Monday, 31 August 2009

The Aviator: A Turning Point

I’m a bad Scorsese fan. He’s my favourite director, but I’ve only seen just above half of his filmography. That probably explains why I prefer his more recent stuff, because I have not seen enough of his old. But however you look at it, Scorsese is the boss. In 2004 when I first saw The Aviator, I was blown away. It’s something that I could not explain, but from that moment I knew that that was it. I was hooked on film. I know that the audience response to The Aviator is for the most part split down the middle; but it is one of my favourite films.
Were the thirties and forties the best time that Hollywood had ever seen? If there’s one thing that Scorsese’s film does to you, it’s make you wish that you were alive for that period. The stories of the making of The Aviator are all over the internet. The use of different hues to accent each time period, the meticulousness of the editing and cinematography and the list goes on. Yes, The Aviator was created from years of much planning. But that doesn’t mean it lacks that certain it factor thought to be found only in spontaneity. This is a not a rehearsed biopic that aims to hit you over the head with the facts. When Cate Blanchett says, movies are movies. They’re not real; it’s almost a reflection of the film itself. This is not a History Lesson it’s a cinematic triumph. This is not the real Howards Hughes, but that does not make it less of a film.
The Aviator was a turning point for its two main stars – Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett. Each had starred in an Oscar winning Best Picture and both had one Oscar nomination a piece. Both had been overlooked for their last good performances [Catch Me If You Can; Bandits] and both were liked but underrated in their respective fields. But as I said, The Aviator was a turning point for both. Leo finally graduated from a boy to a man; and the world finally realised that Cate Blanchett was of the best actresses of her era; but also one of the most gracious. As Howard Hughes and Katharine Hepburn – in a relationship that was more fiction than reality; the somehow managed to get the audience wholly invested in their romance. They would have given their real counterparts a run for their money. From then on they’ve only improved giving greater and greater performances and becoming more and more respected. All within reason, of course.
And in some ways it was a turning point for Scorsese too. Up to that point The Aviator marked his most financially successful...and critically it was his most successful since GoodFellas. Fourteen years earlier. I was a fan of Casino and Gangs of New York, but response was reticently positive, if even that for the two. The response to The Aviator was more voluble. Once again [as had happened so often before] he was tipped to win the Oscar – he didn’t. But still. It was a good feeling.
The Aviator was also responsible for another good deed. The cinematically ubiquitous Alan Alda earned his only Oscar nomination for his role as Senator Brewster. I still find it surprising that this man has never been nominated before. Every movie lover [from the 70s and 80s particularly] know him. And it’s a wonder that his success on the small screen has never translated to the big screen. Still, Alan Alda is a great actor. Whether or not Oscar thinks so. And success with them is not the measure of an actor’s talent.
The Aviator was the first film that I took offense to persons not liking. I remember feeling miserable when friends and persons on the internet would criticise the long windedness of the movie...and its alleged tedium. So The Aviator was a turning point for me. Whenever I think about starting my love affair with cinema I thank The Aviator. It wasn’t the first good film I saw and it wasn’t the first film that I enjoyed but it made me realise that Shakespeare was wrong; and it was the film’s the thing.


Danny King said...

I am also a huge Scorsese fan, but I am the opposite of you. I've seen most of his old films, while I haven't yet seen The Aviator. I've seen Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Casino. I would recommend all of them, but I'd say Mean Streets is the weakest, even though I still found some enjoyment out of it. The Departed is also excellent.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

I need to watch this film again, I can hardly remember it at all! I just remembered being wowed by the plane crash..

Watch Aviator said...

I love the film! but as far ranking Scorsese's Film. This is towards the bottom. Think about all the great films he made, including goodfellas, and cape fear