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Martin Scorsese's The Aviator
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My favorite Martin Scorsese film is Gangs of New York (see my review here), but his follow-up film, The Aviator (2004), is a close second and rises in my estimation with each viewing. The Aviator is an epic depiction of the career of Howard Hughes, spanning the years 1927 to 1947, from the creation of his WWI flying epic Hell’s Angels to the successful test flight of the Hercules transport plane, dubbed by his enemies the “Spruce Goose.”

In its feel, Scorsese’s depiction of a heroic industrialist battling philistines, nay-sayers, corrupt politicians, and unethical rivals is the closest thing we will ever get to a decent film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, and in some ways it is far more interesting than Rand’s stories because Hughes was real. He was, furthermore, more heroic than any Rand protagonist because he not only overcame the whole world but also a far more formidable adversary, namely his own mental illness.

Hughes inherited the Hughes Tool Company from his father, which he used to finance his work in two industries which centered around his personal obsessions: film and aviation. (He also invested his film and aviation profits in extensive real estate and hotel holdings.) Hughes directed two films, Hell’s Angels (1930) and The Outlaw (1943) and produced a number of others, first as an independent producer, then by acquiring a controlling interest in RKO. Hughes’ taste in film was unabashedly masculine (war and boobs). And although he was a playboy, he was conservative in his politics if not his morals and worked to purge RKO of Communists.

But above all else, Hughes was an aviator. He created Hughes Aircraft while filming Hell’s Angels. He set a number of aviation records; was intimately involved in the design, development, and testing of a number of airplanes; revolutionized commercial aviation; and survived four airplane crashes (two of which are depicted in the film).

Leonardo Di Caprio is wonderfully believable in his portrayal of Hughes as a stubborn visionary who combined technological mastery and shrewd business instincts with a strong aesthetic sensibility, although in truth his airplanes were more artful than his movies. Di Caprio is particularly brilliant in capturing Hughes’ mood swings from charismatic, boyish enthusiasm to obsessive-compulsive paranoia. Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her role of Katherine Hepburn. Other solid performances are Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe, and Alan Alda as Senator Owen Brewster.

One of my favorite parts of The Aviator is Hughes’ romance with Katherine Hepburn, especially their golf match (in gorgeous two-color Technicolor), her compassionate response to his mounting obsessive-compulsive disorder and paranoia, and his disastrous dinner with her rich, snobbish, and obnoxiously Left-wing family.

There’s a strong populist feel to The Aviator, for Hughes was a Texan who was constantly at odds with the Hollywood Jewish and Eastern liberal WASP establishments. Although Hughes inherited wealth like the Hepburns, he did not hold people who work for a living in contempt. When Hepburn finally left him, Hughes became increasingly unmoored from reality and consumed by his obsessions.


I also very much enjoyed Scorsese’s handling of the aviation sequences in the making of Hell’s Angels; the building, test-flight, and crash of the H1-Racer after setting a speed record; the building, test-flight, and crash of the XF-11 reconnaissance plane (Hughes called it his “Buck Rodgers” ship); and finally the test flight of the Hercules.

Scorsese used models, not computer animation, in these sequences, and the payoff in terms of realism is palpable. The use of Eugene Ormandy’s orchestration of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor for the XF-11 sequence was an inspired choice. (The soundtrack contains original music by Howard Shore, which to my surprise made no impression on me, and a large number of well-chosen pieces of popular music from the period.)

Another excellent sequence is Hughes’ triumph over a Senator Owen Brewster and Juan Trippe of Pan Am, who cooked up legislation that would give Pan Am a monopoly on international air travel from the United States. Brewster also launched a Congressional investigation of Hughes, digging up embarrassing information and accusing him of defrauding the US government out of $56 million. Then Brewster offered to call off the hearings if Hughes would sell TWA to Pan Am. It was transparent blackmail.

Hughes refused, then retreated into a cocoon, holing up in a screening room for months, communicating only by tape recordings and intercom, peeing in bottles, etc. Hughes finally pulls himself together with the help of Ava Gardner (best lines: “I love what you’ve done with the place” and “Nothing’s clean, Howard. But we do our best anyway”). Yes, Hughes actually did things like this, though the sequence of events may have been altered for dramatic effect.

Hughes goes to Congress and in a fiery speech flays the hypocrisy of the charges against him. For instance, $800 million in aircraft were not delivered during the war because of research and development failures, but only Hughes was being investigated. Then he exposes Brewster’s real agenda: to cripple TWA because it threatened Pan Am with competition. It is thrilling drama. Alan Alda is brilliant in his portrayal of oily operator Senator Brewster.

The movie ends with the triumphant flight of the Hercules, the prototype of which was finished by Hughes at great expense, even though the war was over and the military had cancelled the project. It was a matter of personal pride for Hughes, and it was a magnificent engineering achievement.

At the afterparty, an ebullient Hughes declares that jet aircraft are the way of the future. Then his OCD takes over. He can’t stop repeating the phrase “the way of the future, the way of the future.” His business manager and chief engineer hustle him into isolation so he can regain control. Scorsese wisely ends the film here, with Hughes alone in the throes of his compulsions.

This was indeed “the way of the future” for Hughes. He spent his last 29 years in increasing seclusion, living in luxury hotel suites, moving from triumph to triumph building his business empire and vast fortune. Racked with chronic pain from the XF-11 crash, which nearly killed him, and increasingly consumed by OCD, Hughes apparently became addicted to painkillers. He died at the age of 70. His six-foot four-inch frame weighed only 96 pounds. He had apparently starved himself to death. The pitiful final triumph of an unbridled Faustian will.

The Aviator is a masterpiece, a work of tragic grandeur encompassing everything that made America both great and terrible, a biopic raised to the level of myth.

• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Martin Scorsese, Movies 
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  1. JimDandy says:

    WMy favorite Martin Scorsese film is Gangs of New York (see my review here), but”

    Waiiiiit a minute… What? I applaud your positive review of The Aviator, but Gangs of New York? Wow. I mean, if you loved it, you loved it, but I thought it was very weak, starting with Cameron Diaz. I have always thought, however, that it could have been the kind of great HBO series Boardwalk Empire wanted to be.

  2. Chewie111 says:

    I like these period films because it shows the youngest generation of Americans JUST HOW WHITE the overall USA was in just comparatively recent times, beyond the large minority population of blacks in the southeast making up no more than 10% of the total nationwide population.

    An overwhelmingly white Los Angeles in the 1930’s and 1940’s when the movie is set, would just completely go over the heads of most L.A. high school students in 2019.

    • Replies: @Western
  3. Alden says:

    One of my favorite movies except for the Hepburn interlude. Can’t stand that arrogant witch. Blanchett did an excellent job of portraying her.

    Wonderful movie.

  4. Mr. Anon says:

    One of my favorite movies except for the Hepburn interlude. Can’t stand that arrogant witch. Blanchett did an excellent job of portraying her.

    Agree. Blanchett made a far more appealing Hepburn than Hepburn ever did. Couldn’t stand her. The only movie she was halfway good in was The African Queen, probably because she was playing a shrill scold. The Lion in Winter would have been a much better movie if it had starred anyone other than Hepburn. She was awful.

    • Replies: @Alden
  5. Anonymous[103] • Disclaimer says:

    Gangs. No. Aviator. No.

  6. Anonymous[277] • Disclaimer says:

    My understanding of Hughe’s “OCD” was that it was in fact tertiary syphlis. Wasn’t pennicillin available by then?

  7. I thought syphilis drove Hughes insane.

    • Replies: @Wally
  8. Baxter says:

    I’ll say this, Howard Hughes looks like Thor in comparison to our weak and feminine modern men. The guy had balls.
    Of course, he had dollars to back it up, but so do a lot of our country’s wealthiest.
    Can anyone imagine a Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg personally flying experimental aircraft?

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  9. @Alden

    Remember that while Hughes had money, Hepburn had class, and he knew it, and envied it. She could handle anyone and anything, while could fly and drill for oil. Hughes was merely an amusement, since she really loved Tracy, also class. Gardner was more Hughes’s class and they both knew it.
    Blanchett also has class, probably why she played Hepburn so well, who also played golf. Sorry, old golfer, the only game worth playing, so I’ll root for Katy.

    • Replies: @Alden
    , @Real History
  10. @JimDandy

    D.D.Lewis is a laughable Long John Silver. Hard to take such a character seriously.

  11. Z-man says:

    ‘Hell’s Angels’ was one helluva movie!

  12. Kirt says:

    Gangs of New York is one of the worst movies ever made.

  13. Excellent movie. Great to see here on Unz a review of this masterful piece of work. Di Caprio was at his best.

    His portrayal of Hughes is incredible. Especially before the Senate intelligence committee. He was explosive right out the gate, hammering Brewster by exposing his lies and hypocrisy. The laughing audience and their approval of Hughes during this peak moment has such a feel of realism, you forget for a second you’re watching a movie. It has a consuming quality.

    The women, too.

    Great portrayal. A realistic depiction of a man driven by noble motives while simultaneously trying to enjoy life as a free man.

    How he dealt with his mental illness was depicted well enough to the degree you can see it’s effects were all consuming. But the will power of Hughes, and a little, if not a lot of help from his friends and staff help him manage these demons.

  14. This is a very fine film.

    It’s painful. At no time did he foster a relationship that would help keep him moored, no real lifelong rescuers that people need to guard us from the abyss. There’s the deep knowledge that he was taken advantage in his last years. And he when he sought escape, there was no one to escape with, to or for —

    I thoroughly appreciate that despite his illness, the movie gave him a heroic quality, perhaps less than he deserved.

    • Replies: @Alden
  15. Hughes was a perfectionist, motivated more by getting it perfect than by money, but he actually did something constructive with the money that he was given. No wonder the corrupt Congress Critters hated him. How could they relate? This sounds like a great movie. Someday, I will watch it.

    • Replies: @Jake
  16. Great movie.

    We are not safe.

  17. onebornfree says: • Website

    Thanks for a great review of of great movie about a great man featuring a great lead + great support etc. DaCaprios acting ability at that time seemed “off the charts”, to me.

    How about one about one about the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”[1988 Francis Ford Coppola] which was a about the early 20th century automobile innovator Preston Tucker, assuming you think it a good movie, that is.

    Regards, onebornfree

    • Replies: @Anon
  18. Jake says:

    You think Boardwalk Empire is better than Gangs of New York?

    • Replies: @Pat Hannagan
    , @JimDandy
  19. @Jake

    Gangs of New York was simply pandering to a decrepit remaindered protestant america yearning for when the world was as simple as kicking in the heads of micks.

