Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button follows the life of a man (Brad Pitt) who ages backwards. Born an old man and raised in a retirement home, Benjamin grows, learns, falls in love, gets his heart broken, goes to war, and lives a full life - all in an increasingly youthful body. Benjamin doesn't achieve anything out of the ordinary in his lifetime and doesn't gain celebrity or recognition, but his unique peculiarity does have a startling effect - it throws his mortality into stark relief, coloring all the events and relationships in his life with melancholy tones of finality. As Benjamin grows younger, he sees everyone around him age and die, acutely aware of death throughout his life. The story is a dark fairy tale (literally read from a book in a clever framing device) and, like my favorite movie, is the confession of a man living under the cloud of regret and despair. The moral is made clear: forwards or backwards, life is fragile and death is an inevitability for everyone.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is up for 13 Academy Awards - more than any film this year. The nominations are for Lead Actor (Pitt), Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Editing, Score, Adapted Screenplay, Director, and Best Picture. It's sure to win more than a few and its best shots are for Makeup and Visual Effects, which combine seamlessly to create the illusion of age and put Brad Pitt's performance into an ever-changing body. It is also a likely winner for Costumes, Art Direction, and Cinematography. It is outmatched by heavy favorites in the other categories but might pull upsets for its score, screenplay, and editing.

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