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Category: Martin Scorsese

Scorsese's 'Hugo' stepping up as a true Oscar contender

December 1, 2011 |  5:48 pm

Asa Butterfield stars in Hugo
We don’t put much stock in critics groups that vote before A) the calendar turns to December and B) actually seeing all the movies they should be considering.

Up until this year, when the New York Film Critics Circle decided to make itself irrelevant by voting before their Thanksgiving dinners had fully digested, it was left to the National Board of Review to put the first … shall we say … “critical” stamp on the awards season. But because nobody knows who exactly comprises the NBR’s self-described “select group of knowledgeable film enthusiasts, filmmakers, academics and students,” their scattershot selections (Everyone’s a winner! Now please buy a table at our dinner!) are typically greeted with a collective shrug.

But today’s announcement that Martin Scorsese’s crowd-pleasing masterwork “Hugo” has taken the NBR’s top prize nicely dovetails with academy members’ passionate response to the film at screenings over the past couple of weeks. Yes, many dig “Hugo” for its film-geek, up-with-George-Melies element. But what most voters are really connecting to is the deep desire of Melies (played beautifully by Ben Kingsley) to be remembered for his work. For the academy’s older members (and this is a group that skews toward the elders), that kind of sentiment hits home in a profound fashion.

Looking at the below-the-line categories, “Hugo” seems a strong bet to win nominations for Dante Ferretti’s dazzling art direction, Sandy Powell’s costume design, Howard Shore’s score and Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing, as well as nods for makeup, sound editing and mixing and visual effects. These contributions come from Scorsese’s longtime collaborators, who, between them, have dozens of Oscar nominations and quite a few trophies. They’re people the academy loves, and they’re doing work that ranks with the best of their careers.

So, if “Hugo” receives that much below-the-line love, a best picture nomination would seem a logical next step, even if, outside Kingsley, it doesn’t have much heat in the acting categories. (Again: Actors branch members are connecting with the movie’s themes.) And if you think about Scorsese’s bold, visual storytelling and the extraordinary way he uses 3-D, a director’s nod would appear a no-brainer as well.

Few people had “Hugo” on their lists before the award season heated up. But, in a wide-open year like this, come Oscar-nomination morning, it may well be leading the conversation.


National Board of Review names 'Hugo' best picture

New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

New York critics picks: Will the academy get behind 'The Artist' too?

-- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Asa Butterfield stars in "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures

National Board of Review names 'Hugo' best picture

December 1, 2011 | 12:52 pm


"Hugo," director Martin Scorsese's family film reflecting his love of cinema, was named the best film of the year Thursday by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. The lavish 3-D fantasy set in a Paris railway station in 1931 also won best director for Scorsese.

Ironically, the black-and-white silent film "The Artist," which won the New York Film Critics Circle honor Tuesday, was shut out of the list of awards, though it was named one of the top 10 films of the year by the National Board of Review.

Lead actor honors went to George Clooney as the father of two in Alexander Payne's Hawaii-set "The Descendants," and Tilda Swinton was named lead actress as a mother of a troubled son in "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Veteran Christopher Plummer won supporting actor as a widower who comes out of the closet in "Beginners," and Shailene Woodley won supporting actress honors as Clooney's rebellious teenage daughter in "The Descendants." The film also won best adapted screenplay for Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, with Will Reiser winning the original screenplay prize for the cancer-themed film "50/50."

"Rango" took best animated feature honors, and two actresses were recognized for breakthrough performance honors: Felicity Jones for "Like Crazy" and Rooney Mara for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." J.C. Chandor won best debut director for "Margin Call," and the cast of "The Help" earned best ensemble.

The Spotlight Award went to Michael Fassbender for a quartet of performances -- in "A Dangerous Method," "Jane Eyre," "Shame" and "X-Men: First Class."

The National Board of Review, which was founded in 1909, is made up of film professionals, educators, historians and students.