  20. Jake says:
    @Endgame Napoleon

    Wait a minute there – are you saying that the US Congress was already corrupt as Hell, and perhaps even more self-righteous than corrupt, no later than the post World War 1 era?

    I agree with that assessment, and so will many readers of this board, at least until they grasp the inherent implications.

    In that period covered in the film (1927-1947), how many Jews, how many Irish Catholics, how many Italian Catholics, how many Polish Catholics, how many ‘Hispanic’ Catholics, how many eastern Orthodox of any ethnic heritage, served in the US Senate or the US House of Representatives, and how many of those held official power (say, as Speaker of the House or as Chair of a powerful committee)?

    Weren’t nearly all those people what most of us would call WASP (in the broad sense, that their defining and perhaps virtually total, ancestry for at least a couple of centuries was English-speaking British Isles Protestant that saw world history and culture through the lens of English-speaking cultural Protestantism), with most of the remainder being German Protestant??

  21. Jake says:
    @Pat Hannagan

    I think you have missed a good deal in that film. Butcher Bill, who represents the working class WASP, is a tragic figure – his life is wasted in violence against Irish and other Catholic immigrants, which serves to make his people little better than serfs to the WASP Elite, even when the WASP Elite demands that non-Elite whites die in a war that will benefit only rich Yank WASPs and Negroes.

  22. Che Guava says:


    It is great that Mr. Unz (which I stil don’t know the correct pronunciation) is liking your film reviews, as do I.

    To me, though, the Di Caprio playing Hughes was inappropriate, he looked too much like the same Di Caprio as in the, mainly execrable, though funny for it, The Beach. The queen there was Tilda Swinton, the player of Heburn in The Aviator, was, as you say, the equally loathsome (in comparison to Swinton, not Hepburn), Blanchett.

    I didn’t hate The Aviator, but Di Caprio was certainly mis-cast . As was shit doesn’t stink Blanchett, one of many actresses, who on top of her lack of odour from menses, excretion, sweat, etc., likes to presenting herself as a queenly authority on politics.

    Back to the topic,

    Anybody who has read Gangs of New York knows that the film dodges any difficult issues, such as the reality of the Nth.-Sth. War draft riots, and the
    reasons, it doesn’t even really depict them. You just get Fed. ships threatening them for no clear reason. One of the more interesting counter-narratives that is bouncing in my brain at times is ‘What if the Confederacy had mamaged to connect with the N.Y. anti-draft rioters?

    They had common cause.

    The other cheap point of Gangs of NY is that Scorcese is careful to avoid the parts of the book that deal with the rise of Jewish organised crime, which is a general thing in his oeuvre.

    Read the book, the film is a pile of crap, at its best it looks like a musical.

    What are the best films by Scorcese?

    My list,

    Raging Bullshit (particularly so because I spent some time socially with a welterweight and much more stupid version recently).



    • Replies: @Alden
  23. Alden says:
    @Mr. Anon

    Never saw Lion. I saw her on TV in a lot of old movies made when she was young. She was such an arrogant witch. Later I found out why her arrogant bitchiness was so apparent in every word.

    Her mother was a suffergatte and Dad was a very rich communist. Plus she was a lesbian Puritan stock snob. It’s funny. She had a beautiful face high cheekbones, the kind of face I admire and thin enough to model all those beautiful clothes. But her arrogant disdain for everyone else in the world was just too too much, even in her early 30s movies when she was just one of 4 girls in a humdrum chick flick.

    I just loved the scene where Hughes went to visit her liberal snob family. Hughes was as much an aristocrat as she. His mother was a Rice.

    I’m rambling on about my favorite bete noire, liberals.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
    , @David In TN
  24. @Pat Hannagan

    Are you suggesting that micks are completely functional?

  25. Alden says:

    Sorry to contradict you.

    Hughes has class too. He was an aristocrat. His mother was a Rice, thousands of miles of the most fertile southern bottom land for generations. And not harmed in the civil war either.

    Ever heard of Rice university Rice endowed hospitals Rice this and that? That’s his mother’s family, generations of wealth aristocracy and what you call “ class”. His father was also an aristocrat family long before he invented the drill bit.
    Hepburn was also an aristocrat but like a lot of them, her parents turned liberal and commie. There’s absolutely nothing more crass gross and horrible than aristos turned commie. I know that all too well.

    Hepburn never had an affair with Tracy. She was a lesbian. Hughes and Tracy especially were just beards arranged by the studio. Tracy was the main beard because he was catholic and the publicity people could spin a great tragic love story about how they adored each other and wanted to marry but couldn’t because Tracy was such a virtuous catholic he couldn’t defy the church and get a divorce.

    Hepburn exuded the same arrogant disdainful aura as Hildabeast Clinton, Michelle Obama, Bernadette Dorhn Warren and the rest of the feminazi liberals.

    Hughes’ movies were the least of his endeavors. He and his father were engineering geniuses.

    • Agree: Che Guava
    • Replies: @Moi
  26. Alden says:

    Well, supposedly he went into the movies solely because it gave him access to so many easily obtained women. His aircraft factory and testing grounds are now a giant shopping mall and office complex.

    • Replies: @Simply Simon
  27. Che Guava says:
    @Pat Hannagan

    The movie is mainly sympathetic to paddies, or, if you would prefer, micks. It is not much good. Not for that point. I is fun to watch once, but between Day-Lewis, Julia (unnatural frog mouth) Roberts (who has frequently pretentended to be Irish), and Dicaprio, in any case, I am repeating myself, but still valid.

    If you had ever watched it, you would know it. The book, OTOH, is well worth reading, but you may lacking the required concentration span.

    • Replies: @Dr. Krieger
  28. Che Guava says:

    Ah, the real Hepburn. She seems to have been difficult, I don’t know, dead before I was born.

    Sure better than Swineton and Blanchette.

  29. Che Guava says:

    Rice is usually a Jewish crypto-surname.

    • Replies: @Ian Smith
  30. Moi says:

    Money and class are two very different things, although not always mutually exclusive.

    • Replies: @Alden
    , @Alden
  31. Probably one of Di Caprio’s finest films in addition to “Titanic”.

    I saw “The Aviator” and enjoyed it thoroughly. This piece has given me the interest to see it again…

  32. JimDandy says:

    I wrote: “it could have been the kind of great HBO series Boardwalk Empire wanted to be.”

    Meaning there were both unrealized visions. As for which one was better/worse? I’ll have to think about that. I definitely thought Gangs of New York totally sucked, whereas I think Boardwalk regularly had its good stretches. So… yeah, I think Boardwalk was better than Gangs.

  33. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    I second that!

  34. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    I happened to have seen one of those “How’d they die?” cable shows a few weeks ago and the the doc pooh-poohed the whole OCD thing. He traced Hughes decline and death to the massive amounts of drugs prescribed to handle the immense pain he lived with after the first crash, as depicted in the film. Perhaps Scorsese should have focused on that arc.

    • Replies: @Republic
  35. Alden says:

    If syphilis was the problem, he would have gotten it in the 20’s 30’s before penicillin. His brain would have deteriorated beyond a cure by the time penicillin came along.

  36. Alden says:
    @Pat Hannagan

    One could also say Gangs was about the rise of the Irish and immigrants. I loved the evil bill character played by DAniel Day Lewis.

  37. Alden says:
    @Che Guava

    I know a lot of men despise good looking male actors as gay or whatever. Why do men admire ugly actors like Russel Crow, Arnold Swartchenegger Spencer Tracy?

    De Caprio is an excellent excellent actor despite his good looks. Howard Hughes was very good looking. He was tall and slim with well proportioned handsome features. He was a very handsome man and was properly portrayed by a very handsome actor.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  38. Alden says:

    Your use of the word “class” betrays you. Class is a noun, not an adjective or verb. The Rice and Hughes families were aristocrats. Hepburn was an arrogant communist lesbian. Howard Hughes how shall I say it? He moved out of his aristocratic class into Hollywood. But his engineering and airline exemplified the best of the aristocrat american class. Hepburn’s family were commies and so was she.

    • Replies: @Paw
  39. Republic says:

    Hughes lived for the last few years of his life on the top floor of a luxury hotel in Managua ,Nicaragua.

    His retainers were Mormons, whom he trusted.

    Hughes lived for many years as a virtual recluse and only broke his silence when a conman named Clifford Irving was trying to sell a fake autobiography of Hughes.

    Hughes spoke to the world’s press corp via a phone conference call and was able convince them that the so called autobiography was indeed fake.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Dr. Krieger
  40. @JimDandy

    ” … the kind of great HBO series Boardwalk Empire wanted to be.”

    The Scorsese-produced Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014) is a great series. An exceedingly dark and tragic historical gangster epic. The Sopranos (1999-2007) is also top-notch; its seriocomic approach to gangsters was able to catch a wider audience.

    • Replies: @JimDandy
  41. Alden says:

    Class is a noun, not an adjective or verb. Hughes and Hepburn both came form aristocratic families, Hughes’ was far wealthier and more aristocratic than hers. They used their money for hospitals, colleges libraries and probably the best thing his mother ever did, lobbying for and providing a lotof the money for an extensive modern sewer system that ended the yearly typhoid epidemics due to contaminated water.

    The Hepburns were old Puritan stock who did nothing for their communities. The Hepburns turned very liberal women’s rights Margaret Sanger, and communist party fellow travellers early in the century while the Rice Hughes were using their money for extensive public works.

    Hepburn always reminded me of newly rich country club ladies arrogantly looking down on everyone else. And she wasn’t an aristocrat compared to Hughes’ ancestors and immediate family.

    Hughes was just one more in a long line of aristocrats even with his lechery and chasing actresses and insanity. Hepburn and family did nothing but puritan agitation and lobbying for communism.

    You read too many of the adoring hagiographies of the nasty snob liberal lesbian Hepburn.

    And no one who uses the word “class” to describe people has any knowledge of the subject.

    Hughes had generations of true aristocrat ancestors who did something for the benefit of the community with their money. Hepburn had generations of puritan blue noses and commie parents. She went to Swarthmore for God’s sake.

    • Agree: Dannyboy
    • Replies: @Dube
  42. @Kirt

    Gangs of New York (2002) was flawed, definitely not “worst.” Of the films of the past few years the “worst” application can be applied to the racialist, Body Snatchers rip-off Get Out (2017). This malignant dreck gave white SJW-types the vapors because everything black people do is genius.

