Although, I will say, his review for Attack the Block displays a narrow-mindedness that is jarring. LaSalle says the movie doesn't make us care about the main characters (who are being attacked by aliens) because they mug a woman at the beginning of the movie. He says, "The characters we're expected to engage with, the people for whom our rooting interest is simply assumed are violent street thugs. Sorry, I'm with the aliens on this one". IT'S CALLED AN ANTI-HERO. THE CHARACTERS ARE ANTI-HEROES. We don't like the characters at first, but, over the course of the film, we're supposed to see their positive qualities, to learn to understand them. If I were passive-aggressive I'd say something cheeky like "I remember learning about anti-heroes in high school." (No, but, seriously, I do.)
But some comments are so...egregious. I can't let them go. Like Rex Reed's 50/50 review. Or Mick LaSalle's review of Hugo.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Hugo: Asa Butterfield
Papa Georges: Ben Kinglsey
Mama Jeanne: Helen McCrory
Georges's ward, Isabella: Chloe Grace Moretz
Inspector: Sacha Baron Cohen
Hugo's father: Jude Law
Bookstore owner: Christopher Lee
Film Historian: Michael Stuhlbarg
Flower girl: Emily Mortimer (Scorsese is loving her)
Woman with mean dachshund : Frances de la Tour
Guy who is thwarted by mean dachshund: Richard Griffiths
I'm going to give you LaSalle's comment. You can read it. Then I'm going to give you the argument against his comment. Then I'm going to let your read his comment again and see what you think.
Points Against LaSalle
Point 1: Reviews
Metacritic has it an 85: 36 positive, 5 mixed. User score is 7.2 out of 10, based on 101 ratings.
IMDB user score is 8.5 (8,140 ratings).
Now, the numbers don't say anything specific about 3-D. But they do show the film was well-received. Loved, even. And the overwhelming majority of critics praised the movie. And nearly all expressed joy and amazement at the use of 3-D. Richard Roeper went so far as to say: "One of the most magical viewing experiences of the decade so far." Ebert said: "Scorsese uses 3-D here as it should be used, not as a gimmick but as an enhancement of the total effect." These comments are the North Pole to LaSalle's South Pole. And there are plenty more North Pole comments.
Point 2: James Cameron
Cameron's leading an inner-industry crusade to use faster frame rates in order to improve the 3-D experience.
He obviously cares about the technology and its legitimization. So doesn't it mean something when James Cameron said (in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (Cameron and Scorsese were being interviewed, hence Cameron's use of "you":
Point 3: Nik T
Return to Mike LaSalle
The point is endlessly debatable. There's no way I can absolutely prove that LaSalle is wrong and Scorsese did make a case for 3-D as a legitimate tool, that it didn't distract from the deeper values of the movie. What I can attempt to show is that LaSalle may not have fully understood the use of 3-D in Hugo, its purpose in Hugo, and its context in film as a whole.
Did I Like It:
Yes. There are two major routes a director could have taken with this film. Route 1 keeps the camera on the characters because the director doesn't know how to handle environment. Route 2 explores the environment.
I'm convinced a lesser filmmaker, one without confidence, without, I dare say, talent, would have been daunted by Route 2. Would frantically seize Route 1. And the movie would have felt more contained, less expansive (since it would focus more on faces at the expense of the world's details). I'm half-way convinced this movie wouldn't have worked at all without Scorsese as director.
Sacha Baron Cohen was great.
There was one extreme close-up of Baron Cohen's face. It fills the entire screen. And he leans forward. And he keeps leaning forward. Until he's out of the screen. And the camera holds on his face. I gasped. I literally lost my breath. As stupid as it sounds, it was like the face had actually left the screen. It reminded me of The Last Action Hero.
I do think Ben Kinglsey's reason for being so upset and melodramatic is a bit ridiculous. Selfish. Petty. On the one hand, he really loved film. But...he really gives the kids a lot of grief. And maybe he understood that? I was expecting a tale that really made me think "Man, poor Papa Georges." Instead, I thought, "He's kind of a baby..."
I wouldn't be shocked if it received a Best Picture nomination. I'm not expecting it. But, hell, if Forrest Gump WON best picture, this should get nominated. (Sorry, I hate FG).
Update 4/11/12: I have no idea why I wasn't expecting it to get a best picture nomination?
What It's Good For:-everyone
-kids, or with kids, as long as you understand that this isn't a silly kids movie. It's not Happy Feet Two. This is a serious flick. There's emotion. There are big words. There's a lot of dialogue. And it's 2 hours. But some kids will love this movie. It will change their life. I think Hugo obviously has the power to do this (because Scorsese is remembering how he fell in love with movies)
-entertainment and emotion and education
-for those who like violent Scorsese, this isn't him
-bad if you're expecting nonsense and won't enjoy an intelligent film
-2D viewing missing an aspect of this mission (see Point 3)
-Papa Georges "terrible story" is sad, but dude really wallows in self-pity
%Character / %Actor's personality
Kinglsey: 60/40 (it's more performance then embodiment of character, and performance demands a certain...self-awareness)
Butterfield: 70/30 or 80/20 or 50/50, I can't decide
Scorsese: The Color of Money; Gangs of New York; The Departed; Shutter Island; Raging Bull; Taxi Driver; etc.
Butterfield: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (a jerk of a movie)
Kingsley: Shutter Island
Moretz: Kick-Ass; (500) Days of Summer
Cohen: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; Borat
Law: Sherlock Holmes; Contagion
Lee: Lord of the Rings
McCrory: The Count of Monte Cristo; Harry Potter 6, 7, 8
Mortimer: The Ghost and the Darkness; Match Point; Paris, je t'aime; Shutter Island; Our Idiot Brother
la Tour: HP 4 & 7; The History Boys;
Griffiths: The Naked Gun 2 1/2; HP 1, 2, 3, 5, 7; The History Boys;