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A movie directed by Martin Scorsese

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One of the year's best is a thoughtful, beautiful meditation on why cinema defines our lives.

  • Nov 25, 2011
**** out of ****

Once in a while in cinematic history, we happen upon a young protagonist who perhaps loves the movies as much as we do. Surely, this is a rare encounter; but one that is ultimately meant to be treasured, to say the least. Think about it: "Cinema Paradiso". "8 1/2". "A Cat in the Brain". "The Man with the Movie Camera". All of those films are unquestionably beautiful, metaphorical works that attempt to merge the movies with our lives; and quite a few of them succeed. Contributors to these "movies about the movies" are filmmakers whom I greatly admire; for to truly understand the nature of cinema, one must partake in the art; whether they wield the pen as a movie critic and/or a screenwriter, or a movie camera as a director.

It's a genuinely welcome surprise that the newest contributor to this small sub-genre of "movies about the movies" is the world-renown filmmaker Martin Scorsese. You know the name; he directed such classics as "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas", as well as classics-in-the-making "The Departed" and perhaps even "The Aviator". He is an outstanding, fascinating storyteller who often enriches his material with his dialogue and his characters rather than visual stylistics. Most of the individuals that he has successfully introduced us to in the past are flawed and therefore relatable beings; troubled, disturbed, and most definitely among us as we speak.

Alas, the film that he has made to show his love for cinema is "Hugo"; an unexpectedly moving emotional sucker-punch of a film. Watching it was, yes, much like watching magic itself unfold; Scorsese and his screenwriters adapt the source novel (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick) with grace and whimsy, ultimately unleashing the final product onto an unexpecting world. I didn't know movies this magical - and damned good - could exist anymore, but here I stand; bewildered by this fantastical tale that speaks of childhood, adulthood, and the magic contained in each frame of our moving picture shows.

The film is about an ingenious young orphan boy who goes by the name of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield); the son of an inventor who was killed in a fatal (and fiery) incident. Now, the youthful Hugo lives in a Parisian railway station somewhere in the 1930's. He takes into account a deadly important question, which is: what's an orphan boy to do? Scorsese, a master filmmaker, shows us his daily activities of theft, deception, evasion, and perhaps most importantly of all; spying on those who work and pass through the station.

But of course, Hugo has bigger and more ambitious things on his mind. His current life-goal is to complete an invention of machinery - a broken automaton - that his father and he had been working on well before the former passed on to the next life. The project is just in need of some tweaking; as well as a golden heart-shaped key, which happens to rest on the neck of the station's toy store owner's (Ben Kingsley) daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). This girl soon becomes Hugo's friend when he successfully drags her into his complicated but fascinating existence; and so begins a fantastical adventure, which begins with Hugo's wish to get his sketch-book back from the girl's father, and ends with a rather revealing discovery about that very man; and yes, I find it absolutely essential that I tell you what this "discovery" is. I shouldn't be spoiling too much, but if you're worried about "spoilers", read no further.

You see, the girl's dad turns out to be a long-lost filmmaker whose films (which range to about 500 or more in total) were lost in fires and the like. He abandoned his position as an influential artist of the cinema, sold his remaining film stocks, and started his life anew. Most of the film, from this revelation to beyond, is about him returning to the world of film; where dreams can be expressed on a small strip, through moving pictures.

"Hugo" is very passionate about all this. It is a showcase for Scorsese to try something completely new, yet so familiar. It's no surprise that he'd make one of his most shockingly different films later in his impressive career; the movie is often cited as the filmmaker's "dream project". It probably is; so much passion both visually and narratively was put into it. You can detect Scorsese's desire to create flawless entertainment in every frame and every shot; and if that is what you crave and anticipate, he will not disappoint. "Hugo" is a delicate, observant, and emotionally sensitive portrait of the power that comes with the films that inspire and influence us the most. Through such themes, the film undeniably becomes one of Scorsese's finest. Don't let the rating, or the story, or the young (and talented) leads you; "Hugo" is 100% Martin Scorsese. We - you, I, and the man himself - just didn't know that within, there laid a child waiting to be freed, or rather, unleashed. But it's absolutely fascinating when a filmmaker discovers that other person hidden behind their deceiving exterior; Scorsese's portrait of cinema and all its beauty is no exception. One of the year's best.

