December 6, 2011

"Hugo"

I review Martin Scorsese's $170 million 3D kid's movie Hugo in Taki's Magazine:
This children’s film will impress everyone except children. ... 
Scorsese’s new movie fearlessly tackles society’s most tragic problem: celebrities who become unpopular and have to get real jobs. Deep down, aren’t you discomfited, even horrified at the thought that anybody who was once somebody might have to take non-celebrity employment someday? Victorian housemaids felt the same way about duchesses.

Read the whole thing there.

52 comments:

Le Sigh said...

Deep down, aren’t you discomfited, even horrified at the thought that anybody who was once somebody might have to take non-celebrity employment someday?

That wasn't the film's main driving theme at all, but I'm not surprised you got it so wrong.

Truth said...

i saw it with my mother yesterday, what a shit movie. It's supposed to be set in Paris, and everyone is talking like Fryar Tuck.

Anonymous said...

i saw it with my mother yesterday, what a shit movie.

Word? You be watchin' dat shizzle wid yo moms, son?

jody said...

haha well it is true that africans are totally, totally into some extremely white stuff, like movies and video games and television.

we talk a lot about how various groups show no interest at all in some activities and endeavours if at least a couple of the participants aren't from their group. not every group of humans does this every time, but many do. africans are usually the people least interested in participating in a broad range of stuff. and will even, almost to a person, refuse to get into various kinds of music or sports if they feel it's "too white".

but damn do they love them some 100% white created stuff. in 2008 i was eating at a denny's at like 2AM after watching the dark knight for the second time at a midnight show, and this table of black american guys was GOING NUTS for batman.

"Aw man and den he turned the motorcycle like 'dis EEEEERT and he was facin' da other way! Anna Joker be like "Hit me! Hit me!"

you should see how much they like the 1983 scarface remake. it's like a phenomenon with them.

Anonymous said...

The kid looks like ET, which is ugly.

Anonymous said...

Was there a point to making it 3D, or is it just something tmake money for the studios?

Maybe I'm biased as someone with a lazy eye, but I've never seen the point of 3D films.

Anonymous said...

Film.. 1930s.... europe.. and no looming holocaust or nazi reference?
That's as much a violation as making a film about 1950s america and not reminding the audience that wasps were anti semitic/Racist! , etc.

Anonymous said...

Just wait until hollywood starts making movies about US state departments gay rights crusade.

pup said...

Lessee:

Old man and young boy genre: Pinocchio and Cinema Paradiso.

Robot genre:
Metropolis and Blade Runner, though Pinocchio and Nutcracker are sort of robotish too.

Hide from authorities genre:
Schindler's List.

Movie about movies genre:
8 1/2.

And tons more. It seems assembled from bits and pieces of too many things.

Pugo said...

"In summary, Hugo is a very nice movie with something in it for everybody, but everything in it for Scorsese."

I don't think so. It being a 170 million dollar movie, I think he had to play to the audience and go kinda into Spielberg/Zemeckis mode, which is not his forte.

Gangs of NY, Aviator, and Departed are all failures in one way or another cuz their huge costs made Scorsese play to the audience.
Artistically, Hugo may not be what Scor really wanted to do.

Thursday said...

It wasn't just close ups that Griffith, but a whole language of intercutting and editing. He pretty much invented the art of film. Before him the cinema was basically a wasteland.

All this goes to show how important the editor of a film is, perhaps next in importance to the director.

Thursday said...

I don't know if they qualify as celebrities, but there have been writers whose work has been ignored towards the end of their career and they've had to get real jobs. Zora Neale Hurston ended up as a cleaning lady.

Thursday said...

It wasn't just close ups that Griffith, but a whole language of intercutting and editing. He pretty much invented the art of film. Before him the cinema was basically a wasteland.

All this goes to show how important the editor of a film is, perhaps next in importance to the director.

Puggy said...

