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Aviator, The (DVD) (WS)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire, the filmmaker, the recluse and The Aviator. After inheriting his father's machine tool company, the young Howard Hughes discovers he can combine his passions--flying, moviemaking and women--by coming to Hollywood. In 1930, while building one of the world's largest aviation companies, Hughes produces Hell's Angels, a perfectionist's homage to World War I flyers. The man who eventually produces almost 30 films shocks society with The Outlaw, starring buxom Jane Russell, builds the world's largest airplane, sets the world speed record and invents the half-cup bra.]]>
From Hollywood's legendary Cocoanut Grove to the pioneering conquest of the wild blue yonder, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator celebrates old-school filmmaking at its finest. We say "old school" only because Scorsese's love of golden-age Hollywood is evident in his approach to his subject--Howard Hughes in his prime (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in his)--and especially in his technical mastery of the medium reflecting his love for classical filmmaking of the studio era. Even when he's using state-of-the-art digital trickery for the film's exciting flight scenes (including one of the most spectacular crashes ever filmed), Scorsese's meticulous attention to art direction and costume design suggests an impassioned pursuit of craftsmanship from a bygone era; every frame seems to glow with gilded detail. And while DiCaprio bears little physical resemblance to Hughes during the film's 20-year span (late 1920s to late '40s), he efficiently captures the eccentric millionaire's golden-boy essence, and his tragic descent into obsessive-compulsive seclusion. Bolstered by Cate Blanchett's uncannily accurate portrayal of Katharine Hepburn as Hughes' most beloved lover, The Aviator is easily Scorsese's most accessible film, inviting mainstream popularity without compromising Scorsese's artistic reputation. As compelling crowd-pleasers go, it's a class act from start to finish. --Jeff Shannon
In his commentary track, director Martin Scorsese offers his own impressions of Howard Hughes and rattles off his memories of experiencing Hughes's films. He mentions how he made Cate Blanchett watch every Katharine Hepburn film from the '30s on the big screen, and observes that Kate Beckinsale had "a real sense of the stature of a Hollywood goddess." But in general he doesn't talk much about the craft of making the film. That area is covered better by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who also appears on the commentary track, and producer Michael Mann makes a few appearances (all were recorded separately). The picture is brilliant, but the 5.1 sound is not as aggressive in the rear speakers and subwoofer as one might expect, other than some nice surround effects in the Hell's Angels flying sequence.
The second disc collects almost three hours of features. There's one unnecessary deleted scene, and an 11-minute making-of featurette that's basically the cast and director heaping praise on each other. More interesting are the short featurettes on visual effects (including the XF-11 scene, of course), production design, costumes, hair and makeup, and score, and Loudon Wainwright discusses his and his children's musical performances. Historical perspective is provided by spotlights on Hughes's role in aviation and his obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a 43-minute Hughes documentary from the History Channel (part of the Modern Marvels series, it focuses on his mechanical innovations and spends less than a minute on his movies). More unusual are DiCaprio and Scorsese's appearance on an OCD panel, and a half-hour interview segment DiCaprio did with Alan Alda. --David Horiuchi
The Personalities of The Aviator
| Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes |
"Sometimes I truly fear that I... am losing my mind. And if I did it... it would be like flying blind."
| Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn |
Howard Hughes: "You're the tallest woman I have ever met."
Katharine Hepburn: "And all sharp elbows and knees. Beware."
| Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner |
Howard Hughes: "Does that look clean to you?"
Ava Gardner: "Nothing's clean, Howard. But we do our best, right?"
| Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow |
Jean Harlow in Hell's Angels: "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?"
| Jude Law as Errol Flynn |
Errol Flynn in Captain Blood: "Up the riggings, you monkeys! Break out those sails and watch them fill with the wind that's carrying us all to freedom!"
| Director Martin Scorsese |
"You get a sense of Howard Hughes being Icarus with the wax wings. Those wings were great for a while, but he flies too close to the sun." --Martin Scorsese
Other Movies by The Aviator's Oscar® Winners
The Aviator at Amazon.com
The Aviator soundtrack
Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator
Howard Hughes movies
Great movies of the 1930s
The films of Martin Scorsese
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But this film concentrates on the aviator's life, ignoring details of his philanthropy, and focusing on his phobias, namely 9-year-old Howard(Jacob Davich) spelling the word "quarantine" as his mother(Amy Sloan) bathes him and informs him about an epidemic, telling him that he is not safe.
Skipping ahead to 1927,Hughes (now played by a much-too-blue-eyed but otherwise excellent Leonardo DiCaprio) has now inherited his family's fortune but takes a different course of action; while he hires Noah Dietrich(John C. Reilly) to run the Hughes Tool Company, Hughes' interest in film and aviation, both of which he combines when directing the silent film, "Hell's Angels", send him along a different course in life.
