Rakesh's movie talk
Aviator, The (2004)

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Directed by Martin Scorcese
Written by John Logan
Starring Leonardo De Caprio, Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Kate Beckinsale and Ian Holm


How often have we great directors making movies about other great directors. I haven’t seen one, except for White Hunter Black Heart. In that movie, Eastwood (who also directed) plays John Wilson, a very unsubtle rendition of John Houston , who is one of the greatest filmmakers in the Hollywood’s history.


Likewise, Martin Scorcese (often referred to as one of the greatest contemporary Hollywood director) tackles the tale of Howard Hughes. I have heard about Hughes before only because of his Hollywood involvement. Here, Scorcese takes a look at only one segment of his life - the time when he was two-timing Hollywood with the Aviation industry.


I see plenty of parallel with Eastwood's film here. In Huston's story we see a great artiste and his off camera obsession with hunting. The obsession costs a lot in terms of his cinema career and personal life. Likewise, we get to see Hughes and his obsession with flying.


The film opens with a dubious (almost incestuous, I am not sure) scene showing tiny Hughes and his mom. She bathes him, talks about germ and spells Quarantine for the little boy. This is the origin of neurosis that will haunt him forever. The man is paranoid, has phobia for germs, and suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder for the rest of his life, and the film tracks this down during the period of his life when he was creating records and breaking planes in the thirties right up to the fifties.


A few words about Leornardo De Caprio's performance. He is no De Niro (I wonder how much the great actor would have contributed if he played Hughes at younger age), but he certainly has worked his ass off for this movie. In him, Scorcese may have or not found his new faithful actor/partner. Though Leo pulled off a wonderful job, we may sometimes find our attention interrupted by his pretty boy look. Hughes had masculine good looks, and well, physically De Caprio is not even close. But don't let that bug you. De Caprio just won the Golden Globes for acting and he has a great chance of winning the Oscar too, unless ole Eastwood surprises everyone with his performance in Million Dollar Baby.


Other actors did great job too, like Cate Blanchett - who, in my humble opinion, is our next Meryl Streep – who was wonderful as Kate Hepburn. She steals the show from young De Caprio and everyone else. There is also Ava Gardner character, played by the unconvincing Kate Beckinsale. Can't blame her. Gardner is one of the most gorgeous actresses of her time, and it would be goddamn tough to even look 5% like her


The male co-stars all did their job well, especially Alec Baldwin. This is probably the first time an airline CEO is portrayed as a bad guy and Baldwin is suitably slimy. So is Alan Alda, whom I have not seen in big screen for a long time (Alda won nomination for supporting actor).


And what about Scorcese? I don't know, man. I have a mixed feeling about his job here. I mean, this film is not even close to another based-on-true-story flick he had done, Casino. What happened to him? I believe it is the fault of fans like me to want him to be doing the same kind of job all the time. Talents evolve, don't they? Just that Scorcese evolved into a working, hack director that we are not comfortable with. It is not that the movie does not have his touch. In fact, Scorcese proved that he could rival Spielberg in action department in some of the scenes. Witness the intensity of the shooting of the shooting of Hughes' Hell's Angels. Or the crash scene over the houses in Beverly Hills. Intense is the right word. I was literally at the edge of the seat. The special effects, probably the first time Scorcese using CG, is well done. Bravo.


The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus does remind us once in a while that this is a Scorcese film, but otherwise, it is routine. The score by Howard Shore (own Golden Globe) is apt, never overblown. What else? I don't know. It’s a great film, but I don't want to revisit it. I heard that Scorcese is working with Leo again. Hope both will be better in that film.


Both may win Oscars, but do they deserve it? Leo should have won it in What's eating Gilbert Grape and Scorcese should have won it for countless of his early films. Well, you know Oscar. They are always giving out Sorry Oscars, like they did with Newman and Pacino. It might be time after all.


Unless, again, Eastwood surprises them.