Sunday, March 25, 2012

Movie Review: Hugo

Even though the Academy Awards have come and gone, I still have a lot of the nominated movies to watch before I can render opinions as to whether or not the academy got it right (note: it is likely that they didn't because they never really do; Hollywood is so political it picks the "best" movies and actors about as well as Obama's administration balances a checkbook).  This process will take a long time as there were dozens of movies nominated, and to be honest I have no desire to see some of them.  However, I do intend to see all of the movies nominated for Best Picture and all the movies in which the actors and actresses who received nominations for their performances.

Going into the ceremony, I had only seen of the nominations for Best Picture The Artist (which won the award) and Midnight in Paris.  The movie that intrigued me the most of all the others that I had not seen was HugoHugo is the story of a orphaned boy living in a Paris train station who is trying to fix a complex machine he and his father had begun to repair before his father was killed in a fire.  Throughout the movie, Hugo is challenged to find his purpose in life and is lead to help other people he encounters to find theirs as well.

As a huge Scorsese fan, I held high expectations for the movie; however, I also reserved some doubt due to the fact that it is a much different kind of movie than any the director has ever taken part of prior.  As I watched Hugo, I witnessed the brilliance and genius of Scorsese manifest itself once again in the way that his characters not only told a story, but made the viewer contemplate the deeper, underlying messages of the movie.  It takes a special director to both entertain and challenge audiences, and Scorsese once again showed why he should be considered one of the best directors of all time in his depiction of Hugo.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Hugo is the intense graphics, visuals, and effects the movie contains.  Not surprisingly, of the five Oscars that the movie won, three of them had to do with visuals and camera work (Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects; the other two were for sound: Sound Editing and Sound Mixing).  Scorsese, who is always willing to try something new with the camera, employed various camera tricks and ploys that made scenes more exciting and real to the viewer.  In a movie that examines and praises all that is good about movies, Hugo especially emphasizes the wonders that good camera work can bring to a film.

What I enjoyed most about Hugo, as I do in all of Scorsese's movies, is the underlying theme/message that the director is trying to convey to his audience.  It is well known that Scorsese does not do a movie that he doesn't feel is important or shares a thought-provoking message.  In Hugo, Scorsese takes on the question of purpose and whether or not each person has a purpose in this world.  The scene in which Hugo compares the world to a machine and explains that no machine has extra parts that it doesn't need, and therefore there are no extra people who serve no purpose, is perhaps one of the deepest scenes ever to involve a child actor.  It was absolutely brilliant.

The main question now is whether or not I think that Hugo should have won the Best Picture award over The Artist.  The answer to that question is a difficult one to reach.  However, as much as I enjoyed Hugo and look forward to watching it over and over again, I must admit that I agree that the academy was correct in awarding it to The Artist over Hugo (whether it deserves it over all of the others is yet to be determined).  That being said, I do think Scorsese was passed over once again for Best Director (this is a stance that might also change once I see more of the nominated movies).

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