Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Awards Preview: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

For those of you confused by the curiously long title, this is the movie where Brad Pitt is born as an old guy and gradually gets younger. In other words, it could actually be called The Curious Case of Plastic Surgery in Modern Hollywood.

Ba-zing! Whatever its title, the film is undoubtedly the odds-on favorite right now to win Best Picture. Don't believe me? Just ask Buzzmeter.

Why is it winning the Oscar race so far? According to Dave Karger, because it's a weepie:
Button is an Oscar movie with a capital O, with jaw-dropping production values, a soaring romance, and terrific performances, particularly from supporting-actress candidate Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's de facto mother. Even if Brad Pitt doesn't make it into the tough Best Actor race (the likes of Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio may squeeze him out), I still can see Button racking up as many as 11 nominations, which could very well be the highest tally for any film this year. Once the film opens on Christmas day, I guarantee we'll all be talking about one thing: whether or not Benjamin Button made you sob.
Titanic, Schindler's List, Driving Miss Daisy, Ordinary People, American Beauty, The English Patient, On the Waterfront, The Apartment... all of these movies won Best Picture, and they're all weepies. Well, you weep during all of them, if you're human.

Being a weepie is generally the best way to score an Oscar nomination for Best Picture (once again, Atonement, I am looking in your direction), the same way making yourself ugly is a good way to get an Oscar nod for Best Actress (Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman).

So what does the rest of our panel of experts think? Here's david:
BENJAMIN BUTTON is gonna make a splash of some kind come its xmas release. the film is in line with fincher's zodiac in its stately, matter-of-fact pace and tone. a gentle, cumulatively devastating film about (a) life that almost entirely circumvents peaks and valleys, it's astonishing cg and digital dreamscapes make it play like an elegy for a life not yet lived. it features some of the most practical and seamless effects work of any film ever (EVER), and i'll be more than a little offended if something a bit splashier steals the tech awards. film's unforced grace is not going to work to its advantage come february, so my initial guess is that it'll dominate the nominations (expect it to garner the most of any film with nods across the board from make-up to maybe even actor and of course picture), but perhaps fall short of the podium. SEE IT.
This coming from the guy who, yes, hated The Dark Knight (cue protest from LoquaciousMuse). Oh, and speaking of LoquaciousMuse:
Benjamin Button leaves the audience oddly emotionally detatched in what should be a tearjerker.
Okay. So the movie is either:
  1. A tearjerker.
  2. Supposed to be a tearjerker.
Well, I got news for you, sports fans (or movie fans? It's just an expression). Whether or not Benjamin Button actually makes you cry, the point that it's supposed to is going to be enough, and probably more than enough. The last time a movie that was supposed to be a weepie but wasn't got shunned for a Best Picture nod was 2003 with Cold Mountain, and that was just a mess.

I don't know if this movie can win the big award, as that would make it two years in a row of two really-long-titled movies winning Best Picture (after No Country For Old Men last year). At any rate, Cate Blanchett better start trying on dresses, and Brad needs to fit Maddox, Pax and Knox for tuxedos. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will be nominated for Oscars, lots of them, and right now is the odds-on-favorite to win the big prize. Not bad for a silly title.


david said...

benjamin button is NOT supposed to be a weepie... and it isn't. methinks that's obviously its biggest hurdle as far as the awards derby goes... it's a bittersweet shiver that just can't be shook rather than a punch to the gut, and it's all the better for it.

and i didn't HATE dark knight. i just thought it is a deeply flawed piece of entertainment thats tact is clumsily outpaced by its ambition. it's a fine movie - a good movie... but laughable to call it a GREAT movie in my absurdly immodest opinion. :)

... an opinion that looouuurrvveed atonement... and ALSO is quite fond of your blog. so reconcile THAT!

Brendan M. Leonard said...

The Oscar this year will in all likelyhood go to a feel-good picture, and although Dark Knight has the sequence on the ferry, the material surrounding it is almost relentlessly dark. I can see Button taking it.

On the other hand, it's David Fincher, who, as I said on my own blog, has gotten the short end of the stick many times by the Academy, and his comments on the film -- that he was more interested in the ideas of death and mortality rather than uplift -- aren't exactly the kind that play.

I think it gets Picture, Actor (Eastwood won't be nominatied; DiCaprio might), Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. (Because it's Eric Roth, writer of Gump.)* It wins for Visual Effects.

*Button could very much fall into the "easily misunderstood/misses the point" category of Gump.

LoquaciousMuse said...

I haven't seen Benjamin Button yet, so just going off the opinion of those I know who have seen it (the ones who live in my house) and they found it to be very cold, not feel good at all. And that it seemed to them to be the kind of movie that would make you cry, but didn't at all. I mean, maybe I will love it. I probably will.

Brendan M. Leonard said...

Again, I don't mean to be harping on this, but David Fincher does not make weepies. He's a very unsentimental filmmaker and his work can certainly come off as "detached" or "cold." WB may be setting up Button as the Best Picture to Beat, but I think there may be some backlash once it premieres and people find out it's not what they expect. I say that having not seen it.

Brendan M. Leonard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.