The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

User avatar
rolotomasi99
Associate
Posts: 1924
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2003 4:13 pm
Location: n/a
Contact:

Postby rolotomasi99 » Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:32 pm

http://warnerbros2008.warnerbros.com/bafta/#

some of you may have already seen this, but the above link takes you to a warner bros. for-your-consideration page which has information for films the company considers awards worthy.

the most interesting part is the sampling of the score for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. i am a huge alexandre desplat fan, and while i found the music to be quite pretty i was not blown away. still, seems pretty much along the lines of what the academy likes to hear in film scores.
"When it comes to the subject of torture, I trust a woman who was married to James Cameron for three years."
-- Amy Poehler in praise of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7301
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:45 pm

He cites it as one of his favorite movies of the year, behind 'Che' and 'Revolutionary Road'. I don't get this dude.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6361
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:29 pm

I think where Oscar bloggers really get into trouble is where they try to see things through the eyes of "the average Oscar voter". Given that in the past decade we've both overestimated and underestimated the taste of such voters (Gladiator and Crash the first, The Departed and No Country the second), it seems to me it's safer for a critic or early viewer to just express his or her own opinion than to attempt to divine how some golden mean Academy member is going to react.

And this tendency grows ever more dominant the deeper into the season we go -- films come to be judged not as themselves, but in terms of Is this the year's Big One? Critics didn't judge No Country for Old Men that way -- it was May, for Christ's sake, and no one was thinking Oscar deadline -- but too many of them seem to be doing that to Button and Revolutionary Road.

Which is to say, I wonder what Well's actual opinion of this film is. Does he see those things he mentions as flaws that detract from his own appreciation, or only things that will prevent the film from getting 11 nominations?

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7301
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:11 pm

Jeffrey Wells doesn't really like it. And he thinks its Oscar chances are in trouble.

HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE

I'm tapping out my Benjamin Button reactions as we speak, but I have a phone interview set for 9:30 and I have to focus on that for a bit. All I know is that I don't know what's going on with the Best Picture race. Not any more. I'm lost. The tracking software in my head that has generated those old gut hunches for years on end isn't working. I don't mean to get all Wim Wenders-Dennis Hopper on you, but I suddenly don't know who I am or who anyone else is.

I'm not at all persuaded, in other words, that Button, gently touching life-journey meditation and technical landmark film that it obviously is in many respects, is the Big One. It's beautiful and immaculate and lovingly brush-stroked to a fare-thee- well, and thematically deep and far-reaching, but boil it all down and it's basically a leisurely Gump cruise on a slow riverboat down an easy river, and filled with all kinds of touching meditations and pastoral riches and a constant awareness of the transitory tenuousness of life. Which is fine. It moves, haunts, entrances, caresses and provides as much warmth and emotional reflection as director David Fincher and screenwriter Eric Roth felt was right and appropriate.

But the story tension is nil (no "what's gonna happen next?" intrigue), the rooting interest is zip (which isn't to say you don't care for Brad Pitt's Button character but he's nothing if not a fundamentally passive character -- an absorber rather than a decisive doer with a primal goal or need) and that schmaltzy emotional compost that Robert Zemeckis knows how to shovel and which a film like this could use is barely exploited.

Fincher is one of my filmmaking heroes, Lord knows, but he's too sardonic a fellow to drop his emotional pants. Button is a magnificent living painting and a technical dazzler for the ages, but he may not have been the right guy to make a film like this. It's not a cold film, as some have alleged, but (and I hate saying this) it needs to be a little bit sappier and schmuckier and schtickier to win over the Academy squares and popcorn munchers in the plexes. It's a little too burnished and upmarket (i.e., sparing, carefully measured) for its own good.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

dws1982
Tenured
Posts: 2927
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 9:28 pm
Location: AL
Contact:

Postby dws1982 » Mon Nov 24, 2008 7:29 pm

My sister did photography at a wedding a couple of years back where the groom was an actor who lives out in LA. One of his friends who was there is also an actor and has a small role in Benjamin Button. Apparently everyone at the wedding was talking about how he was going to Louisiana to film scenes for a movie that Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett were starring in.

I'm sure I have a picture of him somewhere; I know I uploaded that wedding to her website.




