Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Hugo is the type of film that the Academy Awards loves to honor. The Oscars are attracted to epic movies, period pieces, nostalgic stories and movies with a heavy dose of international flavor. And Hugo scores high marks in all of these categories. The film received 11 nominations and won five Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography. If you love cinema, especially if you are a film student, you will absolutely love the artistry in Hugo. And I don’t think I have ever seen a movie with better lighting. The cinematography is stunning. Robert Richardson, the Director of Photography, is one of the best in the business and most certainly deserved the Oscar for his work. From a technical perspective, Hugo is a classic example of filmmaking at its best.

Let’s face it, Martin Scorsese, who directed Hugo, is not known as a filmmaker who makes family-friendly entertainment. Scorsese’s movies are usually filled with violence, blood, action and a few gangsters for good measure. You will not find any of that in Hugo. In fact, Hugo is an example of how good a family movie can be. It’s entertaining, uplifting, encouraging, and restores our hope in the human spirit.

Hugo takes place in Paris during the 1930s. The film is based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a novel written by Bryan Selznick. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a 12 year old boy living within the walls of a Paris railway station. His father is killed in a fire, and he is forced to live with his alcoholic uncle. After his uncle disappears, Hugo continues to maintain the intricate workings of the clocks that run the train station. No one is aware his uncle is missing and that Hugo is taking care of the clocks. He is forced to fend for himself and steals food when the opportunity arrives. As a result, Hugo is terrified by the possibility of being discovered and sent to an orphanage. Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen), the station inspector, is on a constant lookout for runaway orphans. Gustave also suspects something is not quite right with the station.

Hugo’s only connection to his deceased father is an automaton (a mechanical man) found by his father at the Museum where he worked. Unfortunately, the automaton was damaged in the fire that killed his father. Hugo must steal spare parts in hopes of restoring the mechanical man because he believes the automaton contains a message from his father.

Hugo eventually gets caught stealing by Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), who operates a toy store at the station. He is forced to work for Melies in order to pay off his debt. Hugo eventually finds an ally in Melies’ granddaughter, Isabella (Chloé Grace Moretz), who becomes his friend and kindred spirit. Together they must unlock the secrets that lie behind the automaton and the possible connection to Georges Melies past.

As I said, Hugo is a delightful film on so many levels. The film pays tribute to the early origins of filmmaking. Although Hugo is a fictional tale, the movie depicts the story of Georges Melies, a pioneer filmmaker who made dozens of films around the turn of the century. Melies’ movie, Voyage to the Moon, considered a groundbreaking movie by many film historians, is featured prominently in Hugo.

I love the way Hugo flows from one scene to another. An easy movie to get swept up in, Hugo is like poetry in motion. Hugo captivates you from the very first frame and transports you to a different place and time. It’s first-class entertainment done on a grand scale.

The themes and message are timeless and connect on a real emotional level. This is positive, family entertainment at its best. Hugo comes highly recommended and is worth every minute of your time.

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