In Trailer Trash (did you see what I did there?), I’ll be inspecting new trailers and explaining why I, and perhaps I alone, will be respectfully declining any opportunity to see more than the allotted two minutes of the movie on display. Today I’ve picked out this little treasure, I Kissed a Vampire. Yes, vampires again. Yawn.

Apparently, it’s the first feature length episode of some web series that’s been a hit among a large group of young, and seemingly undemanding, human folk. Or something.

Release The Curmudgeon!

I Kissed a Vampire

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/dBSSKsjPeEQ?rel=0

5 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Seeing This Movie

1. Fucking Teenage Vampires. Again.

Lord, give me strength. When will they stop? When did stringy, whiny teenagers manage to hijack an entire genre like this?  Vampires are supposed to be scary, menacing, creatures of the night, not ridiculous Justin Bieber wannabes who’ve been raiding their mum’s make-up. And where exactly does a vampire get the money for hair gel, anyway? ‘Half a monster and half a man’, eh? You’re neither, brat face.

2. Feeble Music.

Believe it or not, this is advertised as a ‘Rock Musical’. Oh, really? That piece of engineered, focus group approved teeny crap is what passes for rock these days? Not quite Hendrix, is it? ‘I Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ couldn’t be a more apt title for the song on the trailer since that’s exactly the condition the tune engenders. Trust me, you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night, begging for a lobotomy, with that irritating jingle lodged in your brain like a mocking tumour of mockery.

3. Awful Puns

‘You’ve really gotta get over your fang-ups and take a bite out of life’. Hilarious! We’ve hit comedy gold! Do you see what they did there? They said ‘fang’ instead of ‘hang’! I think my head just fell off. Where’s Kenneth Williams when you need him? One can only hope they’ve included the other classics, such as ‘He’s a real pain in the neck’, ‘Fangs for the memories’, and the immortal ‘How do you like your stake?’. Guffaw, snort, tee hee, etc.

4. The Walls are Closing In

Was this movie filmed in someone’s garage? Talk about micro-budget set design. It’s like a 1970′s BBC production or a student project. There doesn’t appear to be a set much larger than my kitchen, including the world’s most compact fairground. They’re hoping that if they shine enough coloured light bulbs around no-one will notice. But just in case, they’ll nip out to the beach periodically to relieve the claustrophobia.

5. Fucking Teenage Vampires. Again.

Yeah, I know I did this one already but, frankly, there’s so little going for this thing that I can’t even find five reasons not to see it. You’ve got four reasons and that beats me simply writing EVERYTHING in big letters under the video. And don’t think I wasn’t tempted.

Quod erat demonstratum.

I have been summoned by Scott at Front Room Cinema to attend to the latest Meme working its way across the blogosphere. And because I’m a good, dutiful zombie, I’m going to oblige my friend.

The rules to the 7 x 7 Link Award are simple:

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

 

Okay, so here we go then.

Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

Jeez, let’s start with something easy, huh? I mean, if there’s something that no one else knows, then it’s probably for a reason, right? Let’s be honest, I’m not about to confess to the bodies under the floorboard on my blog. Oh…

I guess I can confess that I am something of a sci-fi geek and used to watch a lot of shows. I always loved Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, Firefly, Sliders, X-Files, etc, but for many years I was a huge Trekkie. It’s not really something I mention in the pages of Celluloid Zombie, but I used to watch Star Trek religiously. All of the shows. At least one episode a day. I confess I know the Star Trek universe inside out.

However, I don’t have a Starfleet uniform, I can’t speak Klingon (beyond a few phrases from the shows) and I’ve never been to a convention. Mine was a private love affair. Until now, anyway. Live long and prosper. Don’t judge me.

1. The Most Beautiful Piece

A little something I wrote a few years back, entitled Two Hours in Another World. No pictures, just words, and a testament to my enduring love of cinema.

2. The Most Helpful Piece

Helpful? I write a movie blog. What the hell is going to be helpful about that? Okay, I guess it would have to be The Gremlins Gag Reel, for all of you out there who wanted a complete run down of the many in-jokes littering Joe Dante’s absolute classic. Helpful, right?

3. The Most Popular Piece

There must be a lot of people who share my love for Asian horror out there because the post that consistently gets the most hits at Celluloid Zombie is my Top Ten: Asian Horror Movies.

