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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:08 am 
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mfunk9786 wrote:
He has managed to cast a lovely bunch of actors (Moretz [has there ever been a more talented young actress?], Kingsley, and a warmly bearded Stuhlbarg are standouts here) ...

Agreed on all three counts, but I'm glad you mentioned Stuhlbarg, because he gave my favorite performance in the film. I loved that moment when
[Reveal] Spoiler:
he first entered the Méliès residence, clearly recognized Jeanne at once and was blown away. Beyond all doubt, the tales he had been hearing from the kids about his hero were true! What a staggeringly awesome moment for him! But then things turned awkward, and despite being utterly heartbroken at the realization that he may not be wanted there, he took stock of the situation, read at once the pain and distress that the situation had caused the Melieses, and politely offered to leave.


I don't know why I found that moment so touching.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:12 am 
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I got that too, believe me. What an unashamedly beautiful man, that character


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:18 am 
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It changed depending on the setting.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:09 am 
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It's funny, I associate that actor primarily with his performance as Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire, but that association didn't hurt at all- his character here had a similar sense of being someone who could add things up in his head with astonishing speed, only here using it to sweet and wonderfully positive ends. In some ways, I wish the movie had been about him, rather than Hugo.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:48 am 
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After reading through this thread I could probably patchwork a few of your posts together matrix, and call it a day. I found Hugo's story and largely the first half to be the stuff of pretty standard sentimentality. However, sincere sentimentality...it reminded me in spirit a bit of the modest Emilio Estevez/Martin Sheen movie The Way that came out earlier this year, which was simply soaking in sentimentality, but had its heart firmly and warmly in the right place. It didn't feel manipulative or false because the personal connection the filmmaker had to the material was palpable - same here in Hugo. When the Méliès storyline came more into focus though, I was very moved and grew to love what Scorsese had given to us, as a whole.

Even if the first half rubs the wrong way though, the gorgeous, meticulously crafted 3D world of the train station should keep you in rapt attention. I've never seen 3D technology utilized so effectively, nor have I seen it so perfectly fitting the fabric of a story. Hugo was breathtaking to behold throughout.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:04 am 
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I agree that the first half of the movie wasn't totally standard Hollywood- there's a real sense of menace and danger about the way Hugo lives, and death is presented very matter of factly, without any sense that the movie is trying to shield the audience from the sad parts of life. As children's fare, I think it compares more to a Pixar film than to any unpleasant or obnoxious product, like The Smurfs- even the slapsticky Sasha Baron Cohen scenes benefited from the sense of emotional honesty that I think ran through the whole movie, and the relationship between Hugo and Moretz felt very real and fairly touching to me.

I did feel myself pushing against the emotion of a lot of scenes where the score felt too leading- I'd wonder if Scorsese just wasn't that comfortable with scoring (as opposed to a Goodfellas style pop soundtrack) were it not for that I thought the score was one of the stronger points of Gangs of New York.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:04 pm 
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Count me in as one who also thought Hugo was a no-holds-barred masterpiece from beginning to end. The movie is a sheer joy to watch from a purely visual and editing standpoint. I can't see anyone who cares about movies ignoring the pleasure of simply basking in the execution of its considerable craft. Kristin Thompson has written a wonderful analysis of the film and its relative accuracy here: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2011/12/07/hugo-scorseses-birthday-present-to-georges-melies/. Having only seen the film once, she articulated something I wasn't consciously aware of while viewing it, but I'm sure my brain noticed it - many of the subplots are short silent movies with a minimum of dialogue, from the dachshund lady and her paramour to Cohen's relationship with the flower girl (duh!). Hugo is a love-letter to that period of cinema embellished with all of today's technical advancements. I can't wait to see it again.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 3:54 pm 
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Quote:
many of the subplots are short silent movies with a minimum of dialogue,

I don't quite get this claim. It seems like she is simply arguing that in constituting micronarratives, the subplots in Hugo also resemble short silent films with their compressed, anecdotal plotlines. But couldn't that be said of many if not most subplots in commercial films, including those not found in films explicitly about silent filmmaking? I would need more to demonstrate that there is something about these particular subplots that more closely resemble, say, a Vitagraph film of 1909 than the subplots of, to pick a current example, New Year's Day.


