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“Hugo,” reviewed

“Hugo,” reviewed (photo)

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Martin Scorsese‘s “Hugo” is a movie about magic, but it’s also a 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. Though I’ve read interviews and articles about the film that reveal its secrets, and even listened to the director himself spoil them in an interview on “The Daily Show,” I went into the movie cold, and my appreciation of it was undeniably enhanced by the absolute surprise of its ultimate revelations. So I’m going to be very careful what I say here. To do otherwise would be like explaining how the magician saws the woman in half before you’ve even see him do it.

Outwardly, “Hugo” looks like a simple children’s film. The title character (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Parisian train station in 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 dad left him: a broken automaton that could deliver an important message from beyond the grave from father to son. But stealing the parts he needs puts Hugo 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’s thefts lead directly to several impressively staged chase scenes over, under, and through the Paris train station, and that’s where Scorsese’s use of 3D really shines. If Scorsese doesn’t single-handedly save 3D as a artistic medium, he certainly proves that reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. Even more than James Cameron’s “Avatar,” this may be the first truly beautiful 3D movie; and one of the few whose cinematography feels enhanced by 3D instead of diminished by it. Director of photography Robert Richardson uses steam, dust, and falling snow to develop and deepen the sense of onscreen space, and the golden colors are rich enough to shine through those pesky 3D glasses.

“Hugo” looked like a weird choice for Scorsese, the sort of project a director of adult fare takes on after having a few kids just so their children can watch something they make. It’s based on a popular children’s book, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick, and its hero’s life would seem to be so far removed from its director’s childhood on the mean streets of New York City. But the twists in the second and third act reveal the “Hugo” as intensely personal statement from Scorsese, one not just about magic, but the magic of cinema.

“Hugo” is now playing. If you see it, tell us what you think; leave us a comment below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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.

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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

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