The Aviator: show me the blueprints

Scorsese’s The Aviator, directed in 2004, is a biographical film depicting Howard Hughes’ life.  It shows roughly 1920-1947; the years that Hughes was a businessman in the aviation industry, film director, and his struggle with OCD plagued his personal life.  Scorsese made sure to cover each aspect of Hughes’ life taking turns depicting each theme throughout the film.  As the business endeavors grew in responsibility so did the pressure brought on by the impending germ crisis.  Scorsese is known for his depiction of psychological disorders and love for violence.  Even though the story of Hughes does not have as much violence as many of his other films, Scorsese was the right man to bring this movie to the big screen.   He chose to highlight aspects of Hughes’ life, his many business successes and affairs along with his health decline into major psychological illness.  These extremes in his personality drive the film, making light of his obsessive perfectionism, fear of germs and onsite of dementia.

The Aviator brings to the big screen Hughes’ many airplane innovations, debuting each new plane as it is created.  Scorsese’s pictures of the airplanes throughout the movie are extravagant, to say the least.  Long shots taken with crane camera provide aerial views that are breath taking high quality images.  These airplane pictures are presented along with orchestra music.  Stringed instruments, like violins and cellos, provide a royal feeling and paired with the image of the planes creates a grand feeling.

Howard Hughes was rich his whole life, adapting that lifestyle to the big screen was a huge under taking by Scorsese.  The glamorous life lead by Hughes during the 30’s and 40’s lead him to court many famous women, some of which were portrayed within the film.  Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardener, to name just the two main girlfriends, were brought back to life.

Even though he is rich, Hughes never stops working.  He is constantly designing new aircrafts and making business deals.  His drive to work hard leads him to success within business and the limelight.  He did what ever he wanted without the intervention of anybody or anything.  His endeavors not only included airplane engineering but also directing films.

Hells Angels, Hughes’ first film, brought together the two worlds, directing and aviation.  While Hughes spent his time directing the film he also made changes to the airplanes, innovations that would affect the aviation industry.  He worked tirelessly to see his movie be a success, this included many setbacks.  Whenever he ran out of money he would mortgage another one of his assets, adding to the huge price tag for the movie.  It took three years and four million dollars before the film hit the theatres; and regardless of being a success, Hughes still had some things in the film that he wanted changed.  He had the money to cover any expense and could do what ever he wanted.  His next two films, Scarface and The Outlaw created controversies on their own.  Hepburn reviews his movie Scarface, calling it violent on their first date on the golf course.  In the scene when Hughes meets with the MPAA, he also mentions the film quickly, stating that he hadn’t met with the board since the violence hearing from Scarface.

Scorsese uses the split screen technique several times throughout the film.  It is used either at a time when people are talking on the phone or through a wall to Hughes.  I think this shows the separation felt by the main character from the rest of the world.  He was not willing to be in the same room as people at some points.  This fear of integrating with the world shows how lonely life must have been for Hughes.  At some times he was successful as a leader but when pressure grew and his anxiety was through the roof, he needed to get away.

In the opening scene, his mother bathes Hughes.  She warns him of germs, spelling the word “quarantine” out loud together; a word that he uses to sooth himself when feeling overwhelmed.  Throughout the film his symptoms grow and become more and more unbearable.  He has a problem with his food when someone touches a pea on his plate and washes his hands repeatedly for long periods of time.  Katherine Hepburn helps Hughes through some of his trouble when their relationship gets underway.  She notices when he is hesitant to do something involving germs and asks him about his issues on their dates.  She shares a bottle of milk with him on his airplane after learning about his problem with the germs covering the steering wheel.  It is interesting to see Hughes hesitate before deciding that the germ infested milk is okay to drink.  Hepburn’s help with his germ issue was relatively minor in context to the rest of the movie.  The OCD grows as Hughes’ success grows, leading to a scene where he is stuck in a bathroom until someone can come along to open the door for him.  Scorsese makes sure to take time for the fears felt internally by the airline tycoon and the illness becomes worse and worse as the film progresses.

At the climax of his career, Hughes also reached the climax of his OCD issues.  Scorsese portrayed this in a chilling few scenes in which Hughes locks himself within his office and then at home.  He is naked within his office, refusing to see anybody, sending away delivered milk if anything about the process was done incorrectly.   He tapes off areas of the house that are condemned and his appearance becomes very disheveled and beard overgrown.  Leo DiCaprio did a great job with acting psychotic within these scenes.