After seeing the "The Jazz Singer", the first "talkie", Hughes spends several million more dollars and years re-shooting "Hell's Angels" with sound--one of many decisions he will make to the consternation of those around him.
But the film is a triumph and the young and divorced millionaire squires actress Jean Harlow(Gwen Stefani)to the premiere, after which he has the film re-cut.
He produces "Scarface" and "The Outlaw", the latter of whose release is delayed because of issues with the censorship board. The film accurately depicts the well-known anecdote of his having designed a bra for Jane Russell for "The Outlaw". With help from one Professor Fitz( Ian Holm), he vindicates himself during the censorship hearing.
We view his cohabitation with actress Katherine Hepburn( a dead-on Cate Blanchett in her first Oscar-winning turn), which begins when he flies his plane to a beach where she is picnicking. They play golf together, and she alleviates some of the symptoms of his disorder. He has an uncomfortable meeting with her family in Connecticut, and their union is doomed by Hughes' squiring other actresses to film premieres.
Aside from a life of pleasure, business continues. He purchases majority interest in Transcontinental & Western Air(TWA) Trans World Airlines predecessor. To the elegant strains of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565", we watch Hughes test the H-1 racer, crashing it into a beet field attempting to push it to a new speed record.
In 1938, three years later, he sets a new record, flying around the world in four days, beating the previous record of seven days, but the chairman of the board of Pan Am, Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin) views Hughes' rival airline company as a threat and solicits aid from his friend, Senator Owen Brewster(Alan Alda) to introduce the Commercial Airline Bill, which would enable Pan Am to monopolize international air travel.
Hepburn and Hughes have a tempestuous break-up when the former meets Spencer Tracy(Kevin O' Rourke).
To the strains of Artie Shaw's "Nightmare", Hughes strips naked and burns the clothes Hepburn gave him, then he calls Dietrich to buy some more clothes for him.
Soon the redhead who favored slacks and tweeds will be replaced firstly by 15-year-old Faith Domergue(Kelli Garner), and later, actress Ava Gardner ( Kate Beckinsale, bearing the same gracefully shaped visage as her character). There will be a formidable clash between the two mistresses that will be fodder for scandal rags.
Securing contracts with the Army Air Forces for two projects, he only completes one by 1946--the XF-11, christened The Hercules by Hughes, but which will go down in history as the "Spruce Goose".
Amid his worsening OCD, which results in his frequent repetition of phrases and over concern about germs and dust, he flies and crashes the Hercules in a Beverly Hills suburb on July 7, 1946.
Suddenly that full, boyish, classic featured face of DiCaprio becomes a stage on which a thousand dramas may be played. Whereas in "The Man in The Iron Mask", his golden, matted hair had to be pulled away and shaved, here, he is bruised and bloodied, and he receives stitches, which will soon be covered by a mustache, as was the case with the real Hughes.
Bandaged from head to toe in the hospital, an "agonized" Leo does some of his best acting as he meets with his partners, Dietrich, and Glen Odekirk(Matt Ross) to determine the course of his projects as well as certain financial liabilities.
Paranoia leads him to plant microphones in Ava Gardner's house, and his own house is searched by the FBI for evidence of war profiteering.
We will witness a great man's deterioration as he locks himself in his screening room, and despite pleas from Katherine Hepburn, who expresses gratitude at Howard's having prevented one Roland Sweet( Willem Dafoe) from releasing incriminating pictures of her and Spencer Tracy, refusing to come out.
Soon he is confined to a place with tissues strewn all over the floor, rotting and ant-ridden sandwiches, and urine-filled milk bottles where the nude and unkempt Hughes views his films and manages a meeting with Juan Trippe on the opposite side of the door to discuss the future of TWA and his impending Senate hearing. It is an eerily brilliant scene that proves that naked people can have influence in this world.
But it neglects to mention Hughes' possible allydonia-pain sensitivity upon being touched. The sight of his burn-scarred body folded and cowering sums up his agony quite indelibly.
Ava returns to tend to him briefly before the Senate hearing. Modern viewers might contemplate how much Hughes would have loved hand sanitizer as they observe this and many other scenes. But we will see this afflicted magnate boldly go up against Senator Brewster, who like his Hollywood colleague, Errol Flynn(Jude Law) was spitefully mocking of his disorder.
Ultimately, in a style reminiscent of "A Beautiful Mind", we will see the Aviator rise, and we will see him triumph, even in the midst of his suffering--a performance of Leonardo DiCaprio's that was quite justly answered with a Golden Globe.
