The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Postby Sabin » Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:34 pm

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is only unemotional in the sense that it doesn't succeed in being effectively emotional. The fault isn't entirely Fincher's. He's resisting urges that Ron Howard et al would indulge in to a fault. This film is one or two rungs away from being City of Angels and that it's not is to its credit, although I don't think I should have to say thank you for little miracles. This is David Fincher we're talking about here.

Fincher falls in love with his imagery and a lot of it is pretty stellar stuff admittedly, but in effect it creates a rather distanced sensation. Although Eric Roth has penned a radically similar screenplay to Forrest Gump, the films are very different in intent. I agree with Italiano that this is a film that is obsessed with death and passage but I'd argue further that in treating these notions as afterthought rather than ethereal concept it shortchanges them. The supporting players are the same motley crew from Forrest Gump and when they vanish one by one (ESPECIALLY with Taraji P. Hanson), the film announces its intentions as essentially being a vehicle for gauzy FX-driven star-fucking.

It's not really cold or warm. It's intangible. There's nothing to hold onto once it's done outside of one or two moments that seemingly transcended intention and control. I suppose my gross disappointment in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button supplants is accomplishments but - like Slumdog Millionaire - it was so deficient in what I was actually looking to gain from the film (not subversively either) that I don't really give a damn.
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Postby Okri » Tue Feb 17, 2009 8:20 pm

Wait - did someone call The Pianist unemotional? Wow, that's the last adjective I'd use to describe it.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Feb 17, 2009 10:26 am

Damien wrote:
Mike Kelly wrote:I think it symbolized a stipulation in Brad Pitt's Contract.

I wonder if Pitt -- who has a home in New Orleans and is dedicated to the well-being of the city -- had anything to do with the movie being set there. In the original, Benjamin was born and grew up in Baltimore.

I'm almost certain that's the case. He was determined to bring economic wherewithal to the city. And Fincher probably went along figuring the omnipresent sense of the past that has always lingered over the city played into their themes. (With the melancholy of recent events adding another layer -- I'd say a layer too many, but they saw it otherwise)

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Postby Damien » Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:10 am

Mike Kelly wrote:I think it symbolized a stipulation in Brad Pitt's Contract.

I wonder if Pitt -- who has a home in New Orleans and is dedicated to the well-being of the city -- had anything to do with the movie being set there. In the original, Benjamin was born and grew up in Baltimore.
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Postby Damien » Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:08 am

I can't believe so many people disparage this movie for being "cold." To me, it was utterly sentimental, maudlin. I guess what people must mean is that Cate Blanchett's Daisy is too emotionally withholding, that they don't connect to the characters.

The Fitzgerald story -- now there was a cold (but funny and humane) and cutting work.
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Postby HarryGoldfarb » Mon Feb 16, 2009 5:35 pm

ITALIANO wrote:I liked it. Not perfect, and not the best of the nominees, but I can't not admire the fact that such an obviously high budget has been spent for something so literally obsessed with the passing of time AND death - not exactly crowd-pleasing themes, but important themes, themes worthy of great literature. Forrest Gump this isn't. And while it's true that it can be seen from several points of view - it IS also about movies, and about the passing of time through movies, etc - I also think that even taken literally it has an honesty that, for example, Slumdog Millionaire definitely lacks. It's a director's movie, and the movie of an intelligent director (but at the same time, unlike The Dark Knight, not of a director who must prove at every moment that he's intelligent). And true, it's not "warm" - but only in the Hollywood sense of the term, where "warm" usually means something like The Green Mile - so thank god it isn't. I found the pervasive sense of sadness and defeat quite affecting, unusual and sometimes courageous, too.

Thanks! Don't know about the Slumdog comment (haven't seen it) but I so do agree with you on everything else...

By the way, I actually can see some similarities to Forrest, but it is mainly in the narative structure. The fact that both characters are spectators it's like an unfortunate coincidence, but that's life, isn't it? We are spectators of our lives, our own different encounters. There will be a lot of movies with similiar structures in the future...
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Postby Eric » Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:10 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I'd probably vote for him as best director, among the nominees -- there's tremendous visual panache throughout the film

Maybe me too (him or Van Sant, but since I have more enthusiasm for Van Sant's truly visionary work in the aughts than I do for Fincher, I guess the disappointment is much less pronounced in the cast of the latter).

I wouldn't say the film has visual panache, but it does have an insistent visual aptitude.

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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:04 pm

Definitely much better than Forrest Gump. I think one of things that pulls me so close to the film is that it's not blatantly manipulative. It isn't schmaltzy and it doesn't force the audience to feel something for the characters through narrative, that just isn't there. I don't think movies can ever be truly perfect, but this is a solid effort that pulled me in like any great story should.

In an age where Disney-fication has become synonymous with emotional, a film like this may seem quite unemotional, but that in itself draws you in. And unlike a movie like The Pianist, which is entirely unemotional, there is a realism to these characters, a vulnerability that, while not as blatant as much of Hollywood's throughput, there is a quiet desperation to the characters (most notably Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton) that you can't help but feel there's something more honest and forthright about them than the pre-generated, forced emotionalism of a lot of modern films.
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Postby Penelope » Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:02 pm

Y'all are kidding me, right? It's totally Forrest Gump redux, but without the humor. I'm seriously appalled. Benjamin Button is dull, dull, dull, dull, dull.
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:59 pm

I've been tying to work up the energy to write about this film since seeing it two weeks ago, and may get to it before Oscar night. But I did want to chime in and agree with the last three posts.

It seems to me the "cold" label is particularly ridiculous; as Italiano says, to the people using the term, it's apparently an antonym for sentimental. But can't a film be cold-eyed/unsentimental and still not merit the adjective Kubrickian? I'm grateful for someone who deals with issues of life and death -- and loss -- without turning it into a tearjerker.

In fact, I think Fincher is getting really short-changed for his work here. I'd probably vote for him as best director, among the nominees -- there's tremendous visual panache throughout the film (moreso than in Zodiac, which was a stronger narrative, but somewhat disappointing for those of us in love with Fincher's painterly style).

The film is quite uneven -- it takes a long time to get going, and then the final half hour feels rushed. But there are wonderful moments and images throughout: Blanchett on the bandstand, the segment with Swinton in the hotel especially. It beats me why the film has become such an object of scorn for so many.

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Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:48 pm

flipp525 wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:Forrest Gump this isn't.

Thank you. I've never understood this comparison. Never made any sense and still doesn't.

Yeah, it is a much better film than Forrest Gump.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:32 pm

ITALIANO wrote:Forrest Gump this isn't.

Thank you. I've never understood this comparison. Never made any sense and still doesn't.




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Postby ITALIANO » Mon Feb 16, 2009 3:30 pm

I liked it. Not perfect, and not the best of the nominees, but I can't not admire the fact that such an obviously high budget has been spent for something so literally obsessed with the passing of time AND death - not exactly crowd-pleasing themes, but important themes, themes worthy of great literature. Forrest Gump this isn't. And while it's true that it can be seen from several points of view - it IS also about movies, and about the passing of time through movies, etc - I also think that even taken literally it has an honesty that, for example, Slumdog Millionaire definitely lacks. It's a director's movie, and the movie of an intelligent director (but at the same time, unlike The Dark Knight, not of a director who must prove at every moment that he's intelligent). And true, it's not "warm" - but only in the Hollywood sense of the term, where "warm" usually means something like The Green Mile - so thank god it isn't. I found the pervasive sense of sadness and defeat quite affecting, unusual and sometimes courageous, too.



Edited By ITALIANO on 1234816645

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Postby Mike Kelly » Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:34 pm

I think it symbolized a stipulation in Brad Pitt's Contract.

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Postby OscarGuy » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:49 am

Beware of SPOILERS below...



It spoke of how time is a fleeting thing. How everything, regardless of its origin, will eventually be destroyed. There's a fatality in life, but a fatality which allows things to move forward. Yes, it seemed a bit harsh, but when you look at the opening where the clockmaker talks about how he made the clock tick backwards so that hopefully it would allow just one child lost in the war to come back, something which never occurred. It is the same with Katrina. It's something we wish could be taken back. The loss of life and property seemed so unnecessary, yet there's nothing you can do to stop nature and circumstance no matter how you try and the clock being destroyed in that way helped add a measure of finality to that concept.
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