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"The Aviator" Flies High...Kinda

Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I saw this movie. Just before entering the theatre I successfully spilled hot coffee all over my new custom chinos--soaking them completely, and permanently staining the long underwear beneath (long underwear I was forced to wear because the savage Torontonian chill was giving me trouble). Yes. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I saw this movie.

The Aviator has been making news for a while. It has been nominated for six Golden Globes including Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director (Scorsese). It is a hugely anticipated Christmas release and features a stunning performance by Leonardo DiCaprio; but, in all honesty, it didn't turn my crank. I came out of the Paramount slightly perturbed--mostly because this film has managed more headlines than Sideways, also known as: my favorite film of the year.

Don't get me wrong, folks, I enjoyed The Aviator. There was some great acting in the mix, and the sets and costumes were beautifully composed. But it does not deserve the "Best Movie of the Year" tagline, and should be disqualified from similarly ridiculous claims. This marks the second (lengthy) collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and, for some strange reason, I enjoyed Gangs of New York much more--there was something about Gangs that made you want to watch it a second time. After seeing The Aviator once, I am good for another year or so.

The Aviator is an epic-length biopic about Howard Hughes--one of the richest and most peculiar individuals in history. The film skips over his childhood, choosing to focus on Hughes's early years in Hollywood and the court proceeding regarding Sen. Brewster's controversial aviation bill. We certainly get an examined look at Hughes the businessman--the take-no-prisoners-and-do-what-you-think-is-right businessman. Excellent. We also get a glimpse into his life of paranoia and phobia. Excellent. But we nerver get an examined look at this more interesting aspect of his life. This is a man who became addicted to pain killers and tranquilizers, demanded his servants handle things with tissue and white gloves, a man who bottled his own urine! I have seen movies about business moguls and film producers, but I cannot recall a film going into depth about urine bottling. That's the movie I want to see!

Also: the acting is flawed. The acting is just as manic as this article--filled with inconsistencies and letdowns, thrills and pathetic wanderings. I thought DiCaprio was spectacular as Hughes, and even Cate Blanchett gave an interesting performance; but Alan Alda (or Hawkeye from M*A*S*H) was unconvincing as Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster (watch the court proceedings and try to tell me differently). Come on, Hawkeye, you're better than this!

This movie failed to capture the final decent into madness. Howard Hughes was a shrewd businessman. We get it. Howard Hughes captured world speed records. We get it. Howard Hughes was an extraordinary pilot. We get it. I WANT TO SEE HIM COLLECTING MORE URINE-JARS!

Attending this movie is like attending the Canadian National Exhibition: the first visit is exciting and joyous; the thought of a second visit in the same year seems arduous and dispiriting. And after all that, I still predict that it goes home with several awards.

Catch The Aviator at Famous Players Paramount Theatre before its wide-release on Saturday.


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