Edited By dws1982 on 1227573421

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15564
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Postby Big Magilla » Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:48 pm

As I said in another post, this film apparently plays better with older viewers than it does younger ones. I don't know who this Screen Daily guy is, but he writes like a 12 year-old, which isn't to say that I might agree more with him than the other guys when I actually see it but my interest has been piqued by what McCarthy, Honeycutt and other older writers have said about it.

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6361
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Nov 24, 2008 2:21 pm

Hollywood Reporter, the most enthusiastic of all.

Film Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
By Kirk Honeycutt
Nov 24, 2008

The fantasy element in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," in which a man ages backward, does not begin to suggest the urgent drama and romantic fatalism that director David Fincher and writers Eric Roth and Robin Swicord have so strikingly brought to the screen in the movie version.

Fitzgerald's story is little more than a plot gimmick. Yet the film transforms this gimmick into an epic tale that contemplates the wonders of life -- of birth and death and, most of all, love.

Superbly made and winningly acted by Brad Pitt in his most impressive outing to date, the audience for this Paramount/Warner Bros. co-production is large. Strong boxoffice should ensue.

Although hard to pigeonhole, "Benjamin Button" comes closest to Latin American magic realism, which juxtaposes the fantastic with the realistic. The film shares elements with another Roth-written film, "Forrest Gump," wherein a most unusual man sets out on an odyssey through 20th century American history. But Fincher, an unusual but winning choice as director, makes certain that "Benjamin Button" has none of the whimsy or coy historical revisionism of "Gump."
Even the framework for the story underscores that there are forces within nature that man can't control. Daisy (Cate Blanchett), a dying woman in a New Orleans hospital, gives her daughter (Julia Ormond) a memoir to read as Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city. The memoirist is none other than Benjamin (Pitt), born on the day of victory in Europe in 1918.

He was, he writes, "born under unusual circumstances." He's a baby that looks like a failing man in his 80s with poor eyesight, brittle bones and wrinkled flesh. His mother dies giving birth and his father (Jason Flemyng) abandons him, fittingly, at an old-age home. A maternal black woman, Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who runs the place, takes him in and raises him in the one environment where he can pass unnoticed.

He truly fits in among blacks and people old and forgotten by time. Everyone is an outsider here. As a somewhat younger old man, he meets Daisy as a small girl (Elle Fanning) visiting an ancient relative. Their friendship will last both of their lifetimes -- though ones moving in opposite directions -- and will evolve into romance and passionate love.

Much keeps them apart though as Daisy pursues a career in ballet while Benjamin, once he gets a handle on what's happening to him, is a man who will never feel comfortable in his own skin. The job on a tug boat with its hard-drinking pilot (Jared Harris) takes him to Russia and an affair with a British spy's wife (Tilda Swinton) and then into naval action in World War II.

After the war, Daisy's career takes off. She also can't quite make up her mind about involvement with a man growing younger each year. But when commitment comes, contentment, brief though it might be, ensues.

Benjamin's story is preceded by Daisy's recollection of a watch maker (Elias Koteas) who, having lost his beloved son in World War I, made a clock for the New Orleans train station that ran backward so that time might move the same way and his boy would come back to him. Thus, narratively and thematically, the film positions time running backward as part of man's eternal desire to cheat death and to cling to those closest to us.

Pitt's Benjamin is a touching and poignant figure, a person often lost within his own life but with a comic spirit that allows him to accept his backward fate. Blanchett illuminates the screen with a beauty and intelligence that makes Benjamin's pursuit of Daisy as much a quest for life as for love. As the adoptive mother, Henson embodies the essence of a good woman who derives her strength from God and her instincts from common sense.

Fincher's direction is sure-handed during the entire 166 minutes, which never feels long or pretentious. The film takes Donald Graham Burt's brilliant period design in stride, never overemphasizing it or lingering on an artifact. Claudio Miranda's cinematography wonderfully marries a palette of subdued earthy colors with the necessary CGI and other visual effects that place one in a magical past.

