The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.
The Aviator [2004, dir. Martin Scorsese]
Perhaps I am looking in all of the wrong places, but doesn’t it seem odd that a modern film with 11 Oscar nominations, including five wins, is rarely discussed these days? Especially when said film is directed by Martin Scorsese and features brilliant performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett, among others? Perhaps it is the fact that most involved have done superior work, but that doesn’t change the fact that The Aviator is a well-crafted epic.
The film follows the life of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, beginning with his incredibly lengthy and expensive filming of Hell’s Angels. He dabbles in the film industry a bit more (including as producer of the original Scarface and The Outlaw), but it’s clear that his true passion is aviation. This leads him to purchase Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA). From there, his company takes on contracts with the US Army while attempting to develop the biggest and fastest planes in the world (no easy feat, of course). Hughes’s life makes for a hell of a story, one that is full of ups (such as his relationships with Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, the former of whom is played by Blanchett) and downs (his worsening OCD habits and paranoia).
The Aviator does start to feel its length after a while (all 170 minutes of it), but it’s hard not to appreciate the way this story is presented. This is a visually stunning film, and clearly the Academy loved these aspects of it as well (four of its Oscar wins were for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction). If anything, it had me wanting to learn more about Howard Hughes, especially as the film ends during the 1940s (Hughes went onto live until 1976). 8/10
Misery [1990, dir. Rob Reiner]
Misery tells a story that is so simple, but it’s one that is not easily forgotten. When famous novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) gets into a nasty car crash during a blizzard, he is saved by local nurse, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who personally brings him into her home to rehabilitate him. That’s all fine and well, except for the fact that Wilkes is the novelist’s self-described “#1 fan!” and she refuses to let him leave the house. Oh, and she’s pissed off because Sheldon killed off her favorite character in his novels.
Going into the film, I had heard a lot about Bates’s frightening Oscar-winning performance, and yep, she is scary as hell. Her obsessive nature can be terrifying, particularly when she goes from being pleasantly awkward to bursting with anger at the drop of a hat. Making matters worse is the fact that Sheldon’s legs are busted up, and he cannot physically move (great piece of physical acting by Caan here as well). This is the kind of stuff that will make you want to quit writing (or at least stay out of the public eye).
There’s nothing to Misery that makes it rise to “must see” status, but it is a damn fine piece of entertainment, and another strong Stephen King adaptation. 7/10