So, the big Oscar Night has come and gone. I have to say that, my own opinions and favorites aside I was really not surprised by most of the winners—-except one. I was sure that with all the other awards it won and all the press it has gotten that The Aviator would take Best Picture. I was thoroughly excited, however, when Million Dollar Baby won the award instead. I was jumping up and down laughing with glee at 11:30 after watching three hours of the ceremony; that is how excited I was. My justification for my silly display of enthusiasm is this: I did not like The Aviator.
The movie centers on the rise and fall of filmmaker and flight-innovator Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), his various failed relationships with actresses such as Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Garnder (Kate Beckinsale), and his battles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Biopics are hard to do. I have said it before and I will most likely say it again, but they are complicated. The balance between saying enough and making the movie too long is a tough one. This movie is too long. It covers twenty-years of Hughes’s life and runs over two and a half hours, a length that really drags.
While the movie was good, I did not find it very impressive. I actually did not like seeing the actors who I watch so frequently on TCM portrayed by modern-day actresses. I found Cate Blanchett was too Katherine Hepburn to actually be Katherine Hepburn. I could tell that she was acting and it was irritating. Gwen Stefani’s brief role as Jean Harlow was best left brief. It was shallow and ineffective. Not for a second did I believe that she was Jean Harlow. She was one hundred percent Gwen Stefani the whole time. Leonardo DiCaprio was great as Hughes, but his single performance could not make up for the dragging pace of the movie.
The best part about this movie is the cinematography or the art direction. The glitzy, glamorous old Hollywood starts the movie with a visual bang, and is juxtaposed with the creepy inward world of Hughes’s mind is portrayed in his home while the strong, intellectual world of Katherine Hepburn is portrayed in hers. The characters really come through by means of the sets and the backgrounds even more than through the acting in some parts.
The real reason that I was so thrilled that Million Dollar Baby knocked this movie out of the Best Picture category is that when the credits rolled on The Aviator I felt relieved that it was over, rather than compassion for the characters. This movie was not engaging to the audience. It was good, but not great in contrast with the many wonderful films released this year.