"Scorsese has the energy to worry about stuff like this."

Why not? Movies are his life, and he wants to preserve them and their glory, just like we wanna preserve the racial, cultural, and historical heritage of the West.
Where liberals are funny is they wanna preserve films that show a lot of white people but don't wanna preserve white people. It's like favoring photos of roses over actual roses.

This preservationist aspect of Scorsese shows his conservative streak, at least in aspects of culture. Cinema, the premier artform of the 20th century that produced so many treasures and interesting artifacts need to be preserved as much as possible.
But in our society of rap jungle boogie and MTV/Southpark aesthetics--gimmicky trick/effects oriented Melies may actually have the last laugh over Griffith who, though famous for his editing, favored storytelling; today's movies are more one effect after another than storytelling.

What may be self-defeating about Hugo is Scorsese uses the latest gizmo gimcrack effects to preach about the magic and wonder of early cinema. But it's all this gimcrackery that turned young people to woo-wow-gasp attitude toward film. They have no patience for anything else after JAWS and STAR WARS. So, HUGO, in its special effects extravanganza, panders to the attention-deficit-disorder viewing biases of the young.

To be sure, one could argue that HUGO and other special effects extravaganzas are actually in the SPIRIT of Melies and other pioneers, i.e. if the early guys had today's technology they would have used it. They were the special effects masters of their age, ahead of their time.

This raises an interesting question. What happens when what was once ahead-of-its-time becomes a something-forgotten-by-time? Melies, who once shocked audiences with his film of the train, later become a has-been, a figure of nostalgia.
Similarly, rock n rollers of the past who once had the power to excite(and even shock) are now oldie acts.

Another issue raised by HUGO is the dichotomy of art vs technology in film. No mass artform has been as intertwined with technology(and its advancements). Writing today is as it was 1000 yrs ago. You sit down and use words. But the technology of film changes the art of film itself.
Films that are true works of art retain their value even after the technology used to create them has become outdated. But films that are famous only for their technological breakthroughs become mere historical artifacts of interest to scholars. JAZZ SINGER for instance.
I'm not sure Scorsese explored this issue closely enough(I haven't seen the movie yet. Btw, is its 3D effects worth it? If not, I'll just wait for the DVD.)
Murnau's FAUST and NOSFERATU, Dreyer's VAMPYR, Walsh's BIG TRAIL were all made with what would today be considered primitive equipment, but they are timeless classics. It goes to show human ingenunity and imagination can make brilliant use of just about anything. It's the vision thing. BLADE RUNNER was before CGI but is still, in its scope and meaning, more impressive than many sci-fi spectacles. In fact, reliance on technology for technology sake has ruined many movies. But when new technology is used right--as in the mindblowing TRON LEGACY--, that is really something.

Eugene said...

Orson Scott Card agrees with you: "Dead father vs. career loss. Magical machines vs. endless self-pity. What idiot would choose to make the career-loss self-pity movie, when he has all the makings of the dead-father magical-machine movie?"

Pup said...

"Word? You be watchin' dat shizzle wid yo moms, son?"

Maybe Charles Burnett should remake it as HUGRO. It'd be about saving Motown records and old soul in a time when black punks all be having no respeck for old black culture.

Truth said...

"Word? You be watchin' dat shizzle wid yo moms, son?"

Hey they wasn't bad ebonics for this site. I'd rate it a 6.5 and place it in about 1993 which is comparatively progressive amongst your peers.

Anonymous said...

Maybe HUGO should be called ONCE UPON A TIME IN CINEMA, which is to say ONCE UPON A TIME IN ONCE UPON A TIME.

It's too bad this had to be kid's movie. It might have been more interesting if the kid was like Travis-Bickle-as-a-kid and if the old man was played by Joe Pesci whose every other word is 'you motherfucka you'.

"Monsieur Melies, why did your star fade?"

"Because those motherfuckers started WWI and wreaked havoc on distribution."

