A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

Hugo Cabret: Asa Butterfield
Georges Méliès: Ben Kingsley
Isabelle: Chloë Grace Moretz
Station Inspector: Sacha Baron Cohen
Mama Jeanne: Helen McCrory
Rene Tabard: Michael Stuhlbarg
Uncle Claude: Ray Winstone
Lisette: Emily Mortimer
Monsieur Labisse: Christopher Lee
Madame Emilie: Frances de la Tour
Monsieur Frick: Richard Griffiths
Hugo's Father: Jude Law

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: John Logan
Based on a novel by Brian Selznick
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Production design: Dante Ferretti
Film editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Costume design: Sandy Powell
Music: Howard Shore

Martin Scorsese's fantastical tribute to pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès begins with a spectacular traveling shot, a combination of CGI and live action, sweeping across Paris and into the Gare Montparnasse until it finishes on a shot of young Hugo Cabret in the clock tower. Normally, I feel that too much CGI robs a movie of its grounding in reality, drawing attention to itself at the expense of characters and story. But on the other hand, who can really doubt that if computer graphics had been available to Georges Méliès, he wouldn't have done something similarly amazing with them, the way he relied on papier-mâché, cardboard, flash powder, and whatever camera tricks he could muster? One of the great delights of Hugo is its re-creations of parts of Méliès's movies, particularly from the behind-the-scenes angle. It's a charming film, perhaps a little overloaded with effects, but Scorsese has a light touch with the story and he has a cast equal to the task of standing up to the computer trickery. A few critics demurred, finding the special effects oppressive, especially in the 3-D version, but on the whole the reviews were raves. It also won Oscars not only for the effects but also for cinematography, art direction, and sound mixing and editing, and was nominated for best picture, director, screenplay, film editing, costumes, and musical score. It seems to me a much better film than the year's best picture winner, The Artist (Michel Haznavicius), coincidentally a movie set in a significant moment in film history. Yet it was a major box-office flop, which may have shadowed its chances at the awards.

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