The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Criterion Collection

benjamin_buttonBenjamin Button, Criterion Collection’s #476, gets released tomorrow both as a two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray.   But a lot of people seem to be up in arms over Mr. Button getting “the Criterion treatment,” mostly because it’s a new movie that hasn’t had a chance to stand the test of time.  Why does it matter?  I love the Criterion Collection and it amazes me how people get pissed when they realize a mainstream movie is being put on the Criterion label.  What’s more, who cares?

David Fincher has proved himself as a director, not to mention the fact Criterion previously released Se7en and The Game on laserdisc the SAME YEAR they came out.  In fact, CC released several laserdiscs that coincided with their release date in the 1990’s, so it seems strange that every time a new film gets picked up by Criterion, people act like such elitists.  These are the same people that praise Robocop and The Royal Tenenbaums for having a Criterion spine number, but turn around and shun the fact that Armageddon and The Rock were also released (okay, they should’ve probably thought that one through more), but the point remains that Criterion has a pretty good track record and they’re eventually going to run out of classic and foreign films. I think there are plenty worse choices than Benjamin Button to complain about.  I’m not saying Criterion hasn’t put out some questionable titles, but I doubt someone could collect their entire catalogue and not be completely satisfied for having such an extensive and important film library.

Also important, Benjamin Button is a pretty damn good movie.  The directing was great, the story and screenplay were excellent, and the acting was far superior to some of the fodder most people go to see at the movie theater on a weekly basis.  I think an important reason CC released Benjamin Button was because of their relationship with directors like Fincher; just like other directors that are still living and have a film on Criterion, most have the label that say “Director Approved” on the packaging. Criterion takes good care of the movies they inherit, so I have faith they’ll do a good job; I bet some of the whiners might even be taken by surprise.

The two-disc Criterion Edition DVD and two-disc Criterion Blu-ray include the following special features:

  • Interviews with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett
  • Audio commentary featuring Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher
  • Never-before-seen footage revealing the innovative techniques behind the Academy Award–winning visual effects and makeup
  • Step-by-step examination of the motion-capture process aging Brad Pitt
  • In-depth exploration of David Fincher’s creative process on the set
  • Interview with acclaimed composer Alexandre Desplat about the score
  • Featurettes on the film’s storyboards, costumes, and Academy Award–winning art direction
  • Stills galleries, including costume design and candid behind-the-scenes production photos
  • Optional French- and Spanish-dubbed soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and optional French and Spanish subtitles
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Kent Jones

Based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, the film is an excellent tale with excellent characters who provide an excellent performance.  There aren’t many movies like Benjamin Button, which is probably why Criterion choose it as one of their rare inductees into their elite collection so soon.

order The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:   DVDBlu-ray

B+

2009 Academy Awards

Best Picture

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  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Cean Chaffin
  • Frost/Nixon – Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Eric Fellner
  • Milk – Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen
  • The Reader – Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Redmond Morris, Donna Gigliotti
  • Slumdog MillionaireChristian Colson

Who’s Going to Win: Slumdog Millionaire – Slumdog has won pretty much every award so far, at least the ones that matter.  It’s international appeal, feel good story and solid cast make for a shoe in win.

Who Should Win: Milk – It’s really the most complete movie of the bunch.  Gus Van Sant is the best director of the nominees, the cast is incredible, and it was beautifully written and shot.  The fact that it’s a biopic shouldn’t matter because of the way Van Sant shot it, although ultimately, I think it will.

Best Director

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  • Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry – The Reader
  • David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant – Milk

Who’s Going to Win: Dan Boyle – I think this year might have Slumdog all over it because it’s a film that transcends a lot of boundaries–time, place, character interaction and character study, and Danny Boyle knew exactly how to elicit all of those feelings.

Who Should Win: Gus Van Sant – He’s probably one of the smartest directors right now and it shows in Milk.  The fact that he manages to pull of a biopic as something so much more, something on the level of a Forrest Gump, shows the mastery of his craft.