Though considered by some to be a bellwether for the Academy Awards, NBR and the Oscars haven't seen eye-to-eye on the best film selections since 2008's "Slumdog Millionaire." Two years ago, NBR chose "Up in the Air" as the best movie of 2009, while the Academy Award went to "The Hurt Locker." Last year, "The Social Network" was the organization's top choice, but the Oscar went to "The King's Speech."

The NBR awards will be presented Jan. 10 at Cipriana's 42nd Street in New York City.

Other winners announced Thursday:

NBR Freedom of Expression: "Crime After Crime"

NBR Freedom of Expression: "Pariah"

Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"

Best Documentary: "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"

Special Achievement in Filmmaking: The Harry Potter Franchise  -- A Distinguished Translation from Book to Film


 New York critics name 'The Artist' best film of the year

-- Susan King

Photo: Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield star in the movie "Hugo." Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures / GK Films LLC

Will 'Hugo' lose the sprint but win the marathon?

November 28, 2011 |  7:46 am

'Hugo's' strong reviews have already positioned the Martin Scorsese film nicely among filmgoers who pay attention to critics. A substantial amount of time spent this holiday weekend with preschoolers shed some light on Family Bowl -- a.k.a. the battle among "Arthur Christmas," "The Muppets" and "Hugo" over Thanksgiving (won, of course, by the Hensonites).

To wit: "The Muppets" played very well among the fingerpainting set -- one 5-year-old who may or may not be related to this blogger enthusiastically summarized the story as being about "how Frog is trying to get back the office." A few of the parents informally surveyed were a little less effusive, which makes the new muppets film an inversion of the original movies and television series, which  appealed more heavily to the grown-up set.

But an even more curious case comes with "Hugo," the expensive 3-D family film set in period Paris and from the unlikely domain of Martin Scorsese. (At the premiere last week, the "Goodfellas" auteur deadpanned that he'd like to issue "a warning" -- namely, that "this is a family film.")

Premiering in a comparatively modest 1,250 theaters, "Hugo" did decent but not overhwhelming business (just over $15 million). On its face the movie has its work cut out for it. In a crowded holiday season, it opened in just fifth place. And with more family product pouring in over the coming weeks, it won't get easier as the film goes into wider release Dec 9. For all its creative virtues, the movie is, in marketing terms, a bit of a tweener -- it could seem too arty for a family audience and too family-ish for an arty audience.

But there are also the early rustlings of a longer-running sleeper success, the kind of success that happens infrequently in Hollywood and even more rarely in the family film realm.

Continue reading »

Scorsese rousingly endorses 3-D, says holograms next

November 6, 2011 |  1:25 pm


Some Oscar-winning auteurs are ambivalent about 3-D; some are cautiously enthusiastic.

Then there's Martin Scorsese.

The helmer behind gritty crime stories including "The Departed," and "Mean Streets" says that not only is 3-D the future of storytelling, but that he also hopes the movies over the next few years will become ever-more interactive. Like, hologram-interactive.

"As I sit here now, I see you in 3-D," the director behind the upcoming "Hugo" told an audience in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. "So why belittle that part of our existence? Why not use it? "

Scorsese said that he expected 3-D to be just the first step in 21st century cinematic storytelling. "If everything moves along and there's no major catastrophe were headed toward holograms," he said, adding, "They do it in theater," citing how an actor might walk into the audience while in character. "You have to think that way. Don't let the fashion and the economics inhibit you."

While big-budget storytellers such as James Cameron and Peter Jackson have embraced 3-D, the format has yet to receive this kind of endorsement from an old-school dramatist like Scorsese.

Continue reading »

'Hugo' author's movie companion illuminates film world for youths

November 2, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz in

Characters in movies like this summer’s “Super 8” and the recent British comedy “Son of Rambow”  remind us that even youngsters can fill the director’s chair. But ask a child if he knows what a second unit director or a 3-D stereographer does and you probably wouldn’t expect him to have the answer.

