My previous post might have given the impression that I think The Aviator was the best movie of 2004. At least Amit seemed to think that it did. Believe me, I DON'T!
The comparison in that post was only among the five nominees. And even among those five, The Aviator wasn't a clear winner as Finding Neverland ran it very close. Off the top of my head I can think of many movies of 2004 that would run The Aviator very close if not better it (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotles Mind). And yet, at the end of the day, it would still probably appear in my top 10 (maybe even top 5!) of 2004. Amit wants to know "Why?".
His main problem with the movie is that we don't connect with any of the characters. But I don't think we were supposed to. We are supposed to be in awe of these people. We see Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner dating this guy. We see him fighting with the US senate committee (and not in the manner of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, where the protagonist can be anyone... we see ourselves in him. Or at least our good side). Here, however, we are looking at the life of THE Howard Hughes. And he was the sort of guy who would be very offended at the idea of people actually identifying with him! Scorsese made a movie which showed us the world of this incredible person. That his world intersected the world of Hollywood is very convenient because the movie is as much about that world as about Howard Hughes. That Scorsese is in love with the glamour of that Hollywood is no secret. To make us feel a part of that world would be an insult to it. We are supposed to see it from outside and applaud/detest it. We are supposed to see the movie and come out with the mystery of Howard Hughes intact - after all, his whole life was and is shrouded in mystery. He wanted it that way. He'd have liked the movie.
The question is not even if the story is an accurate description of his life. That doesn't matter. You just take a mysterious character, take some well known facts from his life and spin an interesting story around those facts and rumours. As long as you can show this story with requisite flourish, it will not be a bad movie. If you are Scorsese, it will most likely be a good movie.
As for the interesting events in his life post-47, its Scorsese's prerogative to decide what the theme of his movie would be and what he finds most interesting. He didn't say at the end of the movie that Hughes died the next day. And knowing the character as we do, its impossible that he'd have lived a less interesting life from that point onwards. He didn't. But this is like Shyam Benegal choosing only the South Africa portion of Gandhi's life to show in Making of the Mahatma. It does not mean that after coming back from South Africa, Gandhi went back to village and started farming and did nothing else cinema-worthy till the end of his days.