Took a look at The Aviator again. The CGI effects don't seem as glaring this time around--seems to me Scorsese tries to avoid the cliche shots (rollercoaster POVs, bullet-time, etc, etc) and keeps equal emphasis on both CGI and non-CGI footage. That is, he tries to make the effects shot look like a live-action shot, down to choice of angle, lighting, and all. Not totally successful, but better looking than what some other directors do--in this I think he's on a similar track as Cuaron in Prisoner of Azkaban.
Checked the color scheme. The two-color Technicolor stops exactly in 1935, when Juan Trippe is listening in on his around-the-world flight (We see him contemplating the walls of his office, which are a distinct green shade, and--is that the top floor of the Chrysler Building? The office windows are distinctly triangular). That's the same year the first 3-strip Technicolor feature film, Becky Sharp, opened.
Cate Blanchett's finest moment could be in the bathroom scene, when she recalls how reporters crashed her suicidal brother's funeral, and she says "There's no decency to it." Sharp and pained, like she reveals a hidden scar. Hughes' reply is at least interesting--he says he has hallucinations, which makes us suspect the veracity of the rest of the film.
I think Bill Krohn is right on the money about this being comparable to Bush's career--in fact this may be THE film about George Bush, more so than Fahrenheit 911 (whose heart is in the right place and whose bile is wonderfully caustic, but which, unfortunately, doesn't have the benefit of dramatic licence to justify all the factual distortions). Also amusing to think where obsesssive behavior is to Hughes, stupidity is to Bush (reminds me of the men's room scene with the man on the crutches--not only foreshadows Hughes' own walking cane, it points up how much worse a mental handicap is to a physical one).
Kate Beckinsale is no Ava Gardner, right; but her character is refreshingly level-headed, even if once in a while she tends to confuse impassive cool with a blank stare.
The ending is hardly optimistic. It really depends on what emotional shading you get out of DeCaprio's final line, which I think DeCaprio renders intentionally ambiguous. "The wave of the future. The wave of the future"--this IS the future, but do we go on to say "thank god," or do we say "nor are we out of it?"