Another piece of this year’s Oscar movie puzzle was unveiled in a big way this weekend when Paramount rolled out Martin Scorsese’s 99.9%-finished version of Hugo, an ode to the early days of cinema and the eye-popping possibilities of movies. It’s the director’s first family film, 3D film and perhaps most personal film. In an intriguing and highly unusual move, Paramount held a packed screening, with tons of invited press and bloggers included, at Regal’s Downtown LA Live theaters Saturday afternoon. Then that night they also played it at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills for the Academy’s official membership screening. That last move was interesting because most films play either the weekend of opening or after for the Acad (although The Weinstein Co. unspooled their much-praised ode to the early days of cinema, The Artist, to an appreciative audience for its official Academy screening Sunday night).
It is extremely rare to show voters something that is still unfinished (one special effects shot was missing and the end credits are far from complete), but Hugo‘s media rollout has been different from the start. It was first unleashed in a much-less-finished form at the New York Film Festival last month as a “work in progress.” Reaction on the web was all over the place, generally favorable, but did not signal a major awards contender outside of the obvious technical nominations for the film’s stunning look. That screening in hindsight may have been a miscalculation.
This week, things began to heat up. Paramount had a couple of “tastemaker” screenings for AMPAS members a few days ago (one in the evening, one during lunchtime) where the median age range was said to be 60-plus — with 50 members reportedly at each. There were also reportedly 80 members who checked in for the Regal screening that was accompanied by a lively post-movie Q&A moderated by director Paul Thomas Anderson with Scorsese and his dream team of much-Oscared collaborators including DP Robert Richardson, production designer Dante Ferretti, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, composer Howard Shore and visual effects supervisor Rob Legato. Scorsese received an enthusiastic standing ovation when he was introduced, just as he did again today after a DGA screening for a Q&A moderated by James Cameron, who told him Hugo was a “masterpiece.” He added, “finally there is a Scorsese film I can take my kids to.” And Cameron also told Scorsese it was the best use of 3D he had seen, including his own films. At Saturday’s Regal Q&A, Legato actually credited the innovations in Avatar for making possible a lot of what Hugo was able to do. Musician Slash was among those also at the DGA screening and he later tweeted “Fantastic movie!” (more…)