Best Actor

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  • Richard Jenkins – The Visitor
  • Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn – Milk
  • Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler

Who’s Going to WinMickey Rourke – Everyone knows about Mickey’s dedication to a role.  Darren Aronofsky give’s Mickey this challenge, forcing his directing style on him, and ultimately got the best out of him.

Who Should WinMickey Rourke – If there was another actor this year that ripped his heart and soul out for a movie like Rourke did–i.e. razor blades to the scalp, staple guns to the chest, and garbage cans to the head; all for the sake of realism in the role–I’d invite you to speak up now.

Best Actress

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  • Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie – Changeling
  • Melissa Leo – Frozen River
  • Meryl Streep – Doubt
  • Kate Winslet – The Reader

Who’s Going to Win: Kate Winslet – I thought her role alongside Leo in Revolutionary Road was a more challenging role, but her silence in The Reader speaks volumes.  Even though it’s supposed to be her time for an Ocsar, it might have been for the wrong movie.

Who Should Win: Melissa Leo – She played her character to the T in this one.  This is a the role of a lifetime and she absolutely nails it.

Best Supporting Actor

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  • Josh Brolin – Milk
  • Robert Downey, Jr. – Tropic Thunder
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt
  • Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road

Who’s Going to Win: Heath Ledger – His character is beyond measure in some cases, and at the same time is all too believable–it’s probably the best performance of the entire year.  If you haven’t seen this performance, you live in a cave.

Who Should Win: Heath Ledger – You can honestly say this piece of work transcends genre, which is something that the academy is always looking for and his untimely death only meant that he couldn’t be around to deliver more characters with this much passion.

Best Supporting Actress

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  • Amy Adams – Doubt
  • Penélope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis – Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler

Who’s Going to Win: Penelope Cruz – She’s the quintessential piece to Woody Allen’s puzzle, bringing a lively character to a film that might not have shined so brightly had she not been there.

Who Should Win: Taraji P. Henson – I’m sorry, but Henson’s role of Queenie just brought a tear to my eye that hardly any other piece of cinema can do–Forrest Gump was a rare one to do the same, and look whose holding the Oscar now.

Best Original Screenplay

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  • WALL-E – Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter
  • Happy-Go-Lucky – Mike Leigh
  • Frozen River – Courtney Hunt
  • In Bruges – Martin McDonagh
  • Milk – Dustin Lance Black

Who’s Going to Win: Milk – When Milk loses best picture and director, this is the “apology note” the academy will have to offer.

Who Should Win: In Bruges – Colin Farrell, where have you gone?  It’s hard getting the best out of him, and with this story, it was very telling how powerful a script can be for an actor.  Sadly, an overlooked film this year.

Best Adapted Screenplay

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  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
  • Frost/Nixon – Peter Morgan
  • The Reader – David Hare
  • Slumdog Millionaire – Simon Beaufoy
  • Doubt – John Patrick Shanley

Who’s Going to Win: Slumdog Millionaire – It’s the juggernaut of the bunch and there’s no film that can stop it.

Who Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – This story was beautifully written.  Fincher had his work cut out for him in how to film this story…and he slam dunked it.

Best Animated Feature

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  • Bolt – Chris Williams and Byron Howard
  • Kung Fu Panda – Mark Osborne and John Stevenson
  • WALL-E – Andrew Stanton

Who’s Going to Win: WALL-E – come on…who doesn’t like that little robot?!  It’s the greatest Disney character I can think of.

Who Should Win: WALL-E – It’s WALL-E

Best Cinematography

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  • Changeling
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Who’s Going to WinSlumdog Millionaire – Anthony Dod Mantle is flawless at moving shots across vast areas, and capturing emotion from actors at different angles.

Who Should WinSlumdog Millionaire – The aerial shots taken were incredible and the aspects presented left you in awe…expect Mantle to be leaving with a 1st place trophy.