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Robert Richardson Shines A Light on Scorsese's "Hugo"

Thinking about how the compelling 3D imagery I've seen in the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Hugo has me salivating to see the film, I decided to delve a little more into the cinematographer's backgroud. 'Ahhh!' I said to myself, the lightbulb flickering on. 'So that's why it "looks" so good.' Robert Richardson is the man behind the camera. Richardson has been nominated for Best Cinematography six times beginning way back in 1986. He was nominated for Platoon, Fourth of July, JFK, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Aviator and Inglourious Basterds.  JFK directed by Oliver Stone and The Aviator by Martin Scorsese both brought him Oscar wins. He's also been the director of photography or cinematographer on a long string of other popular movies, mainly with Stone and Scorsese but with others as well: Nixon, Wall Street, Casino, A Few Good Men, The Horse Whisperer, Shutter Island, Eat Pray Love, to name a few. With Hugo and World War Z, the zombie war movie based on Max Brook's mega best seller, under his belt, Richardson is currently filming Tarantino's Django Unchained. That's the one that stars everyone from Leo to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz to actors we haven't seen in ages like Don Johnson and Kurt Russell. It will be his second time working with Tarantino, Kill Bill, being the first.

Well no wonder the images are so mesmerizing! The man is a visionary who has been practicing his art for almost three decades.The combination of artistic vision and technical wizardry amounts to practical magic, and while a great cinematographer can't make a lousy movie, good, they sure can make it "look" good. In an Empire piece by Phil Desemlyen, Richardson, who likes to do his own camera operating, says
"I have developed my eye as a cinematographer through the craft of operating," he says. "When I am not operating, I am often anxious, uncertain, restless, sometimes irritable. When I am in the position of working with Steadicam or remote cameras, I fly with a broken wing."

Richardson, who graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and got his MFA from the American Film Institute began as a camera assistant as well as doing second unit work on low budget features like Reborn, Repo Man and Nightmare on Elm Street. He also did his fair share of documentary work but it was the PBS project The Front Line: El Salvador that became the true turning point. The project led  to his meeting Oliver Stone who hired him for 1986's Salvador.

Their partnership continued and flourished, earning Richardson his nomination for Platoon in 1986. The film won Best Picture and netted Stone a Best Director win. He was nominated again for Stone's Fourth of July, again Stone won for Best Director. Proving the third times the charm, Richardson and Stone were both nominated by the Academy for JFK; Richardson won his first golden statuette, Stone went home empty handed.

Besides working extensively with Stone - they also did Wall Street, U-Turn, Heaven and Earth, and Nixon together, Richardson also forged an early alliance with Martin Scorsese, shooting Wag the Dog, Casino, Shine A Light, and Bringing Out The Dead before the award winning The Aviator.

So yes, Hugo may be based on a 'childrens' book but with Richardson shining a light on Scorsese's telling of the story, and Scorsese at the helm, it's a film I will be seeing anyway.