Young Hugo (Asa Butterfield) finds comfort in imagining that the entire world is a machine, because in a machine, there are no extra parts. In that idea, he, everyone and everything around him have a purpose.
It is obvious to see where he develops this understanding. Before his father (Jude Law) died, he taught Hugo how to fix clockwork. Now as an orphan, he keeps all the clocks running in a Paris train station. Like a twentieth century Quisimoto, he observes the people within the station from his hiding places. They have their purposes inside the station. Passengers, conductors, the flower shop girl, cafe owner with a little dog are all benign. However, the toy shop keeper (Ben Kingsley) is out to get Hugo for stealing and the inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) would send him to the orphanage if he ever got a hold of him.
Along with keeping the station’s clocks running, Hugo is determined to fix an automaton he and his father were working on together. If working properly, it should write a message, one Hugo hopes would bring him some last connection to his father. But it requires a mysterious key, and the more Hugo works on the automaton, the more enveloped he becomes in the mystery surrounding it.
One of the fondest memories Hugo has about his father is going to the movies. Stories Hugo heard of seeing a rocket landing in the eye of the man in the moon sounds like an old legend. As the mystery unfolds, it brings out the influence and importance of early film, film preservation and the ways movies bring people together. In terms of themes closes to Martin Scorsese’s heart, Hugo may be one of his proudest works. His nomination for Best Director is well deserved.
In addition to Best Director, there are ten other Oscar nominations Hugo is competing for: Best Picture, Art Direction, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Adapted Screenplay. As you can see, many of them come from how technically compelling the film is.
For a film buff, some of the most amazing scenes are watching turn of the century silent movies in production. To see them recreated, in film so vivid and colorful you feel you are right there, is a surreal experience. It really does feel like watching dreams being made. I was first introduced to Georges Melies in college, my professor describing his films as magic tricks. They truly were and still are.
Personally, I view 3D as a gimmick and fad in film, but the use of 3D in Hugo is like nothing else I have ever seen. There are no cheap tricks and the colors do not feel dulled. Instead, the 3D brings out the depth of the scenes in amazing layers. As Hugo runs through the train station and within its walls, the camera follows in magnificent long-shots that unfold in a lovely fluid movement and we feel transported as the surroundings and layers of steam rush by. Its been said that Scorsese wore clip-on 3D lenses of over his glasses to assist in the cinematography and get a better grip on how the final film would turn out in 3D. I have to say, whatever Scorsese did, he should keep on doing it.
“My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians. Come and dream with me.”
If the Academy is looking to award a magical film for all ages that reminds us how important film history and preservation is, Hugo will win the Oscar for Best Picture.