Last edited by jonah.77 on Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 4:03 pm 
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Yeah, I feel that's a bit of a stretch too. The dachshund lady and the paramour, I can see, and to be fair, flower girls seem like a common object of affection of working class individuals in silent films, but I don't think it's enough to build a case on. (The flower girl scenes certainly depended on dialogue and audible sound effects.) I liked the film, but to be honest, I feel the peripheral activity in the station was the least memorable thing about the movie. Even the cheeky "cameos" by James Joyce, Salvador Dali and Django Reinhardt didn't leave much of an impression, they were entertaining in a very fleeting way.

I have to admit, it's pretty cool that the automaton did, in fact, make that drawing.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:06 pm 
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Just happened to watch Georges Franju's "Le Grand Melies" (from the First Wizard of Cinema box). There are, of course, loads of echos between Hugo and the Franju short. I mean, obviously Scorsese had lots of other sources (not to mention the book), but he had to have seen this (if only b/c it seems like he's seen everything). Well worth a half hour. It stars Melies' wife as ... Melies' wife. And Melies' son as ... Melies. Crazy!

I will add that I think that whatever flaws Hugo has (and I admit to not currently loving it as a whole (although I loved parts)), it seems to me that anything that could lure anyone to encounter & explore Melies (or other early films) is a very good thing. And the apparent demand for the Flicker Alley set seems to be a good sign in that regard. No less doing it in the context of a children's film (albeit I suppose the author of the book is the one who really deserves credit for this). I would think that no studio would ever bankroll a film about Melies (and silent film generally) ... and yet Selznik, Scorsese, (and I guess Johnny Depp along with others) have made it happen by wrapping it in a children's story. Well done, gentlemen. (My favorite part, by far, was the flashback to Melies' studio.)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:45 pm 
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Why don't you like this?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 3:06 pm 
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NY Times story about turn-of-the-century automatons like the one featured in the "Hugo" book/movie.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:34 pm 
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mfunk9786 wrote:

I've been trying to organize my thoughts about why I was disappointed with this, but I think Tasha Robinson nailed most everything I was thinking in the linked piece. I'm in the camp that has problems with the first half of the film. The Polar Express comparison was particularly spot-on - I wasn't enamored of the CGI spectacle of the train station at all, nor was I any more or less impressed with the 3D than usual. This could just be a matter of taste - a labyrinth of gears behind the walls doesn't provoke my imagination. It doesn't function as the typical 'secret world' you often find in children's entertainment - the world through the back of the wardrobe, or beyond Platform 9 3/4, or inside the chocolate factory. Hugo's world isn't all that fantastical - it's a train station filled with regular people and their cutesy subplots. It's mildly dangerous, but it's mostly just sad. Hugo doesn't seem to be enraptured by the station; he works like an adult and quietly starves while life goes on as normal around him. He doesn't do anything fun! I think it's telling that the inspector is the primary source of both menace and levity for the bulk of the film.

That said, Hugo is definitely an accomplished film and has some fantastic moments in it. The flashback to Melies' studio, in particular, is one of my favorite scenes of the year. In fact, I would say that the entire portion about Melies was great - from the library through the public screening at the end, I was moved. However, Hugo's own story was bland and protracted. It's completely overshadowed by the later developments with Melies. If, instead, you imagine the film were about Isabelle, alone, discovering her grumpy godather's identity at the library, and proceeding from there, Hugo could be excised from his own film and it might have been for the better! The revelations about Melies are moving because of his and his wife's character and portrayal, but they're only tangentially related to Hugo's predicament. Thematically, Hugo's idea that every person should have a purpose meshes well with Melies ultimately being appreciated for his obvious 'true purpose', but what does it say about Hugo's own arc? He's a cypher, and at the end of the film I was left feeling his purpose was just to deliver the MacGuffin to kick off the real part of the story. Two sad sacks coming together to turn their lives around is an effective cliche, but rarely has it been so unbalanced - Melies has a life- and history-altering change of heart, but the resolution to Hugo's story fell flat.

