A scene from 'Hugo'

*It’s that time of the year when major releases are on order for the holidays and with Thanksgiving comes the initial line-up.

That being said, there were four junkets held in New York last week and two this week, for films opening this week and the next.

One of the films is Martin Scorsese’s venture into family fair territory with “Hugo.” A magical film to say the least, The Film Strip asked Sir Ben Kingsley what he thought of this magical journey?

“I think one of the core values of its magic is its fearlessness in putting wounded characters on the screen,” Kingsley responded. “That’s a very brave move. Not very fashionable; it’s not sugarcoated. Wounded man who is totally retired from his life, who almost committed suicide of his spirit, an orphan girl who lost her brother in a horrific battle, an orphan boy [living in the walls of a train station], a chap who lost his leg. Wounded, wounded, wounded, wounded, and I think that’s an incredibly bold move to make in the present context. That’s where the magic comes from.  As Sacha (Baron Cohen) was saying, where’s the wound because if there’s no wound, the healer has no function and the healer is the youngest person on the screen who pulls all these threads together. But you won’t have an audience empathizing with you if nothing needs comforting. It won’t happen. So I think all of us individually, paradoxically nourished that scar inside us in order to make the magic; in order to make him the greatest magician on the screen and make all the magic happen.

“I just wanted to say that I was very aware that there was something very magical about the whole enterprise, so much so that I really wanted my son to be on the set,” Emily Mortimer chimed in. I made sure that he was there because I felt like somehow that in years to come he would be able to boast about having stood on that set ‘cause it felt so special. Part of it was that I knew the book already from my little boy who goes to this school in Brooklyn for which it’s practically required reading—it’s on the syllabus, everybody is so obsessed by it and rightly so. I knew how magical the book was and then knowing that Martin Scorsese was the person that was going to make that into a film, it was such a perfect coincidence of everything, that Scorsese will be using the latest 3D technology to push the boundaries of filmmaking in 2011 to make a film about the very first technology ever used to put magic on the screen over 100 years ago is just so perfect. It felt so special, like something that only happens once in a lifetime.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, apparently still feeling the magic, was eager to comment also.

“If I could just continue in that, it felt like it was the logical extinction of filmmaking that if Mellies was alive that he definitely would’ve been using 3D and that was the interesting thing because that whole debate in cinema at the moment where the 3D is a gimmick or not Scorsese really showed that it was a logical development of the filmmaking process. That was fascinating for us really.”

Looking at the notes to the screening of “The Artist,” I felt the same way I did when I got the invite to screen “The King’s Speech.” What a boring topic. But when I walked out of the screening room, I predicted “The King’s Speech” would take home Oscars at the Academy Awards because it was such a great film. And after seeing “The Artist,” I feel the same way and got a hold of its director Michel Hazanavicius, like I did actor Colin Firth, before everyone catches on and starts pulling him in every which way

The Film Strip asked Hazanavicius just how did he pull off making a silent film in 2011. The film, by the way, is brilliant.

Thank you, Hazanavicius responded, seeming surprised and flattered at our question. “Well you never know, actually. You can’t be sure. Actually what I did, I said to the producer first of all I have to write the script, and I’ll know after the script if the movie’s durable or not durable. Because in the script I had to find all the solution of how to direct a silent movie, and you know writing the script what you’re going to ask of the actors and what you’re going to ask of the director. In this case it’s myself, but in a way it’s pre-directing the movie, so I had this door exit in a way, and if the script was not convincing we would never do the movie.

“Everybody tells you always that nobody wants to see a silent movie, that nobody wants to see even a black and white movie. People think that black and white silent movies are old, and they’re right, but they’re old because they have been done in the 20s, not because of the format. I think the format is really good and yeah, I had the hunch that the format was allowing me to do a very specific movie.

“But the most difficult thing was not so much the editing, it was the composing of the music because the music is really important in the process. It gives you all the emotional track of the story, and if there’s any confusion, any nonsense in the music you pay for it very [early]. I watched a lot of silent movies for the writing of the movie and the music that they put on those old movies was really ridiculous sometimes and it really didn’t help the story and it didn’t fit. So the composer [I hired] had to do his own music and he did a really great, great job.”

“Arthur Christmas” is just in time for Christmas since the day after Thanksgiving, the holiday season will be in full swing. I asked director Sarah Smith why would she tackle such an iconic figure as Santa Claus?

“It wasn’t a decision,” she said. “I think the best things that I’ve ever done that I’m most proud of in my career don’t come from sitting there going, ‘What should we do a movie about? I know, Santa!’ You know someone has an idea that comes form left field and Pete [Baynham] had the idea of what would it really take to get Christmas done in our modern world. Everyone knows not every child has a chimney and the Christmas myth has kind of skimmed over that fact and if you start to kind of go there, if you’re a kid you start to get worried.”

Bill Nighy is the voice of Grand Santa and he told me he “really, really” wanted to be in this film. With such a vast repertoire, he intends on keeping the variety in his career. But did Nighy believe in Santa as a kid? He said he did and like all parents, his lied to him.

“I can remember writing a note and putting it on the fire with my dad and it going up the chimney. My dad said the smoke will go to the North Pole and Santa will read the smoke. We’re very gullible, aren’t we? He will read the smoke. How is that going to work, but any way I obviously believed.”

Michelle Williams finally answered a question, somewhat, that has been bugging me for years portraying Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.” What is the fascination with a bleached blond, seemingly silly woman? Well, it apparently was a game that many fell for. It was a daunting mission for Williams to take on the Monroe legend, but she took comfort in the fact that Marilyn Monroe wasn’t really real.

“The first sort of big discovery that I stumbled on was that Marilyn Monroe herself, was a character that she played,” Williams pointed out. “That was the first big discovery and it was honed to where you couldn’t tell that it was artifice. So that was something that she’d studied and perfected and crafted.”

Williams did her own singing in “Marilyn” and explains that her support system took some of the stress out of her delivery.

“I, like Marilyn, was very lucky on this movie to be surrounded and supported by great people. So I had a wonderful man, David Crane, who worked with me every day for a couple of weeks. I have not sung since I was ten years old or something. So he taught me about breathing and about how to deliver emotion on lines. I had Marilyn on my iPod and listened to her a lot. She was very influenced by Ella Fitzgerald.”