The Aviator (2004): A True Scorsese Biopic Masterpiece

aviator

     I think at this point “The Aviator” is my favorite Martin Scorsese film. It has an amazing soundtrack, cinematography, writing and cast and deserves all the awards it won. It is a film I definitely plan to watch again and it inspired me to check out Howard Hughes’s films, which will be some later reviews down the road.

      The film was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by John Logan and produced by Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King and Charles Evans Jr. It is also based off the book Howard Hughes: The Secret Life by Charles Higham.

     The story is a biopic of Howard Hughes and the conflicts he went through with the businesses he owned and his role as a director and producer in Hollywood while dealing with his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The Pros: The Soundtrack – It’s Howard Shore so the fact that the soundtrack is amazing doesn’t come as much of a surprise. He does a great job here of capturing the jazz of the era, the torment in Howard Hughes’s mind. He truly did a masterful job on this soundtrack.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is stunning, especially in any sequences where Hughes is flying in one of his planes. Robert Richardson did a great job and the film is beautiful.

The Writing – The writing is really solid in this. People talk like they would in the era and we get a lot of show rather than tell, which is the screenwriter John Logan doing  a great job at his job. This film is long but it doesn’t feel long because of the writing.

The Characters – The main characters and their relationships are really what drive the film and it is fascinating to see how they interact and react to Hughes, who is an unstable genius. His relationships are really what drive the film.

Katharine Hepburn – Cate Blanchett does a fantastic job as Katharine Hepburn. She’s eccentric and selfish just like Hughes, but we see does have a little more self-awareness and did try to deal with the problems in their relationship that he ignored since he was so focused on his job. She moves on and is happier for it, though in his darkest place she still reaches out as a friend, even after how cruel he was when they broke up.

Noah Dietrich – John C. Reilly plays Hughes’s second in command and is the one making everything happen behind the scenes. Reilly is a great actor, which I really didn’t realize until this film. His arc is learning to put his foot down with Hughes so that Hughes won’t destroy the companies he created with his different projects.

Juan Trippe – Trippe is the owner of Pan Am Airlines and the main antagonist in the film. He is played by Alec Baldwin who does a good job in the role and manages to imbue the character with honor, humanity and ruthlessness. His arc is when he stops the fight after the hearing becomes an attack against him rather than the attack against Hughes it was meant to be.

Senator Brewster – Alan Alda is one of my favorite actors and it is wonderful seeing him in an antagonistic role as he works with Trippe to keep Hughes’s airline from competing with Pan Am. He’s ruthless but has a kindness to him as you see that even though he’s corrupt there is still a humanity to the character.

Ava Gardner – Ava is the one Hughes keeps wanting to marry but who continues to turn him down since his crazyness (paranoia, etc.) keep her from feeling safe around him. She is there to help him get back together though and we see she loves him as a friend, just knows that she could never marry him or be in a relationship with him. Kate Beckinsale does a good job.

Howard Hughes – DeCaprio is fantastic as Hughes. He really does a great job as the eccentric millionaire (Hello Gatsby) though this time we get to see the full depths of a very flawed genius. DeCaprio captures his passion, fear, anger and stubbornness and seeing him complete his arc and face his those fears is powerful.

Making “Hell’s Angels” – Making the film “Hell’s Angels” (Which is a pretty good film) is fascinating as we see how Hughes needed everything to be perfect and to be a certain way. Each year see what is going on, whether it is getting more cameras for filming, editing it so that it will be in sound or trying to find clouds to film the flight scenes. This could have been the film and us given more details and it would have been just as great as the film we got.

The Flights – The flights are beautiful. We see fighter planes, spy planes and even a crash that Hughes goes through over the course of the film. In each case the freedom and danger. The planes are beautiful and the shots from the sky are stunning.

The Hearing – They do a good job of overlaying the hearing where Hughes calls Senator Brewster out for business relationship with Juan Trippe and Trippe’s monopoly on the airlines and with it we get the conclusion as he finally pulls himself out of his depression and funk in order to be there and not to panic.

   There isn’t really anything I can say wrong about this film. It hits all the right notes, all the main characters are explored and grow and change or deal as the film progresses and the story has excellent payoffs. I’d highly recommend this film. It is the best film I have seen from Martin Scorsese and deserves all the awards it won. Not only does it give the snapshot of a person during an era, but it also manages to capture the freedom in flying and the passion it takes to make projects a reality.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Alien (1979): A Brilliant Horror Classic and Introduction to an Amazing World

Alien 1979 poster

      I think I like “Aliens” more than “Alien,” but “Alien” is a really good at establishing Ridley Scott’s world and has some of the best tension building in any horror movie, even if the alien itself really isn’t that scary. It’s now what it looks like, but what it does that makes it such a great threat that leaves our heroes always on the run. It is certainly one of Ridley Scott’s classics for a reason.

    The film was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and produced by Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill.

     The story involves the crew of the Nostromo taking on an unknown life form and dealing with the consequences of it as reveals about the Corporation they are working for come to the forefront and the alien threat is revealed to be far greater than expected.

The Pros: Tone – The tone is wonderful and has some of the best tension building in any film! We get to see an unknown world and confining ship where no one fully trusts one another as they are a crew of mercenaries serving a corporation. Over the course of the film they have to depend on one another but are so outgunned by the Xenomorph that they never stood a chance, and terror begins.

The World – The world is really cool! I wanted to know more about the Corporation as we learned so much about how Xenomorphs grow and develop and how dangerous they are we see a large dead alien around where all the eggs are. There is a sense of terror and mystery from the very beginning and the human ships are designed to be advanced but still look very raw.

The Xenomorph – The Xenomorph is awesome! It grows quickly, has acid blood and is a full fledged predator, hunting from the shadows and using other humans as bate. It clearly is the perfect hunter and that is what makes it’s hunt of our crew so fun to watch.

Dallas – Dallas is the character who would be the hero in a standard sci. fi. action film as he is the bearded hero and the captain of the ship. In this he isn’t though, though we see that he is smart though he is a moment of idiocy when lets an infected crewmember on the ship which makes everything go sideways and to his eventual death by the Xenomorph. Tom Skerritt does a great job.

Ash – Ash is the android who at the end of the day serves the Corporation. His mission is to bring back the Xenomorph so the corporation can turn it into a weapon they can use and therefore the crew is expendable. Ian Holm does great job as the character who isn’t fully human but human enough that we see him have a relationship with the crew even if in the end they are just means to an end for him.

Ripley – This is one of Sigourney Weaver’s best roles. Ripley is a character who is rough and has been doing her mercenary work for a long time but still has a connection to home via the cat and her daughter. These things humanize her and give her motivation and a reason to survive and get home when things start going south as the Xenomorph kills the crew and hunts her.

The Cons: The Other Characters – Lambert just screams and cries the entire time and the other crewmembers including John Hurt are forgettable. They all feel disposable because we don’t get to know them or their motivations.

The Corporation – The Corporation is just evil and I wish we got to know it more. The motivations don’t feel fleshed out and getting a Xenomorph is on par with Umbrella in “Resident Evil,” and all their bio-weapons where all the scientists end up dead.

   This was an amazing horror and sci. fi. film and one of my favorites. This is a classic of cinema for a lot of reasons not the least of which are the wonderful, haunting designs of H.R. Giger and the beautiful directing by Ridley Scott. The film has wonderful build up and payoff and the only things that really bring it down are a lot of the minor characters are forgettable and the Corporation doesn’t make much sense in it’s motivation.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10