Monday, June 25, 2012

Thank you...for the movie, today. It was a gift.

As kids, I think we're all pretty much lost. Fitting in can be utterly taxing work (a lot of finding everything funny, there). The opposite, truly not caring what others think, isn't easy either. I should know, not only was I kid - obviously, but as a middle school teacher, I'm surrounded by them. Combine all that growing up and figuring-it-out chaos with the loss of a parent, and you've got a child's worst nightmare. But in the hands of Martin Scorsese, this is the stuff of dreams.

I loved Hugo. From the magical opening shot throughout the train station to the very sweet ending, I was completely enamored. I realize this isn't a stretch by any means (this was a Best Picture nominated film), but it seems like it's been some time since I've seen something so rapturously entertaining. And surprising.

Despite having planned on seeing this theatrically, I didn't know much about this. I knew it was a kids movie,  and I knew Scorsese directed it, but that's about it. Maybe it was the impending holiday season, or maybe a personal indifference to the marketing, but I was essentially clueless to story. And even more of a pleasant surprise: the cast. The kids were both brilliant, truly, but I got the most joy out of Sacha Baron Cohen's Station Inspector (and to lesser extent, the always excellent Ben Kingsley). Cohen does a lot with what could have been a very one-note character. Truly excellent.

Also excellent, is the presentation, specifically the camera work. Seriously, the camera can go anywhere in this film. It spins and it swoops all over the place. The train station is perfectly brought to life and the camera explores every inch of it. And despite not taking place outdoors or in a city of highrises, everything has such a striking verticality to it, it's breathtaking. I wish I had seen this on the big screen (and in 3D, while we're at it).

Kids looking at books? Only in movies.
For the uninitiated, Hugo tells the story of a young boy left alone to tend to the clocks in a train station. While secretly keeping to that task, Hugo is also attempting to complete work on an automaton (a scary-looking mechanical person) which connects him to an infinitely happier past. Along the way he meets and befriends a charming young lady named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, playing a less-magical Hermione Granger type) and her grandparents (Kingsley and the fantastic Helen McCrory). Hugo, despite being just a kid, wants to find his purpose in life. He wants things to have meaning, to matter. All of these things are weaved together and connected by one common aspect: movies. They too, have something to offer. They matter. A lot.

Despite essentially loving this one completely, in the name of fair play, here are the Yays and Boos, The-Artist-better-be-better style.

Hit Girl has quite a solid resume to this point.
  • The set is so beautiful and magical I was half-expecting the Hogwarts Express to come rolling in.
  • Asa Butterfield was excellent as Hugo. Thank God George Lucas didn't cast this one. Yipeeeeeeeee.
  • Spinning gears. Visual metaphor, anyone? Subtle.
  • The Glass Stage. Inspiring.
  • I know I've already mentioned him, but the Station Inspector is frickin' hilarious. His explanation of the idea of a train station is hilarious. As is every one-way phone conversation with the orphanage. Brilliant.
  • My favorite scene in the whole film was when the author of the Melies book meets Mama Jeanne in the entryway. An old-world lesson in charm and grace from both characters.
I hear he's even got two kills.
  • Uncle Claude. You're a real a-hole, man. I haven't seen anybody break the bad news like that since a young William Wallace found out. William. I'm your uncle. Argyle.
  • I know we don't have a lot of time for them, but the secondary cast was great. More Jude Law is always a good thing. Same goes for you three, Holly Shiftwell, Count Dooku, and Uncle Vernon.
  • Do any kids have parents?
  • Curse you, Dream Within A Dream!
All this dream talk and clock fixing has got me thinking one very important thing. Time for bed.


  1. Gorgeous review! I didn't like the movie as much as you did but I may give this one another shot sometime. I really liked Cohen's work and the lovely subplot with him and Emily Mortimer who is always enchanting. The visuals were indeed beautiful and I too thought Helen McCrory was fantastic.

    1. Thanks. If I like something, I tend to go a bit overboard (read: gushing and blathering incessantly). I think it's at least a very good film, if not an outright excellent one.

      It doesn't hurt that my viewing of this one was sandwiched between my horrible experiment with 70's Italian horror and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

      Those two will make every movie better. Much, in fact.

  2. The movie itself runs a bit long at 127 minutes, but Hugo is worth every minute for the visual feast it provides, and features Scorsese in probably his most delightful and elegant mood ever, especially with all of the beautiful 3-D. Good review M.

    1. Dan - 127 minutes isn't that long for a good movie, but it was the reason I waited so long to finally watch it.

      I don't know why we sometimes pigeonhole directors (not saying you did), but regardless it is surprising to see Scorsese at the helm of something like this. Looking at his filmography though, he certainly doesn't mind mixing it up.

      I'm going to check out your review now, as I'm assuming you saw it theatrically in 3D.

  3. Great write-up.

    This movie completely wasted Ray Winstone though. He was in this for 5 seconds.

  4. Thanks. Didn't even notice him, but they're aren't very many roles to be had really.

    Christopher Lee and Emily Mortimer have more screen time, but are tertiary characters at best.