Search This Blog

Monday, November 28, 2011

"This is the Place Where Dreams are Made"- A Review of Hugo

I will tell it to you straight, when I saw the first trailer for Martin Scorsese's newest film Hugo, I was anything but impressed.  The trailer presented it in such an awful way I had no desire to ever see the film.  The trailer involved a lot of Hugo running around the train station, being chased by the Station Inspector (played by Sacha Baron Cohen).  It felt really goofy and not in a fun way.  It felt like another family film about a small English, orphan boy.  Let me say this now.  Hugo is almost nothing like what the trailer depicted.  I felt like I was lied to.  Yes, Hugo does his fair share of running from the inspector, but it's such a small part of the film I wonder why it was even shown in the trailers?  Whatever, I'm over it.  Hugo is at it's core a film about film, or even more specific, about film preservation.  Hugo is the son of a watchmaker (played by Jude Law) and has a natural penchant for fixing things he finds that are broken.  His father is involved in some kind of accident and Hugo is left alone with his alcoholic uncle who teaches him how to tend the clocks.  He lives in the train station walls, everyday winding the clocks, making sure they serve their purpose.  He watches an old man who owns a toy shop (Ben Kingsley) and steals parts and gears from him when he is not looking, because he is trying to fix something:  an automaton his father found in a museum.  When he is caught stealing the parts he is forced to empty his pockets, but one pocket contains a notebook that belongs to Hugo, with drawings of the automaton, when the old man sees this he becomes visibly upset and takes the book from Hugo, saying he is going to burn it.  This is where the film begins it's mystery.  Unless you have read about the film, or are familiar enough with the book, you do not know who Ben Kingsley is supposed to be, in fact it isn't until later in the film you actually find out his name, his full name.  I won't tell you, because I feel that might spoil it if you don't already know.  Hugo meets with the old man's god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who tells him she will help get his notebook back.  She also encourages Hugo to pursue this thing, because it might be an adventure.  She takes Hugo to a bookstore where the owner (Christopher Lee) allows her to borrow books.  They come across Robin Hood, Hugo says he hasn't read it but he saw the movie, Isabelle informs Hugo she has never seen a movie before.  Hugo is shocked and convinces her to come with him to the cinema, they sneak in and watch as much of Harold Lloyd's Safety Last!  as they can before being thrown out by the manager.  I loved this scene.  The look on Isabelle's face, the wonder, the sense of unbelieving, the concern for Lloyd's character as he hangs precariously from the hands of a clock high above the city street.  Scorsese captures the feeling, the magic, the dreamlike quality of film, the experience of witnessing something for the first time that is unlike anything you've ever seen.  It's remarkable and it's only the first of many other scenes to come.  There is a lot of old footage from the earliest films we have, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat by the Lumiere brothers, The Great Train Robbery by Edwin S. Porter (which influenced Scorsese's shot of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, where he points the gun at the camera) A Trip to the Moon by George Melies and so many others.  We find out Isabelle's god-father has some connection to the automaton and to the cinema, and the adventure to finding out what that connection is, is amazing.  Hugo is a good film for anyone, it's filled with humor, adventure, and even a little romance, but it's even more for film lovers.  It's such a wonderful celebration of the art and magic of film-making and the importance of film preservation.  Scorsese brings this to life with a deftness unfortunately lacking in the run-of-the-mill modern American directors.  His love of film and the preservation of film does not dominate the story here, but enforces it, bolsters it into something more than a simple movie.  He shows us that films are the place where dreams are made, and invites us to come dream with him.  He also shows just how important it is to preserve old films.  We are lucky to still have the early films we do only because of extensive searching done by lovers of the cinema.  These important films might have been lost forever, and Hugo includes this idea very prominently, but not in a way where children will find it boring.  I highly recommend this film to anyone and everyone, and I dare you not to enjoy it. (A side note:  While I'm not a big fan of 3D, viewing it more as a gimmick that takes away from the film than an actual asset, Hugo is definitely worth seeing in 3D.  Scorsese uses it as I would expect him to, with skill and care, adding greatly to the depth of the film.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

