As usual, I'm devoting more time to my Stooge films and less to actual films. But much like the hipsters over at The Onion, I'm of two minds about Hugo. On the one hand, it's a nice-looking film (that $170 million budget seems to be all up there on the screen), and I do like the subject matter of early cinema... on the other hand, it seems more like an ad for the Oscars, and to a lesser extent, The Film Foundation. Maybe I made the mistake of watching the Oscar telecast first. And Borat? Really? Apparently he was talking with the kids between takes. BAD IDEA. VERY BAD IDEA.
SPOILER ALERT. Not that it doesn't have its moments. Asa Butterfield does well as Hugo, the main child protagonist of the story, as he has the tough job of being a kid and projecting some adult angst as well. He has a dream within a dream, for God's sake! Traumatic enough in my book. If he plays his cards right, maybe it's not too late to take over as Frodo in Hobbit 2! He's the new Freddie Highmore. The girl from Kick Ass does fine here as well. Her thing is using big words! Did you pick up on that? Ben Kingsley has the thankless job of trying to be the mean old coot here; not enough Don Logan, Ben. And of course, the endless visual feast, all taking place mostly in the train station, or at Ben's flat, which evidently you have to walk through a cemetery to get to.
And then, the nitpicks. Somehow the kids' discussion of how great the movies are isn't enough like kids, and not enough like a period discussion of the cinema. It seems like it could've fit in perfectly with the other 2012 testimonials of celebrities' first encounters with the cinematic arts. Aren't movies great? Aren't they an important part of the economy? And while I hate to ruin the mystique of the 'automaton,' the nerd part of me kicked in as I thought about how complex a robot would have to be... first of all, building a robot that can dunk a pen into ink, then place the pen onto paper... somehow, I don't think that early 20th century technology could make a machine as small as that automaton that could draw such complex pictures, or frankly, a machine of any size. And I'm sure my artist friend would attest to that as well... later.
Still, the Academy seems to be warming up to Scorsese. Unlike the Weinstein-produced Gangs of New York, which was completely shut out and won zero of its ten nominations, Hugo won just under half of its Oscars. But frankly, Scorsese's got a ways to go for that second Best Director Oscar. 2006 was his big year, of course, getting the Oscar he should've got for GoodFellas. I guess that means Scorsese's got to make another Hugo to get the best director statue he should've gotten for THIS Hugo. Face it, man! The youth are taking over. Oscar wants The Artist! Oscar wants the young, vibrant Frenchman, not the old decrepit Frenchman.
As for Cohen, well, I did like his mini-homage to that scene in Borat where Borat falls down and destroys about half of the antique shop's inventory. Here, it's priceless antique musical instruments that suffer. Also, his dog seems to have trouble running around the slick floors of the train station. Crazy. I gotta go.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan