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We went to see "Hugo" and…

From Marie Haws in Vancouver:

When the film started, it was 2D, but the "masking" was wrong; the top and bottom of the film was bleeding off-screen. I noticed the film was digital, not 35mm. It wasn't focused and I could see artifacts. The opening shot, cityscape of Paris. A guy got up and walked out -- then returned; they fixed it. He'd gone to complain.

Ten minutes into the film, the woman next to me checks her cell for messages.

On the way out, the manager hands everyone a coupon for a free movie and apologizes about the film at the start etc.

Cheryl wanted to collect "points" on a club card and we headed back to the lobby; she wasn't able to get credit for buying tickets when the system was down; cash only. While there, we chatted to the ticket girl, and she told us about a co-worker who'd arrived one night to attend a movie. During the movie, someone used their cell phone -- so she slips out of the theater, changes into her Cinema-plex uniform in the staff room, goes back and tells the woman to TURN OFF her phone. Then leaves to change back into her street clothes, and resumes her seat in the theater to watch the rest of the film!

The manager arrives while we're chatting and tells us about a Cinema Converence thingy he attended in Toronto, wherein it was a catered affair, drinks, no one under 19 yrs etc, a special movie event, lights go down... yup; cell phones suddenly start lighting up. You can't win, he sighs.

I asked him "why don't you have a 'dead zone' for cell phones?"

Because when they looked into it, they realized they'd lose too many customers if they didn't allow people to use their cell phones. So they can't have a black-out. Although he was sympathetic.

I said: "why not have ONE screen reserved inside the Theatre as an eletronic dead zone? Total Black Out. And make a big deal out of it; charge a few bucks more for a movie guaranteed to have NO CELL PHONES. Tout it as "a cinephile screening."

His reaction? He liked the idea and he's going to mention it to his higher-ups!

As for "Hugo"... the subject matter simply served to ironically and painfully underscore the disparity between what it used to be like to go the movies, and what it's become.

I noticed Scorsese was thinking about 3D when composing his shots. I liked the art direction but grew quickly frustrated with his camera work. I found it drew attention to itself. I found I was never looking where he wanted me to. He tosses all this awesome eye-candy onto the screen and doesn't linger on any of it. And so it looks and feels like art direction; an often static bric a brac of props and steampunk offerings.

Hugo doesn't hear the train approaching while down on the track to retrieve the heart-shape key? Really? Why? Is he DEAF?!

I liked the station master and his Doberman in the bathtub.

I liked the older couple who find love despite the initial obstacle -- a cranky pet dog.

I liked Isabella's character and the actress who played her.

I cared less for the young actor playing Hugo; he needed a tighter reign. He over-acted, I found his performance uneven. When he believes her Uncle burnt the book... tone it down, dude. I could see the acting.

Ben Kingsly is a very talented actor but towards the end, the tribute to Melies etc, it somehow felt wrong. The way "The Age of Innocence" felt wrong. Scorsese wanted to make a film like Merchant-Ivory but he failed to get certain things "right" and it showed.

Sometimes, when you're too close to a thing, too much in love with it, you film that instead.

I think that's what he's done. He's filmed how much he loves making movies. But he's gone about it indirectly via the "Hugo" book. I didn't dislike "Hugo", though! Rather, it didn't wow me. But then under the circumstances, I was hardly in the best frame of mind.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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