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621 out of 869 people found the following review useful:

Falling Short of Greatness...Again

Author: Rathko from Los Angeles
21 December 2004

Scorsese has such an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of cinema that every shot, however inventive and daring, is effortlessly composed. The direction, editing and cinematography are all the first-rate work by individuals who are clearly masters of their profession and the production design, costumes and makeup are the best you'll see all year. Their efforts combine to create a world of rich and lavish color, of excitement and glamour. Who wouldn't want to visit THIS Cotton Club in 1935? It's hard to imagine who could trump the technical team for Oscars this year.

With such a perfectly realized world in which to perform, the actors universally do an outstanding job. Despite the criticism of the hardcore DiCaprio-haters, the unprejudiced will observe an excellent performance that takes genuine risks and convincingly conveys the passing of more than twenty years. Importantly, DiCaprio more than holds his own when paired with Cate Blanchett and especially Alan Alda, who both give equally note worthy performances. Blanchett's interpretation of Katherine Hepburn seems spot on, and anyone familiar with the late actresses mannerisms will appreciate the hard work that clearly went into the recreation. Alda, one of the most consistently underrated actors around, delivers another masterclass in restrained character building as he oozes ambition and political dishonesty from every pore.

And yet, despite the obvious talent of all those involved and Scorsese's ability to effortlessly fill three hours, something about The Aviator fails to completely satisfy. Without wanting to sound like a film student, movies should, ultimately, be ABOUT something; love, honor, courage, redemption, the BIG ideas and themes that are the fuel of the plot. What was the drive of The Aviator? A rich guy recklessly spends lots of money to indulge his personal obsessions and gets away with it. We're never told how his experiences change him, and without change there's no journey. Considering the screenplay was written by John Logan, who usually displays a keen interest in showing the emotional evolution of his characters, the oversight is inexplicable. Ultimately then, much like Gangs of New York, The Aviator is simply the sum of it's parts, and however brilliantly those parts are realized, there doesn't seem to be a bigger theme to underpin and drive them.

The Aviator is a perfectly realized recreation of the era and one well worth experiencing. But the lack of a real emotional journey suggests 'all gloss and no substance', and ultimately prevents the movie from being truly great.

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481 out of 670 people found the following review useful:


Author: Mister1045 from Los Angeles, CA
17 December 2004

This is an astonishingly beautiful and moving film. Martin Scorcese has created a seminal work -- one that brings the harrowing, big-studio, adult movie making of the 1970's and totally reinvents and reinvigorates it for today's audience.

The story traces the rise and demise of billionaire Howard Hughes as he struggles to find meaning and purpose in a life unfettered by concerns of money, talent or opportunity. Whether trying to get a plane off the ground or a young starlet into bed, Hughes attacks life with a fierce gusto -- plagued and prodded by obsessive compulsive germphobia that constantly threatens to consume and defeat him.

DiCaprio is amazing! It's the performance no one thought he was capable of. It is a dynamic, smart, funny, articulate, intense, mature and ultimately harrowing performance that relaunches his career as one of American's finest actors. At the end of the film, you just want to take him in your arms and sob. It's really that good.

Cate Blanchett is incredible as Katherine Hepburn. At first, I was a little thrown by how bravely she attacked the Hepburn trademark voice, but I was completely won over by the second line. It is a tender, funny, incredibly convincing star turn that supplies the heart for the first half of the film. The scene where she takes Howard home "for dinner" with the family is a classic! Kate Beckinsale does a surprisingly fine job with Eva Gardner -- conveying the slow burning passion of this Hollywood icon without ever lapsing into mere mimicry.

But, in the end, this isn't a love story -- it's a war story -- a war between Howard's unstoppable will and his fierce inner demons battling for Howard's soul. It is the major relationship in the movie and the true heart of the film -- one that fuels his eccentric genius and yet constantly threatens to rip his life apart. He tries to ignore it by sleeping with every beauty in town. He tries to outrun it, building faster and faster airplanes. Yet, it is his one constant companion from early childhood to his ultimate, inescapable end. And it is this relationship that leaves you devastated at the end of the film.


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268 out of 435 people found the following review useful:

Ambitious, Impeccably-Acted, DELIVERS

Author: gmorgan-4 from New York, New York
6 December 2004

Martin Scorsese's most recent ambitious project does not disappoint.