4. The Most Controversial Piece

I’d like to think everything I write is controversial, but since that’s patently untrue I’ll have to pick something. I was going to go for my review of Drive, which I thought was boring while everyone else raved about it, but instead I’m going to pick the recently published The Celluloid Zombie Guide to Becoming a Movie Snob – Part Two for which I received a complaint for suggesting tall people should be banned from cinemas. Apparently, I was quite convincing.

5. The Most Surprisingly Successful Piece

If two people and my mum read one of my posts it’s surprisingly successful, but rather than feel sorry for myself I’ll plump for The Thief of Bagdad and Simpler Times, which was actually picked up by another movie site. Surprisingly successful, I’d say.

6. The Most Underrated Piece

Ooh, two opportunities for self-pity in one meme. You’re spoiling me. It probably says a lot that this is the toughest one to call, doesn’t it? But after due consideration I’m going to hark back to Christmas 2010, when I tried to get into the spirit by listing Cinema’s Most Disastrous Santas. It was like the Christmas party that no one came to. Awwww, poor me. Sob.

7. The Most Pride Worthy Piece

It was between two, but finally I decided to go with my tribute to the Alien franchise, Life Cycle: The Birth and Death of the Alien Saga. Don’t ask me why, but I’m really proud of this one. It was a real labour of love, but I enjoyed writing it more than any other. And it’s the one I go back and read the most, too. Go figure.

Okay, that was relatively painless. And for my 7 nominees I have chosen:

Margaret @ Conjuring My Muse
Ruth @ Flixchatter
Colin @ Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix
Deborah @ The Intuitive Edge
Nadja @ 50 Reasons Why These Movies Suck
Claire @ Cinematic Delights
Cantankerous Panda @ Back in the Day

The last 10 years have seen the rise of a particular style of film-making that has almost become a genre of its own, and certainly a favourite of little old Celluloid Zombie. The ‘found footage’ movie tells its story either partially or completely from the first-person perspective of a protagonist’s camera, giving proceedings an edge of authenticity and immediacy sometimes missing from standard, third-person storytelling.

Although The Blair Witch Project is believed by many to be the founding father of the genre, the first found footage movie can be traced back to Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 movie,Cannibal Holocaust, based around recovered footage from a group of documentary makers who trek off into the jungle to film a lost tribe of cannibals. Needless to say, this dreadful film represents a rather ignominious beginning for a genre that has since spawned some of the best horror movies of the last decade.

Its a genre that seems to lend itself particularly well to horror, producing a consistently high ratio of success, perhaps because of the realism it brings. No-one seems in any rush to make a found footage rom-com, that’s for sure, although the recent release of Project X, a found footage movie about teenagers having a party, marks something of a low point. But we can pretend that never happened, can’t we. Project what?

So here are my 10 favourite examples of a genre that shows no sign of slowing down.

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10. The Last Broadcast

Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler – USA – 1998

Amateur film maker David Leigh investigates the murders of a group of cable TV presenters after they are killed while hunting for the Jersey Devil in the Pine Barrens, New Jersey. The group’s recovered footage uncovers some chilling secrets.

Made a year before The Blair Witch Project, which was somewhat wrongly hailed as a new direction in filmmaking, The Last Broadcast was unfortunate not to receive similar plaudits. Made on a shoestring budget, with all the actors playing characters with very similar names to their own, The Last Broadcast is an engaging slice of mockumentary with a real sting in it’s tail.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Admittedly, there is a cheeky slip into third person at the end to avoid that very question. Naughty!

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9. Man Bites Dog

Rémy Belvaux and André Bonzel – Belgium – 1992

A camera crew begin following a serial killer named Ben, documenting his psychotic activities. As time goes on, however, the crew slowly move from disturbed observers of Ben’s murderous tendencies to willing participants.

Presented as a black comedy, Man Bites Dog is an increasingly difficult watch but, thanks in large part to Benoît Poelvoorde’s affable, charming turn as the homicidal and charismatic Ben, keeps you watching until the last frame. Man Bites Dog poses the question of when documentary passes over into voyeurism and then onto actual complicity. Uncomfortable, compelling and sometimes funny, in a guilty way.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Mainly because these guys end up throwing the shit at the fan. Filming is the least of it.

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8. The Blair Witch Project

Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez – USA – 1999

Three students venture into the woods, carrying cameras, microphones and frayed tempers, in search of the legendary Blair Witch. They find her. Or something. Or do they? Or not? 

