Let me first sum up my entire review of Hugo, the critically acclaimed winner of five ‘supposedly’ coveted Oscar statues, with one word:
Before I get into my highly educated critique on why I’d rather subject myself to Kim Kardashian’s four-hour marathon wedding special (which technically lasted three hours longer than the marriage itself), than sit through the Martin Scorsese-directed Hugo again… let me first give you some insight into my reasoning for even taking on this viewing in the first place.
WARNING: Possible Spoilers below!
WARNING 2: You shouldn’t care.
WARNING 3: Most of my reviews won’t be this negative…. but no promises.
Generally, Hugo is not necessarily the type of movie I would normally review for a sci-fi related geek blog, but when I first saw the previews for the flick late last year, it seemed as if it was being sold as a whimsical fantasy that had a few bits of sci-fi in it. My (misguided) curiosity was further intrigued when I noticed it was nominated for every Oscar category under the sun, including best ‘On-Set Catering’.
What really sealed my decision was the fact that it actually just won every technical Oscar award for 2012, which included all of the sound and visual effects achievements. Of course those are the truly important categories that fellow geeks and nerds REALLY only care about anyway. With stiff competition in those same categories from sense over-stimulating works of art like Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part Two, I of course had no choice but to see what all the fuss was about.
Let’s just say, my expectations might have been a tad too high… as in sea level.
The first thing that catches your attention with this movie is how quickly you are checking the time to see how many minutes have passed… that is once you’ve woken up from the nap you decided to take for the first half of the movie. Unfortunately, at that point you realize it’s only been seven minutes. The remaining part of the movie does pick up a little bit roughly 45 seconds before the end credits roll. In addition, when I say it picks up I mean that enough noise is eventually made to wake you from your second catnap.
Plot wise, the story of Hugo is so all over the place during the first half, I didn’t know if I was watching a spoof on 1930’s French living or a documentary on clock winding. Thanks to the lifeless characters and acting, the only thing I really cared about was when my mom planned on serving dessert. (We figured we’d rent the movie for family night for $6 instead of cashing in government bonds to see it in the theater.)
Ok, so I might have just been a little overly harsh on the acting. Ben Kingsley did a decent job as the tormented toy shop owner with a secret past, and Sacha Baron Cohen was occasionally (twice) amusing doing his best impression of a super-sized Inspector Clouseau from the infamous Pink Panther franchise character made famous by Peter Sellers (and less famous by Steve Martin). To be completely honest, it was actually his witty and agile doberman sidekick (Blackie) that stole the movie with nothing more than a few simple stares into the camera.
On the subject of dogs, what was the deal with Richard Griffiths (a.k.a Vernon Dursley of the Harry Potter series) and the wiener dogs? Either I missed something, or Scorsese has a thing for long-haired Dachshunds. That or maybe if he put enough cute scene-stealing dogs in the movie, you wouldn’t notice the other 120 minutes of random scenes stealing your life force directly from your eye sockets.
It seemed sad that the strange Automaton thing-a-ma-bobber machine – that literally stood motionless for all but 30 seconds of the movie – turned in a better acting job than the young actor playing the main character Hugo (Asa Butterfield). Actually, the freaky nightmare-inducing robot, that looked more like spare parts from the dumpster of the Close Encounters set, outperformed everyone but the pincher.
Speaking of robots, please for the love of everything that is made of silicone (boobies included), how in the infinite realms of space did this movie win, let alone get nominated for best visual AND sound effects?! Seriously?! Despite the plot of having robots bash in each other’s metal groins while destroying Chicago – even though the city was literally half way there already – the 150 minutes of technical effects and mastery of Transformers 3 was without a doubt a marvel of modern science when compared to the five-second scene of Hugo’s dream where he turned into the creepy moon-drawing robot. Hell, the 30-second commercial for Yogi Bear had more special effects than Hugo had all movie… and arguably more lifelike.
Outside of art direction and best video-on-demand sleeping aide, I don’t understand how this movie got nominated for ANYTHING – especially best picture! Although under the terms of full disclosure, I admit I didn’t see the film in 3D. From what I read and heard, the 3D experience was actually done quite well and immersed you into the world of Hugo nicely. Unfortunately, 3D glasses do nothing for me while I’m sleeping. Not to mention that outside of TF3, I’m not entirely sold on the whole 3D gimmick thing yet.
Apparently even 11 chances to win a golden-naked-man figure wasn’t enough for Scorsese as he started a petition in protest of Blackie the doberman from Hugo not being nominated for any “Golden Collar” awards. I’m not kidding folks, that is a real thing, and he started a real petition. I could go on, but it seems like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has that department covered…
WARNING: Careful at work, crude language and laughs to ensue.
Of course the wise and all-knowing members of the Motion Picture Academy, whom probably haven’t heard or seen a proper bowel movement recently, let alone an entertaining full length movie, ALWAYS reward the best of the best… right? Either Scorsese threatened to hijack their supply of Metamucil, or eeny-meeny-miney-moe became the new threshold for selecting winners. Like Hugo or not, it’s another example of how the Oscars makes Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards look like the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Well, at least Billy Crystal was funny… kinda… twice.
On a more random note, was it just me, or during the entire run time of this film, could all you fellow ‘LOSTies’ out there not help but think of the other more lovable food-loving character of the same name? (If you were even caffeine infused enough to make it through the entire run time.)
Alas the movie wasn’t ALL bad… but it was close. The cinematography and set design were actually quite good, although, and I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, didn’t match up to that of Warhorse which was another nominated movie Hugo beat out. This is exactly why I’m not a big fan of so-called “professional” reviews and awards shows… extreme expectations are often created and usually never met.
Still, this time around, it wasn’t just my own lofty expectations that did Hugo in. It was Hugo that did Hugo in. Be it sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, action, or porn – no matter what kind of movie I’m watching, for me it’s the main character(s) that can make or break the picture (with the possible exception of the last genre I listed). While I love me some special effects, if I don’t connect with the character on screen whose life I’ve committed to watching for two-plus hours, there is a good chance the flick won’t be making my prized blu-ray collection. On the flip-side, a likable and identifiable main character could make a movie memorable even if the whole thing was filmed with a back drop made entirely of Cheez-It boxes.
As a recap:
– Yes, I harbor ill will that Transformers was overlooked for visual effects.
– No, I still wouldn’t have liked Hugo even if it didn’t win a single award.
– Yes, I promise to review something awesome within the next week.
– No, I will never watch the Osacrs again. I mean it this time, never…. unless MAYBE Billy Crystal comes back again… maybe… but probably not…. ok, I’ll just Tivo his musical number intro… but that’s it…. maybe…