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David Poland

By David Poland

Todd McCarthy's Fascinating Aviator Review

I read Todd McCarthy’s review of The Aviator and found it remarkable.

I agree with 90% of what he has to say.  But what struck me funny was that he only seemed to review 50% of the movie. 

The film will or will not be a Best Picture nominee.  It’s no Alexander… not even a Gangs of New York.  But what will inhibit it is not all the great stuff about Hughes as a hard-driving aviator.  It is the going nuts part… which is a large percentage of the movie. 

Miramax’s advertising is brilliant, as it really emphasizes what works so well in the film.  As I have written before, these are some of the best flying sequences ever put on film.  And Todd seems to have focused only on those parts and just conveniently forgotten the rest of the movie. .. which is almost a harsher indictment of the rest of the film than giving it a complete review.  If it can’t take up any review space, it must be pretty terrible or meaningless in his view.  But dang… it’s at least half of the movie.

12 Responses to “Todd McCarthy's Fascinating Aviator Review”

  1. Diogo says:

    Hi David. I just read Todd’s review too. I know that you had problems with the movie but don’t you think that some people might have liked the whole movie? Taste is a weird issue. You can find problems in a thing and other person can rave it. It’s very subjective. So you might had problems with the second half of the movie but McCarthy might have liked. Is that so unlikely?

  2. David Poland says:

    Again… it’s not about whether I like the film. I do like the film, even if I have questions about how it will play with The Academy.
    My point is that 85% of the review covers 50% of the movie. If you don’t find that curious, then you might not be very curious.
    I wouldn’t be pointing this out if it were an out and out rave. Todd and everyone else is welcome to their opinions. But this was kind of like reading a review of Spider-Man 2 that never mentions Doc Ock. Most of Spidey’s motivations and actions – even the big action sequences – can be explained without mentioning that character. After all, even the El/subway scene is more interesting in the parts without Doc Ock… stopping the train is what people remember. But the absense of a real look at the villain in the movie would make one wonder why… no?

  3. Mike says:

    Read like a typical McCarthy review to me. While I haven’t seen the flick, it seemed pretty balanced. 2 paragraphs regarding the Aviation aspect of the flick — with one paragraph focusing solely on what an impressive technical achievement it is:
    “Although he continued to dabble in pictures, aviation consumed Hughes far more. Pic raptly documents his creation of the H-1 Racer, a sleek silver bullet in which he set the world speed record; his record-setting 1936 ’round-the-world flight (partly conveyed by doc footage in which DiCaprio’s face has been laid, “Zelig”-like, over the real thing); his 1946 test flight of the XF-11, which concluded with its pilot’s nearly fatal crash into several houses in Beverly Hills, a spectacle rendered here with incredible force and detail; his support for the swan-like Constellation passenger plane, which made his TWA into a world-class airline, and his contentious construction of the world’s biggest flying machine, the Hercules, or Spruce Goose, the one and only flight of which provides the picture with its stirring climax.
    Since planes represent one of the great subjects for motion picture cameras, enthusiasts will have a field day watching all these amazing aircraft onscreen, both in live-action and in eminently satisfying CGI representations. It’s not that you can’t tell when a flight is being digitally rendered, but it’s all done amazingly well — the degree of artifice surrounding the entire picture allows the computer work to fit in gracefully rather than to stick out.”
    And one paragraph about Hughes’ eccentric episodes:
    “Rooted, according to the script’s logic, in his mother’s protective preoccupation, Hughes exhibits an increasing phobia about germs, expressed in ever-more bizarre behavior in public restrooms, as well as insecurity about his deafness and mental stability. He comes temporarily unhinged after his 1946 plane crash, locking himself in his screening room and growing a beard, long hair and nails while sexy images of Jane Russell flicker on the screen, all intimating the bizarre accounts of his reclusive later life.”
    Based on that lone paragraph, I get an image of a certain amount of the quirkiness taking up a large chunk of the latter half of the flick. It screams very typical bio-picture to me, with that kind of unravelling downward trajectory.
    The rest of the review discusses Hughes’ filmmaking episode (“Hell’s Angels”), relationships (specifically Hepburn), Pan Am rivalry, and the overall performances/technical craft of the picture.
    Typical McCarthy review.

  4. Ray says:

    Strange, since the usual lengthy, A-picture Variety reviews usually rehearse all the plot points….

  5. Barry says:

    Maybe Todd had a dinner invite to get to and left halfway through? The press kit could’ve filled out the rest.

  6. David Poland says:

    Again, it’s not a first half/second half thing… his breadown is very much integrated into the plot after the first act. And MIke kind of makes that point for me… aviation, skill and one graph on crazy. When you see the movie, please write and let me know if my comments make more sense then… or not.

  7. bicycle bob says:

    its marty s. no matter what its going to be interesting. even though him not winning for taxi driver, raging bull, or goodfellas is a SIN

  8. Diogo says:

    I understand your point David but what I am trying to say is that it might not have been a problem for Todd as it was for you.
    For instance this is taken from another rave review of The Aviator:
    “As if all of this was not fascinating enough, Hughes’ growing mental anguish is skillfully handled and wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. His disorder, emanating from his mother’s continued speeches to him about the danger of disease, spirals as he grows older. What begins as a penchant for order and cleanliness develops into a full-blown obsessive/compulsive disease, as he shuns shaking hands, insists on gloves for all around him, fears door handles, washes his hands until they bleed and eventually leads him to seclude himself from the outside world. It is this lengthy scene, in which a naked DiCaprio holes himself up in an infested screening room, which perfectly sums up why the actor’s ambition to play the role has been vindicated, despite his physical handicaps (his lesser stature and still-boyish looks).”
    So it seems that this reviewer thought that the madness plot was skillfully put in the movie, which according to you it wasn’t.

  9. TheBrotherhoodOfTheLostSkeletonOfCadavra says:

    Dave, does Todd’s contract guarantee him “final cut?” Is it not possible that an overzealous copy editor trimmed out bits that he thought might be spoilers?

  10. David Poland says:

    Todd writes what he likes… and I am never said as regards the Todd review that the crazy Howard stuff was bad, just far more dominant than is indicated.

  11. Mark says:

    Don’t underestimate it in the year end awards.

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