  43. Anonymous[288] • Disclaimer says:

    Zuckerberg is good in the exploitation department, Bill is mostly remembered for buying and reselling a crap reverse-engineered copy of CP/M to IBM, and Jeff is the guy who made renting out idle IT resources a Big, Big Business.

    But these are not the guys you are looking for. Not everybody needs to play Tony Stark for Good Stuff to hit the history of technology (not of the above qualifies for the Good Stuff, Bill and Jeff at least worked hard on commoditization, though the stuff from the House of Bill is often more pain than it’s worth it)

    I’m more interested in data from CERN than in yet another big busty hairy balls project. And CERN is a taxpayer-financed project by committee.

    The times of heros is over.

    Have some Wiley Post instead. at 00:20:00

  44. We must have been watching two different films. I found The Aviator to be the dullest of all of Scorsese’s films; a portentous (and tortuous) exercise in cinematic nostalgia, tritely summing up mid-century America as a place awash in homburgs and fedoras, where men were men and women were broads.

    Leonardo di Caprio, a brilliant actor otherwise, looked ill at east in his comic book rendering of the film’s protagonist, his mugging and stereotypical-sounding “old time” American accent closer to Dick Tracy than Howard Hughes.

    Martin Scorsese’s recent films are quite fine (with The Departed and Silence standing out in my personal estimation), but often find myself thinking that his best work reached its height with Goodfellas. (Sometimes I feel that he never topped Taxi Driver.) A far better and weirder director is his fellow Italian-American, Brian de Palma. Sadly, he is destined to be one of those artists who will not be fully appreciated until after he is dead.

    It was worth it for Howard Hughes to exist if only because he indirectly fomented the creation of Orson Welles’ F for Fake, a wild, youthful, indefatigably energetic cinematic tour-de-force.

    [Howard Hughes] was, furthermore, more heroic than any Rand protagonist because he not only overcame the whole world but also a far more formidable adversary, namely his own mental illness.

    On the contrary, his life (and posthumously his business empire) crumbled because he never overcame his mental illness, which, incidentally, played a significant role in his death.

  45. @Anonymous

    I have never heard of Hughes’ alleged syphilis affliction. His autopsy mentioned that his brain appeared to be normal and healthy.

  46. Andrew says:

    The Aviator was easily my favorite Scorsese since Goodfellas and is one of his greatest, along with Raging Bull. So many of his flicks are just run-together, we’ve been here before territory, gangster, criminal, movies. Casino, Gangs of New York (though Daniel Day-Lewis was terrific as always in that), the overrated Departed, others all seem similar to me now. Raging Bull, the Aviator and Last Temptation of Christ are at least memorably unique. The Aviator was gorgeously shot and one of the great period piece movies of the last 30 years which studio suits don’t want to do anymore because they don’t want to pay for the production, set, costume design, and they don’t often make their money back. People are too busy going to moronic superhero movies over quality period piece films like the Aviator or Peter Weir’s Master and Commander or the Coen Brothers Hail, Caesar!. DiCaprio would’ve won the Oscar for the Aviator if not for the stiff competition of Jamie Foxx and the Ray Charles movie that year.

  47. Colinsky says: • Website

    DiCaprio was too old for the role.

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
  48. Ian Smith says:
    @Che Guava

    Ironic, given that it’s an anglicized version of the Welsh Rhys.

  49. I always felt that Casino was Scorsese’s best and most underrated film. The main criticism seems to be that it was too similar to GoodFellas. Indeed, Joe Pesci’a characters in both movies are pretty much interchangeable. But Casino just felt like a larger, more important movie. For instance, while they changed all the names, it is clear that this story deals with the very highest ranks of the Mafia, with the heads of the Chicago Outfit and various other midwestern syndicates looming large in the background. GoodFellas, for all its brilliant storytelling, deals mostly with low-level thugs. The main characters are not even made Mafia guys, and the highest-ranking character (played by Paul Sorvino), is merely a captain in one of the New York families – the equivalent of Clemenza from The Godfather at best.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
    , @hhsiii
  50. @Colinsky

    Di Caprio was not too old for the role. He was 29 playing a man between 22 and 42.

  51. @Ian Smith

    Ironic, given that it’s an anglicized version of the Welsh Rhys.

    I thought Rhys was usually anglicized as Reese. Not so? Or maybe it’s a dialect issue?

  52. Dube says:

    Class is a noun, not an adjective or verb. … And no one who uses the word “class” to describe people has any knowledge of the subject.

    “A word or phrase can have both a descriptive meaning and an emotional impact. It has become customary to speak of the latter as ’emotive significance’ or ’emotive meaning.’ There is a high degree of independence between the descriptive and emotive meanings of a word.”

    – Irving M. Copi, Informal Logic, 3d ed., p. 82, section 2.4: “Emotive Words.”

    • Replies: @Alden
  53. Interesting. While I appreciated Mr. Di Caprio’s performance, I thought him a tad young.

  54. Alden says:

    Anyone who uses the word classy as an adjective ain’t got no class. An arrogant commie liberal lesbian who despises the rest of humanity ain’t got no class either.

    And only gullible idiots read and believe Hollywood fan magazines biographies and believe them.

    • Replies: @Dube
  55. @Alden

    Keep on rambling. I’m enjoying it.

  56. jamie b. says:

    …in gorgeous two-color Technicolor…

    Seemed weird. I actually thought that there was something wrong with the color. If it were a Lynch film, I wouldn’t have cared. But in a Scorsese film it was incongruous and weird.

    Kate Mulgrew was born to play Katherine Hepburn. A missed opportunity. (Yet Brent Spinner had a bit part…)

    • Replies: @Trevor Lynch
    , @Ray P
  57. “Well, supposedly he went into the movies solely because it gave him access to so many easily obtained women. His aircraft factory and testing grounds are now a giant shopping mall and office complex.”

    I am not sure if he ever really had anyone in his corner lifelong — I don’t think so. I think it remains an end that lives in several ironies.

    Easy to obtain women — smile — that seems to be Hollywood. It is also a world with so many people of varying dysfunctions, that he could survive with his condition barely noticed. Had he operated solely among his peers or like minded business people, I wounder if his life would have taken a different end.

    Still I like the man. And in some ways, he called the political classes bluff and laid the whole thing open for what it entailed — schmoozing the deciders of contracts. It’s hard to take shots at someone who simply says

    That’s that way it was done. Don’t believe me ask everyone else, what they did or didn’t get delivered.


    • Replies: @Paw
  58. @jamie b.

    Scorsese filmed the earlier parts (1927-1935) to look like two-color Technicolor, the later parts to look like three-strip Technicolor.

    • Replies: @Dr. Krieger
  59. I read about Howard in Soviet times. Yes, there were lots of books in our libraries covering various business leaders from USA. I think he would make great “нарком”.

  60. markflag says:

    Spencer Tracy class? He carried on a multi-decade affair with Hepburn while remaining married to his wife. His reason for not divorcing his wife was, as one biographical article put it, because of his staunch Catholicism. Apparently adultery was no problem. My own theory was it was a way of avoiding marrying Hepburn. A less than classy reason.

  61. Dube says:

    Maybe. But sometimes class or classy are used in praise of chivalry, in which case the speaker is of a class, so it can’t be said he ain’t got none.

  62. Anon[295] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Trevor Lynch sure has strange taste in movies. He likes WILD AT HEART and DUNE, two films by David Lynch most people(including myself) can’t stand. It must be a matter of taste and sensibility. Live and let live, to each his own, I guess. Still, despite the effort and production values, I must say GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE AVIATOR fall way short of their overarching ambitions. They were Too Big To Succeed, the general consensus on the two films. While I don’t hate those works(like I hate CAPE FEAR and THE DEPARTED), I never liked them either even though both have their moments. Stanley Kauffmann faulted THE AVIATOR for trying to be the Great American Movie. An element of strain, artifice, and self-consciousness enters into an artist trying to do too much. It’s like the folly of attempting THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. There have been many great novels written by Americans about the American Experience, but the scope of THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL is too big for any artist. (It’s like no one really takes Herman Wouk’s THE WINDS OF WAR as serious literature.) One can argue that Leo Tolstoy wrote the GREAT RUSSIAN NOVEL with WAR AND PEACE, but then, it’s unlikely he was thinking in those terms. There are novels that can be construed as THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. THE GREAT GATSBY comes to mind. But again, it’s unlikely F. Scott Fitzgerald had such novel in mind. And even though his novel is about money and privilege, what really resonates is the fragile and almost pitiable poetry of Gatsby who dreams of Daisy, a vapid creature tenderly romanticized by his yearning. In some ways, he seems less interested in winning her love than impressing her with his vaunted worth.
    Among movies, it’s conceivable that CITIZEN KANE is indeeed The Great American Movie. But then, Orson Welles was one of a kind, the boy wonder, who had the Midas touch with just about anything: Theater, Radio, Movies. Other works that may qualify as The Great American Movie are IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and THE GODFATHER. One is mostly about Wasps in a small town whereas the other is about immigrant-Italians in New York. THE GODFATHER I and II may serve as an allegory of ethnics(with Italians standing for Jews) eclipsing the Wasps represented by the likes of Senator Geary. And yet, under the direction of Frank Capra the Italian-American, there is an element of Immigrant-Guilt-Complex in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. George Bailey feels guilt about leaving his small town behind for the Bigger-Wider-World, America-America than mere Americana. There’s a scene in THE GODFATHER PART 2 where young Vito and Sal watch a stage musical-drama about a man who receives letter about his mother’s death in the Old Country and breaks into a tearful tune. Though George Bailey is All-American, he is like someone who isn’t able to immigrate to greener pastures. He is stuck in the place of his birth where his father is buried. He’s like a slave who can’t escape the plantation. And yet, like the trapped man in WOMAN IN THE DUNES, he finds special meaning and significance within that small world.