Some guy from another apartment:
"Shut up, you animal."

"You motherfucker you, who you calling an animal?"

Kid: "But wasn't Griffith the real reason for your decline?"

"That motherfucker. I should have run him over with a train. A real one."

Truth said...

Usually, you guys read like Huggy Bear giving Starski information.

Anonymous said...

Howard Hughes(Aviator). And now Hugo.

Puppese said...

"Young folks assume that grownups are here to help them fulfill their dreams."

But don't forget that the boomers are 'forever young'. So, just as they expected their parents to live for them(give them allowance for rock albums), they expect new generations to like what they like.
Take INDIANA JONES AND KINGDOM OF CRYSTAL SKULL. Indy is an older man, and his son follows the old man in the adventure.

But there are other examples too.
In JURASSIC PARK, an old man is full of dreams, and other lives revolve around his great vision. Huge hit.

UP was about a kid helping an old man fulfill his dreams.
Pinocchio is about a boy that grows out of his ego and learns to respect the old man.
In AI the robot kids lives for his 'mother'.
The centerpiece of FINDING NEMO is more about the father's anxiety/hopes than Nemo itself. (I hated that movie).
TRON LEGACY is about a son coming to grips with his father's great vision(and learning to forgive).
STAR WARS is about Luke learning from elders Yoda and Ben and carrying out their mission to win back the soul of Annakin.

So, there is nothing new about HUGO in this regard.
Of course, rap music is different. But movie culture has been mostly quite sentimental. Even NATIONAL TREASURE begins with a young boy who inherits a dream from his grandpa(and he remains closer to his pa).

Anonymous said...

Aw, Steve, I know the battle has been lost and discomfited is an accepted synonym for disconcerted, but I had you pegged as a hold out.

Geoff Matthews said...

I liked the movie. I thought the 3d was done well (1st 3d movie I saw, but my son had seen an earlier one, and thought that this one was very impressive), I liked the story (I enjoy history), but I did find the change in the story arch from the young boy the Kingsley's character (which he did very well)a big jarring. Like a bait-and-switch, where I was expecting a movie about a boy with a machine that draws, and it turns into a movie about the history of film. I still enjoyed it, but it seemed more like a message film because of this switch.
My children were not as enthusiastic about the film, but the older two enjoyed it enough (6yr old? Not really).

Whiskey said...

Yes Hollywood does not care about money. Because of the incentives. Scorsese could make money, and a broadly appealing film, if he were assured he would get every penny due him, but because Hollywood routinely cheats on royalties, people demand up-front salaries and then go on to make themselves happy, not the audience.

Compare/contrast say, JK Rowling, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyer, or even the late, lamented Donald E. Westlake and Stuart Kaminsky. They got their royalties, book publishing companies don't cheat as much as Hollywood, and they (particularly Westlake and Kaminsky) got lower up-front payments, hence far greater incentives to make readers happy.

Incentives matter.

Anonymous said...

Le Sigh,

I will take the bait; what is the main driving theme of the movie?

Kylie said...

"Le Sigh,

I will take the bait; what is the main driving theme of the movie?"


More to the point, what is the main "driving" theme of this commenter's posts? S/he never misses a chance to score a cheap (and inevitably lame) shot at Steve. The pattern was so evident even early on that I wonder if Steve didn't ignore some sort of online sexual overture from this individual. S/he displays an overly personal animus against him that is really creepy.

Steve Sailer said...

"Orson Scott Card agrees with you: "Dead father vs. career loss. Magical machines vs. endless self-pity. What idiot would choose to make the career-loss self-pity movie, when he has all the makings of the dead-father magical-machine movie?"

Right, Jude Law is real good in his five minutes as the dead father, a brilliant clockmaker. My assumption was that Jude would turn out to be the estranged son of Ben Kingsley making Hugo the unknown grandson. Sure, that would be a cliched plot straight out of Dickens, but there are good reasons Dickens came up with plots that are now cliches: they work a lot more powerfully than about 99% of the possible alternatives.