Author Brian Selznick set out to change that with “The Hugo Movie Companion,” which hit shelves Tuesday. The book takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Hugo,” which is based on Selznick's children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Unlike the typical official movie companions that studios release with new films, this one is geared toward a younger audience, like the movie itself.

“I interviewed 40 people from Scorsese to the dog trainer and asked everybody to define their jobs for children, which is something I don’t think Scorsese had been asked before,” Selznick said.

The Academy Award-winning director may be more accustomed to darker fare like “The Departed” and “Taxi Driver,” but he supplied Selznick with a poetic answer for his young audience:

“[The director’s job is] the same thing that children do when they play … make up stories, give people parts to play, and figure out where they go and what they do,” Scorsese said in Selznick’s book.

The cover of Brian Selznick's The Hugo Movie CompanionThe young and the young-at-heart stay prevalent in the book. Selznick interviewed the filmmakers about their favorite films when they were children. A photo of a miniature train is accompanied by an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy visiting the set who got to call “Action!” for the take, sending the train crashing through the window of a miniature set.

Featuring other key players, from the cast to the dialect coach to the set decorator, “The Hugo Movie Companion” also includes photos from the London set built at Shepperton Studios, annotated pages of the script, storyboards, concept art and Selznick’s illustrations from the novel.

In the book’s last chapter, Selznick describes the making of one scene in the film where all the people he interviewed play a part –- including the author himself in his own cameo.

“It was really fun to interview everybody and get to look at how a movie really gets made, because there’ll be a lot of jobs that kids didn’t even know existed until they read this book,” Selznick said.

“The Hugo Movie Companion” is published by Scholastic Press. “Hugo” opens in theaters Nov. 23.


Martin Scorsese winds up 'Hugo' [Trailer]

Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' not just a kids' movie [Trailer]

Scorsese's unfinished 'Hugo' shows 3-D's promise for NYFF crowd

–- Emily Rome

Photos, from top: Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo"; cover of "The Hugo Movie Companion." Credits: Paramount Pictures; Scholastic Press

Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' not just a kids' movie [Trailer]

October 26, 2011 |  3:06 pm

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in 'Hugo'


This post has been corrected. Please see note at the bottom for details.

A new trailer hit the Web Wednesday for “Hugo,” Martin Scorsese’s first family-oriented movie and his first venture into 3-D filmmaking. 

“Hugo” is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick about an orphan boy who lives in a Paris train station in the 1930s.

Compared with the trailer released in July, the new one seems to be out to prove that this isn’t just a kids’ movie. The earlier trailer featured a lot of Hugo (Asa Butterfield) leading a playful chase around the train station to escape a clumsy station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). The new trailer features more Ben Kingsley, who plays a character inspired by pioneering filmmaker George Méliès, and takes a more serious tone with the same music used in “The Fighter” and “The Adjustment Bureau” previews. (The piece is “Breath and Life,” by trailer music company Audiomachine.)

“Hugo” has been touted as revolutionary for its un-gimmicky use of 3-D. Getting its first test of those high expectations, an unfinished version of the film had a surprise screening at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 10.

Wider audiences will have to wait to judge the 3-D for themselves, but they will get to see a 2-D version of the trailer on the big screen when it starts screening in theaters in front of "Like Crazy" on Friday.

“Hugo” also stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Emily Mortimer. The film hits theaters Nov. 23.

[For the Record, Oct. 27, 12:15 p.m.: An early version of this post misidentified the author of "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" as Ben Selznik.]


Martin Scorsese winds up 'Hugo' [Trailer]

Moviegoers may end up paying more to see 3-D films

Scorsese's unfinished 'Hugo' shows 3-D's promise for NYFF crowd

–- Emily Rome

Photo: Asa Butterfield, left, and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo." Credit: Paramount Pictures

Scorsese's unfinished 'Hugo' shows 3-D's promise for NYFF crowd

October 11, 2011 |  3:10 pm

Martin Scorsese
General audiences will have to wait until November to see "Hugo," Martin Scorsese's first venture into 3-D filmmaking, but on Monday a select crowd at the New York Film Festival got a sneak peak at the work in progress. The film, which is based on the book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," by Brian Selznick, tells the story of an orphan living in a 1930s Paris train station who tries to unlock a mystery left behind by his late father.