    Perhaps, due to their populist character, movies have resonated more as collective American Imagination, not least because the average movie is aimed at a larger audience than the average novel. THE GRAPES OF WRATH was, for a time, considered The Great American Novel, but I’m not sure how the story of Okies resonates with today’s decadent Americans. (In contrast, THE GREAT GATSBY continues to be relevant in an America that never lacks for oligarchs, scandals, and vast riches. Maybe economic collapse will make GRAPES relevant again.) William Faulkner was a great novelist, but his focus was maybe too provincial — the decaying Old South — to qualify as All-American. There were a number of great Jewish writers after World War II, but their subjects were often ethnic and narrow. Philip Roth and Saul Bellow were very Jewish writers. Some may argue that, putting snobbery aside, The Great American Novel can really be found in popular fiction, say GONE WITH THE WIND, which also spawned the biggest box office hit of all time(adjusting for inflation), which was also a tremendous cultural propaganda for the Old South. But due to its subject matter, people generally don’t want to consider it as the quintessential novel or movie(as with THE BIRTH OF A NATION, the father of all cinema, buried and hidden away like Cronus and Titans by the Olympians). If not Margaret Mitchell, then maybe the works of Edna Ferber or Ayn Rand who wrote big-themed novels with grand narratives might fit the bill. One was even called GIANT. Where does E.L. Doctorow belong? Somewhere between serious and popular fiction? RAGTIME was his attempt at The Great American Novel, and the movie adaptation by Milos Forman wanted to be The Great American Movie, with mixed results(but far superior to THE AVIATOR). Though Anglos built Essential America, their tendency for moderation & propriety restrained the prophetic outlook that flowed more freely from Jewish authors like Ferber and Rand(and Emma Lazarus) for whom AMERICA was even a grander project than the America of the Anglo Imagination. City on a Hill wasn’t enough. It had to be an empire on a mountain. Some may argue MOBY DICK and HUCKLEBERRY FINN qualify as The Great American Novel, but neither was conceived as such and, if anything, their greatness owes to naturalness and attention to details than fixation with grandiosity(also true of SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey). It’s understandable why authors wanted to write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL or make the THE GREAT AMERICAN MOVIE. There had been nothing like America in human history with so much land, resources, freedom, opportunity, and achievement. So, naturally an artist or storyteller wanted to capture and convey the essence of this dynamism called Americanism. And yet, precisely because the US has changed so much so very fast, it’s difficult to pin down what is quintessentially or comprehensively ‘American’ in the grand narrative/thematic sense. And this has been made more problematic by vast demographic changes, the very subject of THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, which is about Two Civil Wars. Off-Screen, there is the Civil War between the North and the South. But in NY itself, we see mini-civil-wars between ‘Native’ Americans(the Anglo-Protestants) and New Americans(Irish Catholics, though given the nature of Americanism as a state of flux, alliances also form between Anglos and Irish). The more schoolmarmish folks have pushed TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD as The Great American Novel. It lionizes white liberal conscience(and guilt) as the highest redemptive virtue of America, but is that novel relevant today when blackness is mainly expressed through rap music that has blacks indulging themselves like savages in ways more decrepit than what ‘racists’ once warned in the past? Though DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a play, it too has been interpreted as a commentary about Americanism as dream and tragedy.
    Perhaps, because of the tireless dynamism of America, it requires some distance to take in Americanism as a panorama. And perhaps, no one was more successful in this than Sergio Leone who, with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, imagined the American Saga as a grand myth. Though the former is about the violent cowboy West of the 19th century and the latter is about violent gangster East of the 20th century, there is no sense of hurry. Despite all the changes afoot, they unfold like cosmic operas. Matter is temporal, Myth is timeless. Because Leone elevated Americanism into myth, it didn’t matter if the material world was always changing. Myth, like a dream, defies time. In a way, it’s understandable why Americanism has been so defined by the outsider, the wanna-be immigrant. After all, while an American lives in the America of reality, the wanna-be immigrant dreams of America as a myth he wants to be a part of. The castle is more special to those on the outside looking in than those on the inside for whom everything has grown routine and mundane, even dull and boring. Just like adults relive the excitement of Christmas through eyes of children for whom everything is new and magical, Americans who’ve grown weary with America re-experience the ‘myth’ of America via stories of Immigrants who come with a sense of dream, hope, and wonderment… until their children also grow weary and depend on more New Comers to keep alive the myth of America. For me, The Great American Movie might as well be BIG COUNTRY. See that at the age of 6 or 7, and there is nothing more magnificent than America, the land where myths come true.

    One problem with THE GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE AVIATOR is due to the excess of ambition and ego. It was as if Martin Scorsese, flush with flattery(as the ‘greatest living director in the world’) and lavish funds, embarked to make The Great American Movie. He had already made great films(some of the best ever), but that wasn’t enough. He had to make THE Great Movie with themes and statement about truths bigger than the subject matter at hand. In other words, if GOODFELLAS was specifically about Italian-American hoodlums, THE GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE AVIATOR wouldn’t simply be about 19th century hoodlums or a 20th century aeronautics wizard. They would convey something Big and Important about the American Experience, the Human Condition, the Individual Spirit, the Tide of History, and etc. While impressive works can be made this way, it is usually not the best way. Manny Farber discussed the problem in his essay about White Elephant Art and Termite Art. White Elephant Art begins with a Big Idea and Big Ambition, and everything is made to serve that bigness. But in fixating on grandiosity, it often overlooks all the quirky details. And yet, it is the details that make it all work. The angel, along with the devil, is in the details. It’s like the movie K-19 where the Soviet Military builds these super submarines but neglects the details that could have prevented the nuclear meltdown. White Elephant approach and Termite approach can be seen in the contrast between RAN and SEVEN SAMURAI. Kurosawa conceived of RAN as a grand project, and it is a great work in certain respects. On the macro-scale, it is very impressive and awesome at times. But the mid-section of the movie is like a collapsed bridge. There wasn’t enough dramatic cement to keep it together. RAN works wonderfully with big scenes but often falls short with smaller moments that are crucial to the structure of tragedy and catharsis. In contrast, SEVEN SAMURAI is made up of wonderfully detailed little scenes that, in summation, make for an unparalleled masterpiece. And SEVEN SAMURAI doesn’t have to tell us what it’s about it. We see and feel it in our bones. In contrast, RAN inevitably builds up to grand statement about the human condition that is bit too ripe with ‘significance’.
    Scorsese was at his best in termite art mode, all the more so because he looks and thinks like a rodent. Scorsese’s nature is to tirelessly burrow through everything, physically and psychologically. Consider his use of space in GOODFELLAS as when Henry(Ray Liotta) takes his girlfriend through the back entrance to a night club. Or how Scorsese follows Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin around New York. Or the nooks and crannies of the gambling business in CASINO. This obsessive quality about Scorsese isn’t suited for grand sweeping narratives. Or glowing moments of inspiration. That is best left up to directors like Steven Spielberg or Robert Zemeckis(or Ron Howard). In terms of sheer talent, Spielberg is Scorsese’s equal but with the difference that Spielberg is a master conventional director of crowd-pleasing spectacle whereas Scorsese has the natural sensibility of an artist. The artistic sensibility isn’t smooth or glowing. It’s like what Hepburn(Cate Blachett) says to Howard Hughes. “Howard, we’re not like everyone else. Too many sharp angles. Too many eccentricities. We have to be very careful not to let people in or they’ll make us into freaks.” An artist just can’t help himself. He is too curious, too honest, too obsessed with truth(factual) or Truth(spiritual), too anxious, and too filled with self-doubt to just settle for a smooth/conventional narrative. While Spielberg also made serious movies for adults, his sensibility is that of an entertainer. Serious Steven is like Americanized David Lean or Richard Attenborough. While there are complexities in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and GANDHI, they are mainly meant to entertain and serve comforting myths(though LAWRENCE has moments of darkness that approach art). But a true artist could not settle for something like GANDHI. Too many compromises, too much padding and tenderizer. Oliver Stone has worked in both entertainer mode and artist mode, and NIXON shows how an artist really works. It is a tormented tale of power and corruption made with great empathy and insight. And GOODFELLAS and CASINO are works of art in their honesty, courage, and intelligence, served with tremendous mastery and ingenuity. Sidney Lumet made perhaps the best film about policemen, PRINCE OF THE CITY, a work that pulls no punches on the soul-wrenching agony of sacrificing friends/partners in doing the right thing in a world that may be undeserving of such virtue. Because works of art break free of the comfort zone, they tend to be less popular. PRINCE was a box office flop. GOODFELLAS made some money but mainly due to violence. CASINO and NIXON lost money. In contrast, SCHINLDLER’S LIST, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and BRIDGE OF SPIES made considerably more money(though not as much as Spielberg’s blockbusters). While Spielberg’s serious movies show plenty of violence and horror, especially in SCHINDLER and PRIVATE RYAN, they are dramatically smooth sailing with comforting message about how Good triumphs over Evil. We see visions of hell but always through windows from within the Spielberg Theme Park Ride. There are shocks and explosions, but not many surprises. In contrast, Scorsese’s art films are about constant derailments and stops along the way to inspect matters up close. They are many ‘sharp angles’ or sharp turns. Scorsese is about angles, Spielberg is about angels. This was never a problem in works like MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, AGE OF INNOCENCE, and KUNDUN. But it was a problem with NEW YORK, NEW YORK because a grand musical of that kind needs narrative flow and dramatic unity, like George Cukor’s THE STAR IS BORN. The puffy genre elements and tough artistic sensibility feuded in NY, NY. They cancel each other out, and the result is a mess. The same problem mars THE GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE AVIATOR. They are hybrids of art and entertainment, and the two modes trip over one another. Scorsese proved he could make entertainment movies with THE COLOR OF MONEY, CAPE FEAR, and THE DEPARTED, though his restless artistic or at least ‘auteurist’ tendencies peppered those works with overt stylization that seemed gratuitous for such meager substance. But THE GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE AVIATOR(and later the confused HUGO) try to have it both ways. They are meant to be big-budget crowd-pleasing spectacles but also personal expressions of an artist, the ‘greatest living director in the world’. GANGS begins like Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR. Technically, it’s well-done, but it’s a bundle of worn-out visual cliches, sound effects, and Hollywood Acting. Instead of realistic characters, everyone is larger-than-life, an archetype or walking symbol. People don’t much trade in dialogue as statements pregnant in ‘meaning’. The first scene with build-up and the fight struck me as ‘dumb’. Well-done but dumb, the sort of thing any film-school graduate or journey-man director could do. Why was Scorsese resorting to such tripe, the man whose reputation rested on the brilliance of TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, and GOODFELLAS, works that expanded cinematic language in new directions? In GANGS, Scorsese just went through the motions as just another director of spectacle with a bagful of old tricks. Now, if GANGS just wanted to be Gone-with-the-Wind with hoodlums, it might have worked. But there was the artist Scorsese getting in the way every so often and trying to squeeze meaning and depth out of the material. Thus, narrative flow is all but impossible, and the films spirals into a morass of confusion and chaos. It certainly has its moments, but it lacks unity and wholeness. And the U2 song at the end and the montage that shows the transformation of Old NY into New NY is total schlock, like the ending scene with stones on the gravestone in SCHINDLER’S LIST. While GANGS is not a terrible film, it is certainly a failure.
    But then, as if he learned nothing from GANGS, Scorsese made the same mistake with THE AVIATOR. In a way, THE AVIATOR looks and feels like an old-fashioned movie. In contrast, even though RAGING BULL has the look of 1950s b/w cinema, it is very much an uncompromising work of New Hollywood. In contrast, with THE AVIATOR, it seems as though Scorsese was aiming for an Old Hollywood movie made with 21st century technology(and bit of licentiousness). It’s rather reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s TUCKER, not so much an intense portrait of an American inventor but a nostalgia-saturated biopic of an American Legend. This is exactly what Philip Kaufman avoided with THE RIGHT STUFF, an inspiring but unsentimental look into the reality behind the myths of the Space Program. It blasted through the sound barrier of nostalgia that marred so many period movies with haloed remembrances of the past. Its patriotism was hard-and-honestly-won(relative to most Hollywood fare) because it made us care about the people involved as humans, warts and all, than larger-than-life legends.
    With THE AVIATOR, it’s as if Scorsese was trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, it is awash with the glow of nostalgia, the stuff of Hollywood legends and myths of American Heroism. And it’s as if Scorsese was channeling the Old Masters to make a neo-Hollywood-spectacle worthy of their name and tradition. There is a bit of King Vidor, Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston, and lots of Howard Hawks, the man who directed SCARFACE for Howard Hughes. Hawks also directed the terrific aerial adventure ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. And of course, the shadow of Orson Welles who soon found himself unwelcome in Hollywood because, being an artist, he just couldn’t make a conventional Hollywood movie and insisted on doing things his own way.
    Now, while Scorsese’s cinema from the beginning was inspired by the greats he so admired — everyone from John Ford to Federico Fellini to Robert Bresson — , he was artist enough to develop his own perspective and personal style. He didn’t merely imitate the greats but digested and absorbed them. But with THE AVIATOR, it’s as if Scorsese was always looking over his shoulders at the greats who inspired him. And he was ever so careful in his footing on the shoulders of giants. As a result, it doesn’t really feel like his movie. It feels as though he was trying the channel the skills of his gods & heroes in the Pantheon to make a work as tribute to them. It’s like he was seeking approval and benediction. In works like TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL, the diminutive Scorsese was like a little giant. With THE AVIATOR, he’s like a big dwarf. It’s the work of someone who comes across as overly reverential(to the point of servility) to the masters. He’s walking in their footsteps than finding his own steps. The Orson Welles factor makes it even more problematic. There is a reason why Welles ended up trying to scrape together enough funds to make another movie in Europe. He was persona non grata in Hollywood that found him ‘too much’. He wouldn’t play by the rules like Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and etc. Hollywood had plenty of great film directors but not many personal artists. Welles was one of them and just couldn’t fit in. So, when THE AVIATOR cops styles & motifs from both Classic Hollywood and maverick Welles, the result is more than a little strange. It’d be like making a movie inspired by classic Fordisms and maverick Peckinpahisms. While both have value, Ford worked within rules, whereas Peckipah was a tireless rule-breaker in search for unfettered personal expression, for better or worse. Given the contradictions, THE AVIATOR feels at once too safe-and-comfy(and old-fashioned) AND bold-and-brazen. It’s like a co-directorial effort by Ron Howard and Oliver Stone(who, though rarely great, has tried to be a film artist than mere entertainer). Also, no amount of fireworks can redeem or fix a film that is thin, hollow, or confused at the center. Francis Ford Coppola’s COTTON CLUB has lots of visual wonders and pizzazz, but it’s mostly empty with cookie-cutter characters, gross caricatures, and lame signaling about racial injustice. (Do we really want NAACP messaging in a movie about thugs, black and white?)

    There is also the problem of casting. Leonard DiCaprio could be a fine actor but comes across as too slight and ‘weeny’ to take on the role of a legend. His partners and employees barely register as screen presence. But the most disastrous are the two female leads by Cate Blachett and Kate Beckinsale. Beckinsale is a pretty woman but can’t hold a candle to Ava Gardner, one of the most beguiling movie stars to grace the silver screen. Gardner wasn’t merely pretty. There was an element of mystery and exoticism to her, a quality utterly lacking in Beckinsale. But at least Beckinsale is pleasant to look at. But Blanchett? Yes, she has talent, but she is one of the most repugnant-looking woman in cinema. She’s so ugly, even a warthog will refuse to mate with her. She’s so ugly, she could turn spring back into winter. Now, Katharine Hepburn was no great beauty, but in her youth she was vivacious and strikingly attractive. As Pauline Kael wrote of her in BRINGING UP BABY: ” “no paleontologist ever got hold of a more beautiful set of bones.”
    It’s all the more painful to watch Blanchett because she got Hepburn’s voice down to a tee. Imagine Don Knots speaking like Sean Connery. Blanchett’s uncanny vocal impersonation makes us feel Hepburn’s presence, but what we get is something that looks like Harpo Marx. Bob Dylan was no great looker, but Blanchett was too ugly for him in the dreadful I’M NOT THERE. It’s a crime to have her play the lovely young Hepburn.
    Scorsese sometimes missed big with casting. What made him cast the toothy and deranged-looking Willem Defoe as Jesus in LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST? And even though Michelle Pfeiffer was a good-looking woman, she was all-wrong for THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, otherwise a perfect work. But because her character is so central to what unfolds in the story, it’s a near-fatal error. But that was nothing compared to spending the first hour of THE AVIATOR looking at Harpo with Hepburn’s voice. That was painful, a kind of torture, as icky to the audience as germs are to Howard Hughes.

    For a person of deep movie knowledge, it’s interesting that Scorsese’s two movies about movie-making involve rather unimportant figures in cinema. Melies of HUGO is significant only for historical reasons. He was among the first to tinker with cinema as device but hardly contributed anything of artistic value. But HUGO makes him out to be far more significant. And Howard Hughes’ idea of movie-making was all production and engineering. HELL’S ANGELS(apt description for Catholic Scorsese’s place in satanic Hollywood) is pretty decent as an action-war spectacle but hardly a seminal masterpiece. Hughes was far more significant as businessman and aeronautics guy than as a movie-maker. And the only reason THE OUTLAW is remembered is for breasts. It’s telling that Hughes even approaches the matter of cleavage from an engineering point of view, a matter of calculations and numbers. I’m not sure if it really happened that way or was meant as homage to VERTIGO where we learn that the mathematical formula behind the Golden Gate Bridge is identical to that of a certain ladies bra. Because Hughes wasn’t a significant figure in cinema, THE AVIATOR seems strained in making him out to be more important than he really was. Also, allusions to CITIZEN KANE are rather irritating. Such homage is unnecessary as we know Welles was a giant. Furthermore, Scorsese has proven himself to be another giant. Now, if Scorsese was signaling that his was an attempt to make another CITIZEN KANE, it was again unnecessary but also presumptuous because one genius cannot(and should not) copy the genius of another. Every artist has his own kind of signature, and each should stick to his own. One of the problems of HUGO was its attempt to be a Spielbergian movie. Spielberg was wiser in making A.I., which originated as a Stanley Kubrick project, into something wholly his own in terms of style and feel. For THE AVIATOR, Scorsese should have emptied his mind of all the reverence and sentimentality he felt for old masters and just do his own thing. Indeed, the ONLY lesson to take from Welles is to follow one’s own muse than guess as to the muses of others. Scorsese did exactly that with films like MEAN STREET and GOODFELLAS, but THE AVIATOR is all too self-consciously indebted to Classic Hollywoodisms. For that sort of thing, the Coens do it better, especially in the brilliant HAIL CAESAR! But then, Coens are writers and satirists(with lots of irony) as well as directors whereas Scorsese is essentially a visual auteur and sincere moralist. If there was something laudable about Howard Hughes, he always did his own thing his way. Granted, his romantic individualism of the swashbuckling kind nearly ended his life several times, a ‘mistake’ generally avoided by Jews who preferred to remain safe while making ‘dumb goyim’ take all the risks with life and limb. Perhaps, Hughes the reckless risk-taker and the Hepburn Family(in the best scene in the movie) tell us something about why Wasps eventually lost out to Jews. One kind of Wasp was too addicted to risk and adventure — Ernest Hemingway ended much worse than Philip Roth and Saul Bellow who took better care of themselves — while the other kind of wasps was too insular and priggish to see beyond the bridge of their noses. Like Burt Lancaster’s character in THE SWIMMER, the adventurous wasp was too restless to ever sit still and take stock of himself and his situation. In contrast, the priggish wasp was so busy with being self-righteous about one thing or another that he or she never bothered to ask WHO decides what to be outraged about. What mattered most is being a prig, therefore anything would suffice as long as it’s offered on the dish of prigdom.

    Though Scorsese didn’t write THE AVIATOR, he came of age in a time when the director, as ‘auteur’, was suppose to stamp the material with his personality and vision. And there is some of that in the movie. But there is also a lack of self-awareness despite the self-consciousness. I wonder to what extent Scorsese realized that his approach to THE AVIATOR(or GANGS OF NY) was saddled with the same problems faced by Hughes in his ridiculous project of building Hercules, the biggest plane in the world. Just like Hercules that barely manages to walk on water (like Jesus?), THE AVIATOR barely manages to get off the ground as it is freighted with excess cargo of ambition and conflicting objectives. It lifts off ground but fails to soar. (I wonder if it inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s THE WIND HAS RISEN, which may have worked as live-action movie but utterly fails as biopic of a real historical figure.) Whether Hercules could fly or not wasn’t the issue. It was a bad idea borne of megalomania from the start. Simply unrealistic from any sane perspective, it was the product of quasi-autistic personality that figured that the best plane had to be the biggest and most impossible, just like Hughes’ idea of a great movie(or greatest movie) was one made with biggest budget, longest shooting schedule, and perfectionism bordering on pathology. And yet, in the dream of making the seemingly impossible possible, there is an element of ‘spiritual’ longing in Hughes’ personality. It’s as if he believes in miracles, indeed as his holy mother as personal Madonna is smiling down upon him from clouds above. And this is where Scorsese slips in his Catholic-Christian theologisms into the movie.

