Friday, December 26, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

David Fincher’s memorable new drama, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is a wonderful movie that is loosely based on the 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, in Fitzgerald’s story Benjamin was physically, mentally and emotionally older at birth and got younger on all fronts.

The film’s structure starts in a New Orleans hospital in 2005 on the eve of Hurricane Katrina. Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is on her deathbed. Her daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond) is reading a diary kept by Daisy’s childhood friend Benjamin (beautifully played by Brad Pitt in a bittersweet and endearing performance).

At nearly three hours, the movie is too dense to fully explore, but as Benjamin ages in reverse, we find him meeting along the way all those people who will become important to him. Through reading the diary we flash back from 1918 and follow Benjamin and Daisy up to the 21st century.

Throughout this movie, there’s an ache to the proceedings that’s palpable, particularly as Benjamin slowly turns into the man we eventually recognize as Brad Pitt while those close to him move into the old age he already has experienced. As he grows younger and younger, he watches those closest to him slip away while he himself is fueled by a vitality they have long since forgotten.

This film is rich and intelligent, it's beautifully shot and just as well acted. I would say that it's one of the years best movies.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in Baz Luhrmann's epic tale of adventure, romance, war and racial reconciliation Down Under in the movie Australia.

It's 1939. Concerned that her husband is cheating on her, the aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley flies to the remote tip of Northern Australia to grab him by force and drag him back home to England. But his ‘mistress’ is in reality a cattle ranch that others have been trying to steal from him. All Lady Ashley discovers is the crumbling spread called Faraway Downs and a murdered husband. Though she means to leave, she finds herself inexplicably attached to an aboriginal child, as well as intrigued by the challenge of saving the ranch.

Fortunately, to accomplish this, she has help from the rough-edged Drover (Hugh Jackman) and a small team of loyal employees, who must all race across the desert to Darwin to break cattle baron King Carney's (Bryan Brown) monopoly on the armed forces' meat supply. Soon Sarah, Drover and the recently orphaned aboriginal boy, Nullah (excellent newcomer Brandon Walters) have formed a loving, if not quite legitimate, family unit, but there are further troubles brooding on the endless horizon.

This is a classic old-school epic set-up with Kidman and Jackman delivering big performances and chemistry we'd expect from the big ticket 1930s Hollywood film or, in 1997, Titanic. The story and the characters are all larger than life.

Australia won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its blend of old-fashioned film making and fantasy had me hooked.