User avatar
Sonic Youth
Laureate
Posts: 7436
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:35 pm
Location: USA

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun Nov 23, 2008 9:34 pm

Variety likes this very much

Screendaily doesn't

And neither are confident the film will bring in an audience.
"What the hell?"
Win Butler

dreaMaker
Assistant
Posts: 591
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 1:41 pm

Postby dreaMaker » Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:34 pm

Can't wait to see it.. :)

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7301
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Postby Sabin » Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:31 pm

I'd go there.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6361
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:09 pm

flipp525 wrote:
Sabin wrote:Blogger Karina Longworth

She looks like a grown-up Ramona Quimby

Ah -- you call up my childhood for me.

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5805
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Postby flipp525 » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:07 pm

Sabin wrote:Blogger Karina Longworth

She looks like a grown-up Ramona Quimby who's just escaped from an airless, ventless cellar after 15 years. Does she really need to define 'pejorative' for us?
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7301
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Postby Sabin » Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:46 pm

Blogger Karina Longworth of blog.spout.com which I find myself increasingly addicted to sez:

To borrow a line from Lou Lumenick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is this year’s Forrest Gump. This is not really arguable. In addition to sharing a screenwriter (Eric Roth), Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 Best Picture winner and David Fincher’s 2008 Best Picture front-runner (at least, as of this writing) both put groundbreaking special effects to the service of sprawling stories, spanning many decades and weaving a breadcrumb trail through modern American history, in which a man holds a torch for a woman who can’t reciprocate his love until her dreams of autonomy are spectacularly dashed. For me, the Gump comparison is a pejorative, a shorthand way to say, “This film will likely make a lot of money and win a lot of awards, and yet is so phony and cloying and gimmicky that its success will some day be seen by some as a tragedy.” But to others, the second coming of Gump would be a blessing. An Oscars-bait blockbuster? As Lumenick put it, apparently before seeing the film, “Paramount would be thrilled, and possibly the Academy would be as well.”

Watching Benjamin Button, occasionally I actively loathed it, but mostly I just felt genuinely disappointed that it seemed so lacking in genuine feeling. I’m a realist — I understand that the masses will probably go the other way on this one, and I won’t begrudge them that. But as a critic, it is my job to clearly state, for the record, what ignited that loathing and disappointment. This is something I did not do the last time I wrote about the film, and now that the film has screened for a larger portion of the press, I’d like to rectify that mistake. I’ve tried below to lay this out in as plain language as I can muster, so as to hopefully avoid any misunderstandings. After this writing, I promise –– I’m going to try very hard not to waste my energy trashing the inevitable prom king. There are so many movies that are so much more worthy of my attention, and frankly, I’m tired of fighting for my right to disagree.

So: Spoilers ahead!


First things first: this is a film in which the following things happen:

Two new lovers recline a sailboat somewhere in the Florida keys, where they are coincidentally treated to the sight of a NASA spacecraft taking off.

An old woman lays dying in a New Orleans hospital, the very day that, coincidentally, Hurricane Katrina rages outside.

A man and the son he gave up at birth coincidentally exit the same whorehouse at the same time, paving the way for the father to establish a relationship with his abandoned boy for the first time.
There is a ten minute-ish Introduction to Chaos Theory sequence, presumably so that we, as viewers, are equipped to rationalize the film’s dependence on incidental coincidence.

But before any of that, there’s a prologue. Shot in the palette of the Zapruder film with scratches and fuzzy grain to match, this tells us that at some point during World War I, a French-born, New Orleans-based clockmaker was commissioned to make a piece for the train station, and he deliberately made a clock that ticked backwards, “so that the boys we lost in the war might come home again.” An initially befuddled crowd is thus turned awestruck and appreciative, to which the clockmaker barks in a heavily accented monotone: “I hope you enjoy my clock.”

Cut to 1918, the last day of that war, and the birth of a baby “with all the infirmities not of a newborn but of a man well into his 80s, on the way to the grave”. When the mother dies in childbirth, the freaked-out father snatches the baby out of its cradle and runs it over to the back porch of an old age home, where it’s tripped over by the proprietor, Queenie. Because Queenie is a magical negro, she ignores her boyfriend’s non-interventionist admonitions and takes the baby in, raising it as her own kin.

“You never know what’s coming for you,” Queenie intones portentously when this opportunity arises. It’s a line that’ll be repeated throughout the film a number of times, and in the context of the film’s big fake Southern accents and big fake period detail, it plays like a whimsical, pie-eyed rewrite of the thesis statement of last year’s Best Picture winner; “You can’t stop what’s coming.”