    In a way, several of Scorsese’s movies are tales of fallen or misled christs or false saints. Their ‘trials’ have outer resemblance to the Passion of Jesus Christ. And yet, they are agents of satanism whose martyrdom is really a sick parody, a perverse mimicry, of the King of Kings. Travis Bickle is a would-be christ-figure who is willing to sacrifice his life to ‘save’ a girl in corrupt New York. But he’s incapable of grappling with his own sickness and projects his psychosis onto the world. Jake LaMotta must deny himself food and sex to win in the ring. Boxers undergo tremendous suffering in the ring, and in the end, LaMotta gets ‘crucified’ by the fists of Sugar Ray Robinson. And yet, boxing is a blood sport. It is about men taking money to batter other men for beastly entertainment for the masses. Rupert Pupkin is willing to risk going to jail. He is devoted to the world of entertainment that much. He is willing to make any sacrifice to enter the gates of TV heaven. But he has no sense of worth other than celebrity. He’s fanatical like a saint but for trash culture. Ace Rothstein speaks of washing away sins in Las Vegas. It’s the place where underworld figures like himself can go legitimate and do things under legal sanction. And yet, casino world is filled with criminals and degenerates. It exploits the worst aspects of human nature: Addiction to mindless thrills. Howard Hughes is presented as yet another false christ. The movie opens with an image reminiscent of Madonna and Child. Hughes’ mother is bathed in golden light and warns her son of the world infested with germs and filth. He is like the perfect child, brilliant and pure. (There is a nod to Buddhism as well perhaps, not least because Scorsese made KUNDUN, a stunning work about the young Dalai Lama. Buddhism too has the story of purity in an impure world. Siddhartha is born into what appears to be a perfect world, only to discover it is filled with disease and death, and he spends his life seeking Nirvana, the escape from the pathology of illusion that is the world. But then, KUNDUN shows how even those seeking Nirvana cannot escape court politics and world politics.)
    It’s been said Jesus was the only Perfect Man, born without sin. And yet, both Hughes and Jesus had to make their way in a world of filth and foulness. The way of Jesus was to love sinful mankind. To embrace the wretched and the diseased and offer them hope. He wasn’t meant to guard His purity for Himself but to share it with impure mankind so that sinners may be offered a path toward redemption and salvation, ultimately to the gates of Heaven. In contrast, Hughes’ way is to recoil from the filth of the world. He is shown to ahve so many phobias about food and hygiene. And yet, he is more than willing to indulge in the corruption of the world to get his way. There is a moment when Jesus, during His 40 days of soul-searching, is visited by Satan who presents Him with several temptations. Jesus rejects them all: Turning stones into bread, Jumping off the Pinnacle to test God, and Surveying the world from atop the mountain. Hughes is like the christ-figure who accepts the temptations. In a way, his diet is about turning stones into bread because he must have everything his way. And through flying machines, he toys with death in the conviction that angels will always save him somehow. And he wants control and dominion over everything. He complains about Pan Am’s monopoly, but he wants to be head honcho of whatever he lays his hands on. He has over-arching ambitions like Charles Foster Kane. No matter how much Hughes suffer — and he does so greatly at times — , he is a satanic christ because he chose the material world than the spiritual one. Indeed, the room in which he is secluded for long stretches(like with Brian Wilson later) is lit in hellish red. And in the final scene, as Hughes recalls his childhood while gazing into the mirror, he hears his younger self saying “When I grow up, I want to fly the fastest planes, make the biggest movies ever, and be the richest man in the world.” And the movie closes with Hughes muttering, “The Way of the Future” over and over. Jesus was about Eternity, a timeless concept where ALL OF TIME is oneness with God. In contrast, the notion of the ‘future’ is temporal, always dissatisfied with the present, always dismissive of the past. ‘Future’ implies that the world is not good enough. We need more money, more gadgets, more devices, more fun, and etc. No matter what you accomplish, it’s not enough because someone will come up with something better, in which case you have to make something better before he does. But life is finite, and in the end, everything you do will be surpassed by new achievements in the future. That was the basis of Western Greatness — individualism and competitive spirit — , but it was also a betrayal of Jesus’ teachings of spirituality and eternity. The airplane is shaped like a crucifix, and in one scene, we see Hughes become ‘crucified’ in it. It is his moment of Passion. And in his seclusion in his dark private room, with hair growing long and beard on his chin, he looks like a demented jesus. And the way he sits on the chair is like the image of the naked Jesus on the Cross in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. Scorsese alludes to his own film, and one wonders if Hughes’ megalomania rubbed off on Scorsese at times.

    And the ultimate triumph with Hercules is like his moment of resurrection(or at least that of Lazarus). But the film reminds us that material success and achievements are but fleeting moments. They come and go until the new hot thing comes along. After all, Hughes admits at the end that Jet engines are the future. So, everything he and his ilk have produced thus far will also enter the dustbin of history. No matter how much we seek elevation and transcendence via worldly things, it can only be a parody of true salvation. You can fly high and fast, but you can’t enter Heaven with an airplane, no matter than a camel through the eye of a needle.

    The movie also intimates that Hughes’ interest in cinema may not have been merely economic or egotistical. Maybe it was a way of playing God or at least Christ. After all, there is something Biblical about how rays from the projector lights up the silver screen. It’s like a “Let there be Light” moment. The world is imperfect and impure, but the film-maker can use the light to create the world as it ‘should be’. He can play God. And in the ‘purity’ of the screen image, there are no smells and no germs. But alas, movies are make-believe, no matter how excellent or entertaining they may be. And the light that illuminates the screen is a fake light generated by electricity and illusion of 24 frames per second. It is not the real light of sun and soul, the glimpse of which is seen in the ending of SILENCE with the glowing makeshift crucifix in the hands of the dead priest.

  63. Anon[152] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    His retainers were Mormons, whom he trusted.

    Mormons suck up to the rich like Scientologists do.

  64. JimDandy says:

    Boardwalk is good. Sopranos is great.

    • Replies: @Anon
  65. Daedalus says:

    Scorsese hasn’t made a wholly satisfying film since Goodfellas, virtually everything he has produced since is the same of middle-of-the-road, bland/glossy oscar-bait one expects from Spielberg and Ron Howard. Even his flawed 80’s works like Last Temptation, After Hours and The Color of Money were still interesting at the very least.

    The performances in Aviator are excellent though, not so much Gangs of New York.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  66. Anon[307] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Boardwalk is good. Sopranos is great.

    BOARDWALK is good for first two episodes but then slows down to a crawl.

    SOPRANOS is just ugliness.

    • Replies: @obwandiyag
  67. RH says:

    The Hercules made one test flight, during which it never got more than 70 feet off the water and was airborne for less than a mile–ridiculous figures for a test flight. The reason: the plane was a dog and dangerous to fly, and Hughes knew it and said as much. He never had anything more to do with it.

  68. Dannyboy says:

    I liked the Aviator. Especially the part where Howard puts the annoying pompous Yankee Hepburns in their place, and of course when he makes an ass out of Owen Brewster at the Senate hearings.

  69. My main takeaway from The Aviator was the realization that 30-year-old Kate Beckinsale was better-looking than Ava Gardner ever dreamed of being.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
  70. Ray P says:
    @jamie b.

    Kate Mulgrew is a terrible actress; but then, so was Hepburn.

  71. Che Guava says:


    It is simply because Dicaprio made a career of playing ‘young’ roles, and still looks immature playing Hughes (at least in the parts of the film set after the twenties of the last century).

    You don’t need to hear this from me, I am sure, but Hollywood actors and actresses stopped acting some time ago. Instead, it is an ego-projection from someone who can’t act (most of the time). How long ago this happened, I can’t say, but, as a bad but good example, there is little difference between Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, and Martin Sheen in The West Wing.

    Similar examples are countless.

    Exceptions, also many, speaking of Apocalypse Now Fishburne is different in many movies, he has enough money, so he doesn’t appear when he doesn’t feel he can re-present a character. Samuel Jackson always plays roughly the same role, it is tiring and boring.

    Nicole Kidman, after she bleached her freckled skin and red hair, she did a good role in that movie with Joaquin Phoenix (I don’t know the title in English), and in Dogville, but, like Jackson, after that she was just playing her bleached self.

    Not acting.

    • Replies: @Skeptikal
    , @Duke84
  72. Scorcese is overrated. Sloppy, bloated baggy monsters. Blatant pandering and manipulation. Cheesy puerile simple-minded irony. Obsession with dumb topics and themes. Apotheosizing of scum. Etc.

    • Replies: @anon
  73. Di Caprio is a genius at portraying “crazy.”

    He does it with his eyes.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  74. @Che Guava

    You’re mixing up Gangs of New York and Michael Collins. Julia Roberts played an Irish woman in Michael Collins. Cameron Diaz was the Irish slattern in GONY.

  75. @Alden

    “His aircraft factory and testing grounds are now a giant shopping mall and office complex”

    In 1951 I flew a B-26 into Hughes Airport which as I recall was located on the south side of LA. I do remember that the airstrip was relatively short, something less than 5,000 ft and I used up most of the runway on the landing roll. It was a delivery for some part that the Hughes Tool Company was to modify. I was a second lieutenant at the time and an enlisted crew chief accompanied me on the flight. We RON’d and spent the evening strolling around Hollywood and Vine. My crew chief was a tall good-looking guy and the girls all eyed him much to my chagrin. The only other thing of note was Glenn MaCarthy’s converted B-17 parked along the airstrip. Converted to a passenger airplane
    and with a large green Shamrock painted on the fuselage.
    McCarthy like Hughes was a bigger than life Texan and I can understand why the two were friends.

  76. @Republic

    I highly recommend an Orson Welles film called “F for Fake”. Clifford Irving features heavily, along with Elmyr, the art forger.

  77. Not a single mention of Faith Demerque in all these comments. She went on to star in This Island Earth (and by extension, MST3K The Movie). The girl who played her in The Aviator was a good likeness.

  78. @Trevor Lynch

    What was the process Hughes used in Hell’s Angels. The version, that I saw, had certain scenes that weren’t in full color, but the film seems tinted. I remember the Zeppelin scene, where the crew starts jumping out to lighten it, and it’s really blue.

  79. Anon[397] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    THE AVIATOR’s nod to THE GODFATHER works better than to CITIZEN KANE. For one thing, there was something inimitable about Welles’ idiosyncratic genius. You can admire it but can’t quite replicate it. And it wasn’t just about Deep Focus, light tricks, low-angles, montage, and use of reflections, which anyone can do. It was about the alchemy of all those effects, the secret recipe of which is known only to the Sorcerer, rather like the Charm of Making of Merlin the Magician. Those who attempt Wellesism by imitating the mere outer manifestations of his films end up with the kind of garbage produced by Terry Gilliam. The only way to approach the genius of Welles is to find the Source within oneself and run with it. Carol Reed came close with THE THIRD MAN. John Frankenheimer with the brilliant THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, his only movie touched by genius. And Johnny To and David Fincher are masters of image, though rarely with the fortune to work on worthy material. FIGHT CLUB is great film-making with tawdry material, for example. ALIEN3 is the most amazingly directed in the series but rather silly as an concept. Doing Welles is futile like doing Picasso. Unless touched by a kindred spirit, one mistakes the shell for the flesh.

