Friday, March 15, 2013

Day Seventy-four - Hugo, or "We must never forget that which has come before."

I love the cinema.

Yes, it's often just a whole lot of sound and fury, but, at least several times a year, something truly magical is produced through the combined efforts of thousands of individuals pouring their hearts and souls into their work.

Even rarer are those odd occurrences where that magic is channeled into a film about... films.

And, really, that's what Hugo is underneath it all.

Sure, the main thrust of the plot deals with an orphan boy and his quest to fix the Turk that his father discovered alone and unremarked in a museum basement. And, yes, it's mainly about his journey to find connection and family via said automaton... but the big secret of the film lies in Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley) and his forgotten legacy as the greatest of early filmmakers, Georges Méliès.

As endearing as Hugo's (Asa Butterfield) and Isabelle's (Chloe Grace Moretz) bonding over the length of the film is, my focus was always on Papa Georges and his crotchety old man routine as well as the depths of his despair concerning the loss of his studio and films, melted down to be made into shoe heels.

As a creative type, myself, every time I watch their destruction, I cannot help but tear up. 

On the supporting players, I was actually quite impressed with Sasha Baron Coen's performance as the cold-hearted Station Inspector who, along with his dog, are always on the lookout for unattended urchins like Hugo. His own personal quest to woo the station's flower girl (Emily Mortimer) is the subject of several well done scenes, the favorite of mine being the very first when he attempts to limp over to her and his brace seizes. Everything meshed so well in that scene: mood, acting, sound, composition. Well done to everyone involved.

On the subject of acting, while, for the most part, Asa and Chloe did decent jobs, there were several moments that felt too forced and awkward, like Hugo's frustration fit when they first try the key and Isabella's melodramatic lines. I want to think that's the way the character was in the book (which I haven't read), but it didn't translate well onto the screen. Luckily, when they're not being melodramatic, they both have pretty precocious chops that fit well with the film. It's just that odd moment here and there when they don't.

I think my only disappointment with watching the film on Netflix is the lack of 3-D. I think Scorsese actually produced quite a few scenes that take full advantage of the technology, so much so that, when they're crunched down to 2-D, they look wonky and out of place. While the intro is still serviceable, Isabella's scene where she's almost trampled underfoot by the Parisian commuters just looks terrible without the depth of field to mess with your brain.

Still, Hugo is a very cute movie with tons of production value and a very taut lesson about our cinematic history. I definitely recommend it and think it should be in just about everyone's queue.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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