Interestingly enough, I've looked around a bit and many of the same criticisms were made against the book as the film. Has anyone read it? I'm curious if the Melies story was greatly embellished for the film - I'm guessing the speech about film preservation, at least, was an addition.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:12 pm 
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When "Hugo" opens with a sweeping view of Paris that descends into the train station with a camera move through people, trains and locations straight out of "Polar Express" (or your average CG Zemeckis movie of the past decade) I was worried for a moment that we had lost Martin Scorsese to the technologically-advanced evil of the 3D trade: the show-off 3D effect. But, even though there are more obviously-CG and plenty of 3D shots peppered through its bloated running time (it's about 15-20 minutes too long), Scorsese invests the movie's set-pieces and overriding sense of discovery with a warmth that won me over despite the fact the lead character is a cipher in his own self-titled movie. Personally I found Sacha Baron Cohen's Station Inspector routine fine in small doses (most of "Hugo's" bloated running time comes from his endless chases of Hugo through the station) but understand Scorsese's desire to play with what used to be silent cinema's clownish cat-and-mouse chase routines. For the first hour Asa Butterfield's quests (to get his book back, to get his automaton to work, to discover who Ben Kingsley's character really is, etc.) set-up the 2nd half transition to the story of Georges Méliès, with whom many here are familiar with but will be unknown to 90% of people that see "Hugo" for the first time (like me). Rather than resent that "Hugo" basically switches leads (and let's face it, Kingsley and Chloë Grace Moretz are more fun to watch than Butterfield and B. Cohen) I enjoyed the overall arc of the story, the flashbacks to Méliès' filmmaking days, the preservation message (it's easy to forget that the characters in the movie don't know of future home video technologies allowing them to preserve film work for posterity) and, last but not least, the use of 3D to enhance rather than substitute for an absent movie world. The storytelling and acting isn't as tight, memorable or gripping as in your better Scorsese movies. The technical and emotional levers that "Hugo" manipulates though can't help but bring a tear and a smile to this cinephile's still-expanding knowledge of modern and classic cinema. This is the first 3D movie that's made me seriously wonder if I should invest on a 3D set at home for the future.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:07 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:45 pm
Finally saw this and was expecting more film references on Scorsese's part, the only things that stuck out were the children's cage a la 400 blows and the train conductor really reminded me of Le Bete Humane. But most seem to relate directly to Scorsese rather than French cinema.

I do like that he shows Safety Last which gives Hugo the idea for escape, but Scorsese shows clips of things that gave him ideas like the shot from the Great Train Robbery that he stole for Goodfellas. The Scholar character really seems to represent Scorsese to a "T" including making a pictorial history book, the companion to Personal Journey and also seems to relate to the book he talks about in Personal Journey.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:46 am 

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Took this in over the weekend and am very much in the camp of people who were utterly charmed by it.

I note a split on this board (and in other places) of people who were unimpressed by the opening and, conversely, those who felt it degenerated into sermonising in the final third (I’m guessing the review MichaelB refers to is the one in Sight and Sound), I have to say that, outside of the pre-title sequence and the ‘courageous young man’ speech at the end, I thought it worked from start to finish.

I can understand how some may feel cheated by the switch in emphasis around the half-way mark; Hugo’s story, his father, etc. seems more a prologue to the main story than anything else. But for me the second half is such an exciting, passionate piece of filmmaking (which still works as a continuation of plot, theme and atmosphere) that it worked.
It comes down to the fact that Scorsese has a wonderful ability to express himself as an enthusiast rather than a professional film maker when discussing films or film in general. This is something also apparent in his Personal Journey Through American Cinema doc, and the best parts of Hugo display this trait wonderfully.

The most affecting sequence for me was the two children looking through the book on cinema in the library, it captured wonderfully the sense of discovery and joy that has always been the key reason so many become addicted to film making, criticism, appreciation (I like the fact that through a sub-plot similar homage was paid to books). It made me cry (more than once).