Although the visual effects, music and sound are unfinished, the initial reaction to "Hugo" has been largely positive, with particular praise for the film's artistic use of 3-D, a technique often derided as gimmicky. The film is also being called a love letter to the history of cinema.

Matt Singer, of IFC, says that while Scorsese's film won't single-handedly save 3-D filmmaking, it does demonstrate the medium's artistic potential. Scorsese, Singer writes, "essentially upends the classical model of 3D cinematography, in which objects in the frame constantly move towards the lens. Scorsese does the opposite; he constantly moves the lens towards the objects in the frame, playing as much with our perception of movement as our perception of depth."

On Deadline.com, Mike Fleming says Scorsese's use of 3-D is more engrossing than eye-catching. "Scorsese has provided the most intriguing use of 3D since James Cameron did in 'Avatar'; instead of the gimmicky opportunity of using 3D to have objects jump out at audiences, Scorsese employs it to subtly immerse the audience into Hugo Cabret’s world," Fleming writes. He adds, "Scorsese has infused the film with his love of cinema history and passion for film restoration."

CinemaBlend.com's Katey Rich considers the film's underlying narrative: "The story stops and starts a bit too often, and some side plots could use tightening, but the movie is a charmer overall, combining physical comedy — very clearly inspired by silent films of the era — with some touching coming-of-age elements and, of course, a full-throated love of the movies."

For Eric Kohn, of IndieWire.com, "Hugo" is a triumph of technique, if not of storytelling: "It’s certainly a heartfelt feast for the eyes, but 'Hugo' may lose some awards season momentum due to a less-than-satisfying plot and a fixation on silent film history that could alienate larger audiences. However, it’s still a visual marvel that may be best remembered as the director’s most advanced technical feat."

Edward Douglas, writing for ComingSoon.net, applauds the production design and compares the visual style to Terry Gilliam's "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Douglas also notes that "Hugo" is part of a recent trend of cinematic nostalgia: "It's particularly interesting how 'Hugo' continues whatever is currently in the zeitgeist in terms of how filmmakers are paying tribute to the cinema of yesteryear as seen in 'The Artist' and 'My Week With Marilyn.' "

It sounds as though "Hugo" is shaping up to be a cinephile's dream; time will tell whether it resonates with wider audiences.


Martin Scorsese winds up 'Hugo' [Trailer]

Review of Scorsese's George Harrison documentary

Martin Scorsese: An open letter to Michael Govan and LACMA

--Oliver Gettell

Photo: "Hugo" director Martin Scorsese. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

Telluride film lineup: 'Descendants,' 'Albert Nobbs,' 'Shame'

September 1, 2011 | 11:00 am


Two of the last three best picture Oscar winners — “The King’s Speech” and “Slumdog Millionaire” — had their world premieres here at the Telluride Film Festival.

Organizers of the idiosyncratic cinematic celebration in southwest Colorado didn’t exactly plan it that way (the Academy Awards attention is actually a minor if welcome embarrassment to them), but as the 2011 event kicks off this weekend, everyone’s watching to see if their Midas touch will continue.

On paper, there’s a real contender: Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” the writer-director’s first film since 2004’s Merlot-bashing “Sideways.” Starring George Clooney as a disconnected father of two girls whose life is upended after his wife’s traumatic brain injury, the movie holds the potential to be a critical and art-house triumph.

But for the programmers in Telluride, whose 38th annual festival runs from Friday to Monday, Hollywood statuettes and box-office riches are hardly top of mind.

