Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What I Saw: Hugo

What I Saw:   Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo features beautiful cinematography, art direction and costumes. It stars one of my favorite actors (Sir Ben Kingsley) playing an iconic role. There are some wonderful vignettes throughout the film, beginning with Hugo peering out from behind a clock at the train station below, lovely romance scenes in front of a Parisian bakery, and a behind the scenes look at a movie set. It also revives classic tropes that we’ve all seen in the movies, from oncoming trains to hanging perilously from the hands of a clock. In each case, the settings, costumes and camera angles are prefect. It even boasts a plot that involves the early days of film and the struggle for film preservation, something that this blogger firmly supports.

But sometimes the whole is less than the sum of its parts. I could have easily sat through a whole film in the style of the first act, with the orphan son of a clockmaker seeking the lost secret of his automaton while hiding from the comically evil train station inspector. I could also imagine myself thoroughly enjoying an entire film built around the second act, a colorful biopic of the great filmmaker Georges Melies filled with extravagant costumes and basic film editing discoveries. But for me, the combination of the two stories somehow robbed each of their magic. Hugo’s adventure turns strangely cerebral and his great inheritance seems something of a let down, while modern audiences might wonder why they should bother checking out the old classics when they could simply get Scorsese to remake them with sound and visually stunning 3D.

Despite my problems with these tonal shifts, I do hope that the film will inspire people to learn more about Georges Melies, and I’m willing to do my part by providing some references from my fellow bloggers at The LAMB. I've done something similar in my reviews of My Week With Marilyn And The Artist.

Film: Ab Initio provides a wonderfully detailed introduction to the life and work of Melies as Film’s First Cinemagician.

Silent Volume has some excellent reviews of Melies’ works, including Jeanne d’Arc, and of course, A Trip To The Moon, and even includes information on how to find the films if you want to watch them.

Oscar Chances:

I predict that Hugo will do very well in the visual and audio categories. My previous predictions in the larger categories feel a bit low at the moment, but let’s wait to see how well it holds on at the box office before bumping it too high in the best picture, director or supporting actor races.

Original Score: Howard Shore (currently ranked 1, but might get overcome by War Horse)
Costume Design: Sandy Powell (currently ranked 2)
Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker (currently ranked 2)
Art Direction: Dante Feretti, Dorothee Baussan and Francesca Lo Schiavo (currently ranked 3)
Sound Mixing (currently ranked 4)
Visual Effects (currently ranked 5)
Sound Editing (currently ranked 5)
Makeup (currently ranked 5 in a field of 3 nominees)
Cinematography: Robert Richardson (currently ranked 6)
Best Director: Martin Scorsese (currently ranked 14, will move up in next predictions)
Adapted Screenplay: John Logan (currently ranked 15)
Best Picture (currently ranked 18, will move up in next predictions)
Supporting Actor: Ben Kingsley (currently ranked 17, will move up in next predictions)
Actor: Asa Butterfield (currently ranked 38 in the Lead category and 37 in supporting)
Supporting Actress: Chloe Moretz (currently ranked 43)
Supporting Actor: Sacha Baron Cohen and Jude Law (currently unranked)
Best Song: Howard Shore, Elizabeth Cotnoir and Isabelle Geffroy for “Coeur Volant” (currently unranked but will appear in next predictions)

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!

My Lamb Score: 3 ½ out of 5 Lambs
What is a lamb score? Click HERE to learn more.
Read more of my reviews HERE.


  1. I can't wait to check this film out - glad you enjoyed it.

  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 my dude.

  3. @Sam, You're in for a visual treat for sure!

    @Dan, I didn't notice the length, which meant that it kept me entertained enough. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. From all the great initial reviews I've seen I think it has a decent shot at best pic.

  5. @Bonjour Tristesse, The critics do seem to be lining up behind it (including NBR), and I can see the visuals as well as the nod to Melies possibly pushing it over the top. My only hesitation (in addition to some tonal and plot problems) is a question of how many voters will consider it best of the year. It's definitely within striking distance though!

  6. Nice review! I agree that I could easily have been happy with the first act of the movie extending into a full feature. I'm just not quite sure the two parts are gracefully integrated from a dramatic standpoint. Nonetheless, solid movie although I doubt I would watch it again.

  7. Thanks Castor. I've been trying to think if there was something Scorsese could have done to tie the two plots together more, but I keep coming up blank and just thinking they should have been two films!

  8. doesn't look like it will be my thing but the visuals i'm sure are fun and lush.

  9. Thanks MrJeffery. The visuals are great, but you're right that the film isn't for everyone.