Howard Hughes led an interesting life driven by his immense riches and passion for the airline world.  He never succumbed to the pressures of business, spending some time in court, but continued to do what ever he wanted, always having the funds to do so.  The natural twist that affected his life most was his anxiety brought on by the germs all around him.  As he became more successful in the airline business his health declined rapidly.  Martin Scorsese brought this story to the big screen in a tasteful way, making sure to include not only Howard Hughes’ successes in innovating but also making screen time for the psychological issues that plagued him.

Written by: Alex Evert

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A Little Bit About Martin Scorsese

If there was a hall of fame, a Coopers Town for movie directors—they would need more than a plaque to honor Martin Scorsese

–       Charlie Rose

EARLY LIFE

Born in the year 1942, on November 17 in Flushing, New York City, a young Martin Scorsese served as an alter boy at a Catholic Church in the tough streets of New York’s Lower East Side. With this early and often exposure to the Catholic Church, young Marty had great aspirations to become a priest. This was his plan for when he became a grown-up, but Martin had a severe case of asthma. To combat the smog from the Big Apple and the thick, humid air of summer days, Marty found refuge in the cool, air of New York’s abundant movie theatres. The stories he was exposed to there on screen inspired him to ditch the gig to become a priest and turn his sights on making movies.

Martin’s culture growing up in New York City was continuously surrounded by Italian culture. Martin’s parents, Charles and Catherine were both full-blooded Italians from the Little Italy district of Manhattan. Along with frequent visits to the movie theatres, Martin’s parents worked as part-time actors as Marty grew up. *Trivia points: Joe Peschi’s Mother in Goodfellas is actually played by Martin’s Mother, Catherine. Growing up watching movies, Martin was in intrigued by westerns. One of Martin’s early memories of going to a western was Duel in the Sun. When Charles bought a TV in the fifties, Martin would watch Italian Films on Friday nights. Some of these Italian films that were influential for Martin were Pizon, Open City, and Shoe Shine.

FILMING STYLE

Growing up and living in New York City is extremely important for Martin Scorsese. That is why a number of his films take place in New York City: Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, etc. Along with incorporating New York City culture into his films, Martin is a huge fan of classic rock music. His motifs include incorporating at least one Rolling Stones song in his films, sometimes numerous others. Much of his choices in music to incorporate in his films also include crooners of the fifties and sixties. Along with just incorporating music in his films, he includes musicians in his films: David Bowie in Last Temptation of Christ, Gwen Stefani in The Aviator, and Frankie Valli in Casino.

Martin is also known for an over exaggeration of psychological problems within his main characters. This is clearly shown in Taxi Driver as well as Cape Fear. Lately, The Aviator and Shutter Island have displayed psychological problems within characters. Speaking of The Avaitor, Martin’s films are often based on true stories of people: Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, and an upcoming Frank Sinatra biopic—that will probably star Leo Dicaprio. Yeah, if you’ve noticed Marty likes to keep his cast members similar from film to film: Dicaprio, Di Nero, Peschi are his go-to-guys.

For The Departed, Martin Scorsese finally won the Oscar for Best Director, which was presented to him by his old film school chums, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppolla. Although Marty has only won Best Director once, he is without a doubt one of the most prolific and revolutionary filmmakers to ever decide to make films. He makes his characters come alive and his audiences hold on, for one hell of a cinematic ride.

 

This Information was taken from

http://www.biography.com/people/martin-scorsese-9476727

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo_zTU7ME_A – Charlie Rose

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFlTozyvrng – Inside the Actors Studio

Taxi Driver: A New Type of Hero

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is the tale of a social outcast/insomniac, starving for moral redemption.  Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, is a post-war Vietnam veteran turned taxi driver.  He is a loner and far from normal, driving his cab around New York City every night until the earliest hours in the morning.  He quietly observes the concrete jungle, judging internally what is right and wrong, only talking when spoken to first.  The crazy sights that Travis sees and people that he picks up make for an exciting story to watch.  The things that make audiences cringe also keep them entertained.  Scorsese’s Taxi Driver draws on classic film standards, presenting a movie that is psychologically stimulating as well as satisfying the audience’s craving for thematic violence.

