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Will Hugo's Rave Reviews Yield Audiences and Oscar Nominations?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 22, 2011 at 2:11PM

It's no surprise that film critics are loving "Hugo," Martin Scorsese's valentine to the birth of cinema and reinvention of the art of 3-D (November 23). In fact, as I was rejiggering my Oscar chart I recognized that in a field of small-scale movies this year,  the $150-million period adventure has a strong shot at quite a few technical nominations, going up against the likes of "The Adventures of Tintin," "The Tree of Life," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part Two."
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Hugo, Moretz

It's no surprise that film critics are loving "Hugo," Martin Scorsese's valentine to the birth of cinema and reinvention of the art of 3-D (November 23). In fact, as I was rejiggering my Oscar chart I recognized that in a field of small-scale movies this year,  the $150-million period adventure has a strong shot at quite a few technical nominations, going up against the likes of "The Adventures of Tintin," "The Tree of Life," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part Two."

The film's champions include 3-D advocate James Cameron, who says that "Hugo" boasts "the best 3-D photography I've seen," as well as Time's Richard Corliss, who calls the film a "masterpiece."

Paramount has done well getting the word out. In fact, Silence is Golden these days, as not only Scorsese but "The Artist" returns us to a nostalgia for the dawn of cinema. But just because cinephiles like this movie doesn't mean family audiences will sit still for it, even if the story hangs on a young orphan boy. But reviews like the ones below (it's trending at 92% on the Tomatometer for now) will certainly help turn this narratively stiff but visually sumptuous treat into a must-see for adults and Academy members.

The New Yorker:
"In 'Hugo,' the hero has a terrifying dream, perhaps an unconscious recollection of that event. Reality, filmed illusion, and dreams are so intertwined that only an artist, playing merrily with echoes, can sort them into a scheme of delight."

Roger Ebert:
"'Hugo' is unlike any other film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and yet possibly the closest to his heart: a big-budget, family epic in 3-D, and in some ways, a mirror of his own life. We feel a great artist has been given command of the tools and resources he needs to make a movie about — movies."

Peter Travers:
"I will say that in Scorsese's hands, 3D becomes an art. With the help of the gifted cinematographer Robert Richardson and editor supreme Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese sweeps us headlong into the action as Hugo runs rings around the stationmaster (a hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen) and sneaks us into the station's secret corridors and inside the clock, with its jaw-dropping view of Paris."

Todd McCarthy:
"'Hugo' dazzlingly conjoins the earliest days of cinema with the very latest big-screen technology. At once Martin Scorsese's least characteristic film and his most deeply felt, this opulent adaptation of Brian Selznick's extensively illustrated novel is ostensibly a children's and family film, albeit one that will play best to sophisticated kids and culturally inclined adults,..The film's craft and technical achievements are of the highest order, combining to create an immaculate present to film lovers everywhere. It would be hard to say enough on behalf of Richardson's cinematography, Dante Ferretti's production design, Sandy Powell's costumes, Rob Legato's extensive visual effects, Thelma Schoonmaker's editing, Howard Shore's almost constant score and the army of technical experts who made all of Scorsese's perfectionist wishes come true."

Peter DeBruge:
"In attempting to make his first film for all ages, Martin Scorsese has fashioned one for the ages. Simultaneously classical and modern, populist but also unapologetically personal, 'Hugo' flagrantly defies the mind-numbing quality of most contempo kidpics and instead rewards patience, intellectual curiosity and a budding interest in cinema itself. Given the sheer expense of this lavish production and its marketing, Scorsese's playfully didactic, nouveau-Dickensian adventure could spell a money-losing gamble in the near term; wind the clock forward half a century, however, and "Hugo's" timeless qualities should distinguish it as an achievement with the style and substance to endure...Scorsese introduces Hugo's world via a series of virtuoso camera moves, seamlessly enhanced by 3D and state-of-the-art CG...'Hugo' overflows with allusions, both cinematic and literary, reflecting the combined passions of Scorsese and writer John Logan, whose screenplay feels as alive with love for words as Scorsese is passionate about pictures."

"Hugo"
"Hugo"

This article is related to: Reviews, Directors, Martin Scorsese, Digital Future, 3-D, Critics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.