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168 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I get ideas......
Martin Scorsese's stylish take on Howard Hughes' early life, is a stunningly visual treat in art direction made even more compelling by Scorsese's sure handed directorial flourishes. Scorsese is, by now, a master of the medium, always finding the interesting shot, the fitting camera angle, the flowing tracking shot, the camera movement that breathes energy into his...
Published on December 20, 2004 by Archmaker

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Aviator Takes Off
Every genius has a price to be paid. When the Greek mythological hero Achilles was born, he had a choice: He either could live a short glorious life or a long uneventful life. Achilles chose the short glorious life. In much the same way Howard Hughes made this bargain with his life it seems. In order to accomplish the tremendous things he did with his life, the gods...
Published on November 14, 2005 by Publius


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168 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I get ideas......, December 20, 2004
By 
Martin Scorsese's stylish take on Howard Hughes' early life, is a stunningly visual treat in art direction made even more compelling by Scorsese's sure handed directorial flourishes. Scorsese is, by now, a master of the medium, always finding the interesting shot, the fitting camera angle, the flowing tracking shot, the camera movement that breathes energy into his story. It is beautifully filmed and acted, most especially by Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.

It is a long movie, and it will be interesting to see whether a modern audience, many doubtless unfamiliar with the Hughes legend, will find it as intriguing as we who remember the Hughes of Las Vegas etc. Take the clue from the title, this is a film about the young Hughes who was a genius and a creative dynamo, and an almost overlooked pioneer of aviation. This was a young man full of ambition, dreams, energy and contradictions. The film not only presages the pitiable creature Hughes will become, a slave to his obsessive compulsive illness, but it does so with sympathy and sensitivity.

A first rate biopic done with flair and style. Another worthwhile look at an American life.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern-day, old-school epic!, September 22, 2005
By 
RMurray847 (Albuquerque, NM United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Aviator (2004) (DVD)
Reviews of THE AVIATOR seem to fall into three camps. Those who hate it because it rewrites history...I'll admit right here that I don't know enough about the "true" history of Hughes to comment on the accuracy of every detail. Others hate it because they find it boring or don't find Leonard DiCaprio credible as Howard Hughes. The third group likes the movie.

That's the group I'm happily in. It is by no means the greatest epic ever made, but for me it hearkens back to the glory days of the early Cinemascope, Technicolor Hollywood epic, but with better special effects. The sets and costumes are completely luscious. No expense has been spared. You feel glamorous just watching the darn thing. The acting, while very good all around, teeters close to going "over-the-top," which is just what this sort of film needs. It is not a subtle film. It is trying to tell the epic story of an epic American who achieved epic things and endured epic personal battles. A bit of bluster and scenery chewing is in order.

For example, everyone loved Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn(heck she won the Oscar). I admired her performance too...but when you watch it, you see that it is pretty unsubtle. Was Hepburn, even in quiet moments, really so full of PERSONALITY? But the film needs this to work.

Alan Alda was great...he plays slimy so well now. In my mind, he's going to totally shake off Hawkeye Pierce and emerge as a key player of political villany. In real life, he seems like a terrific, open, intelligent and easily amused person. Scary how just a tiny tweaking of those dials makes him creepy. Good stuff!! Kate Beckinsale, out of her league, does okay as Ava Gardner, but the role is generic. You never feel Ava Gardner...just some nameless starlet. Gwen Stefani got a lot of mileage out of dressing up like Jean Harlow, but she's hardly in the film. She looks great, though. Jude Law has a tiny part as Errol Flynn...how perfect that casting is!!