"I'm seeing something that was always hidden." Blue Velvet on Blu-ray

The opening credits roll on a backdrop of blue curtains, we see (in slow motion) picket fences, vivid red fire engines, cookie cutter neighborhoods, dogs barking, children playing and sunshine bathing everything in it's warm glow, all this set to an old Bobby Vinton song.  Then, we see a man have a stroke and the camera zooms in, passing him and entering into the ground where we see beetles and bugs violently ripping, tearing and gnashing each other.  The film to which I am referring is none other than David Lynch's american masterpiece, Blue Velvet.  This film is dark and mysterious, equal parts film noir, sexual thriller and dark comedy.  The opening I described sets the theme that under the polished, happy veneer of everyday life, there is an ugliness, or sometimes violently maniacal evil lurking.  Kyle MacLachlan plays the innocent Jeffrey Beaumont, home from college because of his dad's hospitalization (the man with the stroke in the beginning).  Soon after arriving, he finds a human ear in a field near his house and decides to bring it to the police, a local detective and father of his soon-to-be-friend Sandy (played by Laura Dern), little does he know this ear is the first step down a long and dark road.  The camera even zooms in and seems to enter the ear, a loud buzzing filling the soundtrack.  Lynch uses this idea in several of his films, the idea that we are leaving the reality we know and entering into unknown territory.  With some information, Jeffrey is lead to the home of a sultry nightclub singer, Dorothy Vallens (played by Isabella Rossellini), who is an important part of the puzzle.  For some reason she has ties to a madman named Frank Booth (played with terrifying ferocity by the late Dennis Hopper), who is a sexual fiend and homicidal maniac.  The more Jeffrey is involved in Dorothy's life, the more we wonder:  Is Jeffrey just a curious young man playing detective, or is he also a pervert?  Jeffrey soon finds himself deep in an underworld he never dreamed existed, and there may be no turning back.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the film and to commemorate this event it has been released (for the first time) on Blu-ray.  I had the opportunity to re-watch the film before writing this, it is as potent and intense, humorous and bizarre as ever.  The HD transfer looks great.  Lynch's films usually look great anyway but the higher resolution really brings out his amazing use of color, especially the many "blues" used in this film.  Also spectacular is the sound.  This film has a lot to do with sound and that aspect is played up by the wonderful HD transfer.  The special features are not bountiful, but there are a few nice bonus things added in that will excite die-hard Lynch fans.  This film was originally supposed to be 4 and a half hours long, but was cut down to just 2.  While not all the missing footage has been found, an extra 50 minutes are present on this disc.  The deleted scenes are presented as a film in and of themselves (Lynch has a way with presentation when it comes to deleted scenes), with scoring and end credits, they play like a 50 minute movie that fits in with the actual film.  It has some tv spots and trailers, a documentary, the original Siskel and Ebert review and even a few outtakes.  If you haven't seen this film, now is the perfect time to jump into the world of David Lynch, where, like in Blue Velvet, nothing is as it seems.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Wow, so the month of October just flew past.  Thanks to everyone who came out to support our HORRORFEST, hope you enjoyed yourselves, we enjoyed having you there.  With a new month comes another FILM CLUB film.  This month we will be watching:

Hannah and Her Sisters
Directed By:  Woody Allen
Rated: PG-13

Hannah and Her Sisters is a 1986 American comedy-drama film which tells the intertwined stories of an extended family over two years that begin and end with a family Thanksgiving dinner. The movie was written and directed by Woody Allen, who stars along with Mia Farrow as Hannah, Michael Caine as her husband, and Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest as her sisters.  The story is told in three main arcs, with almost all of it occurring during a 12-month period beginning and ending at Thanksgiving parties hosted by Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Elliot (Michael Caine). Hannah serves as the stalwart hub of the narrative; her own story as a successful actress (a recent success as Nora in A Doll's House) is somewhat secondary, but most of the events of the film connect to her.

 Hannah and Her Sisters won both Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first movie to win both supporting actor awards since Julia in 1977, nearly nine years before. (From Wikipedia)

This is probably one of Woody Allen's best films, right up there with Annie Hall and Manhattan, there is great comedy, plenty of drama, a little romance and infidelity, but overall, a great story.  If you're a fan of Woody Allen's work (or even if you're not!) you should come and check out this film!

Here's the trailer: