My quest to catch all 5 nominees for the Best Picture Oscar came to a screeching halt mid-week when the Queen took ill. Luckily she’s back on her feet and we’ve managed to catch two more of the heralded flicks (Frost/Nixon will be the only that misses the cut by the time the Academy Awards start at 8pm tonight). The big question that’s been on my mind is which film robbed The Dark Knight of what I thought was its rightful place as a Best Picture nominee. You can catch my take on the overrated Slumdog Millionaire here and my feelings on The Reader here.
Up next was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by David Fincher, who I’ve been a huge fan of since his cinematic debut in 1992, Alien 3, a film that was poorly received when first released but that’s actually aged quite nicely. Fincher is a true cinematic visionary, with an amazing style. He seems to alternate between box office hits (Seven, Panic Room) and misses (The Game, Fight Club), but his work with Brad Pitt no doubt brings out the best in that actor’s limited repertoire. That being said, had it not been for its multitude of Oscar nominations and my current quest, I’m not sure I’d have had much interest in seeing his latest film, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. The story, of a man born old and aging backwards, just had very little appeal to me, even though it was based on a short story by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald. But I made a commitment and I was determined to keep it.
Like Slumdog Millionaire before it, when I finished watching …Benjamin Button I couldn’t quite figure out the hype around the film or why it was given a Best Picture nomination. I suppose the fact that it’s a nearly 3 hour epic has a lot to do with it. And while the film, like every David Fincher picture, looks great, there wasn’t anything particular dynamic about it. It certainly didn’t have any of the style and uniqueness that is usually Fincher’s calling card. The movie plodded for me, and wound up being what I’d consider a poor man Forrest Gump. You can’t deny the similarities. A coming of age story that spans generations; one man’s love for the girl he met when they were both young. A mother figure, lack of father figure. And a seafaring captain who should have just been named Lieutenant Dan. But unlike Forrest Gump, none of the supporting characters in Benjamin Button are memorable, though Cate Blanchett had far more to do playing the female lead in this film then Robin Wright-Penn had playing Jenny in Forrest Gump.
As for Brad Pitt, I thought he was just fine in the role. But I don’t think he really had that much to do either. I didn’t think he acted in scenes as much as just kind of stood around in them. There’s no way he stands a chance in the Best Actor category when he’s up against heavyweight performances from Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn.
In my opinion, I don’t think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of the best pictures of the year. It’s not even one of the best pictures in the David Fincher catalogue. It certainly isn’t as compelling as The Dark Knight. Which makes it another film that I’d argue stole the Caped Crusader’s rightful spot in the Best Picture category.
Up next, The Dark Knight takes on Milk.