Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Aviator (2004)

“The way of the future.” 

            Many young people today may not know who Howard Hughes is. They may not know that he was an aviation pioneer, a brilliant man ahead of his times who was not afraid to take risks. Howard Hughes was a name I had heard of or read about here and there but never really knew just what he was about. I cannot even tell you since my memory fails me at the moment if I had read about him because I watched The Aviator by Martin Scorsese or if it was because I had read about Ginger Rogers and how she was engaged to him for a short time. I cannot even tell you how or why I can to saw The Aviator or how I came to own it. One thing I can say for certain at the moment is that the movie is one of my favorites.
            When the movie begins a young Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is directing his film Hell’s Angels out on an air strip in the desert. A sky battle is about to be filmed with dozens and dozens of planes. When the scene is shot and previewed Hughes is upset that you cannot see how fast the planes are going since there is nothing against them to show their speed. He decides to reshoot the whole scene and wait for the perfect weather with large clouds behind them. The film in the end costs $3.8 million to make and does not do as well as expected. The film’s bust does not deter the young and dashing Hughes. He moves on to making the fastest and best looking planes.
            His millions allow him to become a playboy able to get any girl he sets his sights on. At the premier of Hell’s Angels he has Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani) on his arm. In the middle of creating planes and making business deals he meets a young fresh faced Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) who at that time is not the famed and success Katharine Hepburn of MGM she if the box-office poison Hepburn of RKO. They see each other for a few years but when Howard starts to ignore her she leaves him and hooks up with Spencer Tracy. His next actress he hooks up with is the gorgeous and feisty Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). Neither of his relationships are romantic. Ava later on gets really pissed off at him for tapping her phones and having her followed.
            During World War II the United States Army pays him to make planes for them for millions of dollars. He only completed one plane but that one plane he tested himself and horrifically crashed and nearly died from. After the crash his neurosis begins to control his life and for a while he becomes a recluse. During his seclusion Pan Am and the congressman bring accusations against Hughes for his military contracts and his work with TWA. The congressman is in the pocket of the owner of Pan Am so he gladly attacks Hughes but the aviator wins against the corrupt politician.       
            There are a lot of episodes from Howard Hughes’s life that are shown in the movie to make my summary sound coherent. The whole story and telling of it is brilliant.
            Leonardo DiCaprio was great. I was never a fan of his when I was younger during the Romeo and Juliet and Titanic phase but now that he is older I enjoy him and his movies so much. He truly is so unbelievably talented. DiCaprio’s performance was great especially when the story came to the beginning of Hughes going crazy. He makes you feel for Hughes instead of making the man look just crazy and out of his mind, you feel terrible that someone with such a brilliant mind was so mentally ill. Cate Blanchett was outrageously incredible as Katharine Hepburn the woman truly deserved her Oscar for this role. Not only did Blanchett have the actress’s mannerisms down but her speech the way the Hepburn spoke. That was amazing I give Blanchett all the props and praise for pulling off Katharine Hepburn’s speech. I died with how perfect the hairstylists got Hepburn’s flip in the front and her part. I love Hepburn’s longer hair it was always crazy yet put together… kind of like the actress herself. Their relationship is made a little more romantic than it really was; Hepburn was very asexual her relationship with Hughes was like a companionship than anything else. Kate Beckinsale was almost scary as Ava Gardner. There are certain shots that if you look quickly she looks exactly like Ava Gardner. I read a great biography on the actress and there was a great story on how she got mad at Hughes for tapping her phones and having her watched and threw something at him giving him a deep cut on the head. The writers stuck this story in the movie! Gardner was a tough cookie she as definitely someone to listen to and not piss off. Again the hairstylists did an amazing job with Beckinsale’s hair I love Ava Gardner’s hair as well I always wish I could curl my hair that way and give my bangs a nice flip and wave like hers.
            Other actors make several appearances as characters in Howard Hughes’s life. Jude Law plays Errol Flynn, Alan Alda plays the paid off Sen. Owen Brewster, Alec Baldwin is Juan Trippe the head of Pan Am, John C. Reilly is Hughes’s long suffering accountant and Willem Dafoe in a very short scene as a photographer.
            Martin Scorsese did a fantastic job. The more films I see of his the more I adore him for his love of filmmaking that comes through every frame. Howard Hughes has an interesting story and Scorsese perfectly weaves us through the man’s personal demons but also his technological genius.
            The Aviator is a very well made biopic. I especially liked how the story did not go back and forth through time to tell Hughes’s story like J. Edgar or The Iron Lady that device drives me nuts. As in Coco Before Chanel it does not go into too much detail and it may not be entirely accurate but it gives the viewer enough story and information to become interested in researching Howard Hughes and the people in his life. Let me tell you being a fan of both Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn and having read excellent biographies on them you want to know more about them. If you do want to know more about these fascinating women read Ava Gardner: “Love is Nothing” by Lee Server and Kate: The Woman Who was Hepburn by William J. Mann. Both authors go into the time when the actresses were with Hughes. I think it helps to know about Hughes and his time in Hollywood and some of the films he made like The Outlaw with Jane Russell which is mentioned and shown. The Aviator is an all around great movie that I highly suggest seeing. 

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