The expression “History keeps happening” reminds us how frequently we reflect on historical events, whether we mean to use history for our own ends (as in, “what would the Founding Fathers have done about health warnings on cigarette packages?!”) or whether we just wonder, innocently, how things were, back in a certain day. “Hugo” and “The Artist,” two movies released in 2011 that deal, engagingly, with the early history of motion pictures, remind us of how recent the birth of cinema actually is. The energy that produced cinema’s earliest, highly memorable efforts — “A Trip to the Moon,” the Keystone Cops, the Little Rascals, “Intolerance,” “Birth of a Nation,” to name a few — still exists, close at hand, at full vitality, if only we can find a strong and effective way to unleash it. In “Hugo” and “The Artist,” the energy is there, at full vigor: near the end of “Hugo,” when we’re treated to a 3D visual cavalcade of pioneer French filmmaker Georges Méliès’ most eye-popping effects; and throughout “The Artist,” when endlessly inventive actions and reactions among the leading characters (bipedal and quadripedal), with gags building on gags, continually reward our attention.
One wonders about the whole notion of “new media” or “new technologies.” Perhaps the technologies change slightly, but the ancient ability to engage our fellow travelers with a riveting story, insight or reflection is what really compels us, no matter what form it takes.
How wonderful that “Hugo” and “The Artist” each took home so many Oscar® statuettes on February 26! These two movies transport us in different ways, but they remind us, again and again, that a story well-woven and engagingly told is the greatest wonder of all.
Why offer such commentary on an animation website? Because animation deals with wonder and surprise, elements which “Hugo” and “The Artist” provide in abundance.