A review of The Aviator (2004)

If you have read the review I had published for Shutter Island, there is a particular section in the article where I cover the topic of cameo appearance. It can be tremendously distracting for me if I recognize too many familiar faces appearing in bit roles.

Are you ever the same way about watching a movie with an excessive amount of familiar faces appearing within it? There are certain instances when the minor appearance is acceptable and I will shrug it off without much thought or further consideration. Any given comedy film is the single most acceptable excuse for an excessive use of the cameo performance, because the desired intention would be to provoke a laugh.

However, a dramatic film is not necessarily the case unless the cameo appearance by a recognizable face is coherent to the story itself. An acceptable example of a dramatic cameo appearance that I am willing to overlook would be the appearance of Hunter S. Thompson in the film adaptation of his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The scene in which he makes an appearance is an introspective flashback when the main character, who is a fictionalized version of Thompson, visualizes his own self at an old age. Who better to portray Thompson at an older age than Thompson himself? It is relevant to the story and perfectly acceptable.

I would imagine that I am complaining too much about the topic, but it is a roundabout way to point out the irritating distraction I had experienced while watching The Aviator (2004). Too many recognizable faces and names were appearing as minor characters in the film. Were these actors making an appearance because they were given an opportunity to work with Martin Scorsese, the director of the film?

Alternatively, was it just another opportunity to earn an extra day worth of a paycheck? The answer to these questions may never present itself to me directly, but it is an annoying curiosity regardless. Although it is nothing more than a personal pet peeve to play the game of “Name That Face” while watching a film from a highly revered name of film, directing it has not been a complete deterrence from any personal enjoyment. The Aviator is well done and completely entertaining as it currently stands. I doubt there would be anything worthwhile that I would be able to change about the film in which could serve as an improvement.

There is one particular element of the production design, which immediately caught my attention while watching the film. Did anyone else observe the development of the color saturation and hue as the movie progressed through the timeline of the story? During the presentation of the earlier years in the story, the color saturation was a bit off from the usual color palette that we are accustomed to seeing. How often do we see purplish-blue peas?

I am referring to the dinner scene in the nightclub with Howard Hughes, Katherine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, and Johnny Meyer. Here is the video clip in order to observe the color tones that are utilized within the film. Right from the start of the segment, you may notice the purplish blue highlights adding a special glow around the musical performers. The particular hue is similar to the color of the peas that are placed upon the dinner table about a minute and twenty-four seconds into the clip.

Sure, it would be dishonest if I were to deny that I was rest assured about this information by watching the behind-the-scenes features that have been placed on the DVD. However, when I was watching the film in the movie theater I knew there was something going on with the color palette of the film since we never see purplish-blue peas in recently produced films unless it was intentionally produced that way.

The artistic decision to define a particular color palette within the film was designed to resemble the color limitations of the color film developing processes that were available to Hollywood filmmakers during the era in which each scene is set. The movie is more than just a selected color palette, but I did find the technique rather intriguing. Scorsese’s limited use of the color spectrum was a creative choice perfectly fitting for the movie as defined by its relevance to the story contained within it.

The surprising element in the film that caught me a bit off guard was the performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. The last time I remember watching one of his films with an incredibly strong performance was The Basketball Diaries. I would not want to limit his entire career down to just these two movies. He brought so much to the story in several different films with his acting performances. He is a talented actor, which is a fact that cannot be argued against very well.

I am considering that the strongest suits in the production value of the film would be DiCaprio’s performance, Scorsese’s directing, the cinematography, and editing of the movie. It all holds together very well, which allows the story to unfold rather smoothly.

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