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The Aviator

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Has anyone seen this movie? It's out in selected cities, and the reviews look promising.  I was wondering if it's worth the ten bucks to go see it.

I wish the theater gave refunds. :D

Based solely on the preview trailers I was looking forward to this movie, but it was a big disappointment. Aside from a couple of isolated moments the movie was neither heroic nor inspiring. As a character portrayal the focus was primarily on the mental problems and idiosyncrasies of Hughes, and when he was presented as being decisive or creative we never had a glimpse of the thoughts from whence those positive acts came.

Some of the acting was good (especially Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn), and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner was stunningly beautiful, but the overall cinematic quality was just fairly ordinary. All in all, a waste of my time and money.

Edit: One really nice thing was the trailer for Speilberg's War of the Worlds, due out next summer.

Edited by stephen_speicher
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I wonder is there any mentioning of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) any where in or after the movie?

As Howard Hughes did not have any heir, his wealth all went to HHMI that he set up primarily for tax evasion purpose. However, HHMI has now become a leading biomedical research organization, sponsoring hundreds of top notch scientists in US. Its disbursements related to scientific research is $653 million US dollors in 2004, the mere interest of its total assets. See http://www.hhmi.org/

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I wish the theater gave refunds.  :D

I'm sorry to hear that. I really, really enjoyed it. I was very worried that I wouldn't get past Leo as Hughes, but he really disappeared into the role. Especially in the last half of the film, when Hughes had a mustache, I was very aware of how much he looked like the image I remember from Hughes' photos.

I was really thrilled with the aviation and movie-making ambition, drive, focus, risk-taking and innovation. It made me wonder if the folks working on SpaceShip One would relate.

Yes, there's too much focus on the emotional/psyhological problems. But there were so many wonderful scenes (and great acting!) that I didn't care.

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I'm sorry to hear that.  I really, really enjoyed it.  I was very worried that I wouldn't get past Leo as Hughes, but he really disappeared into the role.  Especially in the last half of the film, when Hughes had a mustache, I was very aware of how much he looked like the image I remember from Hughes' photos.

I was really thrilled with the aviation and movie-making ambition, drive, focus, risk-taking and innovation.  It made me wonder if the folks working on SpaceShip One would relate.

Yes, there's too much focus on the emotional/psyhological problems.  But there were so many wonderful scenes (and great acting!) that I didn't care.

Well then, this is one of the rare ones about which we disagree. But, my disagreement is not just with the overwhelming focus on Hughes' psychological problems -- though not inspiring this could still make for good movie-making -- but for the lack of any depth in revealing the inner workings of the man's mind as he weaves his way through a lifetime of events.

I saw his character, as portrayed, as being almost entirely superficial, hardly ever revealing his essential thoughts and motivations. I admit that we saw elements such as ambition and innovation, but these were given to us whole without any insight into their nature and source in the soul of the man. We are shown Hughes making imortant decisions in his personal and his business life, but rarely are we given even a clue as to why and how such decisions were reached. What I saw took place mostly on the surface -- a series of events, some good and some bad -- but hardly ever revealing the nature of the man behind the actions he took.

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Well then, this is one of the rare ones about which we disagree. But, my disagreement is not just with the overwhelming focus on Hughes' psychological problems -- though not inspiring this could still make for good movie-making -- but for the lack of any depth in revealing the inner workings of the man's mind as he weaves his way through a lifetime of events.

I saw his character, as portrayed, as being almost entirely superficial, hardly ever revealing his essential thoughts and motivations. I admit that we saw elements such as ambition and innovation, but these were given to us whole without any insight into their nature and source in the soul of the man. We are shown Hughes making imortant decisions in his personal and his business life, but rarely are we given even a clue as to why and how such decisions were reached. What I saw took place mostly on the surface -- a series of events, some good and some bad -- but hardly ever revealing the nature of the man behind the actions he took.

That's a good point. In that regard, "Tucker" was a better portrait of the innovator as a whole. (Aside from the psychological problems Hughes encountered, "Tucker" tells a very similar story: the innovator against the big corporation with political pull.)

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Stephen, is this movie's approach similar to that of Alexander?

In one important way I would say that the approach of The Aviator was worse. In Alexander we were made privy to the nature of the conflicted soul that was portrayed, done so through the ideas that Alexander held and the thinking that he did; there were reasons for his actions. In The Aviator most of Hughes' actions were inexplicable; we are given conclusions with little grasp of from whence they came. At the very end of the movie we are shown the same little boy with which the movie started, and we hear Hughes as a boy say what he was going to do in life. So after it is all over we are supposed to believe that all which transpired is explained by these few words of a little boy, with hardly a hint of motivation and thought presented in the whole rest of the movie. So the actions of Hughes in the movie can be described as childhood determinism given after the fact. Rather unsatisfying to me, psychologically, to say the least.

(One thing though: Alexander was worse in the sense that they created a conflicted character in a way where such conflict was not there. As I understand it, at least Howard Hughes did, in fact, have some of these psychological problems that were portrayed.)

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It's too bad that the movie wasn't done very well. I was looking forward to an excellent movie since I haven't seen one (a good movie) come out of Hollywood in a while. I think I'll still go to see The Aviator anyway since it seems to be the best one out there right now and who knows, I might disagree with your conclusions in the end.

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--Warning: Film Spoilers in this post --

I think the point that the audience is not given any view of the internal conflict and motivation of Hughes is important to recognize, and I definitely didn't notice it during the film. What I admired about the portrayal of Hughes is that they should him as unapologetic, arrogant, and at the same time desperately in love with his airplanes and filmmaking.