    However, the magisterial style of THE GODFATHER can serve as the basis of other films as it itself was developed from earlier styles of Otto Preminger(esp ADVISE AND CONSENT), Luchino Visconti(esp THE LEOPARD), and Akira Kurosawa(especially BAD SLEEP WELL). It is classic than idiosyncratic expression, like English landscape painting, the imitation of which is no crime as it’s about shared standards and further perfection by technique(by any new takers). Anyone who tries to do Van Gogh or Picasso is asking for trouble: Either plagiarizing another’s brilliance or suppressing one’s own personality in slavish imitation. But there is no shame in building upon the classical style that stands for shared tastes and reverence of symmetry and beauty. THE GODFATHER is about gangsters and crime, but it is a beautiful work, painterly and unfolding like a procession.

    So, while Scorese’s razzle-dazzle Wellesian antics go off like bad fireworks, his Coppolaean handling of the duel of will and wits between Juan Trippe/Owen Brewster and Howard Hughes comes off pretty well(though a pale shadow of THE GODFATHER movies). Still, it’s too bad that Scorsese felt a need to do his own Coppola-isms. With MEAN STREETS, GOODFELLAS, and CASINO, he made his own kind of movies about gangsters. Unlike Brian DePalma whose works were often like remakes of movies by other directors(especially Hitchcock), Scorsese was always careful to forge his own distinct style. (SCARFACE and UNTOUCHABLES are entertaining crime thrillers, but they are like Old Hollywood movies on cocaine or steroids. DePalma drew from the old well and spiked it with strong drugs. The notable exception was CARLITO’S WAY, his greatest movie, that truly managed to be a new kind of gangster romance.) But what Scorsese does with Hughes vs Trippe/Brewster is rather tame. It’s pretty good Coppola-ism but why isn’t it Scorsesism? After all, Scorsese is more than Ron Howard, a pretty good director who learned the tricks of the trade but never did anything bold or remarkable. Coppola and Scorsese at their best did change the face of cinema, and there was no reason for Scorsese to walk in Coppola’s footsteps in THE AVIATOR. As entertaining as the scenes with Owen Brewster and Juan Trippe are, we can’t help thinking that Scorsese is trying to do His Godfather Moment. Leone with ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA made HIS gangster movie instead of doing a variation of THE GODFATHER or whatever. Perhaps, the problem with Scorsese is he’s much better at dealing with trees than the forest. His roving eyes notices so much within a tight social milieu, but his talents fall short of the grand vision essential to a mythic work like THE AVIATOR. Like Roman Polanski, he’s best with rat’s eye than bird’s eye.

    Also, contrary to a conceit of Auteur Theory — “the worst films of a superior director are better than the best films of an inferior director”(like Dave Kehr usually favoring the worst of Clint Eastwood over the best of Woody Allen and Federico Fellini, two directors he mostly detests) — , personal expertise, brilliance, and mastery are not everything. Steven Spielberg can run circles around Clint Eastwood, and the action scenes in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN blow away FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, but Eastwood’s films are more memorable because of the characters and ruminations on the ethics of war. And Scorsese is many times the director that Danny DeVito will ever be, but HOFFA is, overall, a better movie than THE AVIATOR because of its powerhouse performances and tragic sense of friendship that really sears. What happens to the two men in HOFFA is incredibly heart-wrenching, whereas I doubt if anyone much cared about Hughes of THE AVIATOR as they walked out of the theater. (I cared more for the Hughes of MELVIN AND HOWARD though just a minor character.)

    • Replies: @Anon
  80. Skeptikal says:

    Gotta disagree with you there.
    Few could or can match Gardner. The magical Mississippi lass who captured rogue hearts has it all over the very conventional looking Beckinsale.
    Take a look, readers, and you decide:

  81. Skeptikal says:
    @Che Guava

    IMO Kidman is one of the most overrated.
    She was terrible playing Virginia Woolf, for which she got an Oscar.
    Can’t recall who else was nominated that year, but Kidman was the worst of the lot.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
    , @Anon
  82. Duke84 says:
    @Che Guava

    It really is boring seeing Jackson play the same angry black man character in every movie.

    • Agree: Che Guava
  83. JEinCA says:

    My favorite Scorsese films are “Mean Streets” (1973), “Goodfellas” (1990) and “Casino” (1995).

    I liked Gangs of New York but just like the Aviator and The Departed (and even Raging Bull) Martin Scorsese did not write the screenplay.

  84. Anon[398] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I liked Gangs of New York but just like the Aviator and The Departed (and even Raging Bull) Martin Scorsese did not write the screenplay.

    Scorsese didn’t write most of his movies. MEAN STREETS is the only one in which he was the main writer.

  85. Che Guava says:

    I did recall the English title of almost the first of Kidman’s post skin-and-hair bleach films, it is To Die For, in Japanese, it is roughly ‘Luring Woman’. If you haven’t seen it, it is pretty good, also the first good near-adult role of River’s brother.

    Dogville, too.

    My theory is that her work with von Trier was aced by Hollywood, they said ‘hey shiksa, if you stop working with von Trier, we’ll cast you with Jude Law, in a great USA Civil War movie.’ That was pretty bad, and all downhill from there (terrible remakes of Bewitched and the Stepford Wives). Don’t tell me that Frank ‘Yoda’ Oz wasn’t gay, the latter reeks of it.

    Except, possibly, in Eyes Wide Shut, and the cover of Vogue, all downhill and Botox from there.

    To her credit, though, she did put some of her money into (or at risk for) one or two films, IIRC the Virginia Woolf one and a dull detective story, I have seen neither.

    It is a great shame that von Trier never made the trilogy of which Dogville and Manderlay were to have been the fIrst two parts (final part to be titled Washington).

    If Kidman had continued to collaborate, as she was stating at the triumphal press conference for Dogville, it may have happened.

    As it is, Bryce Howard is pretty good in Manderlay, particularly in the wonderful final scene.

    If only von Trier had gone on to make Washington in the same stylized style.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
    , @Anon
  86. Anon[398] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    IMO Kidman is one of the most overrated.

    I don’t like her either.

  87. Che Guava says:

    I agree, too, but the book is fascinating, and well worth reading.

  88. Dogville — very good social commentary — saviors can be captors and captors can become the source of justice squared beyond beyond recognition — I would have liked to have seen the other two parts play that out further.

    To Die For — very good

    Well, Mrs Urban has earned her chops and is entitled to have a life she enjoys with family.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your compendium of films, though you did not mention “Of Mice and Men” which I thought belonged on your list.


    “I highly recommend an Orson Welles film called “F for Fake”. Clifford Irving features heavily, along with Elmyr, the art forger.”

    I am never sure whether Mr Welles is paying tribute to forgeries and forgers or just telling the tales. Laugh. Neat film.

  89. @Daedalus

    ” … not so much Gangs of New York.”

    Daniel Day Lewis’ William Cutting in that film is one of cinema’s great villains. Lewis gave another darkly mesmerizing performance as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007), which is one of the best films of that decade.

  90. Che Guava says:
    @James Graham

    Hardly a genius at it, but he does a pretty good job of looking like a lunatic in The Beach.

  91. @Che Guava

    Nicole Kidman’s father, Antony Kidman, was found suicided in a Singapore hotel room in 2014. Subsequently, a flurry of reports were issued stating that he was involved in an elite pedophile ring that incorporated murder along with the rape. If Antony Kidman was indeed guilty of these crimes that could explain Nicole Kidman’s off-putting doll-like persona.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  92. @Hapalong Cassidy

    “But Casino just felt like a larger, more important movie.”

    Casino (1995) is incredibly entertaining.

    • Agree: Che Guava
  93. Anon[259] • Disclaimer says: • Website
    @Che Guava

    Von Trier is the worst.

  94. anon[170] • Disclaimer says:

    i’m sure obwadigo could have done better

  95. Western says:

    NYC was about 95 percent white in 1940 too.

  96. Che Guava says:

    Source, please? It isn’t really relevant, neither to the thread nor Nicole.

    Nicole Kidman is, or was, very popular in Japan, so the state broadcaster had a series of afternoon movie broadcasts of all of her movies (except the Coca Cola Kid) from Australia, when she had a lightly freckled face and slightly curly or wavy red hair. I taped and watched them all, too many tales of upper-middle class bullshit drama, but she doesn’t come across as a ‘doll-like creature’.

    Her father, whatever his wrongs to others, if any, had nothing to do with her transformation.

    She chose to bleach her skin and hair, dye the latter (I don’t know, but would guess that after bleaching light red hair, re-dying is needed to make it blonde, or maybe, like some others, it’s always a wig).

    Speech training or study (she is not stupid, so likely the latter).

    All towards the end of becoming a Hollywood screen queen for a while, and she did.

    Whatever her father did or didn’t do, it has nothing to do with the transformation, and nothing to do with his daughter.

    BTW, it occurs to me that the Oscar for Vrginia Woolf was more a reward for having abandoned von Trier’s project and making truly bad movies after that (many ‘you’ll never work in this town again’ threats to both von Trier and Kidman at the time, although Dogville</i), was made than any merit in the film.

    She may have found a role in The Aviator, but not fit.

  97. Anon[235] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I suppose Elon Musk is the Howard Hughes of the 21st century. Is he for real though?

  98. @Che Guava

    Kidman is mostly famous for being married to Tom Cruise.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Paw
  99. Anon[425] • Disclaimer says: • Website
    @jeff stryker

    And Cruise is famous for losing both his wives to Negroes.

    • Replies: @jeff stryker
  100. @Anon

    Kieth Urban? Guy is an Australian country singer who looks white to me.

    And Cruise was married to Minnie Rogers previously (I’m 45 and I doubt anyone on here under my age remembers this).

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Che Guava
  101. hhsiii says:
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    Go get your shine box.