Steve Sailer said...

Huggy Bear's son Justin Fargas played football for my old high school, USC, and the Raiders.

Steve Sailer said...

"All this goes to show how important the editor of a film is, perhaps next in importance to the director."

And Scorsese has his own personal editor, Theresa Schoonmaker, who doesn't work for anybody else, but has still won 3 Oscars.

Steve Sailer said...

If anybody has earned the right to be self-indulgent, it's Scorsese. But, it's still okay to have some fun at his expense.

Steve Sailer said...

Ah, Joe Pesci ... what an interesting career. Raging Bull at age 37 was only his 3rd movie ever, and then nobody paid any attention to him again for another 7 or 8 year, then he became a star for awhile in Goodfellas and as comic relief in the Lethal Weapons series, then rather quickly retired to the golf course, only coming off it for a few memorable cameos like The Good Shepherd.

Henery Canaday said...

The first modern magician, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, was also French. Our own Harry Weiss called himself Houdini, or little Houdin, in honor of his French predecessor.
And the French take this stuff seriously. The House of Magic in Blois is dedicated to Houdin and all the great magicians.

The House of Magic sits across a square from Blois’s great chateau, in the royal bedroom of which the king had one of his rivals assassinated by a ravenous pack of courtiers. The bedroom is beautifully preserved and in one corner you can see a reenactment of the foul deed in a very stagy pre-World War I movie, made in the style of, and perhaps by, Georges Melies. Scorsese would have done a much more gorily realistic job of depicting it.

Seismic Puppy said...

"haha well it is true that africans are totally, totally into some extremely white stuff, like movies and video games and television."

but white folks sho loves dem fried chicken and rap music.

Steve Sailer said...

Melies owned the Theater Robert-Houdin, founded by the earlier great magician, where he presented his magic show. He got interested in movies in 1896 as an addition to his stage show. The movie studio he built was the exact size and shape of his Theater Robert-Houdin, just with glass walls to let in sunlight. The biggest problem with his movies to a modern eye is that they clearly grow out of the stage magic tradition. The camera is nailed down in the middle of the aisle about ten rows back in the theatre and all the action takes place behind the proscenium arch. This severely limits the audience's ability to identify with characters.

Seismic Puppy said...

Hopefully, Hugo will do better than Blago. Mofo faces 14 yrs. ROTFL.

Truth said...

""Aw man and den he turned the motorcycle like 'dis EEEEERT and he was facin' da other way! Anna Joker be like "Hit me! Hit me!""

See Anonymous, that's how it's done. We are now shading the 21st century!

Carol said...

Is "shizzle" Eastern slang? It always makes me think of dagos in Atlantic City wearing bermuda shorts and panel shirts.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Ah, Joe Pesci ... what an interesting career. Raging Bull at age 37 was only his 3rd movie ever, and then nobody paid any attention to him again for another 7 or 8 year, then he became a star for awhile in Goodfellas and as comic relief in the Lethal Weapons series, then rather quickly retired to the golf course, only coming off it for a few memorable cameos like The Good Shepherd."

He also had a big role in Casino. For a moment I was going to say that he was great in The Sopranos, but then I checked IMDB and was reminded that the actor I was thinking of was Joe Pantoliano, not Pesci. I wonder if Pesci has lost some roles to Pantoliano in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Take INDIANA JONES AND KINGDOM OF CRYSTAL SKULL. Indy is an older man, and his son follows the old man in the adventure.


Weird that a Scots-Irishman like Indian Jones and a Scots-Irishwoman like Karen Allen
[or whatever her character's name was] would have a son who was, a, ah, er, well, a strapping young Scots-Irish lad like, uh, Shia MacBeouf?!?

Oh, wait, okay, that makes total sense.

