Saturday, 25 February 2012

Film History In Paris

Recently, children's movies have not had the best reputation for being the most intelligent films around. But here we are with a children's film nominated for eleven Oscars, including Director, Screenplay, Score, and, of course, Best Picture. Can a children's film really be that good? Can it live up to that hype? Let's have a look at Hugo.

Orphan, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in a train station in 1930s Paris. He winds all the clocks in the building without anyone knowing he's there. But he has a secret. Behind the walls, where he lives, he has a broken automaton that his father (Jude Law) bought at a museum before he died. It is mechanical man who is supposed to be able to write with a pen. Unfortunately, it's broken, but Hugo has been trying to fix it by stealing parts from toy maker Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) and avoiding the watchful eye of the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), who has a thing for arresting orphans. The automaton is missing one key part. A heart shaped key. On his journey to fix his mechanical friend, he meets Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), Georges' god-daughter. He introduces her to movies, much like his father did for him, and she introduces him to books, with some help from Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee). It turns out that she and her god-father have more of a connection with the automaton than was apparent and this leads the two children on an trip of discovery into the history of film making, with Georges as their guide.

Hugo had been fighting for his Hogwarts letter for months.

Another film that requires a young protagonist and Asa Butterfield is great. Admittedly, is far from perfect, but  with a bit of time, he will grow up to be a fine actor. Much like his co-star Chloë Grace Moretz has done. Already her CV has such a solid range in it and Hugo will only add to that. An absolutely wonderful performance from her, as per usual. In fact, all the performances were exactly what should be expected of a multiple Oscar nominated movie. Ben Kingsley was outstanding. He was perfect for his role as a man whose dreams had been ruined by the war, leaving him in a toy booth. Sacha Baron Cohen was brilliant as the antagonist, or the closest thing to an antagonist. He is a perfect mix of hilarious and frightening. Just what is needed for the baddie of a children's film. 

The opening weekend of Hugo had a  massive turnout... 

The film's real stand out element is its art direction. It's rightly nominated for an Oscar. Martin Scorsese and his production team have made an absolutely wonderful world for Hugo. There is nothing particularly magical about the plot but it feels like a magical journey. Probably done to reflect Méliès' logic that making movies was like magic. But the audience go on the journey with Hugo and it's like it is magic. The score was superb and the visual effects were spot on. Both elements are rightly nominated for Oscars. The cinematography is also nominated and it is beautiful. It is the most solid film in terms of surrounding factors.

In a world littered with computer generated chipmunks and dancing penguins, as well as their sequel, it's rare to find a children's film, not made by Disney, that is intelligent and enjoyable for all ages. Hugo is that rare film. A kids film that adults will like, and maybe even more than their kids.

Best Bit? There are so many wonderful bits. Here's two: When the children start reading about films and the audience are treated to a host of clips from early movies (The Great Bank Robbery etc) and when Georges Méliès is filming a movie and we see how his 'magic' was created. As a massive movie person, these were my favourite bits.

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