'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Director Martin Scorsese, HUGO

Video
by Ali Arikan & Kevin B. Lee
February 10, 2012 7:46 AM
3 Comments
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Press Play presents "Should Win," a series of video essays advocating winners in seven Academy Awards categories: supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture. These are consensus choices hashed out by a pool of Press Play contributors. Follow along HERE as Press Play decides the major categories including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting ActressBest Supporting Actor and Best Documentary.  Important notice: Press Play is aware that our videos can not be played on Apple mobile devices. We are, therefore, making this and every video in this series available on Vimeo for these Press Play readers. If you own an Apple mobile device, click here.]

Narration:

This year's Oscar race for Best Director features an especially strong roster. The five nominees are Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life, Alexander Payne for The Descendants and Martin Scorsese for Hugo. Four of them did magnificent work this year, one of them less so, but in the end there will only be one winner.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo
Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is not a love letter to nostalgia or a trite piece of idol worship. Instead, it's a mature artist realizing his own folly. It's a melancholy film, yet Allen's direction is full of hope, with the final choice of the hero underlining the pointlessness of living in the past and the necessity of having to trudge on. Michel Hazanavicius' supreme achievement in The Artist is making people talk about the silent era again and argue about whether the film accurately represents it. Terrence Malick's canvas is as wide as they come in The Tree of Life, where he explores life, death, the universe and everything in a spasmodic stream-of-consciousness narrative. He finds the personal in the expansive. The theme of loss permeates the film. Malick arranges the beautiful movements with grandeur. The Descendants is perhaps Alexander Payne's most conventional movie to date. Loss, once again, is prominent in this family drama deftly directed by Payne with a loving eye for the minute details in the grand scheme of life.

But this year's Academy Award for Best Director should go to the master, Martin Scorsese. In Hugo, Scorsese shares with the audience his eternal love of movies through a magnificent palate of colors and exuberant motion made all the more fantastic by an exemplary use of 3D. But despite the added dimension, Hugo is the rare 3D film that works without it; the opening title sequence alone is a marvel of direction. Scorsese also displays a knack for physical comedy that one wouldn't have expected. Generally, though, Scorsese's direction manages to put a sense of wonder front and center. His love of films and filmmaking may be the hidden true subject of every film he has ever made. In a strange way, Hugo might be Scorsese's most personal film to date.

Kevin B. Lee is editor in chief of Press Play. Ali Arikan is the chief film critic of Dipnot TV, a Turkish news portal and iPad magazine, and one of Roger Ebert’s Far-Flung Correspondents. Ali is also a regular contributor to The House Next Door, Slant Magazine’s official blog.

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3 Comments

  • Gaspar Marino | February 21, 2012 6:23 PMReply

    Having a hard time here as well. I wish there could be a tie...Michel and Martin, each deserve an Oscar for their direction of the Best two films of the year.

  • Franky | February 12, 2012 7:12 AMReply

    It feels as if all your comments apply to the final act of this film, but nothing that precedes it. Indeed, this "sense of wonder" is sorely lacking in the leaden, clunky bulk of this film. The children are dreadful, the pacing is woeful, the mystery is contrived and uninvolving - it's a pretty hollow affair. When the focus (inexplicably) shifts to Kingsley, the entire film soars and becomes this personal love affair.

    I was left scratching my head. Why did Scorsese not just make a Melies biopic? Why frame it with an insipid and meaningless pseudo-adventure story? It's clear where his heart really was, and it seems a shame he didn't run with it.

  • Nik Grape | February 10, 2012 12:42 PMReply

    "Terrence Malick's canvas is as wide as they come in The Tree of Life, where he explores life, death, the universe and everything in a spasmodic stream-of-consciousness narrative. He finds the personal in the expansive. The theme of loss permeates the film. Malick arranges the beautiful movements with grandeur." - - - so true. And this is why he deserves Best Director as well. For creating a vision unlike any other seen, since, dare I say it, 2001: Space Odyssey. Scorsese made his most personal film, but it feels like Press Play is making a case for him because he is "The Master", not because the direction of Hugo stands above the other four, and that's more of a politlal game than an artistic one. Malick's film is also his most personal one, but he used unconventional methods (unlike Scorsese who used children's adventure, basic slapstick characters etc.) to create a universe that will be discussed and studied for years. I can imagine Press Play had a tough time choosing between Scorsese and Malick but it sounds to me like a general fondness of Scorsese won over rather than the grandeur of Malick's vision. And just to play the political game because it is trendy for every Oscar season, Malick doesn't have an Oscar yet. I hope my comparison to Kubrick doens't prove true as far as Oscars are concerned. Terrence Malick should win Best Director.

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