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November 21, 2011


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I haven't seen HUGO yet, but some of the online comments about how the film is probably too slow and methodical for kids remind me of a few of the early reviews of Ballard's THE BLACK STALLION back in 1979... a movie I've never seen fail to mesmerize a youthful audience.

Pinko Punko

Hugo seems to me the kind of film I would have wanted to see a lot as a kid. The parents were in town to see the grandkid a few weeks ago, and we were just hanging out and someone was flipping channels and The Black Stallion was on cable [started typing this before I read Griff's comment]- this was one of the first movies I remember seeing as a child, and we came in right as they are leaving the island, and all of us just sat rapt for the rest of the time watching a wonderful movie, slow as a glacier, quiet and thoughtful, and beautiful. I have no idea what Hugo is like, but I presume it has a sensibility that is not loud, ridiculous, or cartoonish- and I expect this is rare.

Stephen Winer

I saw this today in a room full of adult writers and actors who were enraptured. Many of them actually cheered at the end and I can't remember the last time that happened at a screening. What a lovely film.


Can we get a 2.35 on this shot to see that dude on the left's proper look of TERROR at the prospect of sitting next to two kids during an arty Scorsese flick for 2.5 hours? When people sit down next to me with kids, I get up and move ASAP... Since this looks "reserved," I'd have pitched a FIT and stormed out...

That said, when I was a kid I watched every hard-R movie on HBO and was obsessed with horror and slasher movies... Hugo would've looked "dorky" to me even at 7, at 13, whatever.

Parents should take their kids to see "Rampart" this weekend instead.


Thanks. I'm actually excited about this film and I've basically abandoned Scorsese in the last decade. Of course, I have no kids and if I did I probably would force-feed them Satantango and Angelopoulos's The Hunters so what do I know.

Hey if 2001: A Space Odyssey was marketed as a film for the entire family during it's initial 70mm Roadshow release....


Who *doesn't* love 'A Trip to the Moon'? David Thomson (if I recall correctly), but that says it all.

Now, if only George Albert Smith or Mitchell & Kenyon could get a walk-on part in some Scorsese period epic...

Glenn Kenny

Lex: "Can we get a 2.35 on this shot to see that dude on the left's proper look of TERROR at the prospect of sitting next to two kids?"

The dude on the left would be the kids' dad, actually. For family film viewing, bracketing WORKS. Then, from right, the kids' mom, My Own Lovely Wife, myself...and Richard Brody of the New Yorker, to whom I gave my last reserved seat on the aisle. FYI.

D Cairns

Saw Tintin and enjoyed it, but the little girl next to us was actually climbing over the seats to get away from it. And that's a pretty short, fast-paced movie. It's not the pace, it's how engaging it is that counts. Otherwise parents reading stories to their kids would have to rattle through them like racing commentators.

Stephen Bowie

Perhaps it's the children who will lead us in the quest for polite behavior at the movies again.

David Ehrenstein

I saw the first nearly-complete screening here in L.A. a month back (a couple of shots still had to be reworked and the end credits weren't complete) and Marty was there with Thelma, the great Dante Feretti, Robert Richardson, Howard Shore and several effects people.
At th Q&A that followed I told him that Peter Watkins' masterpeice "La Commune (de Paris 1871)" was filmed on the site of Melies' studio -- which of course delighted him. The film delighted me. It's one of his very very best. Saw it again last night at the all-media and took my boyfriend who loved it too but wondered if kids would go for it. Not because it's "slow" but becuase of all that film hostory and whatnot. I think kids will adore it -- and your post confirms it. You don't have to understand every aspect of a film (especially one this complex) to have a good time. And it's structured like all classic children's literature in which the hero and/or heroine solves mystery and in doing so brightens the life of a lonely and/or negelected older person. Over and above all the use of 3-D is the best EVAH! And as an added extra there's a romance between two dogs -- and Sasha Baron Cohen's station inspector is quite funny and charming.


Looking VERY forward to taking my kids to see this tomorrow after school. My 7-yr-old and to a lesser extent my 3-yr-old love the Melies I DVRed from TCM a number of months ago. Yes the questions were "why does it look like that?", "where's the color?" etc and its great to be able to explain these things to them. Now they are eating up the new Laurel & Hardy set we got. To them this is the new stuff as they generally watch Nick Jr., superheros, play Wii, etc.

That said, 'Satantango' is usually reserved for punishment, as in 'if you don't change your tune, you'll have to watch the whole thing...' The sheer girth and austere cover usually at least gives a little pause...

