ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Bucket List Movie #430: The Aviator (2004)

Updated on March 20, 2014
Now if only those giant, looming heads would get out of the way, we could get this baby off the ground!
Now if only those giant, looming heads would get out of the way, we could get this baby off the ground! | Source
How can I love a man with nicer bone structure than mine?
How can I love a man with nicer bone structure than mine? | Source

For me, some actors improve with age. No, scratch that, it isn’t necessarily that they improve, per se (though that’s often the case), but that I finally learn to let go of an irrational animosity towards them and realize that not only are they only human, but talented humans at that. Leonardo DiCaprio fits this category to the proverbial tee. I was a high school freshman when Titanic ruled the box office and, indeed, the planet, and the thrall in which the young DiCaprio held over my fellow teenagers was lost on me. I thought he was too pretty, too fey, not ruggedly masculine enough. At the time I thought I was being a proud nonconformist, when in fact I was just an immature little contrarian who didn’t want to admit she hadn’t seenTitanic yet. But then, years after DiCaprio hit 30, a remarkable thing happened: Shutter Island. I saw this twisty, immensely entertaining thriller and realized, with no small surprise, that DiCaprio could really act. He played a detective caught up in a mind bending mystery, and the pretty boy from the 90’s was a dim memory. Here was a real man, with talent and presence, who has since become the great Martin Scorsese’s latest muse who's at the top of his game. Even as he turns 40 this year, there are traces of boyishness left on DiCaprio's mature visage, which made him an excellent choice to play the title character in 2013's The Great Gatsby, as a man who clings to youthful fantasies as protection against the disillusionments of adulthood.

In The Aviator, DiCaprio ferociously delved into the role as one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century, Howard Hughes. Nowadays, the name Howard Hughes conjures up images of a wealthy, eccentric, intensely germ-phobic recluse who, at his lowest point, grew a Biblical beard, washed his hands until they bled, and relieved himself in bottles.

The real Howard Hughes.
The real Howard Hughes. | Source

It’s easy to forget that he was once the wealthiest, charismatic men in America, who dated the likes of Katherine Hepburn (played in The Aviator by Cate Blanchett, in a revelatory performance) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and made Hell’s Angels, one of the most expensive films of the 1920s, and then made a star out of the young Jane Russell in The Outlaw, one of the naughtiest films of the 1940s. The movie (at a surprisingly breezy 170 minutes), one of the better made biopics, covers the aforementioned bases of this sometimes charming, often maddening man.

The Great Cate as... well, the Great Kate.
The Great Cate as... well, the Great Kate. | Source

We are introduced to Hughes as an innocent little boy who was taught to spell the word “quarantine” by his creepily serene mother. We then see him as a young jack of all trades, but whose greatest passion was aviation and engineering. It’s understandable why someone like Hughes favored flight; after all, the sky is clear and limitless, whereas the ground is littered with boundaries and obstacles. It doesn’t take us long to see how ill-equipped Hughes is to deal with obstacles. When designing aircrafts, including the infamous “Spruce Goose”, Hughes is bombarded with escalating costs, design flaws, lawyers and competing airlines breathing down his neck. It is a bitter pill for him to swallow, that being wealthy and renowned doesn’t protect him from pesky realities. Is it any wonder that Hughes tried to exercise control over other facets of life, such as germs, friends, and the women who dared to love him? In one infuriating scene, just after suspecting a man of spying on him, we discover Hughes bugged then-girlfriend Ava Gardner’s house and car.

I shall emerge from this staring contest victorious, little plane.
I shall emerge from this staring contest victorious, little plane. | Source

With his dreams collapsing and his loved ones stepping out, that is when Howard Hughes the Disgusting Hermit emerges, and DiCaprio tosses aside all vanity and inhibitions to attack the scenes with Method-like barbarity. The scenes are brief, but leave a hell of an impact.

Because beards and uncut nails are somehow cleaner.
Because beards and uncut nails are somehow cleaner. | Source

This is one of Martin Scorsese’s most aesthetically lovely films, right up there with The Age of Innocence. The scenes with Hughes in his prime in Hollywood and in the air, he seems to be basked in a glorious, autumnal light, while his scenes are nightmarishly murky. My one complaint is a scene where Hughes golfs with Hepburn, and it is a gaudy teal and orange filter. Teal and orange has been prevalent in films for several years now, but I’m disappointed that Scorsese went that route, for it is an ugly distraction in an otherwise fabulous-looking film. Even the CGI flying scenes hold up well and contribute rather than distract from the narrative.

While Blanchett won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, DiCaprio was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Jamie Foxx for Ray. It’s been ten years since The Aviator, and, as evidenced by this year’s Academy Awards, things have strangely come full circle (or maybe semicircle). Cate Blanchett won her second Oscar, only this time for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (highly deserved, though I was rooting for Amy Adams for American Hustle), and DiCaprio was nominated for Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, only to lose to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. A shame, but we needn’t despair for DiCaprio. The Aviator was but a glorious preview of things to come in his career, and he continues to deliver a decade after the fact. If Howard Hughes taught us anything, is that, for better or worse, we leave some kind of legacy. DiCaprio is already creating his.

Out, damned loss! Out, out...
Out, damned loss! Out, out... | Source


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)