Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hugo Review

Let me start out by saying that it isn't often that a movie like this gets made. Hugo, an adaptation of the Brian Selznick book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has been called a love letter to cinema. That may be true, but I would go one step further, deeming it a fantastic exercise in storytelling, in love with the art of storytelling itself. The book is sort of a half-visual experience, containing many sketches and 526 pages of text. This film translates that experience in a way that has yet to be done with this genre.

As a film, Hugo is one of those rare experiences where I was grinning from ear to ear almost through the whole picture. Let me stop right there and say that if there is just one movie out there to ever experience in 3D, let it be this one. We all know what Avatar did for 3D and most of us know that its creater has been a 3D guru for some time, but let me say one thing here: Martin Scorsese has done some kind of magic here, creating a sense of depth within each frame never seen before. I never even thought I would ever see the words Scorsese and 3D in the same sentence except maybe where the words were included would say: "I will never make a _ movie." I actually am shocked that he has made a family-friendly movie in the first place, but the results are fantastic! I am not even sure that this is just a family movie either. This is a timeless movie made for any age group, but will probably be much more appreciated by adults. This is not the same formula as say, a PIXAR movie, which has humor geared toward adults, but will entertain the kids too. This is something much more artistic and true to heart, without insulting any age group. In fact, this movie seems much more in line with a film by French auteur Jean Pierre Jeunet than anything I would expect from Martin Scorsese. I can't help but think that Jeunet's films City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, and Amélie have been studied extensively by Scorsese because aside from this film being set in Paris in that sort of depression era that Jeunet likes to capture, it also shares a sort of filmic texture that is in line with Jeunet's films. If not for the 3D and English dialog (and accents), I would have a hard time believing this was not a Jeunet film, let alone a Scorsese flick.

 Jeunet isn't all of the tributes to be had in this inspired movie, either. Not by a long shot. The real life George Méliès (Ben Kingsley), who is an early film making pioneer, is the story's toy salesman and father to the young girl companion (played by Chloë Grace Moretz). Most know Méliès' work from his man in the moon imagery in A Trip To the Moon, and some of that piece, as well as more of his work has been translated to 3D in such a way as to not only be not offending ('80s Turner colorization efforts come to mind) but to be admired in a new way with an art form just as fresh as cinema itself was back in this era. This would not have worked so well if it were done at the hand of someone other than a genuine artist like Scorsese himself. I find that not only are people not offended by this tasteful 3D-ification of some classic works, but the movie Hugo itself will please many by its 3D quality, even those who typically don't like 3D. Other early film influences such as Harold Lloyd can also be found here and there, such as the clock tower scene.

 The acting in this movie is also top notch. My compliments to the casting director. As much as Ben Kingsley will do just about any roll (insert Michael Caine joke here), he is always at the top of his game and here he is no different. The young boy in the lead, Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) does a fine job, as does the very lady-like Chloë Grace Moretz (500 Days of Summer, Kiss-Ass). The boy's late clockmaker father is also admirably played by Jude Law, as is the beautiful Emily Mortimer, who plays Lisette. The acting is just very solid, over all, but one of the best parts in the film has to be the Station Inspector, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. This role would have never worked the way it does without Cohen. What seems like a hybrid of inspector Clouseau and a hint of Borat, this shows just how impressive Cohen can be with even a much more subtle approach. Those who look at the whole of his work already know that he is an amazing comedic actor. I think that even without the comedy aspects he will prove to be amazing in the coming years. (bring on the Freddy Mercury role, please)

The musical score is exactly what Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) does best, provide a strong but subtle theme with a much deeper subtext. It does its job well.

As it stands, I feel that I would really like to own this film, and I haven't even felt the need to own a movie in some time. This is one that I wouldn't mind watching over and over again. Very few movies make me feel this way. I can't find a single thing I don't like here so I have to reflect that in my score. As a movie lover, this film strikes many chords with me and never takes that and then goes the wrong direction. The only thing that they seemed to have taken a misstep on is their advertising department, which I don't think has been able to sell this movie properly. This is too bad, but only will strengthen the home arrival of this movie. In this case it is too bad because this is really something meant to be seen in the theater. I hope that it gets re-released around Oscar time.

Overall: 10 (out of 10)

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