One of my favorite Oscar moments a few years ago came when after a highly distinguished career, fellow directors Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola finally presented Scorsese with his first and long overdue directing Oscar for The Departed.
Throughout an illustrious directing career, Scorsese has directed some of the most critically acclaimed movies ever made, such as Raging Bull, Cape Fear, Goodfellas, The Aviator, and many many more.
Not only is he a great director, he is also a tremendous movie scholar, responsible for keeping in circulation classic movies such as Thief of Bagdad
, a 1941 masterpiece, which influenced him, Coppola and Lucas, and the classic Red Shoes by Powell and Pressburger.
In addition he lectures in University on the movies, and you can get his dvd A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
, which explores movies by well known directors of the past such as King Vidor, Fritz Lang, Cecil DeMille. Watching this made me realise the importance and contribution of the director.
Hugo leads the Academy award nominations list this year with 11 nominations, closely followed by The Artist with 10, Warhorse, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, all outstanding movies. Nominations for Hugo include Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
As the movie begins, in one extended shot we zoom through a bustling Paris railway station in 1931, and you become instantly aware that this is no ordinary movie. We meet a 12 year old urchin named Hugo who lives there. Circumstance has committed him to winding and repairing the clocks, and scrabbling for survival as a railway urchin, and we notice that he has a tremendous gift for repairing gadgets, be it watches, clockwork toys, or automatons. Although the story appears to be about a boy, it quickly morphs into a dual story as he comes into contact with a store owner in the station, from whom he steals, and his young granddaughter who befriends him. Secondary stories develop with various other characters at the station.
The store owner played by Ben Kingsley is based on a real life character George Melies, and the story develops in simply amazing ways, and the urchin combines with a young girl to reveal a mystery to which she holds the key, a boy, a girl, an automaton, movie magic, and the story works in wonderful ways.
I saw it in 3D and I believe this is the best way to watch, so see it if you can while it is still in the movies. As you watch the movie moves ticks along like clockwork, and we have extensive intricate imagery that I was at times simply in awe as I watched the movie, we have crosscutting between the events of the time, and silent movies, with parallellism and repetition from classic movies occurring in the actual story. This is where Scorsese's scholarship and love of the movies shows through, as the the two children meet a movie scholar who looks a little like Scorsese, and ultimately the movie becomes a homage to cinematic genius.
Ben Kingsley does an extraordinary acting job, and I was particulaly gripped by one emotional moment few actors could do with the same effect. As you watch this movie, if you're like me you become totally transported, some of the imagery and ticking sound effects remain with me even as I write.
One thing I notice about Hollywood movies set in France in France is the convention of hiring using English actors to play French parts, and using American actors with English accents. Interesting. It turns out that Martin Scorsese and I share the same birthday so we share a little more in common than a love of the movies. I highly recommend this movie. It's quite spectacular.
Post awards update. Hugo won five Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Certainly, what Scorsese did with this movie merited the award for Best Director. Almost always Best Picture and Director go to the same movie. On only one or two occasions has this not happened in 84 years.
In my opinion, what Scorsese accomplished as director of this movie, and the attention to the most intricate of details was unmatched by any other director this year. I say that even though I totally love The Artist.
I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.