It's no secret that James Cameron is an advocate--even missionary--of 3-D. And as the number of 3-D screens in the U.S. starts to take over the number of 35 mm screens, some of us are looking back to the good old days with some nostalgia. The NYT's A.O. Scott assesses the changes brought not only by digital cinema but the kinds of movies being made today. On my rounds lately I keep meeting more filmmakers who are struggling to get quality films made or heading straight for the door to HBO.
In any case it's fun to watch two masters of cinema embrace this new technology (see Cameron and Scorsese's promotional video below, in which Cameron says that "Hugo" is absolutely the best 3-D photography I"ve seen") and truth is, "Hugo" (November 23) allows Scorsese to use an entirely new tool set in an exhilarating way. (He talks eloquently about it to NPR.) Similarly, Steven Spielberg clearly had a blast playing in the 3-D performance capture sandbox with "The Adventures of Tintin." With family films, filmmakers have more leeway, can bend the commercial rules a bit, are not hampered by formula and star machinery. Both films are utterly delightful.
Are they awards-worthy? I'm leaning below-the-line only on both. The critics would have to jump up and down for picture, writer or director to enter the equation with these family-friendly 3-D entertainments. (VFX, cinematagraphy, production design, editing, sound--now we're talking.) Well, Time's Richard Corliss and THR's Todd McCarthy are among the film's ardent fans. "Scorsese and screenwriter John Logan share Selznick’s belief that movies are both the stuff dreams are made of and the product of supreme technological expertise," writes Corliss. "It’s a machine that makes art." My colleague Kris Tapley argues for Ben Kingsley in supporting. I don't see it, but again, the media would have to put the spotlight on him.
While action-packed "Tintin" will play to the masses, $100-million-plus "Hugo"'s commercial fate is less certain-it's a heart-shaped valentine to the dawn of cinema for cinephiles--and that's not a large group.