Scorsese refined traditional filmmaking techniques, adopting them from Classic Hollywood films, and making them his own.  He took things that he thought were cool in both experimental and classic films and flipped those techniques to create his own style.  He took camera technique that could be confusing, dialed it back and presented it to the audience in a more subtle way.  Scorsese draws from Godard in a few scenes, one where Travis is spacing out and staring at a cup of coffee.  The Godard scene, from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, features something different, focusing on a cup with Alka-Seltzer taking the point of view of a random person.  This technique is used to depict internal struggle and a feeling of anxiety.  The reading from class makes light of this, providing more detail, making a point that the scene, “suggested the hero’s self-absorption and growing isolation (351).  Scorsese also borrows the jump cut, an editing technique that Godard used, in a scene where Travis amps himself up in front of the mirror.  He says a bunch of phrases, emasculating himself, presented by Scorsese in a choppy way.  In this part, it is not important to see the scene as one continuous take, but as several different takes, jumping around between them.  The viewer is comfortable with this type of story telling; it is known that time is passing and the director is only showing a few keys moments.

Comparisons can be made between this movie and traditional westerns.  Travis comes into town, rides alone on his horse (in this case his taxi cab), finds the issues that plague the common citizens and seeks justice around the law.  He takes sole responsibility for the acts of evil he witnesses within the city.  In his book on Martin Scorsese, Michael Bliss draws a similar conclusion, “Much like the lone cowboys in America’s Old West, where every man with a gun was a law unto himself.” (Bliss 96)  Travis’ traits reflect those portrayed by cowboys in western movies.  This movie continues the style that filmgoers became accustomed to in the western genre and adds new complex issues that were relevant to contemporary audiences of the time.  It is these typical conventions that keep audiences attached; having some previous knowledge of the movie experience opens up possibilities for the story to become weirder but still remain easy to follow.

Travis, although strange, is still relatable to moviegoers, an accomplishment that not all filmmakers are able to achieve.  Scorsese and De Niro take on this challenge, bringing Travis Bickle to life.  Throughout the film, De Niro narrates what Travis is thinking via diary entrees.  This internal dialogue brings the audience into Travis’ private world, while still keeping him a loner within the film boundaries.  The audience learns, through this dialogue and the actions that he takes, that Travis is driven by his morals.  He remains rigid with his beliefs, and keeping the audience in the loop the whole time.  Travis often talks about the scum that lives in the streets and his desire “to clean it up.”  In his world, politics are too weak to deal with the real problems.  This creates a feeling of responsibility in Travis, bringing him to the idea that if anything is going to be fixed, a hero is going to need to step up and deal with it.  He figures that no one is better to step up and make things thing right then himself.  This feeling of heroism is emasculating to Travis.  He wants to be the man and New York’s hero.  His difficulty to realize a normal life, having no close relationships to diffuse his struggle and stress provides depth to his character.  With a self-reflective narrative, the viewer sympathizes with Travis, providing justification for the violent acts that he commits. It is this psychological element that amplifies this film’s connection with the audience and adds to the classic western motif.

Travis turns to violence to ease his mind from social awkwardness.  Travis is seen pretending to fire a gun with his fingers when he sees a happy couple.  In the scene where he buys his gun, he points it around the room, testing the site.  When passing the window, he notices a couple down on the street below, taking them into his target.  He does not shoot this couple, but this kind of behavior serves as foreshadowing to the violent acts that were to come.  There is another few scenes that Travis pretends to shoot a couple: one aimed at the television, another when he is at the porno theatre.  It seems like Travis is jealous and wants nothing other than some kind of companionship.  The depth provided by these gestures provides an interesting insight to audiences, viewing the world of violence seldom seen.

Little by little, Travis is revealed as a crazier than a normal person.  All doubts pass when Travis shaves his hair into a Mohawk and goes on an assassination mission targeting a political candidate.  When his mission is unsuccessful, his need to exercise violence is shifted to another more manageable target.

Iris is being held captive by Sport, used for sexual acts and not respected.  Travis offers redemption; he wants her to get away from the oppression brought on by the pimp.  She is reluctant to follow at first, but Travis makes it impossible to stay when he completely destroys the whorehouse.  He took this responsibility into his own hands, employing violence to solve his world’s problems.  He was successful in his mission with this violent act, diminishing the wrongdoers and returning the innocent girl home to her parents.

Scorsese’ film is hailed as a true American classic, connecting to audiences through familiar filmmaking techniques.  He takes what is known to impress, adds his personal touch, a good script, and great acting.  Taxi Driver is filled with violence, but its psychological touch adds depth to a character bringing the viewer into the world created.

Written By: Alex Evert

Goodfella Gif Gallery

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