The quirky event prides itself on providing an antidote to Hollywood formulas, as organizers lard the festival with “Ulysses”-length undertakings (this year, it’s Martin Scorsese’s 3 1/2-hour documentary about Beatle George Harrison), demanding dramas (director Steve McQueen’s sexual obsession story “Shame”) and relatively unknown foreign-language imports, including films from Chile, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Belgium and Albania. Eclecticism, in other words, trumps populism.

“The commercial stuff does not jump out at you,” said Julie Huntsinger, who with Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer directs the festival. “But we think it’s a great bouquet.”

In its determination to program its Labor Day lineup the way a fromager might assemble a spread of obscure cheeses, the Telluride team attracts more small-town cinéastes than Hollywood deal makers, though this year two talent agencies will host fancy parties at local estates. Because festival passes are sold before the film schedule is released, festival guests arrive in the small ski resort town (at the head-spinning elevation of 8,750 feet) with no idea what they’re going to see.

“We’ve always felt lucky that our crowd is so dedicated,” Huntsinger said. “We always encourage people to be adventurous, and they’re going to have to be this year.”

Glenn_close_albert_nobbs In addition to “The Descendants,” “Shame” and Scorsese’s “Living in the Material World,” Telluride audiences will also get to see the world or North American premieres of Werner Herzog’s death-row documentary “Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life”; Glenn Close’s performance as a turn-of-the-century Irish woman passing for a male waiter in “Albert Nobbs”; Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud in director David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method”; and the environmentally themed documentaries “Bitter Seeds” (a look at genetically modified crops) and “The Island President” (about the Maldives).

Although it is not yet part of the official film list, “Butter,” a comedy about a butter-carving competition, is expected to be shown at the festival.

The foreign-language titles include Finland’s “Le Havre,” Hungary’s “The Turin Horse,” Chile’s “Bonsái,” Mexico’s “Perdida,” Iran’s “A Separation,” Israel’s “Footnote,” Poland’s “In Darkness,” Brazil’s “Passerby” and France’s “Goodbye First Love.” Joshua Marston, the writer-director of 2004’s “Maria Full of Grace,” will bring his new international story “The Forgiveness of Blood” to Telluride.

Clooney will receive a festival tribute, as will Tilda Swinton, who stars in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” a story of a woman whose young son commits a Columbine-style massacre. The film showed this spring in Cannes and is coming to Telluride as well.

Jim Burke, who produced Payne’s “The Descendants,” believes the film is a perfect fit for Telluride’s welcoming audience. “We view it as a festival that is exclusively dedicated to film and the enjoyment of film,” said Burke, who traveled to Telluride with his 2007 production “The Savages.” “You get into this movie zone — it’s like a high. It’s just a wonderful spot to see films and to talk about them.”

But the festival isn’t the only big event this weekend in Telluride.

Down the winding highway a bit, at the 17,000-acre ranch owned by fashion designer Ralph Lauren, there will be a wedding of two famous families. On Sunday, the designer’s son David Lauren will marry Lauren Bush (niece of former President George W. Bush); dress code is reportedly “black tie with a western twist.”

Maybe the couple will want to take a movie honeymoon and check out an interesting Polish film after the ceremony. If so, we know just the place.


Photos: Scene at the 2011 Venice Film Festival

Photos: George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood and more at Venice Film Festival

-- John Horn in Telluride, Colo.

Photos, from top: George Clooney and Shailene Woodley star in "The Descendants," which will unspool in Telluride; Glenn Close at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Credits New York Film Festival; Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Martin Scorsese winds up 'Hugo' [Trailer]

July 15, 2011 |  6:32 pm

There are a number of things to like, but nothing to really swoon for, in the new "Hugo" trailer, which offers a first look at Martin Scorsese's foray into 3-D family adventure.

The story of two children (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz) taking on a cruel world seems touching but a tad familiar. The visuals have the right dose of whimsy but aren't breathtaking (to be fair, it's hard to completely judge them on a computer monitor). And while the combination of Scorsese's vision and Brian Selznick's eye-poppingly designed source material "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" could well yield something groundbreaking, there's not yet evidence of that here.

