There are a whopping nine films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. And between your work, family, and constant USA marathons of Law & Order: SVU (when will those ever stop being addictive?!), you simply may not have time to catch all nine in the theaters or at home. But never fear, dear PopWatchers — that’s why we’re here! Each day leading up to the Academy Awards Feb. 26, we’ll provide you with a deep dive into one of the nine Best Picture nominees. Fear showing up to your Oscars party unprepared to discuss the year’s most notable films? We’ve got you covered. (Just beware: SPOILERS AHEAD!) And if you’ve already seen all nine films, even better — our inside look at each nominee will serve as a handy guide to remind you of the best and worst moments from every Best Picture candidate this year. Today, we take a 3-D look at Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s lush adaptation of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Be sure to click here for more deep dives into this year’s Best Picture nominees!)
Release date: Nov. 23, 2011
DVD release date: Feb. 28, 2012
Run time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Box Office: First weekend, $11.4 million; total domestic, $64.8 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94 percent
Hugo’s movie math: (Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone — Ron) x (Cinema Paradiso) + (Midnight in Paris + Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol)
Tweetable description of Hugo: An orphan living in a Paris train station stumbles upon movie magic as he searches for the key to a broken automaton left by his father.
What EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum said: “For a lay audience, the result is a haunting, piquant melodrama about childhood dreams and yearnings, enhanced with a pleasant survey course in early film history. (It made me cry, without guilt.) For more advanced cinephiles, the result is a cabinet of wonders in which each shot, each experiment in 3-D perspective, and, indeed, each scene in the story’s progression can be linked to what we already know about Scorsese, his work, and his well-known cinematic passions… A-”
Number of Oscar nominations: 11. Hugo has been honored for Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Art Direction (Francesca Lo Schiavo, Dante Ferretti), Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson), Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell), Best Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker), Best Score (Howard Shore), Best Sound Editing (Philip Stockton, Eugene Gearty), Best Sound Mixing (Tom Fleischman, John Midgley), Best Visual Effects (Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann, Alex Henning), Best Adapted Screenplay (John Logan)
Cast/Director’s Oscar history: Scorsese now has been nominated seven times for Best Director; his last nod, for The Departed, brought him his long-overdue first trophy. Ben Kingsley, who plays the frustrated toy maker whose menace cloaks a fantastical former life, has been nominated four times for acting, taking home the gold for his role as Gandhi in 1983. Jude Law, who plays Hugo’s father in flashbacks, has been nominated twice before, for The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain.
What Hugo has won thus far: Scorsese has already been recognized for Best Director by the Golden Globes and the National Board of Review, which also joined the American Film Institute in naming Hugo the year’s Best Film. The Visual Effects Society honored the glossy film with three awards, while the BAFTAs rewarded the movie’s technical acumen with Best Production Design and Best Sound.
Why Hugo should win: If there was ever a director to make a movie about movies, it’s Martin Scorsese. You can see his passion in every frame, and his masterful use of 3-D captures the vividness of Brian Selznick’s dynamic children’s book. Here are two master storytellers with shared enthusiasms coming together and making something new out of something old, something from our dreams, and something for all time.
Why Hugo should not win: Perhaps Scorsese is better suited for low-budget projects where he hears the occasional “No.” He’s always had the taste for the grandiose — think the operatic ring sequences from Raging Bull — but in his more recent bigger-budgeted films, there’s a coating of lush superficiality that seems at odds with his earlier, more gritty work. Hugo is a gorgeous movie, but the script and performances take a backseat to the masterful cinematography and stunning costume and production design.
Vegas odds: 16/1, according to Las Vegas Sports Betting
EW’s Dave Karger’s odds: Hugo trails only The Artist in Karger’s latest Best Picture prognostication.
Moment most worthy of an Oscar: Hugo (Asa Butterfield) and Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) gaze at the Paris skyline from the inside of the station clock.
Best line from Hugo: A redeemed George Méliès to an adoring audience of cinephiles: “My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are: wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers… magicians. Come and dream with me.”
Worst line from Hugo: “Happy endings only happen in the movies.” — A brokenhearted Méliès drops a line that was probably even a cliché in the days of silent film.
MVP (Most Valuable Prop): The automaton, the enigmatic mechanical man that Hugo hopes holds a secret about his dead father. Is it me, or does its face change slightly depending on the mood of the scene?
Best fashion moment: A French beret looks magnifique on Moretz, especially when she dons a striped sweater and brown jacket.
Worst fashion moment: Though the Station Inspector’s uniform is sharp and ever-starched, Sacha Baron Cohen looks more like Charles de Gaulle, if he had to pick his clothes out of Sgt. Pepper’s wardrobe. Or maybe he’s simply a French version of Kenneth Mars’ Inspector Kemp from Young Frankenstein?
Best music moment: When the children track down a library book about the early days of cinema, Scorsese treats us to a montage of old clips: Keaton, Chaplin, the Man in the Moon. But what ties them together is the galloping 19th-century music of Camille Saint-Saëns “Danse Macabre.”
Watch Le Voyage Dans la Lune; listen to Air: In Hugo, the image haunting the orphan’s dreams is one from Méliès’ 1902 silent film about an adventure to the moon. Fans of the Smashing Pumpkins may remember traces of it in the video for “Tonight, Tonight,” but electropop duo Air went one step further and infused the old footage with a pounding new beat. Maybe not how the filmmaker envisioned it 110 years ago, but still a trip, to be sure.
The Martin Scorsese Academy of Film History: This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows Scorsese’s interest in film history and film preservation, but the director assigned his actors homework before they began filming Hugo. Kingsley was sent a box of Méliès’ old films, while Moretz was tasked with watching the movies of Audrey Hepburn. “You can’t quite put your finger on what it tells you about how you should perform your part,” says Emily Mortimer, who played the train station’s flower girl. “But I know that it helped me tremendously. That’s why he’s Scorsese.”
Thanks, Francesca: Scorsese’s 12-year-old daughter played a huge role in his interest in making Hugo. Whenever her friends would ask the director of Taxi Driver and Goodfellas about his next project, two questions would inevitably come up: “Is it going to be something we can see?” “Is it going to be in 3-D?” You’re welcome, kids.
Five Oscar Party talking points:
1) Yes, it’s 3-D and based on a children’s book, but this isn’t your typical kids movie. That is, unless your 10-year-old has a Ph.D. in Film Studies. What does it mean when a film like this barely breaks $100 million worldwide?
2) If Hugo wins Best Picture, are you prepared to live in a world where the director of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull is most rewarded for a 3-D movie and The Departed?
3) Did Daniel Radcliffe have a point? “Why is this nominated and we’re not? I was slightly miffed.”
4) Scorsese seems entranced by the new 3-D technology. If it becomes inevitable, which classic of his would you most like to see converted to 3-D for a rerelease? I can only imagine the long tracking shot through the nightclub from Goodfellas.
5) Whose Paris ideal would you most like to visit: Scorsese’s or Woody Allen’s from Midnight in Paris?