The Siren

To be blunt, I have yet to see a critic expressing doubt about Hugo's appeal for kids who wasn't using kids as a proxy for his own impatience with the film-history stuff.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I think most of the expressions of doubt that kids will enjoy HUGO is more critics reacting to the fact that CARS 2 is the most profitable Pixar film. One would not be unjustified in thinking that the kids of America have, for the most part, terrible taste in movies, given what's succeeded. If HUGO proves not to be a victim of the same audiences who couldn't care less about IRON GIANT but loved SHREK 3, that will be wonderful.


My little fella enjoyed the film quite a lot more than I did (though I must say, the "cinephilia" aspects of it made me a little teary, more than once), but what he enjoyed most of all was Cohen's performance, which made him bust out laughing almost every time he was on the screen.

Of course, over the years that I've known him, I've tried to inculcate him into "liking old movies," and such. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. He liked SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and was reasonably engaged by CHRISTMAS IN JULY, but he was awfully restless during GOOD NEWS (!) and Howard Hawks's THE THING was so scary we had to turn it off after about 30 minutes. (Even before we see the creature properly!) He liked the two Jerry Lewis films I showed him, THE LADIES MAN and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, although the transformation sequence in the latter was too, too freaky for him to handle. Anyway, I wouldn't say I've given up trying, but he's still of the age that the "go you and seek out Méliès" message in HUGO sailed right past his head.

I was delighted by all those glad-handing messages on Kehrblog about these teachers and grown-ups and whatnot successfully introducing Laurel & Hardy to young'uns, etc. I always view such stories with a grain of salt, though: you do what you can, but they have to go their own way, at some point, and you might be disappointed. I'm reminded of a NYFF short from years back: In it, the narrator/protag is proud of the way he seems to be cultivating his young niece to enjoy the finest cuisines, and there's a montage of eating fine cuisine that film festival selection committees have dreams about. One day, after he hasn't seen her in a long time, he takes her to lunch but all she wants is McDonald's, and confesses that her parents think he's weird because he never got married. Kind of a funny-downer type of short, not really that great, but good for its bittersweet message, I guess. Okay, it's a lousy short, but my point is...I don't know. Don't let your children grow up to be cowboys?

Oh yeah, it's this: in my situation, if I tell him about a film before showing him, he'll reject it for superficial characteristics, literally reciting cliches like "I don't like black and white," which he certainly didn't get from me or his mother. If I manage to get him in front of an old film, and he doesn't get bored and walk away, it's a good sign. Mostly I've learned not to worry about it so much. He's his own person.

Tom Carson

Ah, well. My own review (up tomorrow if all goes well) does indeed express doubt about HUGO's appeal to Today's Tots, but how can it not? I'm 55 and not a parent, so squealing that you don't need to hire a babysitter for this one is outside my realm of expertise. But I loved the damn thing myself, and GK knows I'm not often in Scorsese's corner.

The Siren

Wait, Tom - seriously, you loved it? A Scorsese?

I don't care WHAT you say about the kids, that makes me SO HAPPY.

Sal C

My wife and six year old attended a screening this evening. After 45 minutes he was ready to leave. She says he was alternately bored and scared by what he saw (he wasn't a big fan of dogs going in). When I asked if he enjoyed any of it he thought long and hard and said, "The guy hanging off the clock was really funny!" My wife says she can't fathom many kids under 10 getting anything out of the film but nightmares.

Tom Carson

Dear Siren, yes -- loved, loved, loved. At least after the first 1/2 hour or so, which I think has its problems setting everything else up. By the end, I couldn't have cared less.


Will have to wait until the weekend, at the earliest. All you guys who've seen it already, you're all jerks. Also, I'm in the happy position of not having to give a shit if kids like it or not. Still, when I'm hanging around my nieces and nephews in the coming days, I will try to to do some nudging.

Claire K.

It's interesting to me that people didn't seem to have the same concerns about children not liking TOY STORY 3, which thematically is (I would think) far further past the experiences/concerns/grasp of most young kids. Did people think that little kids spend a lot of time pondering obsolescence and aging and how growing up is a kind of death and parenting is full of a thousand losses; or were the adults so distracted by the bright colors that they didn't worry about what their kids were thinking?

Kids aren't dumb, yo.


In fairness, some of them are. One time when I was a kid, I ate dirt, just because.


