Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

They should've stuck to the original title. But American test audiences love to ruin things, don't they? "Hugo" is a silly title. I felt like a turd walking into the theater and saying, "one for Hugo." Jeff and I were joking afterwards, saying that in order to sound cooler we should've been like, "one for the Scorsese picture." Of course then the joke plays out that the woman behind the counter doesn't know what we're talking and eventually gets us to say that ridiculous name. This is a weird rant.

Anyway...the only information about the film that I took into the theater with me was what I had seen from the trailer. The trailer was awful, god-awful. It looked like something Robert Zemeckis would love to slap his name on. Honestly, I had no real desire to see it, even though I love Marty. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Hugo is one of the most enjoyable films that I've seen in a long time.

Like Avatar, the 3-D was very impressive (even though I hate, hate 3-D). You truly feel immersed in the world and it made the giant clock setpiece a lot of fun to watch. Unlike Avatar, there was actually an interesting, well-written story to back up those impressive visuals. I see that James Cameron called Hugo a masterpiece. While I wouldn't go as far as JC, I respect the fact that he knows he sucks, ha.

The direction is what you would expect from Scorsese: impeccable. It seems strange to go from Shutter Island to Hugo, but of course he's capable of pulling off anything.

My one main criticism of the film is that I wasn't really a fan of the story until halfway through. I'll refer to the first half of the movie as, "Aladdin: with Clocks." The chase scenes with Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Sacha Baron Cohen felt a little like contrivances (especially toward the end of the movie). I felt like I had bought a ticket to Night at the Museum or something like that. When Hugo is trying to retrieve the automaton at the end of the film, you know that he will eventually get away from Cohen, so that sequence does drag on a bit too long. I really just wanted to get back to the Georges Melies storyline.

Also, I didn't always find myself rooting for Asa Butterfield. What an asshole I am for saying that about a little kid who worked hard on this. But really, it's the truth. Sometimes I just couldn't get into the film due to his performance. He does have moments were he truly shines. When Baron Cohen finally catches him at the end (just before Ben Kingsley shows up to claim him), Butterfield begins to cry and the scene almost felt too real. Well done, lad.

The second half of the film was spectacularly done and made the movie for me. This is the perfect film club movie because it deals with many of the topics that we've discussed on here. Also, as Jeff noted, this is a perfect Scorsese film in its dealings with film preservation and film history. It's a salute to film and the magic that it holds over us. Awesome shit. I love the Georges Melies stuff and admit that I need to see his work. There's youtube, and I'm also hoping that TCM will run his films again sometime soon. But the sequences in Hugo where we're shown his filmmaking process were amazing. Thankfully these pictures still exist and we all have access to them. I am feeling thankful for that today.

But my favorite scene in the entire film is when Michael Stuhlbarg (who's great in everything he does; happy to see him in this one) cranks the projector as they all sit down to watch Le Voyage dans la Lune. Just seeing everyone's face after the film ends was a great moment. Film is powerful and allows for human connection/growth; you feel that here. Films are best seen together, aren't they Brandon? (ha, sorry, dude, I wasn't going to say anything, but whatever. You know I love you).

And while Asa Butterfield is underwhelming at times, Chloe Grace Moretz really shines. She's got a lot of energy and really seems to embody the character of Isabella. And yeah, she's done some work that's been praised before this, but I think she does her best stuff here. The Hugo/Isabella relationship feels more genuine than the Elle Fanning/Joel Courtney relationship we saw earlier this year with Super 8, which I know most of us liked at the time.

I like Sascha Baron Cohen and I like the fact that he can do something like this and something like Da Ali G Show. He amuses me, but a lot of the comedy in this is more for the kids than the adults. At best, you'll mostly smirk at him and chuckle once. It did seem like he improvised some of his lines, too, or at least as he started to run with the jokes, the comedy felt stronger. I also appreciated the fact that they gave him a sidestory. He's played off as the villain mostly, but his crush on Emily Mortimer really fleshes him out a bit more and makes this a different movie than a lot of these kid/adventure flicks. In fact, all of the side character's side-stories helped the script.

And even though I'm a bit critical of the first half of the film, I do appreciate the fact that the film contains both Hugo's story and Melies' story. Having just one or the other would've made this film worse.  And I also like the theme of the Hugo story; he's just looking for connection, whether it's with another human being or an automaton. You're nobody till somebody loves you, Dino.

John, this is the second best 2011 set in Paris ;-). No, but there are definite connections between Hugo and Midnight In Paris. Let's talk about 'em!!!

I don't want to say too much more because Jeff is also writing about this and I want to leave room for everyone else to speak.

So one last thing that I know I can talk about that no one else will really touch is that on the topic of D.W. Griffith. Again, I maintain what I said about him a couple of posts ago, but one of the reasons why I'm skeptical of him is because of what he chose to make a film about. He could've made an epic picture about anything...literally anything, because no one else was really in the game. Unfortunately, he chose to make a movie about the KKK. Georges Melies, on the other hand, used film to showcase his love for magic, illusion, and spectacle. Give me Melies, John.

Also, Jeff and I were talking about how white people have the privilege of revering the technical aspects of Birth of a Nation. Our friend James Brown (who is black) takes film classes at BU, but I can't see him ever appreciating Birth of a Nation in the same way. The horrific subject matter kind of overshadows everything, which maybe is unfortunate for Griffith. Maybe not, I still have no idea. And all of that has nothing to do with you being racist or not, John. You're a racist because you like Stagecoach :-). Sidenote: I did watch that movie the other day; it was awesome.

Back to Hugo. A jerk like myself wants to know: Why does everyone in France have an English accent?

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