Leave it to Martin Scorsese, he is one of the few reliable directors who graces in age, still manages to make outstanding movies. I thought his previous film; GANGS OF NEW YORK was the best film of 2002 (and still stand by that comment). Scorsese who was once known for showing us the gritty realistic world of New York City's "Mean Streets" with the Little Italy thugs (MEAN STREETS), anti-hero loners (TAXI DRIVER), fallen hero (RAGING BULL), bizarre world of Soho (AFTER HOURS), realistic thugs (GOODFELLAS), gangsters controlling Las Vegas (CASINO; it wasn't in NYC, but it still had the similar theme), guilt ridden paramedic (BRINGING OUT THE DEAD), and the war between immigrants (GANGS OF NEW YORK). This is the Scorsese that all of us know about and remember. Yet Scorsese was also responsible for telling us about a single mother in the southwest struggling to survive (ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE), the final farewell concert of a fantastic rock/folk group The Band (THE LAST WALTZ), and the story of Jesus Christ (LAST TEMPTATION OF Christ). Now Scorsese has become the storyteller of one of the most enthusiastic and eccentric billionaires of recent years, Howard Hughes.
In THE AVIATOR, Scorsese portrays Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) as several different roles: filmmaker, womanizer, entrepreneur, engineer, germ-phobic, and aviator. The film tells about the achievements that Hughes accomplished such as the movies HELL'S ANGELS & THE OUTLAW, the building of an airplane that can fly above 20,000 feet, acquiring TWA and making it a international airline, and the design and building of the largest airplane ever the Hercules (now known as the Spruce Goose). Yet Hughes went through so many conflicts with his business: Pan Am Airline chief Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), Louis B. Mayer (Stanley DeSantis); his romance: Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsdale); and himself: paranoia, and obsession compulsion disorder.
THE AVIATOR discusses all of those elements in rich detail, that after watching the movie, you begin to realize the amazing accomplishments that Hughes did. Wonder why the only thing we most remember about Hughes was being a recluse who was afraid of germs. And would like to know more about Howard Hughes and see the films that were discussed in the film.
This isn't a Scorsese film that people want another TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, or RAGING BULL would expect. This is a different kind of Scorsese, one who is telling a story about a man, who is no different that him. A dreamer who dreams big and ignores what his advisors, and partners tell him, then come up with projects with amazing results.
DiCaprio proves that he his under-appreciated actor in this film. While most of the public see him as that goofy kid who shouts, "I'm king of the world!" in TITANIC. Yet most don't realize his talent with such roles as in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. THE AVIATOR shows that DiCaprio is a great actor, giving a realistic portrayal of the eccentric Hughes in some scenes, and a man who cleanses the germs that represent people he dislikes or negative incidents. Blanchett does a amazing job with her performance of Katherine Hepburn with the way her head is tilted back to the pronunciation of words to the snobbish like personality she has when she is around her parents. While Beckinsdale also does a great job playing the very sexy Ava Gardner who has a love/hate relationship with Hughes, a woman who hates him at times, but will help him when he needs help.
The supporting performances by John C. Reily, Ian Holm, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Danny Huston, and Matt Ross are all top rate and also deserve recognition as well.
And Scorsese proves that he one of the best directors of all time with several elements. First the pacing of the story, the film never drags and at running time of 169 mins. it kept my attention on what was going to be happening next. Second, some of the scenes of the film were of complete beauty and wonder. One scene that blew my mind was during the filming of the aerial scenes from HELLS ANGELS which showed how dangerous it was filming the dogfight scenes from that film, seventy years before computer generated images would replace that technique. Third, the acting by the actors was top notch and very convincing. Finally, the story of Howard Hughes himself was unique and original and I think there will never be another person like Howard Hughes.
This has been quite a year of movies: COLLATERAL, SIDEWAYS, KILL BILL VOL. 2, THE INCREDIBLES, RAY, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, THE TERMINAL, FAHRENHEIT 9/11, BOURNE SUPREMENCY, OCEANS TWELVE, CRIMINAL, SPIDER-MAN 2, MEAN GIRLS, HARRY POTTER & PRISONER OF AZKABAN, and SPANGLISH were all films that were amazing and all were among my favorite films of this year (yet I still need to see LIFE AQUATIC and FINDING NEVERLAND). But I think it will be hard to beat THE AVIATOR, for it's story, characters, and epic feel.
The Academy has snubbed Scorsese for 30 years; they did the same thing for Roman Polanski until THE PIANIST. Now I think its time for the Academy to acknowledge Scorsese for his craft and technique. While some people will believe that Scorsese should have won his Oscar back in 1980 with RAGING BULL, or in 1990 with GOODFELLAS, I feel that it's time to recognize Scorsese for something! And THE AVIATOR is one film that I think that most Scorsese devotees (like myself) feel is worthy of recognition. Plus, if this movie wins both Best Director and Best Picture, then two of my favorite directors will win Oscars (Scorsese and Michael Mann, who produced AVIATOR).
So that is why I am rooting and hoping that THE AVIATOR will collect Oscar gold. The best movie of the year, and don't miss it!!!!! ***** (Out of five)
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