Magic at the Movies: Hugo

Today I finally saw Hugo in 3D. When I first heard that Brian Selznick’s Caldecott-winning Image of Hugo movie posterbook would become a movie, I thought: it had better be in black and white. I felt disappointed upon learning that the movie would be in color. Over the summer of 2011, I led a book discussion on The Invention of Hugo Cabret for 9-12 year-olds. When one boy suggested that they should make a movie out of the book, I leapt at the chance to share the news of the upcoming movie and to ask for the group’s opinions on the color v. black and white issue. Given another boy’s stern disapproval of the poor movie technology used by Georges Méliès (my attempts to emphasize that it was new technology at the time did not seem to impress him), I guessed that they would vote for color. To my surprise, every boy and girl enthusiastically agreed that the movie should be in black and white. Given the black and white illustrations in the book and the relevant film history, it had to be. The conversation shifted, and at the end of the discussion, beyond feeling like I had learned something from these insightful and imaginative kids, I also left believing that my own disappointment was justified.

I am thrilled to report that I now think I was wrong on the latter point. That, in fact, Martin Scorsese is a lot smarter than me (surprise!), and stayed very true to the spirit of the book and its story. I have no pretense of possessing any film expertise, but I can say this: I felt as enchanted watching Hugo on the big screen as I did reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The use of the most up-to-date technology (3D) in Hugo extended the story’s celebration of movie history and technology in a way I hadn’t believed was possible. The inclusion of old film clips from Méliès, his predecessors, and his contemporaries was exciting, and I hoped that the critical boy from my book discussion had the opportunity to see the movie, as well, and perhaps gain a new appreciation for the magic and ingenuity that went into those older films. I, for one, saw that magic and ingenuity on screen today. Hugo was wonderful, as in truly full of wonder. The kind that makes your eyes grow big and your mouth open just a bit to let in the occasional gasp or exclamation. If you haven’t had the chance to see Hugo yet, please, rush out and do so now. But, of course, read the book first.


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