Saturday, March 14, 2009

Post Oscar Watch: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Movie Title: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Jared Harris, Tilda Swinton and Jason Flemyng.
Directed By: David Fincher
Genre: Drama/Fantasy
My Rating: 8.5/10

Turns out that Slumdog Millionaire wasn't the only Oscar contender this year that was shot in India. A few scenes of Benjamin Button were shot there too, but nothing too significant. Just a cool surprise.

And about the movie. Brilliant, just brilliant. A little long (2:40 hours) and comparable to Forrest Gump - extraordinary outcast and his life from beginning to end. This time the protagonist was played by Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt, a very versatile and much more talented actor than he gets credit for in Hollywood. Scandals don't always help a career, but they may not make it worse either.

Set in New Orleans in the late 1930's, Benjamin Button was born under unusual circumstances and adopted by a caretaker at a seniors nursing home (played passionately by Taraji P. Henson who truly deserves her Oscar nomination). The baby was just born old, and slowly ages backward. He can't walk until he's 7, where he is faith healed into making his first steps. Then he starts un-balding, un-hunchbacking, and basically keeps getting younger. After a serious of sailing expeditions through the second world war with his cockney tugboat captain (Jared Harris), Benjamin returns home and re-connects with his redheaded childhood sweetheart, Daisy, played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett. She's an Oscar winner, very good at picking her movies, and seldom stars in a flop movie these days. In many ways, her presence overshadowed Pitt's performance. A younger, better looking, lesser known and less illustrious actress could have been a better fit to throw more light on the protagonist on the movie. Also, I am surprised that Blanchett won an Oscar for Aviator but got overlooked for Button? Well, I guess there can only be five nominees for each award each year. Pitt did deserve his nomination, mind you.

The locales and cinematography was just superb. More than that, the special effects/CGI and makeup to make a 40+ Pitt look different ages throughout the movie was better done than ever before in movie history. Nothing in the art department was one bit overdone, and I respect that. The direction and acting was good too. Jason Flemyng made brief appearances as Benjamin's biological father running a guilt trip for abandoning his son and being all alone in his old age.

So my rating formula has changed quite a bit. Previously, I would give 8/10 for a movie I spent ten bucks to watch at the theater, enjoyed it, but wouldn't bother watching it on HBO months later. Benjamin Button is much better than that, but I assessed it to the best of my abilities. 8.5/10. Good watch, just be aware that it's 2 hours and 40 minutes long.

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