Although this insanely successful movie wasn’t the first to use the found footage format, it certainly made it popular. Myrick and Sánchez set loose their actors in the woods with only rough character sketches and instructions on where to go. Then they set about scaring the shit out of them. It’s a technique that lends the movie a high level of authenticity, although it suffers slightly from some tame scares.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Insanity, perhaps? These people are still waving their cameras ahead of them when any normal person would be keeping both hands free for self-defence.

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7. Grave Encounters

The Vicious Brothers – Canada – 2011

The presenters and crew of ghost hunting TV show Grave Encounters have themselves locked inside the Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital to investigate rumours that it is haunted. The recovered footage shows why they never came out.

The Vicious Brothers (don’t ask me) clearly intended to make a contribution to the genre which, while retaining the authenticity that the format brings, goes a little more over-the-top. In this they succeed pretty admirably, with Grave Encounters eschewing the less-is-more approach for a much more intense ride. The scares are somewhat hit and miss, but there’s enough to make this an enjoyable addition.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Self-important presenter Lance Preston clings to the hope that he will get out with his footage until the last. Damn fool.

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6. Cloverfield

Matt Reeves – USA – 2008

A group of young New Yorkers have their celebrations cut short when the city is invaded by a rampaging monster. A handful attempt to make their way across New York to rescue a friend, digital camera in tow. 

One of the few monster movies in this genre, Cloverfield isGodzilla for the YouTube generation, giving us a ground-eye view of what a monster attack would look like. Benefiting from an expertly handled promotional campaign, the hype went viral while it was still being made. The monster itself is not over-used and the addition of little monsters add an extra threat. The only thing that threatens Cloverfield’s realism is the fact that everyone looks like a Gucci model.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  Give the camera to a dumbass. Problem solved.

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5. The Last Exorcism

Daniel Stamm – USA – 2010

Louisiana Preacher and exorcist, Cotton Marcus, disillusioned with his faith, agrees to take part in a documentary in which he will debunk the practice. He decides a summons to help the daughter of a farmer will be his last exorcism.

The Last Exorcism divided audiences and it is certainly not what you would expect. While there are some disturbing scenes, this is more character study than horror movie, with terrific turns from both Patrick Fabian as Cotton and Ashley Bell as the afflicted Nell. What really caused the schism in opinion is the movie’s leftfield ending, turning everything on its head while giving Cotton the perfect character arc.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  They’re there to shoot the shit. And I don’t think they saw the ending coming either.

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4. Paranormal Activity

Oren Peli – USA – 2007

Young couple Katie and Micah find their new suburban life disturbed by an increasingly violent supernatural force. Micah decides to rig the house with cameras in an attempt to find some answers. 

Overhyped and ridiculously successful, there is still a very effective chiller at the heart of the craze. Using suggestion and whispers for the most part, this is not for those who enjoy a rollercoaster ride. The original ending was changed at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg and is much the better for it. Already spawned three sequels and all are worth a watch.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?  The blame for this one falls squarely on Micah, for whom the phrase ‘let’s get the fuck out of here’ apparently has no meaning.

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3. Troll Hunter

André Øvredal – Norway – 2010

A group of students decide to investigate and document a possible poacher in the area following a spate of bear killings. When they finally track down the mysterious Hans, they discover that he is in fact a government sponsored troll hunter, tasked with controlling the population.  

If there is one thing that the found footage genre excels at, it is in making implausible scenarios seem more believable. And they don’t come much more implausible than this. Rooted by a solid performance from Otto Jespersen as the grizzled Hans,Troll Hunter is insane, ridiculous and brilliant fun. They really can smell the blood of Christians, apparently.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan? Hey, if you found yourself looking at a 200-foot mountain troll, you’d want to get proof, right?

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2. Lake Mungo

Joel Anderson – Australia – 2008

After 16-year-old Alice Palmer drowns in a local lake, her family begin suffering supernatural occurences and become convinced that she is haunting them. A collection of home video footage, interviews and photographs begins to piece together the dark truth about Alice.

This little known gem from Oz works as a creepy, atmospheric ghost story, an engaging mystery and a genuinely touching study of grief. Constantly pulling the rug from under your feet and gleefully playing with your expectations, Lake Mungoweaves its slow, deliberate way toward a very chilling conclusion. Outstanding.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Technically, the shit has already hit the fan by the first frame. This is retrospective shit hitting. But all is not as it seems.

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1. Rec

Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza – Spain – 2007

The crew of a reality TV show accompany a group of Barcelona firemen into an apartment building following a reported emergency and find themselves trapped inside as the occupants fall prey to a mysterious infection.