I used to teach 7-9 year old kids at a nightmare part time job in Cambria Heights, and they loved Voyage to the Moon, Disney's Skeleton Dance, and Chaplin's Payday. The only (silent) film they made me show twice was the Jean Painleve stuff, for what its worth. Aardman stuff and Roeg's the Witches was always a hit. Never got around to "Black Stallion." Kids will watch just about anything that strikes their fancy once they get past the initial resistance.

Victor Morton

The one good thing about children in the audience is that they haven't yet learned to sit quietly in passive boredom at a film one is not enjoying. As a result, you ALWAYS know when a kid film is working or not for the broader audience simply because you don't see them running around, talking, asking to leave, asking for more candy, or whatever else strikes their mind as more interesting than what's on the screen.

I remember going to see SECRET OF KELLS and arriving a few minutes late, so the theater was already totally dark and I just took the first seat I could find. I was amazed to see when the movie was over that the auditorium, in which there was very little noise (unlike an all-adult multiplex weekend), had been nearly full and that nearly everybody was a parent(s)-child(ren) combination. I was stunned at what I was seeing and (not) heard.

Then there was the time I saw MODERN TIMES with a father and his two children, both around 6 or 8, a couple rows behind me. The elder kid, a boy, was obviously a budding-critic kid. He said aloud, when Chaplin left the second factory (the one that closes for a strike) and the large iron gates close behind him, “that looks like the prison gates.” I was so tickled by the critical insight that my usual talk-Nazism was suppressed for the whole screening.

The Siren

@Tom - if I recall correctly, you haven't much cared for a Scorsese movie since Nixon was president. That is one hell of a recommendation. I liked Hugo so much I can even defend the slow opening. To me, it recalls a lot of children's books that take a sweet while setting up the premise and the mystery, like The Secret Garden; so I dig the way Hugo withholds information. My main problem was Cohen, whose acting choices seem a bit bizarre and oddly timed to me. I feel like his character, more than the movie, takes a while to pick up steam. Anyway, can't wait to read your review. I'll be checking for it.


My 5yo daughter's favourite movie is SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (starring "Kene Gelly" as she says it) but her favourite Pixar flick is CARS so her taste isn't 100% reliable.

I was going to take her to The Muppets this weekend but it might be this one instead now. Or next weekend when the crowds have died down.


As I said on Facebook, while I have no idea if kids will like HUGO (like Tom and Bill (right?), I have none), I loved it, though when we had on our MAGIC OF MELIES DVD in the store a couple of hours ago, there was a young boy (six years old, I'd guess) watching it and he was absolutely entranced, so we'll see.


I hate to be the only dissenter, but unlike The Siren I was annoyed at the way the film (or at least, the characters) withheld information, because I felt the storyline seemed endlessly protracted just because the characters refused to answer simple questions (like Hugo not telling Georges where he got the notebook).

But while I thought the script was borderline shoddy, the visuals were remarkable, and I plan to see it at least twice more in 3D.

Though with all the amazing shots, the moment that stayed with me the most was when Cohen told Mortimer about his war wound. I could have done with a lot more moments like that and fewer scenes of Hugo being chased around the station, which felt like they were shoehorned in in the hopes they might have a crowd-pleasing children's adventure instead of the most expensive, and most visually rapturous, salute to film preservation ever.

Pete Apruzzese

I think it's even better than your 5-star review, Glenn. Much more emotional than I thought it would be - I went in expecting it to be a bit cold and mechanical (the trailers are not doing a good job), but it's anything but that. A love letter to the magic of the movies and the legacy of great filmmakers. I can't wait to see it again.

Kevyn Knox

As I was leaving the cinema after a screening of Hugo, I overheard a man talking to whom I believe were his son and his son's friend, both about 11 or 12. He was telling them all about Georges Melies (and he seemed pretty knowledgeable on the man too) and early cinema - and they were actually interested. They loved the film and wanted to know more about it - including wanting to see his films. This was a great thing indeed. More proof indeed.


"And it's structured like all classic children's literature in which the hero and/or heroine solves mystery and in doing so brightens the life of a lonely and/or negelected older person."

I think David made an excellent point - I've heard a few people criticizing the shift in focus from Hugo to Méliès, as if one story was discarded for another, but most of the lengthier stories that I read or heard in elementary school (particularly those that our teacher would read over the course of many days) had this type of narrative flow. One of the first books we had to read was 'From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," which begins with two kids running away from home and hiding out at the Met, only to dovetail into a mystery concerning the titular Mrs. Frankweiler.

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