    I’m not sure why a film is better because it shows some high ranking mafiosa as opposed to soldiers. They are both good movies. The scene where they enter the Copa from the back in Goodfellas is fantastic (and copped from a similar scene in Raging Bull)

    I think Mean Streets is his best. A lot of Scorcese’s work comes from there. The slow pan of the two bit pezzonovante hoods at the bar in Goodfellas is directly copped from Mean Streets, where it is set to the Rolling Stone’s “Tell Me”. Great soundtrack, using Be My Baby instead of And Then He Kissed Me in Goodfellas. Both Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry songs.

    • Replies: @jeff stryker
  102. Anon[549] • Disclaimer says: • Website
    @jeff stryker

    Kidman was with Lenny Kravitz for awhile.

    Katie Holmes went with Jamie Foxx.

    • Replies: @jeff stryker
  103. Che Guava says:
    @jeff stryker

    Who is Minnie Rogers (alright, I’ll looking it up myself if I really want to know)? Do you think that she is an Operating Thetan?

    I was writing an earlier reply, but forgot that the topic of the latest review from Trevor here is of The Aviator (which I didn’t much like, although Hughes is a fascinating character) and not Starship Troopers (which. though entirely fictional, is a fascimating film).

    • Replies: @jeff stryker
  104. @Anon

    From what I can see, Tom Cruise married Mimi Rogers because she was high in the Scientology organization.

    It is worth noting she was quite a bit older at that time and after he married her, his career took off. In 1983, he was really just another jobbing actor on the fringes of the Brat Pack.

  105. @hhsiii

    Scorsese’s early films were always about guys on the fringe. MEAN STREETS was about wannabes. GOODFELLAS was about two Irish-Americans, or rather one Irish-American (De Niro) and a half-Irish-American (Liotta) who were never going to be members of the mafia and were on the fringe. KING OF COMEDY was another. TAXI DRIVER.

  106. @Che Guava


    You were probably born after Cruise’s first divorce in 1990. I was born in 1974 and remember him as far back as RISKY BUSINESS which I saw in 1986 on television.

    Cruise was a jobbing actor until he met the head of the Church of Scientology Mimi Rogers, herself at that time a fairly recognizable Jewish television actress (Though a Scientologist) who was 10 years older than he was.

    She divorced her husband for him and they married when he was 22 or so and she was in her thirties. It was something of a scandal at that time because Cruise was still playing teenagers at the time.

    As your statement points out, her career never went anywhere in particular.

    They divorced in 1990 and Cruise married Kidman not long after.

  107. @Che Guava

    “Source, please?”

    Google Antony Kidman and you’ll get several sources. I qualified the allegations against Antony Kidman with an “if”; it’s just interesting speculation at this point until an authoritative source confirms it.

    “Her father, whatever his wrongs to others, if any, had nothing to do with her transformation.”

    If the allegations are true I would think Nicole’s personality would certainly be affected by her father’s evil history. Like it or not, we all carry the legacies of our parents with us even while we develop individual personalities. Call it psychic DNA.

    “It isn’t really relevant, neither to the thread nor Nicole.”

    My apologies for breaking your thread rules.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  108. Che Guava says:

    Thank you,

    So she may have been an Operating Thetan (*_*;. , Lolz. When overseas, I used to enjoy harassing Scientologists, only taking their tests, placing the most psycho answers (completely different to true answers), then insulting them when they were making a summary, or recommending ‘auditing’.

    However, I am not totally without sympathy for the branch in Japan, that does not mean that I admire or like them, only that they are no less insane than many Japanese Buddhist sects,

    When the chan operation against Scientology began in Tokyo (I forget the name, Operation somethimg I rode there by bicycle.

    I am not one to favour Scientology, but it was far more entertaining and educational to enter the HQ in Tokyo, and to have a polite conversation, than
    be with the ignorant protestors

  109. Paw says:

    Aristocrats are something far away and different from capitalist Plutocrats…
    Che is an expert. Well done.

  110. Paw says:

    It is all about easy available women /prostituting for fame+money/, pretending to be actress and chosen by the “experts” in money making corprations..Parvenu are then a good partners with them..In all this pathetic theatre.

  111. Paw says:
    @jeff stryker

    They employ actors and actresses to squeeze profit , from other english speaking countries.
    One movie Millers Crossing eas not bad.

  112. Anon[156] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    GANGS could have been a more interesting movie without the mindless sensationalization.

  113. Che Guava says:

    I don”t make the rules here. Apart from ‘Don’t behave like a complete moron’, and ‘Don’t post from multiple accounts’ the site Mr. Unz runs seems to be very free.

    It extends something that is now unique to Switzerland and the U.S.A. (true right to free speech) via the ‘net to the world.

    Japan and Russia also have much more free speech than, for example, Australia.

    ‘If I had the time, I would spend a little as a mod. here.

    As for Kidman’s father, I don’t use google as a verb, nor, as far as is possible, use any of their services.

    If he were as bad as you say, surely the stinky mass-media there would be having a defamation party?

  114. I don’t know a great deal about the personal life of Howard Hughes. I was only familiar with his work in film and aviation, and I knew that he was reclusive and didn’t like to be photographed. I was surprised when I saw the biopic, and wondered if Hughes’ instability wasn’t sensationalized in the manner that Hollywood tends to do. Apparently, the depiction of his mental illness was fairly accurate. I’m not a very big DiCaprio fan, but I enjoyed The Aviator.

    One thing about Hughes, that I don’t believe anyone has mentioned, his grandfather was General Richard Gano of the Confederate Army. Gano’s home is preserved in the Dallas Heritage Village (formerly Old City Park). It was, for many years, identified as the General’s residence. But, now it has been erroneously relabeled as being representative of a slave cabin. It is a modest dog-trot home, typical of the Texas frontier. Many of these log cabins were added on to, had electricity and running water installed, and were resided in by the family for generations. Up into the third quarter of the 20th century, it wasn’t too uncommon to find a residence of this kind that had been clad in clapboard on the exterior and the interior walls covered with gypsum board; the only hint of its humble foundations being the irregularity in its construction and the width of some of the walls. Somewhat ironically, Gano’s cabin originally sat on his land in South Grapevine, where the Fort Worth-Dallas Airport (FWD) is now located.

    As for Gangs of New York, I initially avoided the film due to its title (first thought being, “Oh no, not another one). I ended up watching it when it came on cable and I almost immediately realized how much historical context was included in the film. At the time, I was only vaguely familiar with Five Points, and was more interested in the Draft Riots in particular and opposition to Irish Catholic immigration to a lesser degree. I thought the Draft Riot scenes were well done and showed several notable things that occurred during the chaos, like the Negro orphanage being burned down and P. T. Barnum’s circus animals on the loose. I read the book after seeing the film. It was apparent that DiCaprio’s character, in particular, was a composite sketch of different people featured in the book. The man DiCaprio portrays, John Morrissey, was bested by William Poole (Bill the Butcher) on a couple of occasions, before Morrissey finally shot Poole to death in a rather cowardly fashion (although much seems to be in question, depending on which source you consult). The book, being a factual account of New York criminal underground figures, covers a time period between the 1830’s to just prior to Prohibition. It illustrates how the gangs were used to deliver votes through intimidation at the polls and how both the Industrialists and the Union organizers would alternatively use the same gangs to break strikes or foment them. The large number of Jewish gangsters during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries is definitely worth noting and the descriptions of the Chinese mobsters are quite comical.

    One thing that I’ve noticed is how Irish Gangs, Italian Gangs, and Mexican Gangs, are always very prominently Catholic. It doesn’t matter how many rivals they brutally murder, or how they go about obtaining their ill-gotten gains, they are still extremely devout. They have their prayer beads, Crucifixes, depictions of the Virgin Mary, etc… all visibly displayed. And, yet, they engage in some of the most diabolical enterprises imaginable. I can’t help but to be more than skeptical about the legitimacy of a “Supreme” Court that is 1/3 Jewish and 2/3 Catholic. Has anyone taken note of how many Catholics are in Congress?

  115. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    Kudos to your, sir [?], for among other things in your interesting comments, bringing up DeVito’s Hoffa, a magnificent film that, for once, can be correctly described as criminally ignored. I had thought perhaps I just liked it because I grew up in the time and place.

    As for another magnificent film you mention, Advise and Consent, [ever so relevant today!], my reflections in the context of Mad Men [again, similar time and place] are here:

  116. @JimDandy

    Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher is the only thing that keeps Gangs of New York from being
    mediocre. Leo was great in The Aviator and even better in The Departed, but just did not have it in Gangs.

  117. Anon[346] • Disclaimer says:

    My grandfather worked for the guy, so I personally enjoyed it. But there will be fewer and fewer movies like this made, because it doesn’t appeal to overseas audiences. I learned this while watching it with a group of Japanese. Their questions made it clear that they had no idea who any of the people were or why they were important, and the movie is chock full of obscure cultural references that I wonder if even milleniaal Americans recognize.

  118. Che Guava says:

    Thanks. I had fun, got to admire the photos of Hubbard in his uniforms (USN and Sea-org), gently make my anti-case, listen to theirs, receive green tea, a little more talk. In the end, I partly admire Hubbard, his short fiction is good at times. Again, this is not to say that I support him, only that was a very successful and ambitious charlatan.

    Jack Parsons was certainly part, although conveniently dead long before Hubbard launched DIanetics, let alone ‘The Church of Scientology’.

    Meannwhile, the protestors were gently (not irony) dispersed by the police.

    I now recall the name, it was called ‘Project (or Operation, I forget which, Chanology.


    Hughes was merely an amusement, since she really loved Tracy, also class. Gardner was more Hughes’s class and they both knew it.

    Unfortunately, you have no idea of what you’re talking about. I don’t believe Hughes ever smacked Hepburn around, as Tracy did. I also don’t believe Hughes sat in his private bungalow naked, and smeared his own shit on the walls, and on himself, for Hepburn to clean up, while he ranted in a drunken stupor, as Tracy did on more than one occasion.

    Tracy was a malicious, sometimes maniacal, Classic Irish alcoholic. He was not intelligent, he put his family and friends through hell, and wasn’t fit to do Howard Hughes laundry.

  120. Che Guava says:
    @Ian Smith

    I am aware of that, but is also a common crypto-surname. It is shame for the Welsh, but the worst that could happen, if they stick to the ‘Rhys’ spelling, is people pronouncing it ‘Rease’ ‘Reese’ or similar, which already seems to have happened, and they become the surnameP.

    Howerer, correction is always possible, e.g.. ‘Rhys’ is pronounced like ‘rice’, not ‘reese’, so say it right.

    My time overseas was not a large sample, but the only people I met to using ‘Rice’were Jewish.

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