One of the biggest complaints that this genre receives from is the often slow pacing and lack of action. No such complaints have ever been levelled at Rec which, once it gets going, is relentless. It is also scary, exhilarating and throws in an ending which is leaves you completely off-balance. Genius. Rec 2 is also well worth your time, with Rec 3 due out this year.

Reason for continuing to film when the shit hits the fan?Professionalism, my friend. Pablo the cameraman keeps that camera steady even when there is a fat, foaming, screaming  zombie old lady rushing toward him. We salute you, Pablo.

So, you enjoy movies, watch them regularly and feel ready to take the next step. That’s right, you don’t just want to be a movie buff, you want to be a movie snob. You’ve seen those shiny boys and girls, hanging outside the local multiplex, spouting on about Kurosawa or Mise-en-scène and you’ve thought to yourself, ‘I have no idea what they’re talking about but it sounds impressive. I want to be in that gang!’

If you missed the first part of my handy guide, and frankly I can’t blame you since I wrote it in what seems like 1974, you will find it here. Read and then come back. Don’t worry, we won’t start without you…

Okay, so you survived the first part. Hopefully you’ve had a bit of time now to practice your disapproving snorts, revise your directors and hone your French. Already people are looking at you with a newfound contempt! You are on your way, my friend. You are now ready for the next part of your epic journey.

 

Lesson 6 – Correct Home Viewing

The aim of any good Movie Snob should be to take the home movie-viewing experience and refine it to match the cinema experience. In fact, by removing the ‘other people’ factor home viewing can be a vast improvement on going to the cinema. No more queuing, fighting for elbow room on the arm-rest, listening to inane chatter or enduring the endless crunching of those many nachos that weren’t softened by the miserly drip of salsa topping.

Now, while it is understood that the full home cinema set-up, including wall-mounted screen, surround-sound system and a member of the family selling ice cream and popcorn in the hallway is beyond the budget of most, there are certain guidelines which the Movie Snob can embrace even without the expensive gear.

1) Lights Out
Do they leave the lights on in the cinema so you can sit there reading a magazine while the movie’s running? No, Sir, they do not, Sir, and neither should you. Just because you didn’t pay through the nose to see this movie doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get your full attention. I don’t care if you turn the lights on two hours later to find several sticky popcorn kernels between your legs, which then have to be removed with a chisel. Put the damn light out.

2) Everybody Shut Up 
Speaks for itself really, which is exactly what everyone in the room shouldn’t be doing. Gag them if necessary, but since enraged grunts can be just as distracting it might be better to procure some melatonin pills to slip into their tea beforehand. Off to la-la land, little Movie Plebs. Bless.

3) Assume the Position
It is vital that the Movie Snob reject unseemly angles when arranging his or her seating for maximum viewing pleasure. There is nothing worse than watching a movie at a neck-stretching angle, so that everyone on screen looks like they’ve been on some ridiculous diet. Perspective is nothing in this case. Face the screen, nicely centred, no turning of the neck required. Use a ruler if you have to.

 

Lesson 7 – Remakes Suck, Even the Ones That Don’t

As a bona-fide Movie Snob, it is your job, neigh, your scared duty, to rage against the Hollywood remake of foreign cinema with all your might. Yeah, we know some of them are actually pretty good, although not many, but that’s really not the point. You are requested and required to decry Hollywood’s sloth, indolence and fetish for pinching other nation’s ideas at every opportunity. ’Not as good as the original’ shall be your motto from this moment forth. Say it loud and say it proud. In fact, say it in Japanese with subtitles.

 

Lesson 8 – Cinema Etiquette

You are a Movie Snob in training now, my eager apprentice. Movies are your religion and the cinema is your church. Your trips to the Great Temple of Celluloid Worship are now to be treated with the appropriate levels of reverence, solemnity and tedious sycophancy. Fun? Fun! Who said anything about fun?

Just follow these simple Do’s and Don’ts (or thinly disguised list of my pet hates) and you’ll soon be sucking the joy out of every Saturday night at the movies.

DO arrive at your seat before the movie actually starts. The last thing people want to see as they begin tucking into their overpriced, lukewarm snacks is your saggy ass clumsily squeezing past them while you mumble half-hearted apologies, blocking out both vision and sound. Just a thought.

DON’T bring a packed lunch. It’s bad enough having to deal with the overpowering smell of soggy nachos, overcooked hot dogs and human people, without adding egg sandwiches to the mix. Picnics are for the park. And if you have to stuff your face, please do it quietly. I came to watch a movie, not feeding time at the zoo. Why is it so necessary to shovel as much food and drink as possible down your gullet simply because you’re watching a movie? Do people guzzle popcorn at the opera? No, Sir, they do not.