And finally, DiCaprio. Here's a huge role for him, one leaving him open to great failure. Yes, I know he still looks like young teenager. In GANGS OF NEW YORK, that worked against him...his anger in face of Daniel Day-Lewis was never threatening...heck, the guy could hardly grow a beard...how could he take on a master-thug? In CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, he uses that boyishness to perfection...a role he was made for naturally. In THE AVIATOR, they don't really try to make him seem older. DiCaprio is forced to make us believe he is Howard Hughes by force of his acting...not his impersonation of the man. At first, Hughes hits Hollywood with his wealth and boyish enthusiasm and starts making huge films. He's full of nervous energy and driven to succeed. That actually suits DiCaprio's natural look pretty well...so early on, we can see the boyish DiCaprio as the boyish Hughes. As Hughes ages, DiCaprio can't (and other than a few subtle lines, the makeup artists don't try to age him), but by this time, we already buy him in the role. His personality becomes more complex as his mental disorders become harder and harder for him to combat...and DiCaprio and Scorcese beautifully stage these scenes. One great moment has Hughes in a public restroom, having just obsessively washed his hands. Another patron askes Hughes to hand him a towel...but Hughes' problems simply won't let him. He knows there's no reason not to help the guy. We see DiCaprio's face racked with shame. He wants to get the towel, but can't. He groans out a "I Can't" over and over, as he's frozen in place. He can't even make himself run away...his horror at himself is too complete. This is pretty good stuff. Later, when Hughes has gone totally off the deep end, and locked himself into his offices, letting his hair grow and his hygiene become questionable (at best), his demons have totally evolved. So when he finally summons the strength to fight them down long enough to face a Senate committee (and the outcome will determine the survival of his airline), we root for him quite enthusiastically. And finally, there are the scenes where Hughes flies his experimental aircraft. First, he flies over a field and is forced to make a rough landing. His exhilaration, even as he must know at some level that he could die, is palpable. He's a kid in a candy shop...multiplied 100 fold. Later, he crashes into some fancy suburban homes. This scene is brilliantly staged, with great sound and editing, and we really feel we're in that crash with him. It's horrifying. And finally, the flight of the Spruce Goose is an emotionally climactic moment.

There's no doubt that Hughes was a "difficult" person...even without his madnesses. He wasn't much good at forging close personal relationships with women. But what Scorcese and DiCaprio have captured with THE AVIATOR is the spirit of a time in our history when great things could be done by great individuals with great ambition and drive. It's exhilarating.

To those who found the movie boring and cliché-ridden, I have no answer. People keep saying that THE AVIATOR "isn't TAXI DRIVER or RAGING BULL." So what? Spielberg's MINORITY REPORT ain't E.T. or JAWS, but each is a masterpiece on its own terms. Frankly, Jake LaMotta in RAGING BULL is so unlikeable, the film has always kept me at a bit of an emotional distance (great though it may be). At least in THE AVIATOR, I could root for Hughes and even sympathize with him. And DiCaprio, despite all his foolish, tabloid-baiting activities after TITANIC, is truly one of our most gifted actors. GILBERT GRAPE? CATCH ME IF YOU CAN? A BOY'S LIFE? And now, THE AVIATOR? He's the real deal.

Personally, I recommend this film VERY highly. It's the finest mix of old-Hollywood ambition with new-style technology.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grand story that manages to be intimate at the same time; a solid "A" and a potential classic, February 14, 2007
By 
This review is from: The Aviator (2004) (DVD)
On one level, this is an interesting and convincing period piece about the times in which Hughes lived and his remarkable accomplishments. I didn't fully catch onto the filmmakers' ultimate intent though until I watched it a second time: that is, the gravity of obsessive-compulsive disorder in Hughes' life. I greatly enjoyed the film the first time I saw it but it wasn't until that second viewing that I realized the power and grittiness of the story they were trying to tell and, for me, the "classic" status it should/will receive. The source music really helps set the period and the score by Howard Shore is truly exceptional. My respect for DiCaprio grew tremendously as well - both for his actual performance and after learning more about his passion for wanting to put this story onscreen and all the work he went to and interest he took in the project. I don't like using the word "epic" and often avoid so-called stories that are, but 'The Aviator' is a grand one that has a tone all of its own due to the focus on Hughes' determination and achievements in face of mounting external struggles and even more overwhelming internal ones.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie...Mediocre Blu-ray, July 11, 2010
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This review is from: The Aviator [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This is an excellent movie that shows the brilliance and illness of a legend. The acting cannot be faulted. Everyone does their job well.