I just saw this film in a special preview for NYU film students, with Martin Scorsese there to discuss and answer questions after, and I must say, it was pretty phenomenal. It is Martin Scorsese's best work since Goodfellas (this is obvious) and most probably his best work since Raging Bull. DiCaprio's character study of Howard Hughes, and his devotion to this role, is exquisite and reminiscent even of Robert De Niro's in Raging Bull. The film is lengthy, but this compliments it, for the story is riveting and the production is practically flawless (even the combination of computerized processes and more traditional photography was smooth and effective).

The presentation of the film, in an evolving color (from two-tone Technicolor, as Martin explained it to us, to three-tone, to modern by the later sequences) is absolutely stunning, and the cinematography by renowned Robert Richardson, ASC, is some of the best I've seen (and, in my opinion, deserving of an Oscar).

Cate Blanchett was impeccable as Katharine Hepburn, though, at times, I felt that the complexity of her character was never really deeper than a surface analysis.

She did her role flawlessly, but this is not to say that it really Alec Baldwin portrayed one of the flattest villains I've seen in a major motion picture, but, again, this is about Howard Hughes, and DiCaprio's performance is worthy of an Oscar nod at least, and perhaps an Oscar Win (certainly the best performance I've seen all year).

One of my few complaints, though, is the lengthy sequences featuring Howard Hughes as a solo aviator. Though interesting, entertaining even, the film was long enough already, and did not require such an exhaustive analysis of individual flight procedures.

Also, it seems that some of the themes were almost too redundant, such as the ways in which Hughes' psychological problems were performed. Much of the Hollywood history is good, even interesting, but it also sometimes seemed a bit self-indulgent, to the point where you questioned the necessity of ALL of those nightclub sequences in the film.

But, besides those relatively few complaints, it is a spectacular film.

In all: do not miss it.


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195 out of 317 people found the following review useful:

The Katharine Hepburn Show.

Author: colonel_green from Charlottetown, Canada
26 December 2004

Before Howard Hughes was a recluse so reclusive as to out-Salinger J.D. Salinger, he was a big time stud, who made big movies, flew fast planes, and courted gorgeous ladies; so say Martin Scorsese and John Logan, architects of this latest Hollywood biopic.' Leonardo DiCaprio continues his trend of turning in great performances with great directors, playing Howard Hughes between 1927 and 1947, the years where Hughes conquered the worlds of film and aviation, making room for romance with Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). In later years, Hughes's mental problems would become legendary; at this stage in the game, he suffers only from pronounced germ phobia and mild obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is all expertly depicted by Scorsese, Logan, and DiCaprio. Stealing all her scenes is Cate Blanchett, who should start making room on her mantle for her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. It couldn't have been easy to play an iconic movie star like Katharine Hepburn, but Blanchett aces it. Kate Beckinsale, Kelli Garner (Faith Demorgue), and Gwen Stefani (Jean Harlow) are the other women in Howard's life, although none are as clearly defined as Blanchett/Hepburn. The villains of the piece are Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda, playing, respectively, Pan-American Airways CEO Juan Trippe and Trippe's bought-and-paid-for politician, Senator Ralph Owen Brewster. Both excel, with Alda coming off as both slimy and goofy at the same time. Alec Baldwin, like Cate Blanchett, steals every scene he has, playing Trippe as a delightfully suave villain. In his final scene he delivers a wonderful monologue on the future of Hughes's Trans-World Airline, and caps it off with the most hysterical use of the F word in many years. Also appearing: the dependable John C. Reilly as Hughes's business manager Noah Dietrich; Jude Law, who apparently can't go two weeks without seeing himself in a different movie, as movie legend Errol Flynn; Brent Spiner (yay!) as airplane executive Robert Gross; and Willem Dafoe as a photographer. "The Aviator" is overlong, and drags in places, but it is a great movie. I rate it a 9/10.

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80 out of 96 people found the following review useful:

Leo's Masterpiece

Author: drplw from U.S.
19 January 2005

There is no doubt that THE AVIATOR is the masterpiece of both director Martin Scorsese and actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio becomes Howard Hughes. The actor is so profoundly absorbed in the role that the DiCaprio we know from other films cannot be found in this film. It is a bravura performance of great depth and magnitude. DiCaprio richly deserves his first Academy Award.

I have never know much about Howard Hughes. This film opened my eyes to him as a personality, a businessman, aviator and his lavish lifestyle. DiCaprio no longer is the "pretty boy" from other films. The expressions he takes on are not handsome, the deeply furrowed brow, one could actually watch him, as Hughes' character, think his way through challenging situations, the mark of a highly gifted actor. Watching DiCaprio evolve into the paranoid schizophrenic Hughes in the latter part of the film is a stunning example of pure acting. Leo deserves recognition for recreating a most difficult personality.

