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Laramie Movie Scope: Hugo

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 3, 2011 -- I haven't seen an ode to the joy of movies like this since “Cinema Paradiso.” At first, “Hugo” seems to be about a young boy living in secret in a train station, winding and fixing clocks almost 100 years ago, but it turns out to be a movie about movies and the people who love movies. Tellingly, it doesn't call them films, or cinema, but “movies,” and nobody mentions the word “auteur,” either. Cinephiles probably won't like that, but who cares? This is a great movie, one of the year's best.

Hugo is a very unusual film for director Martin Scorcese, who specializes in gritty urban crime dramas like his Academy Award-winning consolation prize, “The Departed.” This is essentially a family film, in 3D, no less, another Scorcese first. The previews for this film make it look like a fantasy. It isn't. There is a bit of urban grittiness in it too. Hugo Cabret is an orphan. He lives a tough life, scrounging for food and inhabiting the hidden places of a huge train station in Paris (although set in France, this is an English language film). It is a hardscrabble life. He is constantly pursued by the determined station inspector, a kind of policeman (Sasha Baron Cohen of “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”) and his equally determined Doberman pinscher dog.

Although Hugo's life is hard, it is also kind of magical. He winds and maintains the clocks in the train station and he watches the people who work at the station, particularly the old man who runs a small toy store, where he sometimes steals gears and springs for his pet project. His project is to fix an automaton, an intricate human-looking machine that can draw pictures. Hugo and his father (played by Jude Law of “Sherlock Holmes”) were working on fixing the damaged machine when his father dies in a fire. Hugo is left to carry on the work alone.

Hugo's secret life is accidentally uncovered by a young girl, Isabelle (played by Chloë Grace Moretz of “Let Me In”) who happens to hold the key to making Hugo's automaton work. When the automaton is made to work, it draws a picture which reveals a secret about the creator of the machine. This opens up a whole new world for Hugo and his new friends. Wounded people are healed. A forgotten man is remembered. A boy who was lost is found. A whole world of magic is rediscovered. This movie is magic and it honors all those magicians like Martin Scorcese who make dreams we can all share. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)