BTW, Karen Allen [or whatever her character's name was] now has an Indy-verse Total Fertility Rate [TFR] of 1.0, which means that, in the Indy-verse, Jones's line was very likely [effectively] extinct by about 1970.

Shame that those Scots-Irish refuse to procreate, but, as we all know, they're a stubborn lot.





Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality, Indy's main squeeze from Part Deux, Kate Capshaw [or whatever her character's name was] has six children, two of whom were adopted with her second husband, Steven MacSpielberg, which, in the Reality-verse, gives her a TFR of 4.0.

[And let's not even open the can of worms which is Indy's militant disdain for the Second Amendment.]

Anonymous said...

Hey they wasn't bad ebonics for this site. I'd rate it a 6.5 and place it in about 1993 which is comparatively progressive amongst your peers.

Nah, sun. Dis be dem new joints. You jus' be hatin'. Nah'mean? Holla at yah moms.

Kylie said...

"Ah, Joe Pesci ... what an interesting career."

I simply adored him as Bernstein in The Public Eye. He was wonderful in this moody, noirish variation on Beauty and the Beast. And he proved he's a master of the romantic burning glance, right up there with Colin Firth and Anthony Hopkins.

If he'd been better-looking, he'd have had an even more successful career because he really can do it all: drama, romance and comedy.

Drunk Idiot said...

Truth said...

"'Word? You be watchin' dat shizzle wid yo moms, son?'

Hey they wasn't bad ebonics for this site. I'd rate it a 6.5 and place it in about 1993 which is comparatively progressive amongst your peers."

Pretty good stab at dating the vintage of the ebonics sample. The 'fo shizzle, my nizzle' stuff started going widespread in Black English when LA/West Coast 'gangsta rap' displaced early 90s East Coast, sample-based, "boom-bap" hip hop, circa mid 90s. Snoop Dogg's debut album and the Dr. Dre "Chronic" album (both from '93) really got that ball rolling. Upper middle class white people didn't start incorporating that "shiznit" in their vernacular until the late 90s/early 2000s -- at which point blacks promptly dropped it (of course).

One minor disagreement though, 'word' was completely out of the black vernacular long before '93. That ship sailed in 1990, after 'word' was introduced to the vast (white) mainstream when some white trash motocross punk-turned white "rapper" named Robbie Van Winkle scored the first "rap song" to hit No. 1 on the Top 40. Mental giant that he was, Mr. Van Winkle mistook the 5 Percenter-inspired phrase "word to the Mother" (as in 'motherland' Africa) for "word to your mother," and used it to sign off in the 'outro' of that chart-topping hit. Van Winkle, no doubt, had become familiar with the phrase (but, obviously, not familiar enough!) by listening to late 80s New York hip hop, in which it was nearly ubiquitous (thanks to 5 Percent rappers of the era, like Eric B. & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane).

Mainstream white people far and wide started saying "word to your mother," having no idea that its provenance was Van Winkle's mangled attempt at proving hip hop/"street" bona fides.

Pretty funny.

Harry Baldwin said...

Puggy said... Where liberals are funny is they wanna preserve films that show a lot of white people but don't wanna preserve white people. It's like favoring photos of roses over actual roses.

Good point, and that's what I thought when I saw Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." Allen loves France and hates America, but the Paris of his film is expunged of all non-white peoples. Couldn't he have tossed in a few burqa-clad Parisians?

Ah, Joe Pesci ... what an interesting career. Raging Bull at age 37 was only his 3rd movie ever, and then nobody paid any attention to him again for another 7 or 8 year, then he became a star for awhile in Goodfellas and as comic relief in the Lethal Weapons series, then rather quickly retired to the golf course, only coming off it for a few memorable cameos like The Good Shepherd.

According to IMDb, he's done 38 films, which should be enough to justify taking it easy. When watching an old movie like "Animal House" or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" I'm intrigued by the fact that some of the main players became big stars, while others went on to make films I've never heard of, at best.

