From Hollywood's legendary Cocoanut Grove to the pioneering conquest of the wild blue yonder, Martin Scorsese's The Aviator celebrates old-school filmmaking at its finest. We say "old school" only because Scorsese's love of golden-age Hollywood is evident in his approach to his subject--Howard Hughes in his prime (played by Leonardo DiCaprio in his)--and especially in his technical mastery of the medium reflecting his love for classical filmmaking of the studio era. Even when he's using state-of-the-art digital trickery for the film's exciting flight scenes (including one of the most spectacular crashes ever filmed), Scorsese's meticulous attention to art direction and costume design suggests an impassioned pursuit of craftsmanship from a bygone era; every frame seems to glow with gilded detail. And while DiCaprio bears little physical resemblance to Hughes during the film's 20-year span (late 1920s to late '40s), he efficiently captures the eccentric millionaire's golden-boy essence, and his tragic descent into obsessive-compulsive seclusion. Bolstered by Cate Blanchett's uncannily accurate portrayal of Katharine Hepburn as Hughes' most beloved lover, The Aviator is easily Scorsese's most accessible film, inviting mainstream popularity without compromising Scorsese's artistic reputation. As compelling crowd-pleasers go, it's a class act from start to finish. --Jeff Shannon
In his commentary track, director Martin Scorsese offers his own impressions of Howard Hughes and rattles off his memories of experiencing Hughes's films. He mentions how he made Cate Blanchett watch every Katharine Hepburn film from the '30s on the big screen, and observes that Kate Beckinsale had "a real sense of the stature of a Hollywood goddess." But in general he doesn't talk much about the craft of making the film. That area is covered better by editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who also appears on the commentary track, and producer Michael Mann makes a few appearances (all were recorded separately). The picture is brilliant, but the 5.1 sound is not as aggressive in the rear speakers and subwoofer as one might expect, other than some nice surround effects in the Hell's Angels flying sequence.
The second disc collects almost three hours of features. There's one unnecessary deleted scene, and an 11-minute making-of featurette that's basically the cast and director heaping praise on each other. More interesting are the short featurettes on visual effects (including the XF-11 scene, of course), production design, costumes, hair and makeup, and score, and Loudon Wainwright discusses his and his children's musical performances. Historical perspective is provided by spotlights on Hughes's role in aviation and his obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a 43-minute Hughes documentary from the History Channel (part of the Modern Marvels series, it focuses on his mechanical innovations and spends less than a minute on his movies). More unusual are DiCaprio and Scorsese's appearance on an OCD panel, and a half-hour interview segment DiCaprio did with Alan Alda. --David Horiuchi
The Personalities of The Aviator
Click the links to explore more movies by these stars.