Nominated For: Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Adapted Screenplay (John Logan), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing
What's It About: Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphaned boy, living behind the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris; when he's not scrounging for food or maintaining all the clocks in the massive station by himself, he struggles to repair a broken toy -- a wind-up automaton with the ability to write -- in the hopes of uncovering a lost message from his departed father. He's aided in his quest by an educated young lady named Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), but the two adventurers must solve the mystery of the mechanical man in secret, or else they will fall victim to the wrath of the station's Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Isabelle's uncle, a mean old shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) who may have a deeper connection to the mystery than they realize.
Why You Should See It: The term "movie magic" gets thrown around a lot -- and usually gets wasted as some patter for schmaltz -- but "Hugo" is the real deal when it comes to a magical cinematic experience. What starts out as a charming, enjoyable family adventure blossoms into a glowing love letter to an important time in art history: the developing world of the silent film industry. A lot of press has been focused on "The Artist," but "Hugo," under the auteur eye of Scorsese, shows how the creative spirit of silent movie pioneers were akin to modern fairy tales. As for Marty's direction: everyone seems to think of him as just a "mob movie director," but "Hugo" might be the best example yet at his versatility and the depth of his visual pallet. He did what many thought was impossible and made a 3D family film that pops with so much energy and cinematic flair that it's actually worth paying to see in a theater. "Hugo" is not an easily classifiable film; Paramount tried to market it as a new "Harry Potter," when that wasn't the case at all. But if we could try to describe what makes it such a joy to watch, it's that it uses all the artistic possibility of movies to tell a heart-warming story about said artistic possibility of movies.
It's Kind Of Like: A "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"-style family film meets Francois Truffaut's love letter to movie-making, "Day For Night."
How You Can See It: It's still playing in some theaters. (Check local listings) It arrives on DVD, Blu-ray, OnDemand and Digital Download on February 28.