Drunk Idiot said...

From the "Taki's" review...

Then again, [David] Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film speculates unsympathetically about Scorsese’s obsessions. Its entry on the Raging Bull director repeatedly hints that Scorsese is not only a sissy who doesn’t know anything about boxing but is also a flaming closet case with a crush on Robert De Niro. This allegation may (or, for all I know, may not) come as a surprise to the five women Scorsese has married.

Around the time he filmed "The Last Waltz" (sometime in the late 70s), Scorsese left his wife at the time and shacked up with The Band front man (and "Last Waltz" star) Robbie Robertson. The nature of their relationship is usually only hinted at (often extremely vaguely, as is the case here) -- they're often described as having been 'cocaine buddies,' or 'roommates' -- but it's no secret to people in the entertainment industry.

"The Last Waltz" is from an era before my time, and I couldn't name one of The Band's songs if I had to. But I've know of Scorsese's relationship with Robertson (about whom I know next to nothing) for years, primarily from being around music critics/writers.

David said...

>That's as much a violation as making a film about 1950s america and not reminding the audience that wasps were anti semitic/Racist!, etc.<

Or making a film about 1960s America and referring neither to the "freedom riders" nor to MLK.

David said...

>It wasn't just close ups that Griffith, but a whole language of intercutting and editing.[...] All this goes to show how important the editor of a film is, perhaps next in importance to the director.<

Griffith was both director and (chief) editor of his films; the editing consisted in putting together the mental storyboards he came up with as director. In his case it may be better to say "how important montage is to a film." Griffith's montage came principally out of his directorly head. He claimed he copped his approach from Dickens. Dickens - or any narrative fiction writer - shuttles among narrative threads, switches from expositional to introspective scenes, etc. And in Griffith's mind these translated naturally into wide shots, close-ups, intercuts, etc. Of course, many of his narrative ideas were at least latent in the ferment of very early commercial filmmaking, in which he served his apprenticeship.

Thursday said...

it may be better to say "how important montage is to a film."

I agree.

It is also interesting that with film, we get to see an art form being born. And almost all of it comes out of one man: D.W. Griffith.

Kevin B said...

Steve, to relieve your "Color of Money" angst, all major studio releases, for the last several decades, are and have been backed up by YCM fine grain protection masters. This is a B/W film format that has been around for the better part of a century and has an archival life of several centuries. Properly stored, the shelf life of YCMs is indefinite. And since separations are an analogue format, they more or less require only a light source to play back.

The "Color of Money" is backed up on YCMs and safely stored in an abandoned mine converted to a film vault, several thousand feet below the surface.

We can all breath a little easier knowing Hollywood will never go away.

Anonymous said...

Puppy, the Scots brought fried chicken to America.

Kylie said...

"We can all breath a little easier knowing Hollywood will never go away."

Current and recently past Hollywood, yes. But much of the film of Hollywood's Golden Age has long since been lost.

dcite said...

", Joe Pesci ... what an interesting career'

An amazing David Ferrie in JFK. Amazing--especially when you read about the real person, and see the pictures. His best role by far.

dcite said...

"Maybe HUGO should be called ONCE UPON A TIME IN CINEMA, which is to say ONCE UPON A TIME IN ONCE UPON A TIME.

It's too bad this had to be kid's movie. It might have been more interesting if the kid was like Travis-Bickle-as-a-kid and if the old man was played by Joe Pesci whose every other word is 'you motherfucka you'.

"Monsieur Melies, why did your star fade?"

"Because those motherfuckers started WWI and wreaked havoc on distribution."

Some guy from another apartment:
"Shut up, you animal."

"You motherfucker you, who you calling an animal?"

Kid: "But wasn't Griffith the real reason for your decline?"

"That motherfucker. I should have run him over with a train. A real one."

btw, does this commenter have an Oedipal problem?