A Hugo is an award named for Hugo Gernsback, a pioneer editor of science fiction. It is awarded by the World Science Fiction Association, at their annual meeting (usually) around the nearest weekend to September 1st each year. This is the "WorldCon" that everyone talks about, which rotates from city to city. In 1998, it will be in Baltimore. In 1999, it will be in Melbourne, Australia. In 2000, it will be in Chicago.

Hugo is a film directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 2011. Based on the Caldecott Medal-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the film both faithfully adapts the story and serves as Scorsese's love letter to early film history and the importance of preserving and restoring these films.

Set in 1930s Paris, and mainly in the Gare Montparnasse, an orphan boy lives hidden in the train station's walls, maintaining the clocks as his absent uncle did while trying to repair an automaton of his fathers and trying to avoid being caught by the station inspector. Befriending the daughter of a toymaker leads the two of them closer to solving the mystery of the automaton.

This film is beautiful and full of wonderful moments: the look of a child being taken to the movies, recreations of the making of films back then by Georges Méliès that look like pop-up books come to life in a 3-D viewing, snowfall on a cobbled Paris street at night, and the recreated interior and behind the walls and clockfaces of the train station. Magic tricks abound both in front of and behind the scenes, and although the story of Hugo is an invention, what is more inventive is that certain gears of the story are true.

Mention needs to be made of this being shown in 3-D, and it is quite remarkably done to useful effect. There's a nice parallel to Méliès' films, which were shot in 2-D but in order to produce extra prints faster (to beat piracy in the States, ironicly), many of the short films were shot with two cameras, side to side. Digitally splicing the two same but offset prints produces a true 3-D film, which has been done.

While deservedly well acclaimed, Hugo did not do well at the box-office. I do think it will hold up over time, as many of Scorsese's films should and will do.


Hugo (2011)
Martin Scorsese, director
Ben Kingsley as Papa
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector
Asa Butterfield as Hugo
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle

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