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reviewed by Donald Melanson

May 30, 2005 | Almost lost in the brouhaha of Martin Scorsese losing the Oscar to yet another actor-turned-director (although Eastwood's arguably an even better director than actor) was the fact that Scorsese's longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker actually won an award for her work on The Aviator.

Schoonmaker has collaborated with Scorsese even more often than the director's favorite onscreen partner, Robert DeNiro, starting with Scorsese's first film, Who's That Knocking at My Door, and continuing to this day, with only a few gaps in between. In fact, Schoonmaker's editing style has become so synonymous with Scorsese that it's often difficult to separate the two.

In The Aviator both are at the top of their game, even if they aren't working on the bleeding edge of cinema they were in films like Raging Bull.

Scorsese's latest ongoing partnership is with Leonardo DiCaprio, who he first worked with on Gangs of New York and will again in the upcoming remake of Infernal Affairs. In The Aviator, DiCaprio delivers one of his best performances to date as the infamous Howard Hughes. Cate Blanchett gets the daunting task of playing Katharine Hepburn, and Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin both deliver fantastic performances in some juicy supporting roles.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is its use of color, with which Scorsese vividly suggests both time and mood. For about the first hour, much of the film resembles two-strip Technicolor, with everything in shades of red and blueish green (do not adjust your set!). Then, as the film moves into the late 1930s, it switches to match the richer three-strip Technicolor process used at the time. Scorsese also makes heavy use of his signature flourishes of red, including one scene completely bathed in the color when Hughes, at his lowest point, locks himself in a screening room.

Thankfully, Warner Bros. has decided to give the film the two-disc special edition treatment on DVD and both discs are filled to the brim. The standout extra, as you'd expect from a Scorsese film, is the commentary track. This time Scorsese is joined by Thelma Schoonmaker and producer Michael Mann, although they were recorded separately which cuts down on the spontaneity quite a bit. Disc two includes a brief deleted scene and a slew of features of varying lengths on the making of the film and on Howard Hughes himself (including a History Channel Modern Marvels documentary). The film itself looks and sounds incredible.

I still haven't seen enough films released in 2004 to make a reasonable ten best list, but I'm willing to bet that The Aviator will find a spot on there whenever I get around to compiling one.

Donald Melanson is the editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance writer for hire.

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