CCURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, THE

    365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 168    Release Year: 2008 Oscar Wins: Best Art Direction Best Makeup Best Visual Effects Oscar Nominations: Best Picture  Best Director Best Actor Best Supporting Actress Best Adapted Screenplay Best Cinematography Best Editing Best Costume Design Best Sound Best Original Score OFFICIAL CRITERION DISC NUMBER: 476 THE STORY SO FAR: The technical dazzle of The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonis a truly astonishing thing to behold: this...
May 4, 200912 min

 

 

365 High-Def Days of Oscar: Day 168 
 
Release Year: 2008

Oscar Wins:

Best Art Direction

Best Makeup

Best Visual Effects

Oscar Nominations:

Best Picture 

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best Cinematography

Best Editing

Best Costume Design

Best Sound

Best Original Score

OFFICIAL CRITERION DISC NUMBER: 476

THE STORY SO FAR:

The technical dazzle of The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonis a truly astonishing thing to behold: this story of a man who ages backwards requires Brad Pitt to begin life as a tiny elderly man, then blossom into middle age, and finally, wisely, become young. How director David Fincher–with makeup artists, special-effects wizards, and body doubles–achieves this is one of the main sources of fascination in the early reels of the movie. The premise is loosely borrowed from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story (and bears an even stronger resemblance to Andrew Sean Greer’s novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli), with young/old Benjamin growing up in New Orleans, meeting the girl of his dreams (Cate Blanchett), and sharing a few blissful years with her until their different aging agendas send them in opposite directions. The love story takes over the second half of the picture, as Eric Roth’s script begins to resemble his work on Forrest Gump. This is too bad, because Benjamin’s early life is a wonderfully picaresque journey, especially a set of midnight liaisons with a Russian lady (Tilda Swinton) in an atmospheric hotel. Fincher observes all this with an entomologist’s eye, cool and exacting, which keeps the material from getting all gooey. Still, the Hurricane Katrina framing story feels put-on, and the movie lets Benjamin slide offscreen during its later stages–curious indeed.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button—four-part documentary:
  • Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher introduces the surprising beginnings of what would become an epic masterpiece including the casting of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the decision to change the location of the story to New Orleans and more.
  • Follow the production from day one including the challenges of aging Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, designing over five thousand costumes and creating the animatronic baby.
  • Explore the incredible visual effects techniques created specifically for the film that allowed Brad Pitt to play the title character at virtually every age. Also includes a visit to the scoring stage with composer Alexandre Desplat.
  • Walk the red carpet at the film’s premiere in New Orleans, with final thoughts from cast and crew.
  • Audio Commentary by director David Fincher
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Kent Jones

THE CRITICISM

Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, a man who essentially ages backwards. When he is born, his own father attempts to drown him before a sudden change of heart has him leaving the swaddled and very whithered newborn upon the steps of an elderly home. There he is found by Queenie, played to motherly perfection by Taraji P. Henson. She sees past the deformity and oddity and loves him immediately.

Instead of dying, as a doctor predicted, Benjamin actually begins to age backwards. He appears as a very old man and slowly grows younger, but only in body. His mind seems to function as a typical human’s mind. He learns, and dreams and experiences. This basically sets up the magnificent story and from then on, you are taken from country to country, from one decade, to another and it is just superb to witness.

The acting is fantastic all around. Brad Pitt does an outstanding job, portraying both the old Benjamin as well as his younger counterpart. Cate Blanchett as his childhood friend/love interest is also a joy to watch. She can do no wrong, she is simply stunning. For such a short part, Tilda Swinton surely makes the most of it. Her tale and part with Benjamin in Russia is just stunning. There is also the talented Julia Ormond, who has a bigger part to play in the tale than we may realise at first.

The most impressive aspect of the film is the flawless visual effects. Just flawless. You have never seen aging/deaging done like this. There is a scene, towards the end, with Benjamin and Daisy (Blanchett) that had my jaw dropping. It was like looking back in time. I can’t describe how utterly impressed I was. The cinematography, the sad musical score, the costumes, just every little minute detail is just so impressive and authentic.

This is one of the best Blu-Ray discs that I’ve ever seen. The A/V Quality is mastered in lossless audio and 1080p. The visuals are damn revolutionary. There’s a four-part documentary that goes over everything that was applied to the film for the various visual effects. But, watching even a documentary in HD of this caliber is amazing. Sometimes, I’ve just got to stop and applaud a company for kicking so much ass on the home entertainment level. Paramount teaming up with Criterion was a natural move and I hope it continues to open up new doors. 

The special features are exciting and very detailed. But, you might start to get bored listening to Desplat talk about the score for the umpteenth time. It’s an embarassment of riches, as you have what it took two DVDs to do crammed onto 1 Blu-Ray. I wish that Criterion would get a little more friendly with the BD-Java action. It would help to have specific elements of the documentary come up or getting to hear a Fincher thought on specific scenes rather than the entire commentary track. As it stands, this is the Blu-Ray to beat this year.

Criterion/Paramount mastered the disc in DTS HD-MA and 1080 picture quality. Reference scenes include the World War II battle at sea aboard the Chelsea. Also, don’t overlook the quiet scenes involving the Hurricane Katrina story framing or the unveiling of the clock that runs backwards. There’s many smaller moments with expansive A/V moments that will leave your home theater rattled. This is the most recommended blind buy of the year thus far. 

 

THE BREAKDOWN

  • Video: The best that a film can look on Blu-Ray
  • Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio (Lossless)
  • Extras: Featurettes, Trailer, Documentary, Commentary and more!
  • Packaging: Keepcasein a Slipcover
  • Final Score: 100% – A+

 

RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!

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