missed it. I wish "The Artist" was in general release. I'd like to see it. Any movie that gets a standing ovation at Cannes must be pretty darn good. Mazeltov!
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    Weinstein bought The Artist as well as My Week with Marilyn so he'll make the most of it, but it is limited release. Here's Harvey hyping both movies http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7390295n.

    I did start a BEST MOVIES OF 2011 SO FAR thread way back. It's out of date now. I have much better candidates and need to update it.

    So I started a 2011 OSCAR PREDICTIONS thread.

    Click on either one and contribute. There was an IndieWire prediction of most likely films so far that I pasted in. On that list, I have not seen War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Christmas Day), Tinker Tailor (next weekend), Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, , Young Adult, We Bought a Zoo, and The Land of Blood and Honey. I guess the best are the ones we haven't seen. A lot of these will not be easy to see but that's a good thing because it means if it's a true list that the Academy Awards are going for my sophisticated less totally mainstream stuff. A King's Speech (also Harvey Weinstein) is an example of the cusp of the new trend. It's art house, but it's got mainstream appeal. That might be true of The Artist. It might be true of The Descendants. Nearly all of these, really.

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