January 28, 2012


What a treat to see Martin Scorsese use his prodigious talents on a movie for the whole family to enjoy.
Not only is Hugo a whimsical adventure about finding (or reclaiming) your purpose in the world, but it's also a love letter to the birth of narrative filmmaking. My grade: A!
He only wears the beret for a minute, I swear.
Asa Butterfield (born 1997) was terrific as the determined, crafty orphan with the giant pale blue eyes and artfully unkempt hair. I wonder if Scorsese made him cry or if those massive teardrops were just faking?

Chloë Grace Moretz (also 1997) continues to charm. Isabelle is a passionate book lover, always eager to try out a new adjective, and hungry for a real-life adventure.

Ben Kingsley's Georges Méliès is a sad broken old man, but he's a joy to behold in flashbacks, playfully drunk on the joy of fantastical filmmaking.

I can't decide whether Sacha Baron Cohen is overacting or not. His performance has moments of grace and subtlety, but the yelling, the crooked limping, the warped accent, and the electric blue uniform are all so extreme. He looks like a plastic Lego construction (with an Erector set leg).

In supporting roles: Narcissa Malfoy, Vernon Dursley, and Madam Maxime from the Harry Potter movies, and Emily Mortimer, who will always be Phoebe, Jack Donaghy's ex-fiancee (the one with the hollow bones and the vertigo), from Season One of 30 Rock.

Based on a book by Brian Selznick, the plot felt overcomplicated at times. It felt like the complications were in deference to the rich detail of the source book, but they ended up with a three hour story condensed into a 126 minute movie.

I did find it odd that the movie is set in a Paris train station yet no one has a French accent. I imagine they're showing a dubbed French version in Europe which must be very popular!

A note on 3D: The 3D is done very well, but I continue to find it unnecessary. For me, 3D is a novelty at best, and distracting at worst. Every time it snowed outside, all I thought about was "wow, I wonder how much RAM it takes to render these fake snowflakes in 3D?" Why am I paying $3-$5 extra for a distracting novelty? Why is Martin Scorsese so taken with it? It's a mystery.

Theater Note: I didn't know it at the time, but this was my last-ever visit to the Church Street theater in Harvard Square (right balcony screen) before AMC closed the theater for good that summer. Check out my history of movies at Church Street, 1990-2012