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The Aviator (2004)
An unusual, but successful biopic
"No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record, and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man . . ."
-opening text of "Ghandi"
The above quote helps to describe what I believe some people are missing in "The Aviator;" the underlying philosophy of the film makes it less conventional than the typical nomination-yoinker. Scorsese's endlessly inspirational epic on Howard Hughes' wonder years falters in places, but comes out on top and as one of the best movies of the year. It isn't as deep as "Raging Bull," but there is more substance here than what seems to be the critical consensus. At the Golden Globes, Orlando Bloom repeated what I've stated on more than one occasion: that this is a Howard Hughes movie made the way Howard Hughes would have made it. "The Aviator" captures a focus on romanticism and glory along with the look and vibe of the Hollywood of the time(s), but is more than that. The images, pacing, and overall grandeur of what we experience are almost undoubtedly the way the tragic Hughes looked back on his brief period of heroics and splendor, as well as how he dreamed it as an ambitious youth.
This is another of Scorsese's "flawed hero" biopics. Not his best stuff, but I'd rank it a notch above "Gangs of New York" (also a good movie). What was Hughes fighting for? Mayhaps the fight was what drove him. Eccentricity can sooth pains; reckless ambition can help heal wounds. In his mind, which he supposedly lost, he had nothing to lose. That in such a tortured soul resided a genuine care for the future of America, or just a yearning to give something, is in itself touching and a manifest of his mystery. His unstoppable drive is paralleled with his adoration of flight and speed. "The Aviator" projects on us the feeling of exhilaration that Howard must have loved as he would soar away from his painful reality, both on and off the ground. One of his planes, similarly to himself, was flawed. Like his body and mind, the plane dropped from its invisible perch, crashing and burning. Hughes' most admirable offering, the indomitable spirit now captured in this film, never will.
Petey Wheatstraw (1977)
WHAT THE CRAP DID I JUST WATCH........
In "The Last Picture Show," a character says "I guess if it wasn't for (so-and-so), I'd have missed it, whatever it is." Well, I've found what "it" is for me. "It" is "Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil's Son-In-Law." This 1978 low-budget blaxploitation movie stars Rudy Ray Moore as a comedian who cuts a deal with the devil (to marry his daughter...though he hates the idea) in order save his life and get revenge on those who killed him. As a child in South Central, Petey is taken in by some old black dude (all the good guys are), who trains him in kung-fu in his backyard. He grows up and is a greatly successful comedian, but his up-coming gig threatens to take away potential sales from two fat guys up-coming show. These guys had cut an investment deal with Mr. White (guess what race he is?) and his henchmen, who threaten to kill them if the show is a flop. So, they want to kill Petey. This movie is so hard to put your finger on...I couldn't tell if some of the scenes were un-intentionally funny, intentionally funny, or intended to seem un-intentionally funny. But what's important is, it's a kung-fu ghetto movie with actors who obviously no almost nothing about martial arts, Petey wear's fly outfits and goes around the hood helping people with his magic pimp cane, it's got a great soundtrack, consisting mainly of a standard funk beat with two or three women singing the words "Petey Wheatstraw" over and over, and Petey uses Dr. Seuss-like rhymes as he battles his foes. This movie has opened up a whole new world for me. I just might impulse-buy this and Rudy Ray Moore's similar films from the same era: "Dolemite," it's sequel, "The Human Tornado," and "Disco Godfather." Wow. Just wow.