I saw it with my girlfriend who was equally moved and, as she is not particularly interested in film/film history, I would like to think it will increase her tolerance level for me harping on about some upcoming restoration/dvd release.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:31 pm 

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Don't want to repeat what others have already said, other than to say that I broadly fall into the camp that thinks, despite problems with the first half, Scorsese's all-out appreciation and love for film shines through and that's what gives the film a heartbeat and makes it quite enchanting.

I'm sure I won't be alone in thinking that, for all that I was enchanted by the clockwork and minutiae of the constructed world, it was:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the montage of clips from well-known silent films that was the most breathtaking moment of the film ... the moment from The General bringing deep belly laughs from many in the audience.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:40 am 
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I'm not a Scorsese fan generally, but this movie got me choked up a couple of times. While the train station material is fun and engaging, I like so many others here was enchanted by the sincerity and magic of
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the montages going over those beautiful early silent films. And then moreover by the strangely thrilling rendering of Méliès' works in progress in 3D. I don't really go for 3D but that was glorious.

A question for all: when you saw 'Hugo,' were there any kids? Along with everyone else I've spoken to who's seen the film, I was disheartened to note that not only were there no children at the screening I attended, my girlfriend and I were the youngest folks there by what looked like a considerable margin! Has 'Hugo' failed that completely to find its intended audience? I was troubled too (unreasonably, I'm sure) when
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the rest of the crowd laughed heartily at the primitive special effects in 'Voyage Dans La Lune,' which I still think are just beautiful and seeing them on a large screen had me enchanted -- but they won me back by appreciating the Harold Lloyd and Keaton bits, so all is well.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:31 pm 
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I saw it with mostly an adult crowd. Another source of its financial woes - parents just aren't taking their kids to this movie.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:33 pm 

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I saw it with plenty of kids. It was like right after new years so I think they might've had the day off (or it was winter break...or something)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:52 pm 
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An entirely adult audience as well. But, to be fair, both times I saw it were at a 10 PM screening since that was the only subtitled screening over here in Mexico. The vast majority of the screenings were dubbed. I say 'were' because here's the odd thing: the second week of its release, the subtitled screenings expanded and the dubbed ones shrinked. Since dubbed screenings are the ones traditionally set for children, I guess this means the distributor realized adults were a larger portion of the audience than they initially accounted for.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:39 pm 

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Hugo's obviously been a financial disaster which is real shame, because after seeing it a second time recently I'm starting to think it might end up a (slightly flawed) classic. Part of the problem (at least here in the US) has been the really weak marketing, which gave off confused signals as to whether it was a film for children or adults. The lack of star names certainly hindered it too (although that too is one of its great charms). And, while I have heard parents state that they were surprised by how much their children enjoyed the film, there's no getting away from the fact that it moves extremely slowly in comparison to most big-budget kids films - even UP, to which I found it shared tones and themes, was pacier and more obviously childlike.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:46 pm 

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Almost every instance I've asked people if they've seen Hugo (one of my favorites of 2011) the conversation more or less goes like this:

Dylan: "I thought Hugo was wonderful, have you seen it?"
(Person): "Nah, it's CGI isn't it?"
Dylan: "No, not at all, it's 3-D but it's live action with real actors, maybe you're thinking of Tintin?"
(Person): "No, I know Tintin. I thought Hugo was CGI. It doesn't interest me."
Dylan: "It's a Martin Scorsese live action film."
(Person): "WHAT?"

I'm not sure exactly where the confusion is coming from, but this is happening a lot, even after the Oscar nominations. Maybe the poster just reminds everybody of Polar Express and whether they realize it or not they're also thinking of Tintin so it's just passing directly above their radar? I'm not sure.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2012 6:52 pm 
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That might actually be the most lucid Person's ever been.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:54 am 

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The marketing has been atrocious but then the film is hard sell. How can the marketing guys sell the film without giving away the second half of the film? That poster with Hugo hanging off the clock was hopeless though.

Eventually it will make money and 20-30 years down the line it should become a staple Christmas film. A great shame that relatively few went to see it as just becomes an excuse for producers to stay away from intelligent children's films.


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