It's been observed a number of times that I spend more time anticipating movies than I do actually seeing them, and it's probably true. All my favourite films are perpetually yet to come out, largely because I become attached to them when I first hear about who is making them, or when I see the first trailer. But then I hear poor word of mouth, or disappointing reviews, and I start hedging my bets, and I end up seeing it much later on video, if at all.
Conversely, some of my best film experiences have come from movies I know very little about, like Martin Scorcese's Hugo which the four of us saw this afternoon. I knew it was from a director I have tremendous respect for, but who hasn't made a PG film in 18 years. I knew it was based on a book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and courtesy of a workmate, I knew it dealt with a lot of early cinema. I also know it leads the Academy Award nominations with 11 nods, so by watching this one film, I greatly enhance my enjoyment of Oscar night.
Most of the people I know who like movies will like this one, and theys hould go see it while it enjoys a resurgence due to the Oscars. (Two weeks ago, Hugo had one showing a night at South Edmonton Common, this weekend it was 1, 4, 7, and 10!) This is a movie you are likely to enjoy morethe less you know about it, so I will simply express my appreciation for some points within it.
Child actors - Always a mixed bag, but Hugo is very compellingly portrayed by a young lad named Asa Butterfield, who reminds me of a child-size interpretation of Cillian Murphy (the industrialist's son from Inception) only with the piercing eyes of a Fremen from Dune. Asa does a masterful job of mixing emotions, such as the cocktail of shame, anger, fear and defiance he displays when he is caught thieving, so I am thrilled to hear he might end up playing Ender Wiggins in the movie version of Ender's Game that might actually happen. I was also very pleasantly surprised when twenty minutes in, I recognized Hugo's friend isabelle as Chloe Grace Moretz, also known as Hit Girl from Kick-Ass. She exhibits a similar talent that is surprising in a 14 year-old, and I look forward to seeing her in many more films.
Veteran Filmmakers - Martin Scorcese is often enough to prompt me to see a film, but he is also enough of a master to draw such quality performers as Ben Kingsley to his projects. Scorcese's non-abuse of 3D is similar to that of James Cameron, in that he uses it to immerse you in the period and specifically, the inner workings of the clockworks of the train station in which the orphaned Hugo lives. In fact, Cameron applauded the use of 3D as the best he'd ever seen, including his own films. Including Christopher Lee in a small role as the owner of a bookstore is a step in the right direction as well.
Layered Story - Four of us aged 9 to 40-something all enjoyed this movie; it's a period piece framed in a thoroughly modern fashion. It's a movie about an orphan that balances between whimsy and pathos, and a children's movie that is not shrill or cloying. I think I will need to pick up the book by Brian Selznick, because it is a beautiful story.
Hugo is a story about the power of stories, both on the printed page and on the silver screen. If you have an affection for or believe in the power of either of these two mediums, please check out Hugo, in a theater, and, yes, in 3D. If nothing else, it will demystify 11 Oscar nominations for you.