ParamountMartin Scorsese's delightful children's film Hugo is currently nominated for eleven Oscars, the most of any film of 2011. And in a year of movies like The Artist and Midnight in Paris that pay homage to early 20th century film and cultural history, Hugo might be the most complex cinematic homage of them all.
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Scorsese uses the stunning 3D cinematography of Hugo much like a palimpsest, layering multiple levels of historical, cinematic, and intellectual history in each scene. Hugo references everyone from Jules Verne, Django Reinhardt, and the robot C-3PO to classic silent movies like Douglas Fairbanks's The Thief of Bagdad, Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Harold Lloyd's Safety Last. Scorsese has even said that he considers the 3D in Hugo as a cinematic form of Cubism.
This cultural guide will help to decode the wealth of allusions in Hugo, making for a crash course in film, art, and literary history:
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