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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2009)

From the DVD Shelf: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and Valkyrie

I know some people who can’t stand to see a movie a second time — they think “been there, done that, I’d rather see something new.”  I certainly don’t have anything against seeing something new, but I’m also someone who loves seeing movies for a second time — and, if it’s a good movie, seeing it many more times after that!  (I’m the same way with books, comic books, etc. — I love re-reading stories that I enjoyed multiple times.)

I find that my feelings upon watching a film for a second time often vary wildly from the experience of seeing it originally.  I can absorb the film without all the baggage of hype, my anticipation, etc.  I can also more accurately judge the movie for what it is, rather than what I had hoped it would be or was expecting it would be.

During September I had a chance to take a second look at three films that I really enjoyed during last year’s Oscar rush of films (in late December 2008).  Did my feelings about them change, for better or for worse, upon a second viewing?  Read on!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — read my original review here.  Benjamin Button was one of my very favorite movies from last year (it ranked as no. 6 on my list of my favorite films from 2008) and, if anything, I was even more in awe of it the second time around.  The film is magnificent.  It is one of those special collaborations where every single element works just perfectly, from the gorgeous sets and costumes, to the jaw-dropping visual effects (that create fully-realized environments from France to Russia to a tug-boat in the middle of the Pacific, not to mention the completely convincing creation and de-aging of Benjamin Button himself that is as wonderful a combination of makeup, prosthetics, and incredible CGI as I have ever seen), to the wonderful performances by Brad Pitt (who proves in every film he’s in why he is so deserving of his movie-star fame), Cate Blanchett, and a wonderful array of other talented actors.  Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) knows how to incorporate cutting-edge visual effects into a film without ever letting those effects overpower the film, and he knows how to tell a deeply emotional tale without ever veering into schmaltz.  As I said: magnificent.  (I also had the fun of watching this film on Blu-Ray, and let me say that my jaw was on the floor at the clarity of the images, the colors, everything.  As the enclosed booklet notes, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was created in the digital realm without ever … [continued]

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This is the film I’ve been waiting for.

Steph and I took advantage of our vacation to see a LOT of the big Oscar-hopeful films that have been released in the past few weeks.  As usual, there has been a crazy end-of-the-year rush of “serious” films, many of which won’t get a wide release for several weeks yet.  While we enjoyed almost all of the films we saw (and I’ll be writing about them all in the coming days), none of them really stood out.  Until David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The film is magnificent.  It is emotional and haunting, and it is epic and transporting in all the ways that a truly special film is.  Spanning the years (almost a century) between the last day of World War I and the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the life story of Benjamin (Brad Pitt), who is born as a baby with all the features of an extremely aged man, and who proceeds to live his life aging backwards.  But while Benjamin Button gets the film’s title all to himself, the movie is also every bit the story of his true love, Daisy (Cate Blanchett).  Pitt and Blanchett both turn in powerful, subtle performances.  Benjamin Button is a very quiet film — there are not a lot of acting histrionics to be found.  With the help of amazing makeup and absolutely seamless CGI work, Pitt and Blanchett breathe poignant life into these two people through all the many years of their lives, as one gets older and the other gets younger.  This is a story about loss, about loneliness, and about death, and it is made staggeringly powerful by the way that Pitt and Blanchett capture the audience with their performances.

Over the course of Benjamin’s curious life, he meets quite a few other interesting folks, embodied by some wonderful actors.  Taraji P. Henson plays Benjamin’s sweet and powerful adoptive mother, Queenie.  Mahershalalhashbaz Ali (who was the best thing about the cancelled-too-soon sci-fi series The 4400, and good god do I love his name) plays Tizzy, the man who, for too short a while, becomes a father figure for Benjamin.  Jared Harris plays another father figure, the charismatic, often-drunk Captain Mike, who helps the young Benjamin take his first steps out into the wider world.  Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) plays Thomas Button, Benjamin’s biological father, bringing complexity and depth too this man who we (and Benjamin) should hate but can’t quite do so.  Then there’s Tilda Swinton, who has been getting a lot of press, and rightly so, for her performance as Elizabeth Abbott, a … [continued]