Though the film is long, it never slows down nor gets boring and it commanded my attention from start to finish. It is masterpiece cinema for these two men and for other actors too. Cate Blanchette must be commended for her role as Katherine Hepburn. Every role was played by first rate actors.

If you want to understand a piece of American history from the 30s through the 1940s, this film will illumine you. It may not be the greatest film ever made but it sure is cinema to the max and worth seeing, without a second thought.

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73 out of 109 people found the following review useful:

An Interesting Muddle

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
22 January 2005

"The Aviator"--a biopic of Howard Hughes-- is clearly one of Scorsese's lesser works. Still, a lesser work from Scorsese is far superior to the greatest work of your average director. Here's the rundown:

The first quarter of the film is a total triumph, showing the young Hughes' bold endeavors in film when he produced what was at the time the most expensive and lavish film ever made. Scorsese tipping his hat to old Hollywood is the most fun he has had since "Goodfellas." The costumes, set designs, and pacing of this portion of the film are stunning and suck the viewer in.

The rest of the film, despite Scorsese's amazing and vivid attention to detail, is a muddled mess, giving us glimpses into Hughes' obsessive (and compulsive) ways, his womanizing, his ambitious foray into aviation and the early days of commercial flight, his fight against Congress at the end of WWII, and the notorious plight and ultimately single flight of his infamous "Spruce Goose." It's all semi-educational and semi-entertaining, but in the end I think the complicated life of Hughes remains a mystery.

As for the performances, they are amazing (thanks in most part to Scorsese, the ultimate actor's director). Leonardo Dicaprio in the title role gives yet another performance that goes against my natural loathing of him, and although he seems a bit too boyish playing Hughes in the latter years (and the film really suffers for it), he's impeccable for the better part of the film. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn is simply stunning and steals every moment she is on screen. Her look, her mannerisms, and her speech perfectly match the screen legend to a haunting degree. Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin in supporting quasi-villain roles are methodically perfect. And the nicest surprise was Kate Beckinsale, a normally flaccid actress, playing Ava Gardner. She came across as gorgeous, intelligent, and maximized her minimal screen time without ever overtly stealing her scenes. Like Sharon Stone in "Casino" and Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York" Scorsese once again coaxes a great performance out of an otherwise unremarkable pretty face.

In the end, "The Aviator" flies high thanks to Scorsese and the acting, even if the real person it depicts remains lost in a muddle of half truths and speculation.

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40 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Open the Door...

Author: jon.h.ochiai ( from Los Angeles, CA
13 February 2005

Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" is grand spectacle with a reverence for the nostalgic, set in simpler times. As a snapshot of Howard Hughes's life from 1927 to 1947, "The Aviator" is a portrait of a man of genius and unmatched innovation, and also a man debilitated by severe obsessive compulsive disorder and extreme depression. "The Aviator" has an amazing performance by Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, and a mesmerizing performance by Cate Blanchett, who seems to inhabit the role of Katherine Hepburn-- the love of Hughes's life. However, the one indelible image I have of the film is the scene in which Hughes is frozen in the men's restroom, because he can't make himself touch the door knob for fear of germs and contamination. Granted this was a time before obsessive compulsive disorder existed as a diagnosis. The scene is intended as a dramatic arc, distinguishing a tragic flaw in Hughes. However, for me it seemed overly indulgent, and was curious regarding the scene length. Much like most of the nearly 3 hour movie, this is an exercise in indulgence, and attention to detail that is only that. Scorsese's balance between Hughes's genius and his great suffering is good melodrama, but not very inspiring. I have a particular affinity for Howard Hughes the man. Had John Lone's (and Michael Mann's) story followed Hughes through the 1950's and beyond, the story would be even sadder. "The Aviator" illustrates the highs of genius, and the abyss of near insanity. This is an accurate depiction of an amazing man's life, but it is skewed toward the broken aspect. So just personally for me, it was frustrating to watch. To Scorsese's credit, one gets that he has immense compassion for Howard Hughes.

Hughes' life sentence is established in the opening scene. Hughes's mother while bathing the young Hughes, tells him something that perhaps leads to his obsessive compulsive nature. Apparently he is incomplete in his relationship with his mother, and the story surrounding what she said.

