"Happy Endings Only Happen in the Movies."

today was my birthday, so i decided to take the day off. i cleaned the house a little bit, finished a couple of american experience documentaries on annie oakley and jesse james, and headed out the door. i went to see martin scorcese's hugo, a 3-D (yikes!) movie he directed and released last fall. i didn't know much about the film, except that it was a tribute to a film pioneer. i am generally not a fan of 3-D movies, as they are a money grabbing scheme from hollywood. but this was scorcese. as far as i know, unlike certain other directors, he has no plans to retro-fit his classics and release them in 3-D to make a buck.

hugo was brilliant in 3-D. in fact, i cannot imagine a better way to watch it. i was glad i ponied up the $8.25 (first showing discount). truthfully, had it not received a ton of oscar nominations, including best picture and directing, it would have been long gone from cinemas by now. it's been marketed as a children's adventure movie, but it's more than that. i'm not sure which genre i would put it in.

it's the story of a young boy whose father works as a clock repairman, tinkerer, dreamer, and inventor. after he dies in a tragic accident hugo is taken in by his uncle, who lives in the catacombs of the paris train station, making sure all the clocks are tuned properly. a drunk, he is often absent, leaving the work to hugo. in his spare time he tries to fix an automaton his father found in the attic of a museum. working in the train station is georges melies, played by ben kingsley. he owns a toy shop, where hugo often steals gears and such to work on the automaton. hugo befriends isabelle, melies' goddaughter, and the two begin to learn secrets about papa georges' past. turns out he has a past no one knows about. this discovery is the key to the film.

hugo is beautifully made-- wonderful colors and costumes, great performances, lots of emotion. but it's the story that makes any movie, and especially this one. it's not about the adventures of kids. it's about honoring ties to the past, claiming one's true identity, and celebrating our gifts and purpose. turns out georges melies wasn't just a toy shop owner. he was a legendary french filmmaker who made the movie hugo's dad loved most: a trip to the moon (1902). and he made many, many more, which were believed lost, and forgotten, after WWI. embittered, he destroyed the artifacts of his past, invented a new identity, and tried to forget. hugo's discoveries lead to an embracing of a legendary artist's work, but only after a struggle. melies says to him at one point, "happy endings only happen in the movies."

what sets hugo apart is that it is a biography-- melies really existed; he really was a magician and built automatons. he really was a writer, actor, director, set designer, and just about everything else. this movie is scorcese's tribute to one of his heroes. scorcese has been, for years, a preservationist of movies. hugo honors the work of a cinematic treasure, made by a cinematic treasure. i don't know if it will win best picture or director, but anyone who loves the movies ought to check it out. don't allow its marketing to keep you away. it is a joy.

each of hugo's characters struggle with their identity. so do you and i. who are we, really? where does our self-identity come from? who influenced us? what gifts do we have? and are we using them effectively? know that each of us is gifted-- in the church we believe the Holy Spirit endows us with gifts at our baptism. no gift is more important than another. some of us are pastors, teachers, leaders, helpers, etc. so the question is: do you know who you are? what is God's dream for your life?