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Thoughts on “Hugo”‘s work-in-progress screening

Thoughts on “Hugo”‘s work-in-progress screening (photo)

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The surprise work-in-progress screening at The New York Film Festival turned out to be Martin Scorsese‘s “Hugo,” and the director himself was on hand to present his almost completed 3D family film. As Scorsese explained before the movie, “Hugo” really is a work-in-progress: a few CGI shots were unfinished and a few green screens were visible. The color correction wasn’t done, and the score by Howard Shore wasn’t complete either. Shown in this state, a review of the film would be inappropriate. But I think it’s fair to present a few random thoughts on “Hugo” as it stands now, starting with this one:

-I liked the film a lot. I’m not sure how my appreciation will translate to a wider audience — and some of my colleagues sounded much more mixed than I was after the screening — but I was very satisfied.

The film’s schmaltzy trailer may have left some die-hard Marty fans scratching their heads why Mr. “Mean Streets” would make a heartwarming family film, but “Hugo” is actually the Scorsesiest Scorsese movie in years. Only it’s not the kind of Scorsese movie you’re thinking of.

-Speaking of that trailer: if the trailer for “Drive” was so misleading that it garnered a lawsuit, then the trailer for “Hugo” might get dragged before an international criminal tribunal. It paints a very incomplete portrait of the movie, of what it’s about and even who it’s about.

-Don’t bust out the pitchforks and storm Paramount’s marketing department just yet. Once you see the movie, it will be easy to see why the trailer was so cagey. “Hugo” is a tough movie to sell — or write about — without spoiling things. In this case, I really believe they had the viewers’ best interest at heart (or heart-shaped keyhole).

-The plot, sans spoilers: Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan living in a Paris train station during the 1920s. After his father dies (Jude Law, in a brief role), his uncle (Ray Winstone, even more briefly) adopts him and puts him to work minding, winding, and repairing the station’s enormous clocktower. While Hugo keeps the clocks running, he also searches for — and occasionally steals — tools and parts for the one thing his father left him: a broken automaton that could deliver an important message. But stealing the parts he needs puts him directly in the crosshairs of the station’s cruel inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the bitter owner of its trinket and toy store (Ben Kinglsey).

-“Hugo” is one of those movies set in France where everyone speaks with a British accent.

-The trailer hints at the role magic plays in the film, but it goes much deeper than that. “Hugo” is movie as magic trick. Scorsese convinces us he’s made one film, then uses some crafty sleight-of-hand to transform “Hugo” before our eyes.

-Does Scorsese single-handedly save the medium of 3D? No. Does he prove reports of 3D’s death may have been greatly exaggerated? Absolutely. “Hugo”‘s 3D inarguably enhances the experience of watching the film, and Scorsese clearly put a lot of thought into its execution. He essentially upends the classical model of 3D cinematography, in which objects in the frame constantly move towards the lens. Scorsese does the opposite; he constantly moves the lens towards the objects in the frame, playing as much with our perception of movement as our perception of depth. He also uses steam, dust, and falling snow to deftly create a sense of true three dimensional space and he playfully tours through the Parisian train station during a couple of signature long takes (imagine the Copa shot from “Goodfellas” with a 3D CGI assist).

-Between “Hugo” and “Midnight in Paris,” 2011’s been a good year for New York filmmakers in the City of Light.

-I often watch movies and wonder: where is the director in this material? In “Hugo,” there’s no need to wonder. There is even a character that I believe stands in for Scorsese himself. He is played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

-“Hugo” is a fine title for the film, but the name of a previous Scorsese project might have made an even more appropriate one. I’m referring to this — but know that by clicking that link you’re approaching the door that opens up all the spoilers I’ve been trying to hold back. Walk through it at your own risk.

“Hugo” opens November 23. Are you looking forward to it? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.