Fast forward to 1927, when Hughes left his father's wealthy drill bit tool company in Texas, to be a maverick film maker in California. Hughes is an ambitious and novice film director, but he is smart and has unmatched drive. However, his real genius is as a pilot and an innovative designer of airplanes. His gifts for fame and fortune are established. Hughes (DiCaprio) then pursues a touching romance with Katherine Hepburn (Blanchett). This is the highlight of "The Aviator", even amidst the spectacular aerial cinematography, because it is just about relationships that move people. There is a wonderful moment when Hughes lets Hepburn take control of his plane as they fly above Los Angeles at night. As great as the chemistry is between Dicaprio and Blanchett, this romance part of the story goes on a little too long in the context of the movie.

From this point on, the movie becomes increasingly darker. Sure, Hughes has his share of triumphs, but everything is tempered by his spiraling decline into depression and his debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder. The acting is outstanding throughout the picture. This is Leonardo DiCaprio's most mature performance. He truly captures Hughes's intensity, genius, and charm. His suffering also elicits great compassion. Cate Blanchett is outstanding as Kate Hepburn. At first one wonders whether she is doing a caricature of Hepburn. She is not. She is being Hepburn. Blanchett's performance is simply stunning. An unrecognizable Kate Beckinsale is awesome as Ava Gardner. Beckinsale gives surprising layers to Gardner, who is really not all that she appears to be on the surface. John C. Reilly is fabulous as Hughes's CFO. In an understated fashion Reilly's performance anchors the movie. Alec Baldwin as Pan Am CEO, Juan Trippe, and Matt Ross as Hughes's engineer Glenn Odekirk give strong performances.

Scorsese's "The Aviator" is spectacular to view, and has a sense of history and tragedy. He offers an interesting portrait of the dichotomy between genius and madness, with an emphasis on the dark. This choice really lost me. "The Aviator" is amazing work, that is not very inspiring, though it was probably not intended to do so. That is a bit of a disappointment.

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48 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

For once the hype is accurate! A must see!

Author: jen0830 from United States
22 January 2005

Leonardo Dicaprio, once again, shows his depth as an artist and his ability to carry a film. He deserves the Golden Globe, and his due as an outstanding actor. Howard Hughes, the man, remains a mystery and the portrayal of his obsessive compulsive disorder was a powerful view into his inner hell. The beginning scene set the pace for a journey into his privileged and dark world. The Aviator showed the torments and gifts of genius. Amazing job by all involved! Wardrobe, music, special effects, direction, acting...all award winning contributions. I left the film moved and disturbed, which shows the power of this film. Wonderful performances by all the cast and the time"flew" by...

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48 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

A Striking and Ambitious Saga

Author: RobertF87 from Scotland
14 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is about the world famous multi-millionaire Howard Hughes. However, if the only thing you know about Hughes was that he was a recluse who secreted himself inside his hotel in Las Vegas and was obsessed with cleanliness, you may be in for a surprise. The film deals with Hughes' life before all that.

After a brief prologue showing Hughes as a child with his mother advising him on cleanliness, we move forward to 1927 with an adult Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) directing his hugely risky film "Hell's Angels". "The Aviator" takes in Hughes' film-making achievements, his romances with some of the most beautiful women of the day (including Katherine Hepburn (a superb Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale)) and his passion for aviation. The picture of Howard Hughes that emerges from the film is of a brilliant man who was a ruthless perfectionist, constantly risking ruin and even death for his goals. This all makes his eventual fate all the more sad.

The film is brilliantly made, the cast are all very good in their roles (especially, as mentioned earlier, Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn) and despite lasting almost three hours, it is never dull. The main flaw, however, is that you never learn much about Hughes. Some more on his background would certainly have been welcome.

Any film by Scorsese, however, is worth seeing and this is no exception.

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116 out of 207 people found the following review useful:

Perhaps the best movie of 2004!

Author: Patrick Brogan ( from Phoenix, Arizona
14 December 2004

Leave it to Martin Scorsese, he is one of the few reliable directors who graces in age, still manages to make outstanding movies. I thought his previous film; GANGS OF NEW YORK was the best film of 2002 (and still stand by that comment). Scorsese who was once known for showing us the gritty realistic world of New York City's "Mean Streets" with the Little Italy thugs (MEAN STREETS), anti-hero loners (TAXI DRIVER), fallen hero (RAGING BULL), bizarre world of Soho (AFTER HOURS), realistic thugs (GOODFELLAS), gangsters controlling Las Vegas (CASINO; it wasn't in NYC, but it still had the similar theme), guilt ridden paramedic (BRINGING OUT THE DEAD), and the war between immigrants (GANGS OF NEW YORK). This is the Scorsese that all of us know about and remember. Yet Scorsese was also responsible for telling us about a single mother in the southwest struggling to survive (ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE), the final farewell concert of a fantastic rock/folk group The Band (THE LAST WALTZ), and the story of Jesus Christ (LAST TEMPTATION OF Christ). Now Scorsese has become the storyteller of one of the most enthusiastic and eccentric billionaires of recent years, Howard Hughes.