I can't say great things about the blu-ray because it really didn't enhance anything. That said, for $10.00 I won't complain. If you have the DVD, don't bother with the blu-ray. If you don't, it will be 10 bucks well spent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood Hard at Work, January 7, 2007
This review is from: The Aviator (2004) (DVD)
Here for once you have Hollywood hard at work rather than hardly working, and a present day glimpse at what "screen magic" used to be. Perhaps the placement of a story during Hollywood's golden era helped. But what a convergence of planets -- writers avoiding knee-jerk political correctness despite the mammoth temptation of Howard Hughes at center, Leonardo DeCapio performing as a top-notch, intelligent actor and not a sneering boy, Martin Scorsese just being an honest tradesman. That plus mid-century 20 razzle-dazzle, an edgy sort of heroism, and the wild card of a tough lesson in obsessive-compulsive disorder adds up to a movie that will certainly last, long after Titanic has sunk again and the gratuitous sadism of Casino has been properly relegated to the smell-o-vision pile. Bravo!

See it on as big a screen as possible. You will meet, best as he can be recreated for you, a complex and driven creator named Howard Hughes who attempted to do more with his life than simply rest on the $$$ he was born with. Warts and all but funny too. As for the rest of the cast, no extras here -- the recreation of Ava Garner was particularly smashing and unexpected.

Despite having lived through the era and read all the Life magazines & other news junk about Hughes' last days in my teens, the movie taught me I knew nothing at all worth knowing about him. I had sat down just expecting a typical Hollywood stroll through big sets, snazzy clothes, all that jazz. I can count on one hand films that were actually an advanced learning experience, and I have seen dumpsters full of them in 55 years. But this is not only not one of those clunkers, but also close to the top.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio soar with new Hughes film, January 15, 2005
By 
Yotam (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
"The Aviator" is a spectacular whirlwind of a picture, a technical tour de force of cinematography and editing. It is Martin Scorsese's best, most confident work in years. It is a relief for those who worried that his visual flair and technical skill had become more important to his films than character and story. Most importantly, "The Aviator" is a movingly sympathetic, marvelously entertaining portrait of an archetypal American figure.

The film can be considered Scorsese's "Citizen Kane," a hugely ambitious biography of creative genius and business mogul Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio). Hughes, a towering celebrity for most of the 20th century, was brought down by his obsessions and eccentricities and eventually driven into seclusion by his mental illness.

The film begins in 1927, with Hughes using his inherited fortune to direct "Hell's Angels," a war epic that was at the time the most expensive movie ever filmed. Though Hughes is a success in Hollywood, he moves on to the aviation industry, building planes for the Air Force during World War II, then buying Transcontinental and Western Airlines. The first hour of the film, which chronicles Hughes' rise to fame and power, is a pure pleasure to watch.

The second half focuses on Hughes' confrontations with Pan Am president Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) and the government's efforts to stop TWA from expanding internationally. Most devastating are FBI investigations into Hughes' activities during World War II, headed by the corrupt Sen. Brewster (a delightful scene-stealing Alan Alda).

DiCaprio inhabits Hughes effortlessly, depicting his illness sensitively and realistically. The extraordinary performance proves that he has matured into one of the most talented actors in Hollywood.

Hughes was also famous for romancing several famous women, and John Logan's script has wisely chosen to focus on Katharine Hepburn, played by Cate Blanchett in a deliciously over-the-top recreation. Her performance is so charismatic that when she leaves Hughes for Spencer Tracy, there is a void in the film that slows down its second hour.

Hughes died in 1976, alone and broken down by the paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disorders that had haunted him throughout his life. Though the film doesn't follow Hughes to his dismal end, the intrusiveness of his mental illness is blatant. In one wrenching scene, Hughes -- hounded by the FBI, and despairing that TWA is doomed -- locks himself within a screening room for days. He eventually returns to apparent normalcy, but the film is affectingly realistic about its hero, instead of mindlessly sentimental.

