Dec 042011
Authors: Jason Berlinberg

The title character in Martin Scorsese’s charming and intelligent film “Hugo” is a young boy with a knack for fixing things and a love for movies.

His name may as well have been Martin, but Hugo works too.
Forced to squat in the innards of a 1930s Paris train station after his father dies in a fire, it is discovered that Hugo’s (Asa Butterfield) latest project is to mend an old broken automaton, a mechanical robot, in order for it to reveal a lost message from his dad.

Hugo skulks his way through the train station looting machine parts until he is caught by a toy shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley), who turns out to be none other then renowned filmmaker Georges Melies.
This initiates the film’s most heartwarming chapter, a captivating celebration of the magic of movies.

“Hugo” recaptures Melies’ love for creating touching stories on film that enthrall the audience, something that Scorsese suggests is predominantly missing from today’s culture.

Probably pissed off that every weak script with a pulse and a gimmicky marketing campaign nowadays is receiving a flashy, big-screen 3-D release, Scorsese takes that same technology and major studio presence and uses it right.

Initially, I was appalled to hear that Scorsese called 3-D technology the future of the film medium and that he would enjoy shooting the rest of his movies solely in 3-D.

This was frightening because of filmmakers’ generally cruel mishandling of the technology in recent years.

Fed as a marketing ploy to rip off unsuspecting consumers by charging, in some cases, almost double the ticket price, 3-D movies have overwhelmingly been plagued by studios simply transferring originally 2-D images over into 3-D.

What results is a fake and ugly-looking film that no doubt has a piss-poor story dragging it along.

For this reason, I have been extremely cautious when it comes to seeing 3-D films.

Even with my 3-D glasses on, I have always found 3-D movies to blur images and colors to the point that I become detached from the film rather than immersed like the technology is supposed to do.

However, after seeing “Hugo,” I can breathe a little easier knowing that it is, without a doubt, the single best use of 3-D technology in recent film history.

Now you may be thinking, Jason, this movie doesn’t even have any bullets haphazardly shooting at your face, nor cliched blue people living out “Pocahantas”—how could it be any good?

And to that I would reply, putting lipstick on a pig and telling it to dance does not make it pretty.

It is still a pig, and as long as we keep telling studios that we will go see their flashy overpriced rubbish, they will keep pumping out what the box office says we want.

“Hugo” understands that the effective implementation of 3-D can be achieved through subtlety.

Never in the film are the characters winking into the camera or reminding the audience of any cheap gimmick that is supposed to compensate for a ticket upcharge; the minimalistic 3-D approach is there to enhance the story.

Films like “Hugo” appeal back to a time when directors were authors first and businessmen second.

A time when movies were made by magicians who told stories for the sake of telling stories.

Scorsese is one of those magicians, still able to recall enough of the magic to keep the dream alive.

Movie reviewer Jason Berlinberg can be reached at

Coming next… Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The 1974 British spy novel by John LeCarre, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” comes to life on the silver screen Dec. 9. The espionage thriller, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy, focuses on the aftermath of the resignation of the head of British Intelligence Control during the Cold War in the 1970s.

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