DO put your phone away. Come on, are you kidding me? You’re in a darkened room, moron. Do you really think no-one is going to notice that little light come on, bathing your vacant face in a murky glow while you pointedly ignore the movie, everyone around you and all good sense so you can tweet about how cool the movie you aren’t watching is?

DON’T give away the ending to everyone within range of your voice. You know the type. Leans over to his/her companion and announces what everyone will find out for themselves in about sixty seconds. Why? Why are doing that?  You’ve seen the movie before. That doesn’t make you psychic, or smarter, or in any way impressive. Do you feel some need to prove that you can remember stuff? How these people make it out of the cinema without a stretcher is beyond me.

DO leave the toddlers at home. Do you really imagine that your two-year-old or, God help us all, your baby is going to sit quietly and attentively watching the film for two hours? Have you run mad? I didn’t pay those ridiculous ticket prices to listen to your mewling little cabbage gibber and drool while consistently kicking the back of my chair. Can’t you just put some food in a bowl and leave them at home? Jeez.

DON’T be tall. I’m sorry, but if you’re over six feet tall then you should be banned from cinemas. There should be those height guides like they have on fairground rides, except you can’t ride if you’re over a certain height. Or maybe a seating area arranged especially for tall people, with tiny little chairs where their elongated bodies and massive heads won’t get in anyone’s way except each other’s.

Living the dream…

Am I being harsh? Therein lay the fun! Here endeth the lesson, my friends. If you have any questions, comments or outraged exclamations then please leave them below. In fact, I would prefer outraged exclamations. They brighten my day!

1977, and a seven-year-old me, like a multitude of seven-year-old other people, falls under the spell of Sir George of Lucas. Star Wars has arrived and life will never be quite the same again. Suddenly there are spaceships and wookies and lightsabers and Jedi and strange figures called Darth Vader who dress all in black and breathe funny. Suddenly, science fiction is fun.

It’s easy to forget that there was science fiction before Star Wars. Lots of it, in factAt least, it was easy for a seven-year-old to forget. In 1977 the genre was reanimated completely, bathed in a new sense of wonder and imagination. Two men can take the credit for making Star Wars the phenomenal success it was. One is George Lucas, the other is Ralph McQuarrie.

Up until he was approached by George Lucas, McQuarrie had worked as technical illustrator and designer. Star Wars was the first movie that McQuarrie worked on, charged by Lucas to visualise his ideas in an attempt to drum up interest with prospective producers. Lucas himself admits that everything changed for him once he began approaching studios with McQuarrie’s conceptual drawings to hand, so vividly did they present the possibilities. And one has only to compare McQuarrie’s conceptual art with the finished movie to understand how many of his ideas became reality, including several that were replicated almost identically onscreen.

So, there’s the seven-year-old me, happily reading everything he can lay his hands on about the making of his new ‘favourite movie ever’, when he eventually stumbles upon the work of Ralph McQuarrie. What a discovery that was! I had always been a keen artist, always drawing or making something, and at that age inspiration is everything. Few figures inspired the artist in me like Ralph McQuarrie and his wonderful inventions, his strange worlds and his amazing characters. I would spend hours staring at those illustrations, marvelling at the movement, the detail and the beauty he brought to his work. I wanted to be that good, but of course, I couldn’t come close. There’s good and there’s Ralph McQuarrie.

It’s no accident that the three Star Wars prequels are unable to match the originals in imagery and design. McQuarrie was approached but declined, feeling his best work was behind him, and his absence is felt in every frame.

McQuarrie died on 3rd March, 2012, aged 82. He leaves behind a remarkable body of work, a celluloid legacy that few have matched and, back in the year 1977, a young boy who felt inspired to pick up that pencil and keep drawing. Thank you, Ralph McQuarrie.

Below is a selection of my favourite McQuarrie pieces from the Star Wars series. Each will open larger when clicked. Enjoy, and pay a visit to his site here, or his Facebook page here.

The classic. McQuarrie designs Darth Vader. It was McQuarrie who came up with the idea of Vader’s breathing apparatus.

I can’t tell you how many times I copied this one as a kid

This one appears in the movie almost exactly as seen here.

The Millennium Falcon. The greatest spaceship design in movie history.

A beautifully realised painting of Luke on a Tauntaun. I love the colours in this one.

