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Tony Grist

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The Aviator [Apr. 21st, 2008|10:23 am]
Tony Grist
America has a way of throwing up hero/villains on a big, big scale- emperors without armies, Caesars of plutocracy. The definitive study of the type is Citizen Kane. Any movie that follows after is going to be judged by its standard and the conclusion is always likely to be, yeah, but...

Howard Hughes was a loon- an unlikely hero for a blockbuster. His virtue- perhaps his only virtue- was courage. He built huge airplanes, made crap movies and thought everyone was for sale. He treated women like dirt. There was always something a bit skew-whiff about him and he ended up living in a private hell, wasted by phobias, surrounded by yes-men- but  too rich and powerful to be certified.

The movie doesn't take us into that final decline and degradation. It shows him fighting the madness and, in scenes that provide the story with an emotional heart, coming back from the brink to battle Alan Alda's corrupt senator and win because he's truthful and cuts through the crap and, in the last analysis, cares for something other than money. Hooray for Howard! Whether things were actually as simple as this I've no idea.  But this is how it goes in any big Hollywood movie- one with big bucks to earn- the guy at the heart of it has to be- at some level or other- a winner. And if the facts of the case suggest otherwise they need to be manipulated and monkeyed around with until it's assured that the audience will leave the cinema thinking, he may have been a sonofabitch but he sure did stick it to those bastards!

Travis Bickle isn't a winner, nor is Jake la Motta, nor is Henry Hill. At best they're survivors. When Martin Scorsese was young and driven he used to make movies about guys like these. Now that he's dealt with his issues and is rich and mellow he makes movies because he can. The Aviator is a mainstream Hollywood bio-pic. It softens the jagged edges. Hughes was bisexual, for instance,  and that's out the window. Scorsese's still a very good film-maker- his films look amazing and are filled with excellent performances- but they're no longer essential viewing. 

Di Caprio is good but too baby-faced to play grown men. Cate Blanchett is wonderful. So is Alan Alda. The CGI is dreadful; I've seen better on Doctor Who.
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Comments:
From: manfalling
2008-04-21 11:13 am (UTC)
Better CGI on Dr. Who!? Surely you jest? I haven't been watching the latest season of Who, but everything that came before had pretty shoddy effects, at least in my opinion.

About the movie glossing over the bad stuff and having only the good things come out- what about Hughes' paranoia, and the ending of the movie? I'd have a hard time labeling that upbeat and typical 'Hollywood fodder'.

Taking up the point of the Citizen Kane movie- have you seen There Will be Blood yet? Falls into that vein rather. Mark Kermode on the radio is talking it up as 'redefining the language of cinema'. I tend not to agree with that, if only because I'm not quite sure what he means, and it seems like a very pretentious and temporary thing to say.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 12:02 pm (UTC)
All CGI is dreadful. There was a sequence in the last episode of Doctor Who where the Doc was being chased by a giant grab claw which wasn't bad- and certainly more convincing than the planes in the Aviator. The thing with CGI is to keep it in the background and don't let us dwell on it for too long. If we get a good, hard look at it we'll see that it's phoney.

It would be impossible to turn Howard Hughes into a fine upstanding gentleman but I reckon the script manipulated events so we came out feeling he was a bit of a hero and wasn't it a shame he lost his marbles.

I haven't seen There Will be Blood yet. I want to. I don't know what Kermode is on about either.
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[User Picture]From: creakiness
2008-04-21 01:12 pm (UTC)
There Will be Blood was really something else. It was one those movies that exists in it's own self contained world, with it's own sense on style and feel for things. The opening was particularly striking, in the sort of way Inland Empire's opening was.

I kind of think of Michael Jackson as the Howard Hughes of today.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 02:37 pm (UTC)
I'm keen to see it.

Howard Hughes = Michael Jackson: I like it!
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From: algabal
2008-04-22 03:47 am (UTC)
A half-decent Michael Jackson biopic would be very interesting.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-22 09:09 am (UTC)
I don't suppose that's going to happen until after his death.

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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-04-21 03:17 pm (UTC)
I have never seen this film. I wanted to, but it was never quite a high enough priority. Interesting life-note... my partner's father was killed in an industrial accident at Hughes Helicopter. Turned out, the project that he was working on at the time was a helicopter involved in the Iran-Contra Affair. No, he didn't know about it, but he was getting suspicious when he was killed.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 03:28 pm (UTC)
Hmmmmmm.....interesting......

Hughes was a horrible man. The movie softens this. I'd like some indie company to make a movie about him as he really was- because it's a story worth telling.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-04-21 03:39 pm (UTC)
I don't much care for Di Caprio's work. Best way I can describe it is he feels like River Phoenix lite. Half the calories, none of the flavor.

That said, I think he did good work in Basketball Diaries.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 03:57 pm (UTC)
He's got a mean, sulky, little face. I've never warmed to him.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-04-21 04:03 pm (UTC)
I suspect we're not exactly the demographic he's meant to appeal to, anyway. ;)
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[User Picture]From: serennos
2008-04-21 04:10 pm (UTC)
I may be (female, 20s), but he doesn't do it for me either :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-21 06:32 pm (UTC)
That's true.
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[User Picture]From: mummm
2008-04-21 11:54 pm (UTC)
Well, I like Di Caprio... I especially liked him in Catch Me If You Can but I hated The Aviator.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-22 09:11 am (UTC)
I'd forgotten CMIYC. Yes, I liked it too. Or rather I liked the first three quarters when he was working his scams. I found the ending insufferably sentimental.
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