What’s coming, of course, is that this aged baby will, thanks to the magic of a performance capture process developed for this purpose, slowly grow into a flawless specimen of man in the form of Brad Pitt. With few exceptions, the technology that puts Brad Pitt’s head on the body of other actors for the first quarter of the film (to describe the process with more finesse would be to give the philosophy behind it too much credit) achieves its intended result: it fools the eye, it almost looks real enough to drown out the inner knowledge that it is not real at all. But it’s hard not to question whether or not this lavish effects process is really necessary, if it’s anything more than a show-offy gimmick. In the last section of the film, when Benjamin ages backward from drinking age to infancy, he’s played by child actors who bear a resemblence to Pitt but aren’t asked to digitally wear his face. Fincher obviously thought pure casting was sufficient for his final act, so why wasn’t it good enough for his first?

Even if one were able to completely get over the gimmickry that makes that verisimilitude possible, there’s still something that feels off about this first section of the film, in the way the characters often seem to interact with Benjamin as if playing to the back row of a theater instead of to a person, smaller than them and right there in close quarters. This sense of a disconnect dissipates as the character ages and becomes more recognizably embodied by Pitt, but Fincher never goes long without finding an excuse to let an effect fill the frame and distract from what’s going on between people. In one of the first scenes where Benjamin is actually connecting to someone on an intimate level, he does so amidst a fog of almost comicly painterly CGI snow. A few scenes later, a hummingbird (which, it’s implied, carries the spirit of Button’s counterpart to Forrest Gump’s Ltnt. Dan) buzzes over a scene of World War 2 carnage, swooping across the screen like Tinkerbell. When this hummingbird popped up again, very near the end of the film, I half expected it to be wearing a tiny little Brad Pitt visage.

Though the use of certain of these effects may be unprecedented, there is precedent to the genre of the romantic effects epic, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Titanic, or Peter Jackson’s King Kong, those films succeed on a level where Button fails: their spectacular effects serve to support the romance at the core of the story, while Button’s effects only get in the way. The inner evolution of the characters seems incidental to Fincher. Increasingly as the film wears on, it seems as though the crux of each scene is the juxtaposition of a slightly younger Brad Pitt with a slightly older Cate Blanchett, and Fincher seems to move from one juxtaposition to next as quickly as possible as if he’s convinced that if he just hits every point on his predetermined timeline, the relationship itself will happen organically. It doesn’t.

And this isn’t full the fault of the effects. There’s no doubt that Fincher is in love with his imagery (this is the only explanation I can come up with for that chaos theory sequence, which plays as nothing but a flaunting of Fincher’s contractual right to final cut), but he doesn’t seem to trust it. Eric Roth’s script tells us over and over again, in very literal language and often via narration, that this is a film about loneliness and difference. Every feeling and every story detail is telegraphed in advance, underlined throughout and commented on after the fact.

Button is the opposite of Pitt’s last Oscar hopeful in that respect: The Assassination of Jesse James was a film in which every frame seemed to invite contemplation. Benjamin Button is a film in which every cut seems designed to block thought. Maybe the earlier film’s failure says it all about the philosophy behind Button’s construction: for audiences and Oscar voters, thinking is bad. Spoon-fed artifice is good.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

User avatar
Penelope
Site Admin
Posts: 5663
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2004 11:47 am
Location: Tampa, FL, USA

Postby Penelope » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:58 pm

Saw the trailer last night before Rachel Getting Married. The special effects looked good, but the story seemed a bit twee...and predictable.
"...it is the weak who are cruel, and...gentleness is only to be expected from the strong." - Leo Reston

"Cruelty might be very human, and it might be cultural, but it's not acceptable." - Jodie Foster

Sabin
Laureate
Posts: 7301
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 12:52 am
Contact:

Postby Sabin » Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:47 pm

The tide turns again (ish). Early reviews are less than promising as indicated by Hollywood-elsewhere.com and Karina Longworth at blog.spout.com. The latter seems especially unimpressed but under embargo to speak about it. It's being described as emotionally flat.

...again: this is ALL way too much too soon but 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' might not be the front-runner some have posited.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


Return to “2008”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest