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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

silly rant

So here we are.
I am very angry regarding Hugo. I am not angry at Hugo, mind you. But I am very angry regarding it.
I loved this film. Loved it. Fell right into its charms, went on the journey, and allowed it to crawl into my heart and wring my eyes dry. 
Until I saw it a few weeks ago, though, I had no desire to see it. At all. 

From all of its initial marketing, not to mention the Thanksgiving release date, I presumed it was just another kid’s fantasy film, filled with glib fantastical-ness and stuffed to the gills with visual self-pleasuring, pockmarked with all of the clich├ęd beats and stock characters we’ve come to expect from previous half-assed attempts at child’s-eye worlds. 
It was none of these things. It was real, true, and touchable. It was one of the few recent effects-heavy films where the CG and 3D seemed authentic and made sense. It wasn’t precious. It was fascinating and historical, rich and beautiful. And it was definitely, most definitely, not a kid’s film.
This angers me. There is this swift judgement made on all stories that feature children as protagonists: that if a kid is at the center of it, it must be a kids’ film. Of course, this is ridiculous. It’s like saying that War Horse is a horse’s film or that only barnyard animals will enjoy Babe. (To the animals: I mean no offense, so please do not bombard me with irate comments.)
More than this, though, is the added assumption that anything suitable for kids -- specifically, things without nudity, violence, or profanity -- is only for kids.
Of course this is patently untrue. The Artist contains no nudity, no violence, and no profanity, but it is hardly touted as a family film, let alone a kiddie picture. (For those who would point to the life-threatening fire and heavy drinking in The Artist, these exist in Hugo as well.)
In actuality, I’m not sure that kids would even appreciate Hugo until they hit double-digits. It’s actually a very adult film. But to refer to a film, particularly one directed by Martin Scorsese, as “adult,” conjures up very different, very much not Hugo-esque images. 
I always find it irksome when bloggers and magazine columnists make condescending winks at childless adults who see Disney and Pixar movies, as if there was nothing enjoyable about them on an adult level. Fools, they. And I still recall the outcry over the Harry Potter books “taking up space” on the New York Times Bestseller list, resulting in a separate list for children’s books... as if writing a 700-page book about a boy wizard and his complex world is so much easier than writing a 200-page Harlequin Romance romp. Just because something is aimed at a younger audience, it does not automatically make it less creative or moving or enjoyable to those who are longer in the tooth. 
Then again, a lot of kiddie fare is indeed crap on a bed of crap (albeit celebrity-voiced crap on a bed of crap), which is exactly why I had no desire to see Hugo in the first place. But the blasted marketers for Hugo should have had more faith in the product they were hired to sell. Were it not for its Oscar nominations, the film would have withered and died by now, remembered by few.
Let me be clear: I loved The Artist and had it pegged as the sure-fire Oscar winner for Best Picture... until I saw Hugo. See them both, if you haven’t yet, and I think you will find them both equally breathtaking in radically different ways. It’s going to be an interesting contest, especially since The Artist and Hugo are both love letters to the cinema. (Did you know that about Hugo? Because I sure as hell didn’t until I saw it.) 
Of course, now that there’s an Oscar race to win, there are much better TV spots out there, not just for Hugo, but for The Descendants as well. Then again, they run so often (at least, they do in New York City) that they make me angry... is it so hard to find a happy medium between lousy infrequency and eloquent overkill?
I still believe that The Artist will prevail as Best Picture, but that Martin Scorsese may -- and should -- get Best Director. Both deserve screenplay awards, but I think the writing team for The Descendants will get Best Adapted Screenplay over Hugo (and I’m not just saying that as a fan of Jim Rash) and that Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris will win Best Original Screenplay over The Artist
And that’s another movie - Midnight in Paris - that I loved but almost didn’t see thanks to its crappy TV spots. There must be some sort of middle ground, wherein a trailer or promo can actually give the viewer a proper taste of a film without giving everything away. If they gave an Oscar for trailer editing and/or marketing, maybe someone would make a real effort to figure it out.
Speaking of Woody Allen, I just realized that if he’d taken out that butt shot and one or two words, Radio Days would have been considered a kids’ film by Hollywood standards. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Oh, forget it. This is the worst term paper on the state of contemporary film ever.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.


  1. I'm always happy to hear adults (especially those I admire) say that a work can be enjoyed by an older audience even though it may be aimed at a younger one. Thank you.

  2. I've had no desire to see Hugo for exactly the reasons you mentioned, but I will consider it now. Thanks