Instead of allowing a questioning his motivation by making it readily available to the viewer it is as if the audience is expected to take Hughes at face value as those dealing with him would have been required to, or to leave the theater. The drawback to this is that it is possible the audience is being asked to take Hughes on faith - as he asked Noah Deitrick to do when he first met him. He said something to the effect of "What I'm doing might not make a whole lot of sense to those follks back in Houston, but I know what I'm doing." and Deitrick says, "It's your money."

Although we see Hughes reduced to a pyschological state of confusion and anguish he never once apologizes for his requests for milk, special foods, or cleanliness. In addition, when it is crucial for Hughes to regain his composure and mental capacity (for the hearings or to fly the Hercules) he recovers for another stunning performance of human ingenuity.

Of all the people who could make this film, Scorsese's love of the era makes the sets, costumes, dialogue and casting choices seemless and timeless in their authenticity. I especially enjoyed the filming of the dog fight in Hell's Angels and I agree that Kate Blanchett was impressive as Katherine Hepburn.

The stabs at socialism were funny at the Hepburn house and the at the hearing I was happy to see the Hughes so explicitly explained why the CAB bill was created by PAA executives to create a government supported monopoly and was able to peg Senator Brewster for what he was and show that to the public.

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--Warning: Film Spoilers in this post --

The stabs at socialism were funny at the Hepburn house and the at the hearing I was happy to see the Hughes so explicitly explained why the CAB bill was created by PAA executives to create a government supported monopoly and was able to peg Senator Brewster for what he was and show that to the public.

That scene at the Hepburn "compound" was one of the better scenes in the movie. "We don't care about money here, Mr. Hughes," "That's because you have it." Kind of like Hank Readen's family in AS.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I recently went to see the movie and I have to say I quite liked it. It is sad that he had that mental illness and I agree with Stephen on the lack of explanation but overall I still found it inspiring for the portrayal of him fighting against the politicians. Other than the line already mentioned ...I also liked the line where the Senator talks about Pan Am not caring about making money and Howard retorts with "i'm sure his stockholders would like to know that".

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I recently went to see the movie and I have to say I quite liked it. It is sad that he had that mental illness and I agree with Stephen on the lack of explanation but overall I still found it inspiring for the portrayal of him fighting against the politicians. Other than the line already mentioned ...I also liked the line where the Senator talks about Pan Am not caring about making money and Howard retorts with "i'm sure his stockholders would like to know that".

Oh yes, Howard Hughes was one hell of a man. I was stunned by how much he accomplished in his life and how noble he was.

Throughout the movie, you could see him knocking down obstacles, reaching for new heights, and battling his enemies (including his illness). The film can be seen, from one perspective, as an accurate portrayal of the spirit and life of a creator.

However, when Scorcese chooses to end the movie the way he does, it seriously undercuts Hughes memory. And because of this, Scorcese cannot be forgiven.

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Oh yes, Howard Hughes was one hell of a man.  I was stunned by how much he accomplished in his life and how noble he was.

Ayn Rand was once asked what she thought of Howard Hughes in a Q+A (in "The Moral Factor" or "Cultural Update", I'm not sure which). Her reply was negative, to the effect that he had problems with his premises; the reply was based on her evaluation of the movies Hughes made, so it probably did not apply to his work as an aviator.

I didn't know what AR was referring to until I saw "Hell's Angels" on TCM a few months ago. To understate somewhat, I will say that the film, especially in its ending, is unsettling. Its production values and its aeroplane stunts are groundbreaking, but in its soul, "Hell's Angels" is very much a creature of the twentieth century.

I have often suspected that the development of most mental illness, although having hereditary and other physiological components, is highly dependent on the premises of the subject. This suspicion arose from observing the high incidence of mental illness in twentieth century intellectuals (John Nash, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, etc.), compared with those of the previous centuries: prior to the last one hundred years, artists and scientists often suffered from overwork and nervous breakdowns, but twentienth century intellectuals (especially those in the humanties or philosophy) always seem to be not far from serious neurosis or worse.

The case of Howard Hughes seems to confirm that theory somewhat, although it is still a hypothesis.

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  • 4 months later...

I just rented the Aviator, I was pleasantly surprised...for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Here, I thought, was a man who was a true innovator, and capitalist who loves what he does and does it well. However, as mentioned in eariler posts, his ambition and drive was later attributed to his OCD, not of any heroic vision he had. I found the fixation on his OCD to be distracting, and missing of the crucial positive elements of his nature.

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  • 1 year later...
his ambition and drive was later attributed to his OCD, not of any heroic vision he had. I found the fixation on his OCD to be distracting, and missing of the crucial positive elements of his nature.

How was it attributed to his OCD? I saw the film as a struggle between Hughes' brilliant will (to make epic films, fly airplanes faster, higher and greater than any previous, and enjoy the monetary rewards of his success) and his irrational OCD. The climax was when he overcame a terrible bout (when he's naked in the redroom eating only chocolate chip cookies with medium chips and warm milk), cleaned up and showed up to the hearing to call out the senator's bullshit. This part made me laugh with joy. That the very end was him relapsing doesn't make the film a terrible, hopeless movie.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What the movie sets out to do is ambitious, like Hughes himself - but like others here, I think it overreaches, both stylistically and narratively, and misses the mark.

But in my opinion, the wrongs of this film (and of Gangs of New York) were totally wiped clean by the Departed. All is forgiven Marty.

Edited by Sayn
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