10 Years: “The Aviator”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/9c1/68294143/files/2014/12/img_4981.jpgSome modern films that have run times beyond the standard time can’t make it. They’re bogged down by too much story and not an adequate pacing. The film may boast many great things, but if you’re pulled out of a film because of time and pacing, the rest really will not matter. No matter how interesting the subject of the film is.

The Warner Bros. Pictures film “The Aviator”, is one sweeping epic that never has you losing interest and seems to only get better each time it’s viewed.

This biographical film stars Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”, “The Great Gatsby”), Cate Blanchett (upcoming “Cinderella (2015)”, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”), Kate Beckinsale (“Stonehearst Asylum”, “The Trials of Cate McCall”), John C. Reilly (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “LLife After Beth”), Alec Baldwin (“Still Alice” “Law & Order: SVU”), Alan Alda (“The Blacklist”, “The Big C”), Ian Holm (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”), Danny Huston (“Big Eyes”, “Masters of Sex”), Gwen Stefani (“Gossip Girl”, “Zoolander”), and Jude Law (upcoming “Black Sea”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

The film was directed by Martin Scorsese (“The 50 Year Argument”, “The Wolf of Wall Street”) and written by John Logan (“Penny Dreadful”, “Skyfall”).

The film originally opened on Dec. 25, 2004. It would go on to be nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning five including Best Supporting Actress for Blanchett, six Golden Globe Awards, winning three, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning one for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role for Blanchett, among many nominations and wins.

I feel surprised to say that this is my third time watching this particular film. The fact that it’s a Scorsese picture, is even more remarkable. First off, I don’t have much exposure to his films, for some reason, which I think has more to do with opportunity than anything. Second, the only other film of his that I’ve finished, let alone own, is “The Departed”, so getting me to watch this film three times and love it even more, with each successive viewing, is nothing short of miraculous.

The acting from everyone was phenomenal! Even Stefani, who didn’t have anything to really say or do, delivered the few lines she had and came across very believable, which is more than you can say for some performers that you know aren’t actors, but take on way more than they should’ve.

The other supporting players, Reilly, Baldwin, Alda and Beckinsale (to name a few) bring so much to the smaller roles they play. Each one isn’t just convincing, but so commanding. The characters were so incredibly alive! Once the characters were firmly established and they became even more important, like Alda’s, that’s when the fun began. That’s when the meaty moments, the reason you’re eyes are glued to the screen, occurs. You’re absolutely riveted by what they’re doing, what they look like, and what they’re saying.

It’s funny too, when thinking about these actors. They’re all supporting, but seem to have just about the same amount of screen time. They’re spread out throughout the film where I felt I was actually seeing them more than they really appeared. It also helped so as to not have so many people (all needed for the story), crowding in and bloating the film with too many characters. That’s what the other lesser known, less important, supporting characters are for. You don’t need big names or dedicated screen time for them. We won’t remember them in five minutes, let alone at the end of the film.

DiCaprio with his portrayal of Howard Hughes is more of a character study than anything. Sure he’s a fascinating person to watch and makes for an even more fun study, but it’s also what makes the film so captivating, from start to finish. The way DiCaprio tackles the many nuances off this character made all the difference. This is a man, with a major case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, in a time when having any kind of disease, illness or anything made you look weird and was not acceptable. For DiCaprio to work hard to get these components down, of a very powerful man, is what gives his performance and the character so much depth. As he changes through out the film, it’s not just character growth, for better or worse, but all the mannerisms, which define who he is. It forces him to become even more aware of his surroundings, and ultimately led to his demise. DiCaprio also shows his commitment to the character, and it made the performance all the more powerful at times, fascinating and even exhilarating. It’s certainly, one aspect, of many, that makes this film so big in scope and the final product a success.

Blanchett, per usual, so I’m not sure if it’s fair, wasn’t just stunning, but captivating. From the moment she came on screen I wasn’t watching her simply perfect another accent and look like someone else, but be Katharine Hepburn. With the help of make-up artists and hairstylists, Blanchett was able to take her God given features and become a woman, who herself, had such striking features and a different kind of beauty that stayed with her throughout her life. Then, you add the performance itself, and you’ve got a woman you don’t want to see leave the film for any length of time, let alone when the story calls for her to carry on her life, which doesn’t always include DiCaprio’s Hughes. Her performance and capabilities as an actor also extend to how well she was able to create a simple kind of chemistry, but more importantly, romance.

Everything else that makes up this film, from costume design to set decoration to the score and coloring (which I’m really enjoying in this case) to even the cinematography is nothing short of incredible. All these components work together and bring out one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. All these things also work well to capture the glamorous time period that was being portrayed, especially from a Hollywood standpoint.

The costumes were beautiful! As a period piece you’re going to go in expecting that they’re going to look amazing, but here they just dazzling and really help bring the characters to life. Even the background characters popped off the screen!

The cinematography, which I don’t think I’d noticed as much the first two times, was spectacular. It’s certainly what I’d expect from this type of grand film. There were tons of sweeping shots, wide shots, master shots and moving wide shots (probably not the technical term). The sequences involving planes, especially early on when Hughes is shooting “Hell’s Angels”, the way the camera moved around was so flawless and it incredibly smooth. At the club, the way the camera moved to show everyone was just as expertly executed and allowed for you to take in, and hopefully, enjoy the glamorous world depicted.

Now, while I know that the director is as important as any of the actors, be they major names or up and coming actors, there’s one problem I face. I’m never sure how to talk about them. Beyond saying they did a really good job, or some other sentiment which basically conveys the same thing, I can’t figure out how to point out what it is they did. I know they have a very specific hand in working with the actors, but that’s not entirely helpful for me here. I learned and saw this countless times through theater courses or drama classes I took in college and high school, but that just provides understanding. I almost feel that I need to see the work they do. This is why I absolutely love special features that come with the films, or used to on DVD’s, but are now only found on the overly expensive Blu-ray discs. So, since I can’t think of any other way to discuss this director, which is why I don’t even mention them, let me say, the work Scorsese did on this film was good.

For a film that’s almost three hours long, it’s certainly worth every minute. It doesn’t feel like it’s some incredibly long film, just a film with a lot to say. Since I thoroughly enjoyed this film every time I’ve seen it, I’m confident that I shall always feel this way about it, which I’m a little surprised to be feeling. It’s not often that I feel like I’m watching a film for the first time, but I’ll take it where I can.

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