Essay / Art

The Aviator

Some films are great, obviously great. Mary Poppins is a nearly perfect film with only an overly long chimney sweep dance scene marring glory. Some films are bad, hopelessly bad. There was a moment of such clarity in the middle of Fifty First Dates. Drew Barrymore may be fatal to any movie. President Bush is rumored to be asking her to co-star with the mullahs in Iran in a project sure to lead to the cancellation of the theocracy.The Aviator is another kind of movie which merely seems great, but isn’t. At any given moment, I felt like I was watching a thoughtful and important film. The total of those moments felt contrived and lackluster. In the end, one decided that the studio had sent out to Paint-By-Oscar for a serious movie. It got one and I hope they make the best of it. It is hard to imagine anyone choosing to watch this in the years to come. This film manages to seem both commercial and dull which is the most amazing feat in the film.There is one exception. As hard as it is to admit, Leanardo DiCaprio is becoming a fine actor. His portrayal of Hughes is the best thing about the movie as he keeps puffed up lines from blowing away. He is handsome and commanding, but also manages to almost physically shrink under the strain of mental illness. However, his fine acting is off set by the painful performance of Cate Blanchett. Blanchett had a greater range of emotion in Lord of the Rings, he said grimly, than she shows in this film. She parodies Hepburn rather than playing her and so manages to make one wonder how the classic film star ever attracted studio attention let alone that of Hughes. Blancett was painful to look at in the worst designed clothing since time began. She looked like a female impersonator playing Hepburn.Howard Hughes was not a great man, but he was an interesting one. This film reduces his real accomplishments to the level of his obvious psychological flaws. In attempting to explain Hughes, the film is overly simple and so essentially explains him away.Does Hollywood hate people it cannot reduce to a sexual or simple psychological story line? Must everyone be portrayed as having some inner secret that must sense of the whole man.? This prejudice may explain why they shy away from Biblical epics of late, even though they are box-office gold. Biblical heroes cannot be reduced to hormones or inner pain without offending the core audience. Almost anyone else can be reduced a person whose problems could have been solved by a good stiff viewing of Oprah.Modern Hollywood is good at looking for inner quirks they can exploit. C.S. Lewis devolved into a tragic romantic figure in the hands of Hollywood after all. Howard Hughes was a page full of screen writer hyper-links for writers inflicted with this disease. The script of the film jumped from quirk to inner pain to scenes with mother in a frantic manner. None of it tries to give a coherent picture of the man, but it does keep the film moving alone at a frantic pace forever. The film is fast moving, but overly long as if MTV shot a music video over the course of an hour. Any given scene is executed quickly, but there are far too many of them.

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