"The Aviator" is certainly an unsettling and challenging piece of filmmaking that does not shy away from difficulty -- but its ultimate effect is to celebrate Hughes' achievements, the power of human creativity and the promise of the future. Its message is mostly optimistic, which stands in stark a contrast to the existential grittiness and relentless pessimism of Scorsese's earlier work.

As can be expected from any work of its ambition and sheer size, there are problems with the film. Logan's script is inevitably a condensed and somewhat whitewashed account of Hughes; His anti-Semitism, racism and involvement in weeding out Communists in Hollywood during the Red Scare of the 1950s are merely hinted at. More problematically, the film strives for pat explanations in situations that deserve a subtler treatment. Though a biographical film does not need to explain every aspect of its subject's life, "The Aviator" seems to want to do so.

Nevertheless, it is a terrific achievement. The film is arguably the most accessible of Scorsese's career, and it takes a significantly more positive and inspiring view of human nature than most of his work. The cynic would argue that Scorsese is doing nothing more than Oscar-hunting. But if the director wins the Academy Award for this film, which he very well may, it will be because he truly deserves it.

(Originally published in the Yale Daily News, January 14, 2005.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing film, January 7, 2009
By 
This is an outstanding, expansive, detailed portrait of the enigmatic and eccentric billionaire playboy and aviation enthusiast/Hollywood producer (Hell's Angels) Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the years (the 1920s through the 1940s) leading up to his bouts of insanity and decline from the spotlight. It's ambitious and never disappoints. It is bound to become a classic. The Aviator is a riveting film with a thoughtful, provocative script that delves into the many aspects of Hughes personality: the explorer (he bought TWA and flew planes and constantly planned on building bigger and better airplanes), the playboy (he dated and love Katharine Hepburn (a commendable performance by Cate Blanchett who embodies all Hepburn's traits and her accent) and Ava Gardiner (Beckinsale) and squired many other starlets around town), the germ-o-phobe (he constantly washed his hands and became obsessed with touching and cleanliness), the consummate businessman (he fought Congress and Pan Am for the right for TWA to fly abroad) and the perfectionist who analyzed everything he did. DiCaprio is amazing as always as he sheds light on this strange, wonderful and wealthy man. He brings so many layers to the character. We feel sorry for him, we root for him, and we get upset when he doesn't win. It's mesmerizing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insight into the demons that plagued Howard Hughes, January 4, 2007
This review is from: The Aviator (2004) (DVD)
This movie is basically three movies in one - The making of Hell's Angels, Hughes' relationship with Katherine Hepburn, and Hughes' battle with Congress over a law that could have effectively put him out of business, covering the years 1927-1947 in Howard Hughes' life. The opening scene, showing Hughes with his mother, is short but vital in insinuating that Hughes developed his OCD from his mother - either by listening to and remembering her fanatical anti-germ ravings about how he was never safe, or through strict genetics. It was probably a combination of both. Since his mother died young, she did not live to have the disease take over her life as it did with Howard.

The first part of the film is actually my favorite, in part because Hughes is young and relatively free from the mental illness that plagues him later in the film, and also in part because it is just plain fun watching young Howard spend three years making "Hell's Angels". You have a hard time telling where his love of aviation and perfection stop and his OCD begins, and DiCaprio has the I-am-so-rich-I-can-buy-anything-I-want swagger down just right, mixed with the perfect amount of flirtatious charm and lost boy vulnerability. Hughes' hubris is balanced by his right-hand man, Noah Dietrich, solidly played by John C. Reilly, CEO of the Hughes empire for 32 years with only two vacations the entire time, and who lived to be 13 days shy of his 93rd birthday. This part of the movie has some of its most stylish sets and is the most visually appealing part of the film, in my opinion.