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November 25, 2011
a perfect score from two reviewers I follow?! I need to make time for this! Thanks, Ryan!
More Hugo reviews
review by . January 11, 2012
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Another 'Age of Innocence'
Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' is his first family friendly entertainment, but just like all of his endeavors, his film pays dirt. Filled with passion, innocence, yet shrouded in mystery, 'Hugo' works well by its own merits, but, having seen it in 3-D, it can't be said enough how much the enchanting story unfolds like a flowing pop-up book. (While 'Avatar' wins the prize for being elaborate, 'Hugo's 3-D experience is more worthwhile, my best to date.)   …
review by . April 29, 2012
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Those who are familiar with the work of Martin Scorsese may find it odd that he decided to direct a movie like Hugo. Scorsese's movies tend to be much more on the gritty, violent side. I've read that guilt is a constant theme of Scorsese's, though I'm not sure I can interpret that from his previous work, although there's a certain contrast between good and bad that seems to appear in a lot of his work. Therefore, Hugo would seem like an unusual move for Scorsese, but those who know about the director's …
review by . July 26, 2012
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Wherever Hugo, I go.
Hugo is directed by Martin Scorsese   Stars Asa Butterfield             Chole Grace Moretz             Christopher Lee             Ben Kingsley             Sacha Baron Cohen      Hugo is an orphan who comes to live in the secret rooms of the Paris train station in the 1930s.      His father was a clock maker who …
review by . November 24, 2011
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Star Rating:         The genius of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is not just that it employs the latest in filmmaking technology, but that it employs them in a story about how filmmaking itself came to be. This is a subject near and dear to Scorsese, who, apart from directing and producing, is renowned for his work as a film historian (he’s the co-founder of The Film Foundation and the World Cinema Foundation, both nonprofit organizations dedicated to the preservation …
review by . November 23, 2011
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'Hugo' 'Two Jews On Film' Only One Feels The Magic In Martin Scorsese's 3D Fantasy (Video)
         By Joan Alperin-Schwartz      When you hear the name, Martin Scorsese several things may pop into your mind...New York City, Italian Gangsters, Films About Italian Gangsters...Scarface,Casino,Heat and 'Goodfellas, just to name a few...Or you might think about a little movie starring Scorsese's bbf as an off the charts, crazy taxi cab driver.      Whatever the case …
Quick Tip by . April 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret”, Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” is so different from the films he has done in the past. It is delightful, and does a good job in becoming a family film.      The story is a pretty much a kiddie story--it has influences from comic books and is filled with slapstick chases, storybook fantasy, and wonderful discoveries…sure it may seem contrived, but Scorsese’s direction manages to engage …
Quick Tip by . February 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I just saw Hugo last night. I have now seen 3 best picture nominees including Moneyball and The Help, each an excellent movie, but Hugo made me happiest to be alive. This is a must see movie.      I know the recommendation "made me happiest to be alive" may seem like an odd recommendation for a movie, but that was really the way I felt walking out of the movie.   Has anyone else felt a similar reaction to this movie?  I would be curious to hear your response.   …
review by . November 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Dazzling but dizzying
HUGO Written by John Logan Directed by Martin Scorsese Starring Ben Kingsley, Sasha Baron Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield   Isabelle: We could get into trouble. Hugo: That’s how you know it’s an adventure.   Before any image even appears on screen, master filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, sets his scene with the sounds of his central character, Hugo Cabret’s life. Clocks are ticking, gears are clicking and trains are passing. These are the sounds one …
Quick Tip by . February 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I just saw Hugo last night. I have now seen 3 best picture nominees including Moneyball and The Help, each an excellent movie, but Hugo made me happiest to be alive. This is a must see movie.      I know the recommendation "made me happiest to be alive" may seem like an odd recommendation for a movie, but that was really the way I felt walking out of the movie.   Has anyone else felt a similar reaction to this movie?  I would be curious to hear your response.   …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy, Mystery
Release Date: 23 November 2011 (USA)
Screen Writer: John Logan, Brian Selznick
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