The Aviator (2004)

The Aviator (2004) is a period epic that isn’t hurt by it’s technical mastery, especially rare for a biopic or historical movie of this grand a scale. UnlikeTitanic, this one has heart and soul and doesn’t feel like it’s way too long. Above all else is a masterful Oscar-nominated performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, with strong support from Cate Blanchett in her Oscar-winning turn as Katharine Hepburn. The always superb Alan Alda plays against type as a corrupt congressman, for which he received his first (!) Academy Award nomination. The movie also received Oscar nominations for best picture, director Martin Scorsese, screenplay, and sound mixing. In addition to Blanchett’s supporting actress Oscar, The Aviator won for cinematography, art direction, editing, and costumes.

The film traces (with a flexible interpretation of some facts) the period Howard Hughes (DeCaprio) spent in southern California making movies and building airplanes (1925-1947), with patricular focus on his relationships with women, from his mother (in a meaningless prologue) through Hepburn, Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and under-age starlet Faith Domergue (Kelli Garner). Considerable time is also devoted to Hughes’s obsession with inventing new aircraft for his Hughes Aircraft to sell the military and keeping his own airline (TWA) ahead of rival Pan Am. As Pan Am President Juan Trippe, Alec Baldwin again proves why he’s our best character actor, even in this small part. In its main flaw, the picture portrays Hughes’s cliched Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, mainly in a long sequence that appears out of place. Otherwise, his odd behavior (counting and measuring peas, unnatural fear of germs, sudden bouts of paranoia, etc.) is integrated into the rest of the action, which makes more sense.


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