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January 2005

By Wilson Morales
The Aviator

Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Martin Scorsese
Producers: Sandy Climan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charles Evans Jr., Graham King, & Michael Mann
Screenwriter: John Logan
Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
Composer: Howard Shore
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly, Kate Beckinsale, Adam Scott, Alec Baldwin, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, Gwen Stefani, Matt Ross, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Danny Huston, and Adam Scott

Screened at Loews Kips Bay, NYC



When you think of any Martin Scorsese film lately, the first thing that may come to your mind is whether or not the film in question will be his crowning achievement. With classics such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas, we still wonder why hasn't he won an Oscar for best direction? Every Hollywood heavyweight has tried their best to campaign for him. In some cases, they tried too hard and too much. With his last film, Gangs of New York, ads were all over the place practically begging the Academy to give Scorsese the Oscar. The film, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio was good, but it wasn't great. Scorsese was nominated for an Oscar, but once again, he came home empty-handed. Two years have gone by, and Scorsese is back with a new film, yet with his current muse, DiCaprio, as the star again. Howard Hughes is one of the greatest men in history in some areas. What he did in the world of aviation is still considered legendary but the man himself was so much a recluse that he was always hard to figure out. With "The Aviator", Scorsese hopes to tell the world what Howard was like and how he came to be the man that we know of. With DiCaprio as Hughes, Scorsese may finally walk on the podium and collect the golden statue. Not only is "The Aviator" is stunning and entertaining, but everyone in the cast from Leonardo on down is outstanding.

Wealthy at an early age since the death of his parents, Howard Hughes (DiCaprio) had a flair to be top of the world, almost literally. Using his money, he wanted to be in the film business and did a film on what he knows best, skies and planes. His first film, Hell's Angels, took years and loads of money before he decided technology was beating him to achievement and so he spent another year, three in total, just to add sound. When it was finally released, the acclaim and respect was bestowed upon Howard. He not only the conquered the industry, but he drew the attention of many starlets at the time, from Jean Harlow (Stefani) and Hepburn (Blanchett), to Ava Gardner (Beckinsale). Other starlets and very young women would also be in his life, the ultimately it's his relationship with Hepburn where he finds real love. As his relationship with Kate Hepburn was blossoming, his quest to dominate the aviation world was more passionate. Hiring the best technicians, and taking over TWA, Howard wanted to make a plane that was faster and can as many as 300 people or more.

While Howard was wooing the ladies and making planes, he also had an obsessive-compulsive disorder that would forever haunt him. Howard had a thing with cleanliness and anything opposite of that he considered it to be a germ. Hepburn understood him and so did some of his closest advisors such as Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) and Glenn Odekirk (Matt Ross), but others did not, so they did their best to shield that side of him from the public. Howard also had a tenacity of repeating his statements over and over again. As Howard begins his campaign to build more planes and go faster, that sets his rivalry with Pan-Am president Juan Trippe (Baldwin) in motion. Along with Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster, the two of them would seek to bring Hughes and his empire down.

At a running time of close to three hours, there are enough stories and relationships that Scorsese has thrown in that you would think that he got finally got it right. In some areas, yes, but like all of these bio-pics that have been out this year such as Ray, Kinsey, and Beyond The Sea to name a few, there are moments in all of these films where short stories are told in a montage. DiCaprio has been the beneficiary of living up to his potential. Since he became worldly-known for his performance in "Titanic", he's been working with the best directors Hollywood has to offer and they have been steering him in the right direction. From Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, Leonardo has grown into an actor has who can command an audience. Midway through the film, DiCaprio was Howard Hughes. From the look, the walk, the talk, and the mannerisms, DiCaprio is sensational. Cate Blanchett adds in her support in an amazing turn as Kate Hepburn. She carried the talk and the walk flawlessly, and Scorsese as well the screenwriter John Logan did a subtle job in keeping the relationship she had with Spencer Tracy on the outskirts of the film for that's a another big story to tell. Logan throws so many stories at a rapid pace that at times, you could lose the focus on the film, which is about Hughes, but what I loved is that he gave so many secondary performers like Matt Ross, Brent Spiner, and even Willem Dafoe a chance to shine in their own way. Some would say that Beckinsale was miscast as Ava Gardner, but then again, DiCaprio is not as tall as the real Howard Hughes. The set and production design are also a tour-de force. The scenes in which the planes are flying in the film within the film as well as Hughes's crash are simply breathtaking. Any film that Martin Scorsese does at this point will always be under a microscope. Folks want to love him and hate him at the same time, but one thing's for certain, he will give his best and so will his team of actors, producers, and folks behind the scene. At the end of the year, when we have so many bio-pics, and animated films, and a few comedies, "The Aviator" stands out because it's entertaining, it's dazzling, and the performances are extraordinary. It's certainly one of the best films of the year, and Scorsese should finally have his acceptance speech dusted off.