Monday, January 2, 2012

Hugo - a contemporary film review by Robert Steven Mack

It is always a pleasure to go to a movie theater and see a movie that brings pleasure to the viewer and therefore not end up bitterly disappointed. And it is of particular pleasure to perhaps both of us to go to such a theater and for the first time see a masterpiece of such magnificent extreme proportion that you are ranting endlessly about it the next day.

You never know quite what to expect when going to your local theater to see a film; at least I don't. And what do you go for? To be entertained. Sometimes your hopes are high for the film you are about to see, for whatever particular reason, and sometimes they may be not that at all. Perhaps, there have been time for you when, throughout the whole popcorn-buying session prior to the films start when you on-goingly think nervously to yourself, "maybe this isn't such a good idea." I do that often!

Some films you know, deep down - by instinct, that they are good; but which is of course counter-acted by the nervousness of experiencing the unknown. And I had plenty of reasons to be worried about when I was about to see Hugo after a long and forbidding wait. First of all, I had never seen a film by the great Martin Scorcease and I hoped dearly that he wasn't another one of those "visionary" directors. Second, I am definitely the type to doubt a lot of good things; and third, I know what modern movies can be like. But to accurately describe what the experience of watching the movie was like, I must translate to you these three words: I was captured!

The film Hugo, is based on a very interesting book by David Selznick he published on January 30, 2007. The book, encompassing the experience of that of both, a silent motion picture-goer, and a fascinated reader using a great story, pictures, and somehow a little something for anyone. The book,taking place in the roaring twenties, is about a boy named Hugo, who secretly lives as an orphan in train station in France taking care of the clocks. In his vast pastime, he steals the mechanic pieces of toys from a nearby toy shop at the station to use to put fix a mysterious Automatrom, the only thing he has of his beloved dead father. An elder toy maker, an adventure hungry girl, and Hugo's beloved Automatrom lead him, and those around him to discover something fantastic about the early twentieth century filmmaker, George Melies.

The film, enjoyable from the start, was faithful and close to the book in most respects and had an absolutely enchanting pace to it. One of the characters was missing - but good riddens 'cause he would have slowed down the film considerably anyways. In addition, there are few other minor things switched and tweaked, but all for the better. Otherwise, the film did a fine poetic job of capturing the essence of the book on screen.

Although I am not familiar with much of the cast of Hugo, they each delivered a meaningful performance and captured their characters to make up the large scale story being told. Asa Butterfield is moving in his role as Hugo, the boy who secretly lives within the walls and clocks of a train station in Paris. Chloe Grace Moretz also did a fine job in playing Issabelle, the girl who befriends him on his journey. Also taking part in this pleasing epic are Sir Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies, the great pioneering filmmaker, Helen McCrory as his wife and actress, Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector, Jude Law as his father, as well as Emily Mortimer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, and Christopher Lee. A marvelous British cast that will make the experience so very magical for those who attend.

The music contained about the most charming score I've seen for a movie since that of High Noon and and the illustrious Ben-Hur. A definite sub- cross between the two. The visual effects and cinematography are to die for, but completely unpretentious. They are splendid! Martin Scorsese beautiful poetry on film is probably the most moving and gratifying film experience you can find within recent years. It is perhaps so above the normal mediocre twenty-first century film that it may even be able to stand in the crowd of the past cinematic splendors of yester-year as its own unique film experience. The movie is filled with sub-plots and gives deep character insights not offered in the book. In this way, one may argue that it is similar, cinematically to that of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Hugo clandestinely watches life in the train station from his view within the walls and the sub-plots and nooks and crannies the film offers grow to the point in which it actually becomes a central part of the story.

The dream sequence might be a bit scary (nothing too bad-just a bid startling) and children at younger ages really shouldn't see it; you need to understand it to appreciate the film. Otherwise it's a lovely film. After all,the dream sequence is to add emphasis on certain story elements which one should respect.

If the Oscar Award for Best Picture were up to me I'd award it to this film basically because it, in my mind, deserves it, along with many more Oscars. Martin Scorsese has produced a work that is that of a a modern Hitchcock (forgive the reference) and a true classic; a treasured product of our time.

Martin Scorsese has brought to us an intriguing, visually and emotionally satisfying drama about an adventure inside a train station with an occasional soothing comic flair. A truly powerful movie.

Copyright 2011 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!)

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