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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.