sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I saw The Aviator over the weekend. I yawned a couple of times during its three-hour run, but on the whole it was pretty fast-paced.

I was constantly aware I was looking at Leonardo DiCaprio instead of Howard Hughes. When thinking of actors who might better portray the ruggedly handsome Hughes, George Clooney comes to mind. Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Hughes in a 1977 TV movie and was very believable. Unfortunately, he's way too old for the role, while I think Clooney could pull it off.

But DiCaprio does a decent job, especially dealing with Hughes' obsessive-compulsive disorder. And it's hard to mess up the action scenes, especially when Hughes crashes his plane in a Beverly Hills neighborhood.

Cate Blanchett as as Katherine Hepburn was a tougher sale, however. Blanchett looks nothing like Hepburn, and with her rendition of the famous Hepburn accent, she appeared to be impersonating rather than portraying. Even with an open mind, I just couldn't buy it.

Here's the problem: I've been asked to review the movie for a conservative publication. I realize by the time the review hits the press, the Oscars will be over. If "The Aviator" wins, it will help. If it loses, then it becomes a footnote to movie history.

So I'll discuss how the movie fits into the big picture.. Here's the question: How did the movie, produced and acted by prominent Hollywood liberals (Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin play strong supporting roles) portray a major icon of American capitalism?

Pretty sympathetically, I have to admit. Now the movie raises no doubt that Hughes was whacked(not that there is any), but he always overcomes his obsessive compulsive disorder.

In one scene, the dastardly Sen. Owen Brewster (Alda) cleverly places a finger print on Hughes' water glass and served his Brook trout- head still on. Hughes calmly eats his food, drinks his water and stands up to the senator, waiting until he was in private to break down.

The movie's treatment of the liberal Hepburn family was not kind, either. They come off as boorish, shallow socialists who say "they don't care about money."

"That's because you got it," Hughes said. He had it , too, but at least he worked for a living.

The movie ends in 1947, when Hughes finally get his Spruce Goose off the water, which was, if nothing else, a personal triumph. Of course he's also muttering "It's the way of the future" over and over again. We know how the story ultimately ends.

But more liberal critics were upset with the "happy ending," believing the movie should have dealt with Hughes' shady dealings with the CIA and Nixon, not to mention his continued mental downslide.

With all this in mind, it will be interesting to see if "The Aviator" wins an Oscar.


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