Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount Pictures, GK Films, Infinitum Nihil, PG, 126 minutes)
Starring Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield, Chloё Grace Moretz, and Emily Mortimer.
We Always Need More Drinking Games
When the cast of Bridesmaids introduced a category at this year’s Golden Globes, they ushered in a new era of award ceremony watching. Humorously, the cast suggested a “Martin Scorsese Drinking Game”, in which one takes a shot every time someone mentions Scorsese during an award ceremony telecast. The inherent joke in this game revolves around the notion that Martin Scorsese seemingly has his hand in every part of the movie business; by default, anything Scorsese touches garners critical acclaim.
A Boy Named Hugo
Case in point: I’m not sure if this year’s award darling, Hugo, is that good, yet it still received a nomination for best picture. Based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and set in Paris during the 1930s, Hugo follows its eponymous protagonist, orphaned Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) as he lives in the walls and winds the clocks of the rail station, Gare Montparnasse. Surviving on stolen goods, Hugo spends his downtime repairing a broken automaton in order to remain connected to his deceased father (Jude Law) who considered the broken machine an important project.
Hugo’s work, clock winding, must remain secret since the job is filled by his drunk and absent uncle. Always dodging the somewhat puerile security guard (Sacha Baron Cohen), Hugo develops an affinity for an elderly toy maker, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley).
Spending time with Georges, Hugo befriends Georges’ goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloё Grace Moretz). Together, the children find a mutual affection for cinema. For Hugo, film reminds him of the influential father-son outings of better days. Isabelle, on the other hand, feels the pull of the movies because her godparents refuse to allow her access.
As the children discover more about early cinema and seek to rebuild the automaton, they learn more about themselves and the meaning behind family.
Martin Scorsese = Critical Acclaim?
Despite a reasonably high entertainment level, I question the critical merit of Hugo. Having seen many of the Academy Award nominated films from this year, nothing from Hugo suggests that it operates at a higher level than the rest of the field. Of course, I must note that I am not Hugo’s target market. But, compared to the rest of the films I have seen, I am not particularly impressed by Hugo. In all honesty, it seems like the attachment of Martin Scorsese to this film gave it the critical street cred necessary to reach the pinnacle of the movie business. Hugo is pretty good for a children’s movie, but not above and beyond others in the movie business.
Don’t get me wrong, Hugo displays wonderful visuals and grand élan. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think of the witty cast from Bridesmaids making fun of the critical elite and their attraction to Scorsese. I am positive that without the visionary filmmaker, Hugo would have received less acclaim and no Oscar nods whatsoever. An entertaining work, Hugo is worth watching, especially for those interested in touching family fare. But don’t assume that its Oscar nominations make it one of the best movies of the year.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5