DiCaprio is too young for the gravitas and profundity that was Howard Hughes. Additionally, DiCaprio's portrayal of Howard presents him as brash, gauche and impolite, spouting profanity - the ugly American stereotype, if you will. Howard's mother was an Aristocratic highly refined Victorian lady. Indeed, a true blue blood - one of her relatives was a general in the Civil War, I believe, and she had geneological connections to George Washington etc... She had a prodigious and comprehensive influence on Howard's tastes, values and behaviour. As a result, Howard grew up with the reserve and refinement possessed by men of his class. He was always at pains to be polite and was quiescent and INORDINATELY SHY besides. This is one of the first things about him mentioned by those who knew him. The scene in the picture in the Cocoanut Grove where DiCaprio brazenly invites a cigarette girl up to his hotel room is something Howard would never have done. He would have found it vulgar. Howard was in awe of beautiful women and would always seek out a proper introduction from a third party before approaching a lady he coveted. Even with Faith Domergue: He first met her incidentally when she was accompanying a friend whom Howard was then seeing. He was mesmerized by her and took her for a sailing trip during which he sat on the boat simply staring at her (not speaking) for hours.
Several scenes in the picture show DiCaprio wearing tennis shoes. Now, if the producers had simply bothered to listen to the last interview Howard gave from the Bahamas in 1971, they would have known better: As the well-bred man he was, Howard wore tennis shoes only on the tennis court. During the war, when leather was rationed, shoes were made from non-strategic material which was a sort of canvas. Howard had a pair of these which he liked and wore, but which some newsman termed "tennis shoes," hence this idea that he wore tennis shoes in public was born. He never did. Another inaccuracy: The filmakers show DiCaprio requesting milk as his beverage of choice. While Howard eschewed alcohol, his preferred beverage was usually water or vegetable juice.
Yet another inaccuracy in the picture : Howard attended the opening of "Hell's Angels" not with Jean Harlow as depicted in the picture, but with Billie Dove, arguably the greatest love of his life. There were several instances in the picture where others around him appeared to direct or guide him, in other words they had the upper hand. I feel this doesn't ring true. Howard was nothing if not always in control. This was one of his problems. He simply HAD to have control over people and situations. Because of this and also because of his greater wisdom, discernment, savoir faire and high IQ, everyone looked to him for leadership and guidance, not the other way around.
I felt the extent of DiCaprio's attempts to embody Howard were limited to the constant scowl or frown he maintained resutling in the ubiquitous and deep ridge between his eyebrows. I just felt the actor was attempting a role that proved too much for him. This becomes more obvious when he is in scenes with Alan Alda or Cate Blanchett, much better actors. I felt his job was amaturish and I wish the producers had acquired a more seasoned actor to portray this remarkable man.
However, I will allow that if DiCaprio shines anywhere in this film it is during his portrayal of Howard during the Senate hearings. The moustache helps. The actor obviously assiduously studied the videotapes of the hearings. I also applaud him for simply trying to imitate a man who was inimitable.
And why did the filmakers not portray Howard's trip around the world more fully? This was remarkable and did a tremendous lot to advance the idea that commercial aviation was a plausible idea. He was very proud of this accomplishment.
I was also displeased by the portrayal of Howard's alleged OCD. While it is important to educate people about this condition and find ways to help sufferers, Howard was an extremely private man and would absolutely abhor anyone knowing about his personal problems. We all have problems - but this man was exceptional: exceptionally intelligent, exceptionally kind and generous (despite publicity to the contrary), exceptionally handsome, exceptionally capable, exceptionally strong and brave, exceptionally savvy and discerning, exceptionally obstinate and sedulous, exceptionally wealthy. I feel it is more important and moreover it is what we owe him as custodians of his legacy to publicize his genius and unique gifts which advanced civilization with regards to aeronautics, commercial aviation, filmaking, technology and research. I fear the scenes of his aberrant behavior only served to make him look silly and ridiculous. For years he has been called a "madman" and I am sick of this. HE WAS NEVER "MAD" as we normally use the term. Recall how after a "spell" of aberration, he was able to take on the malfeasance of Senator Brewster and Brewster's attempts to ruin him and in turn ruin Brewster instead! Could a madman have accomplished this??? Indeed, after Howard had vindicated himself in Washington, Brewster was unable to get even a job as a legal clerk!! While I am glad the picture does indeed show Howard's heroic vindication, I am afraid that, because of the sensationalistic nature of the medium and most people's desire to voyeristically observe others they consider "freaks", I fear the "madman" tag will continue to overshadow the absolute and unique brilliance of this man. If you see this picture, please realize that this is Hollywood sensationalism, whatever else it may be. Howard was at once gentle and kind, sensitive and generous - obstinate, determined, wily, rapacious and could be Machiavellian in his attempts to get what he wanted. He had his personal problems, but this is not what is notable about him. Please remember him as he would have wished: As a pioneering aviator, an engineer, inventor,wise, courageous brilliant man who cared about contributing his unique gifts in ways which would advance civilization, which is what he did.
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Hot Toasty Rag, December 9, 2017
The Aviator is a biopic of the famous Hollywood director and producer Howard Hughes.Read more