#1 Martin Scorsese – Hugo

“People like to see the lives of artists that are legends. They always go through the dark periods and I think just as humans we like to see that and them coming out of it. I love those kinds of movies.”

~ Kristen Wiig

A mentor, who happens to be a very dear friend of mine describes Martin Scorsese‘s film Hugo as “Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the art of Cinema!” And I don’t think I can find better words to describe the film.

Scorsese has developed the novel by Brian Selznick, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” on celluloid and just as the novel, recreated history! Making it much more palatable and happy.

I do not know how many cinema-goers know who invented cinema. It has been more than a century and the global debate is still unresolved. Let’s go over the short version. The Lumière Brothers were one of the earliest to achieve moving images. Georges Méliès was initially an illusionist, a magician. He discovered the great possibilities in the art of cinema and built his own camera from the leftover parts from his automata. The Lumière Brothers themselves thought that people will not like to watch trains entering a station or an old woman sneezing for a great while and cinema will soon be an old trick. It was Méliès who thought otherwise.

Méliès, by the virtue of his expertise in illusions and his curiosity in films, was able to invent numerous in-camera effects. His films were a subject of awe for many years until his deal with Pathé Frères which led to his decline. Méliès was forced to stop making films because of his financial conditions and had to sell all his films, which were destroyed to reacquire raw materials they were made up from. I feel terrible as I write this – the fact is, the person whose contribution to cinema is so invaluable ended up as a broke toy salesman in Paris.

The Novel was a blend of images and words having 284 pictures between the book’s 533 pages and so is the film. When the film begun, I wondered for the first 5 minutes if the film was a silent film.

The tagline on the poster says, “One of the most legendary directors of our time takes you on an extraordinary adventure”. I love it how beautifully crafted the line is! I wonder if it refers to Scorsese or Méliès. Or both for that instance…

The film is all about fixing a few wrongs, making the wheels turn again and about changing times more than anything else. Every element in the film is a metaphor. Méliès inspired film makers and gave the concept of film making a whole new dimension, unraveling new realms. And that is how the film ends. It ends with hope as Hugo takes his first steps towards illusions.

When we think of Méliès and how tragic a phase of his life was, we, as filmmakers or new comers in any industry for that sorts get a whole new perspective. We compare the minor speedbumps in our journey to those of the greats of that time. Everything seems so different! I feel inspired.

I do not know how many cinema-goers know who invented cinema. Neither do I. It is an evolutionary process, modified, perfected and rectified by many heroes; looking through that small hole, breaking a few rules and doing what would someday go in textbooks. Méliès was one of them. And whatever we are, whatever we know about cinema as an expression, we owe a part of it to Méliès!

Here is one of his films – A Trip to The Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune – 1902)

#2 Learning from the experts – Antihero at his best

Alright, so let’s get this straight. You have Al Pacino on one end, and De Niro on the other and you have to choose sides. Damn, that’s a tough call!

I had read a lot about the film Heat (1995) on various online forums. Usually when I anticipate too much from a movie, or anything for that matter, it disappoints me. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t even close to disappointment in this one. From a completely subjective point of view, I can say that Heat is a blend of intriguing script and brilliant performances, both on-screen and behind the cameras.

Imagine how complicated it is to make your audience cheer for your anti-hero with all his idiosyncrasies and imperfections. The following are few of my personal notes on how to make your audiences empathize with your bad guy:

Note:  Most of the references are from popular/ comic based films for better understanding

  1. Everything has a reason: I don’t know if every other successful anti-hero follows this principle, but most of them do. Let them follow their path, commit sins en route. But back it up with such an amazing credible reason that it momentarily overshadows all their vices. Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything has a reason! (Magneto, the X-Men franchise)
  2. Circumstances: Not all of us believe that we are the sole creators of our destiny. Circumstances put is in some situations where we have to do what we seem right then, even though it is the easy way out. (Sandman, Spiderman 3)
  3. It is almost funny: In recent years we’ve seen so many films with characters so self occupied after a point, it is hilarious. You expect your multi-layered characters to do certain things, otherwise unacceptable in the society. And you admire them for that! (Jack Sparrow, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise)
  4. Brute force: Don’t you love a good action film with your bad guy so strong that you would never want him to get defeated? Syd Field says that your film is as powerful as your antagonist. And how true is that? (Bane, The Dark Knight Rises)
  5. Taking it to another level: Some villains are simply masterminds. Making the world dance to their tunes by remote control. Puppeteers! Their purpose is not to get any material benefit. No, no, no. They have higher agendas in their minds. They are simply ‘agents of chaos’. (Joker, The Dark Knight)
  6. Change: On a very positive note, everybody has the potential to change. All of us have made mistakes. We are weary of the turbulence by the things we are not proud of. And all of us have the potential to change. (Doctor Octopus, Spiderman 2)