In THE AVIATOR, Scorsese portrays Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) as several different roles: filmmaker, womanizer, entrepreneur, engineer, germ-phobic, and aviator. The film tells about the achievements that Hughes accomplished such as the movies HELL'S ANGELS & THE OUTLAW, the building of an airplane that can fly above 20,000 feet, acquiring TWA and making it a international airline, and the design and building of the largest airplane ever the Hercules (now known as the Spruce Goose). Yet Hughes went through so many conflicts with his business: Pan Am Airline chief Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), Maine Senator Ralph Owen Brewster (Alan Alda), Louis B. Mayer (Stanley DeSantis); his romance: Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsdale); and himself: paranoia, and obsession compulsion disorder.

THE AVIATOR discusses all of those elements in rich detail, that after watching the movie, you begin to realize the amazing accomplishments that Hughes did. Wonder why the only thing we most remember about Hughes was being a recluse who was afraid of germs. And would like to know more about Howard Hughes and see the films that were discussed in the film.

This isn't a Scorsese film that people want another TAXI DRIVER, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, or RAGING BULL would expect. This is a different kind of Scorsese, one who is telling a story about a man, who is no different that him. A dreamer who dreams big and ignores what his advisors, and partners tell him, then come up with projects with amazing results.

DiCaprio proves that he his under-appreciated actor in this film. While most of the public see him as that goofy kid who shouts, "I'm king of the world!" in TITANIC. Yet most don't realize his talent with such roles as in WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE and CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. THE AVIATOR shows that DiCaprio is a great actor, giving a realistic portrayal of the eccentric Hughes in some scenes, and a man who cleanses the germs that represent people he dislikes or negative incidents. Blanchett does a amazing job with her performance of Katherine Hepburn with the way her head is tilted back to the pronunciation of words to the snobbish like personality she has when she is around her parents. While Beckinsdale also does a great job playing the very sexy Ava Gardner who has a love/hate relationship with Hughes, a woman who hates him at times, but will help him when he needs help.

The supporting performances by John C. Reily, Ian Holm, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Danny Huston, and Matt Ross are all top rate and also deserve recognition as well.

And Scorsese proves that he one of the best directors of all time with several elements. First the pacing of the story, the film never drags and at running time of 169 mins. it kept my attention on what was going to be happening next. Second, some of the scenes of the film were of complete beauty and wonder. One scene that blew my mind was during the filming of the aerial scenes from HELLS ANGELS which showed how dangerous it was filming the dogfight scenes from that film, seventy years before computer generated images would replace that technique. Third, the acting by the actors was top notch and very convincing. Finally, the story of Howard Hughes himself was unique and original and I think there will never be another person like Howard Hughes.

This has been quite a year of movies: COLLATERAL, SIDEWAYS, KILL BILL VOL. 2, THE INCREDIBLES, RAY, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, THE TERMINAL, FAHRENHEIT 9/11, BOURNE SUPREMENCY, OCEANS TWELVE, CRIMINAL, SPIDER-MAN 2, MEAN GIRLS, HARRY POTTER & PRISONER OF AZKABAN, and SPANGLISH were all films that were amazing and all were among my favorite films of this year (yet I still need to see LIFE AQUATIC and FINDING NEVERLAND). But I think it will be hard to beat THE AVIATOR, for it's story, characters, and epic feel.

The Academy has snubbed Scorsese for 30 years; they did the same thing for Roman Polanski until THE PIANIST. Now I think its time for the Academy to acknowledge Scorsese for his craft and technique. While some people will believe that Scorsese should have won his Oscar back in 1980 with RAGING BULL, or in 1990 with GOODFELLAS, I feel that it's time to recognize Scorsese for something! And THE AVIATOR is one film that I think that most Scorsese devotees (like myself) feel is worthy of recognition. Plus, if this movie wins both Best Director and Best Picture, then two of my favorite directors will win Oscars (Scorsese and Michael Mann, who produced AVIATOR).

So that is why I am rooting and hoping that THE AVIATOR will collect Oscar gold. The best movie of the year, and don't miss it!!!!! ***** (Out of five)

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