Playing behind it all are the sweeping verses of the 30 Second to Mars song "King and Queens," which give the scenes a gentle uplift, if not something more powerful.

Scorsese's movie tells of an orphan living in a train station who must decipher a mystery involving his late father and wind-up toys, while also being pursued by a bumbling inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). There's always the fear that  material like this could dilute or alter what makes a director like Scorsese interesting in the first place, and the trailer doesn't blow those fears away. Then again, gritty and visionary types have successfully gone the endearing route before--think David Lynch and "The Straight Story"--so there's reason for hope. The movie opens Nov. 23.


--Steven Zeitchik


'Shutter Island': Can a surprise ending eventually hurt a film at the box office?

February 23, 2010 |  6:02 pm

The big reveal has been a staple of the Hollywood film pretty much since Charlton Heston found out, to his great shock, that the apes lived on his own planet.

Sh When the maneuver is handled well, the surprise finale can provide more viewing pleasure than almost any other device. But it's also trickier to pull off than the Double McTwist 1260. Offer too many clues along the way and it's hardly a surprise; point the arrows too far in the other direction and the audience will feel cheated.

M. Night Shyamalan executed the reveal to perfection in "The Sixth Sense" -- in which the conclusion was both an utter surprise and impeccably logical -- before botching it with the left-field contrivances of "Unbreakable." Alejandro Amenabar offered a similar, and similarly pleasurable, twist to "Sixth Sense" in "The Others" (a particular feat since it came just two years after the M. Night film came out, when the audience was primed for a maybe-they're-dead-the-whole time surprise). And the list continues: "The Usual Suspects," "No Way Out," "The Crying Game" (and, as horror fans may remember, the gender-bending twist of kitsch-horror classic "Sleepaway Camp" -- see our poll below to weigh in with your favorite).

Martin Scorsese tries a version of the trick in his just-released "Shutter Island" (warning: major spoiler alert ahead -- skip to the next paragraph if you've yet to see the film). In the Paramount release, Leonardo DiCaprio, having spent hour after furious hour as a detective investigating a crime at an insane asylum, is revealed (probably) to be a patient suffering delusions who's simply engaging in a role-playing game initiated by his doctors. While that twist has the effect of making too many of the scenes that preceded it feel irrelevant, it certainly packs a wallop. And it's likely to make you both talk about the ending and revisit many of the earlier scenes, as all good whoppers aim to do.

The question is how much a reveal can help or hurt a film after word begins to spread. On the one hand, a twist ending can turn a movie into a conversation piece since it is, quite literally, the last thing seen before leaving the theater. And because it often makes us go back and reinterpret the entire film, it can keep the movie both in our individual and public consciousness long after the credits end. In other words, it becomes water-cooler conversation. And in box-office terms, it gives a movie legs.

Paramount executives believe that that's pretty much what will happen here. "There's nothing that keeps box office going like people's desire not to hear how a movie ends before they see it," says Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore. "That sense of 'Don't tell me; I haven't seen it' has historically added more interest."

Cryinggame Fair enough -- if you can avoid finding out. But there's undoubtedly a risk for a movie that relies on a surprise ending these days.

As recently as a few years ago you could get away with much of the moviegoing population not hearing about a surprise ending for a long time. Several months after "The Crying Game" came out, Harvey Weinstein was still begging journalists not to give away the ending. It's hard to see him making that request today, or hoping that it would have any effect. Twitter, fan sites and every other medium known to man are a minefield of information; avoiding a big reveal can feel like Tivo-ing a sports game and trying not to finding out the result until days later. And once you know how a film ends, do you still want to see it?

"Shutter Island" had a big opening last weekend. Now that everyone's talking about the ending, we'll see if audiences continue to flock to it -- or feel like they already know too much.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in "Shutter Island." Credit: Paramount Pictures


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