The second part of the film, which focuses on Hughes' relationship with Katherine Hepburn, is good mainly because Cate Blanchett really steals the show as Hepburn. It is said that Blanchett watched every reel of film she could get her hands on from the 1930's that featured Hepburn, and her preparation shows. At some point you forget this actually ISN'T Hepburn you are watching. My favorite part of this section of the film is when the new-money unpolitical Hughes meets Hepburn's family, all old-money Democrats living a commune style existence with even Hepburn's ex-husband living on the family compound. Frances Conroy of "Six Feet Under" does a great job here in a cameo appearance as Hepburn's mother. This section of the film ends with Hepburn leaving Hughes for Spencer Tracy, and is way off base from actual events. Hepburn had been apart from Hughes for several years when she and Tracy actually met.

The third part of the film is the most depressing and required the most acting talent from DiCaprio, and he did a stellar job showing Hughes descent into madness. This part of the film starts with Hughes' near-fatal aircraft accident on July 7, 1946, while piloting the experimental U.S. Army spy plane XF-11 over Los Angeles. During his convalescence, the political winds turn against him. Pan American World Airways chief Juan Trippe sought to monopolize international air travel and had influenced Maine Senator Owen Brewster to propose legislation securing Pan Am as the sole American airline allowed to fly overseas, at a time when Hughes planned TWA service to Europe with the Constellation. Brewster in turn, started a Senate investigation of Hughes claiming he had wasted huge quantities of the taxpayers' money and had yet failed to produce any planes. Just prior to the hearings, the film shows Hughes having a complete nervous collapse. He locks himself into one of his film viewing rooms, apparently for weeks, muttering to himself in one of his OCD-induced fogs. He does reclaim his sanity just in time, though, and manages to turn the Senate hearings into an attack on Brewster when he successfully exposed Brewster's dealings with Pan Am.

Overall "The Aviator" is a visually stunning film with great performances by both DiCaprio and Blanchett. I was really pleasantly surprised by DiCaprio's performance, though. His previous outing with director Scorcese in "Gangs of New York" was such a bad film that I couldn't really judge DiCaprio as an actor. His parts before that basically had him playing male "eye candy" roles, so, again, I couldn't really judge whether or not that was all he was capable of doing. This movie, however, finally gave him the chance to either shine or fall in a good role in a quality film. I give this movie four instead of five stars only because it is a little too long.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some Men Dream the Future, He Built It, March 23, 2005
By 
Tyler Reece (burnsville, mn United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
One Man knew the silver screen,money and of course avation. He directed Hell's Angels, he dated Katie Hepburn and invented the Spruce Goose at TWA, he was Howard Hughes. From legendary oscar "NOMINATED" director Martin Scorcesse and starring Leonardo Dicaprio in his most triumphfant and stupendous performance. He portrays the man who built the future. Starring supporting actress winner for this film, Cate Blanchete as the immortal and legendary Katherine Hepburn, starring Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Alec Baldwin as Juan Tripee, CEO of Pan Am, Gwen Stafani as blonde bombshell Jean Harlow and Jude Law as swashbuckler Errol Flynn. one of the most exciting and brilliant films of the year and mabye the decade, the best Hollywood figure bio since "Chaplin" Leo and Cate are marvelous, Eastwood may own the director oscar, but he doesn't own success as a director. it's an interesting, thrilling gripping life story that truly tells you what you haven't heard. I didn't see Ray, but Leo should have won. Howard Hughes had a huge impact on Hollywood,women and avation and this is his story. If you like Hollywood figure biographies this is the best bio I've seen,but Chaplin comes pretty close. See the romance,the fame and the greatness of the Avatior. "He owns Pan Am, but he doesn't own the sky"
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will floor you with blu-ray enhancements!!!, October 11, 2009
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This review is from: The Aviator [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This movie is hands down fabulous when seen in blu-ray quality. Crisp screen shots and great sound quality makes this a wonderful addition to anyone's blu ray collection.
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