Cloud City. Stunning, and almost impossible to realise to such a degree in the movie itself.

The AT-AT Walkers were a great invention, and McQuarrie uses distance to intimidating effect.

Okay, everybody. Altogether now, ‘I am your father’. Yay!

Ralph McQuarrie
1929 – 2012

Great Scott! Cool, cool and thrice cool, with an extra helping of cool on the side and smothered in cool relish.

Mondo, purveyors of exquisite and ever-popular alternative movie posters, have just released these three posters for the Back to the Future trilogy. Designed by Phantom City Creative, they are designed to sit side-by-side, giving full view to the legendary time traveling DeLorean.

I would offer subtle hints to anyone who’ll listen about the date of my birthday but, knowing that these things usually sell out faster than steaks when Lady Gaga is looking for a new dress, I won’t waste my breath. Sigh.

Click on each poster to view it in all its geek-pleasing glory.

And the combined version…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek them out at Mondo, although you may have to intercept a delivery, mug someone or just print these pics really big to have your own at this point. Good luck.

This is why we love cinema

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Jude Law

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: John Logan (from the book by Brian Selznick)

‘I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.’ 

Orphan boy Hugo Cabret lives behind the walls of Paris railway station, keeping the station clocks going while attempting to fix a clockwork man found by his father. When he becomes involved with the old man who runs a toy booth, Hugo stumbles upon an old secret, and an opportunity to fix something long broken.

Martin Scorsese is full of surprises. The last thing you would expect from the man who brought usRaging Bull, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver is a whimsical children’s tale. And yet, Hugo turns out to be a movie that perhaps only Scorsese, the movie historian’s director, could have made. Indeed, it is glib to describe this a simply a children’s movie, since at its heart Hugo is nothing less than a love letter to cinema itself.

Adapted from the huge, heavily illustrated, book by Brian Selznick, Scorsese and his production crew work hard to faithfully bring Selznick’s words and pictures to life. Set in a fairy-tale Paris, and bathed in rich primary hues, Hugo is wrapped in a little bit of magic from the outset. Like the films of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, or indeed Georges Méliès, whose presence is central to the film, Hugo exists in a sort of hyper-reality. Scorsese has always been a master with the camera, but almost every shot in Hugo looks like it was cut from an Impressionist’s canvas. It is a beautiful piece of film-making.

At the movie’s core is Asa Butterfield, affecting if not always convincing as the titular orphan, scurrying around the station and watching its array of oddball characters going about their day-to-day routines. Surrounding him is an impressive gallery of predominantly British character actors, including Christopher Lee as the enigmatic bookshop keeper and Sacha Baron Cohen, restraining himself as the station’s oafish Inspector. Chloë Grace Moretz affects an impressive English accent as the Granddaughter of Ben Kingsley’s surly, embittered Georges Méliès and it is the relationship between Méliès and Hugo, both lost and waiting to be fixed, that forms the warm heart and soul of the movie. Scorsese is adept enough to never allow the film to fall into easy patterns of schmaltz or cloying sentiment, nor does he bring on darkness for its own sake, rather striking enough of a balance to make the moments of joy real, welcome and uplifting.

It was all going so well until Little Jimmy said, ‘I loved you in Star Trek’.

Where Hugo truly succeeds is in the way it skillfully weaves a fantasy tale around the reality of Georges Méliès, one of cinema’s earliest pioneers, and his elderly years. Those who know nothing of Méliès are nevertheless presented with a wonderful fairy-tale, brimming with the kind of childlike innocence rarely found in modern cinema, and those who are aware of his work will find a loving, poignant tribute to cinema’s adolescent years. Never is this more entertainingly realised than during those scenes where Scorsese recreates the shooting of some of Méliès’s best known films, such as A Trip to the Moon. It is impossible not to be carried along with Kingsley’s childlike enthusiasm for his dancing skeletons, insect-people and the very earliest of special effects. “Everybody keep still!”

Ultimately, Hugo is a tale of innocence lost; the innocence of a boy who has lost his parents, the innocence of a nation returned from the Great War, the innocence of a man who believes his greatest triumphs are behind him. But also the innocence of cinema, a medium which once embraced, cherished and inspired only wonder and awe.

In the words of Georges Méliès himself, “If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around. This is where they’re made.”

At last night’s Oscars most of the big awards went to The Artist, another movie which casts a fond eye over the beginnings of celluloid. A little bit of a travesty, really, because for me it isHugo that is by far the superior movie.

5 Stars

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