Monday, January 23, 2012

Hugo: D

Automaton from Hugo

Pipe man from overactive bladder medication, VESIcare. (Image stolen from

Scott dragged me to Martin Scorsese's Hugo last weekend. I have to admit that I did not give this movie a chance. Having no interest in seeing it, I completely mis-remembered the trailer and carried a lot of ill-conceived preconceptions going into the theater. I assumed Hugo was about a robot -- which is understandable considering how prominent it appears in the trailers. I also assumed the robot was named Hugo, which was stupid because the trailers clearly indicate that Hugo is the name of the main character, a human boy. Worse, since the trailers emphasized that it was 3D, I somehow had the impression that it was going to be a terrible CGI fantasy animation like Avatar or worse, The Polar Express (I even told Scott before the movie that I assumed the movie was going to be some sort of extended VESIcare commercial). While there was a lot of unbelievable CGI scenes -- especially the opening zoom which felt more like a video game introduction -- Hugo wasn't a total CGI/3D mess. In fact, it was almost a traditional story that had no reason for 3D.

The story was sadly sentimental (dead parents, orphan police, etc.). Worse, the movie was needlessly long (over two hours), painfully slow-paced, and full of cutesy gimmicks that didn't work like Sacha Baron Cohen's unfunny, inept mall cop character. Unfortunately, the most interesting aspect of the story were the depictions of Georges Méliès and his movies which one Wikipedia author says Hugo mostly accurately portrayed. I would have found the movie more interesting had it focused more on Méliès's real life.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Iron Lady: C

The Iron Lady - Movie Poster 3

Mom and I dragged Scott to The Iron Lady last weekend. It has been quite a while since we've been to the ye olde cinemas. We've been watching more Netflix and Amazon at home (sorry tradition movie theater industry). We attempted to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on New Year's weekend, but of course it was sold out at the Regal Fox tiny 'arthouse' multiplex in downtown. Considering this was The Iron Lady's local opening weekend, I figured we should buy our tickets online and arrive early to secure our seats. Much to Scott's annoyance though I failed to consider that we were going to Regal City Center in the 'Couv which rarely ever sells out. We sat outside the vacate theater for 30 minutes (By the way, a surprising filthy theater. Either Regal is cutting back on staff or The Iron Lady attracts a rough crowd.)

Considering how much Scott loves Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada, I assumed he would want to see this Meryl Streep performance. He didn't care. The Streep factor wouldn't overcome his hesitation that this was a dull political movie about someone he didn't know of or care about. I, on the other hand, have been looking forward to this movie since I heard of Streep's casting.
Meryl Streep's performance did not disappoint. She thoroughly transformed herself into a short, shuffling, elderly woman. I haven't seen or heard Margaret Thatcher footage recently, but I do recall her public appearance a few years ago which Streeped seemed to have matched.

Unfortunately, the way The Iron Lady decided to tell Margaret Thatcher's life story was depressingly dull. I understand filmmakers' desire to find original and interesting ways to frame biopics. The problem is so often the framing is the weakest part of the movie and distracts from the subject's compelling life story. For example, did anyone really look forward to the whining, self-absorbed Julie parts of Julie & Julia?

The Iron Lady chose to frame Thatcher's life from the perspective of her confusingly shuffling around her home haunted by her dead husband (portrayed by the always entertaining Jim Broadbent). While the elderly scenes highlighted Streep, they took up too much of the story and, again, distracted from parts of Thatcher life that warrant attention. I also doubt any biopic subject would want to be portrayed as a faded figure reminiscing of their former glories in the middle of the night in their empty home. I understand the filmmaker's point of giving insight into Thatcher's alleged ambivalence toward her daughter and other women while ecstatically seeking her absent son's attention, but it seemed a long, dull way to get there.
Worse, I can't say I gained insight into Thatcher after watching this movie. It reduced her political life down to a hand full of moments. Northern Ireland, the Cold War, Reagan, etc., are barely mentioned at all. According to the movie, Thatcher was a sincere, but stubborn conservative ideologue who rescued the conservative party that exploited her gender and eventually betrayed her. While I wouldn't want to watch a fawning political depiction, I can't say this movie sincerely attempted to explain Thatcher's politics beyond her supposed bias against women and homemaking.