Why I Hate Benjamin Button and My Final Picks
This was a great year for movies. Historically, in times of economic crisis, people flock to the movies, and this year was no different. And, thankfully, the movies were a remarkable place for retreat – for entertainment, for introspection, and for, of course, popcorn.
Milk and the Reader raised awareness, and nudged at our collective conscience. Frost/Nixon was not only a vehicle to showcase the talent of a tragically overlooked actor, but an overdue reminder of the need for accountability in our elected leaders.
But this, this is the year of the Slumdog – Slumdog Millionaire. While there’s something a bit daft about a kid going on a game show in the hopes of finding and winning his childhood soulmate, this film touched us – the storytelling, to me, was reminiscent of Life is Beautiful. The children in this film were so good, they broke your heart. By the time love triumphs over greed and evil, and everyone is dancing in a train station a la Fame’s Hot Lunch cafeteria scene, I was doing a bouncy little chair dance along with them. I don’t know what Jai Ho means, but it sounds joyous and lovely.
So, my pick for Best Picture, and everyone’s pick, is Slumdog Millionaire. Not only will it win, it should win.
And what about Benjamin Button, this Gump rip-off, this playground for digital technology substituting for actual acting? Button, to me, was not a movie, but a video game, and honestly, I would have preferred to see Mamma Mia nominated than this unimaginative Speilberg knock-off.
Which brings me to the category of Best Adapted Screenplay, and again, I would toss Button right out of this category too – the only source material from which this movie grew was Forrest Gump, not F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, because the only thing Button adapts from the original short story is the title, and the concept of aging backwards. The original story was honest in way that Brad’s Button never imagines. Button in the story, while aging backwards, is still human, and flawed. He does not have a “life is like a box of chocolate attitude.” To the contrary, he’s a jealous creature, and competitive; he’s a bad son, a bad husband and a bad father. He is attracted to his wife while they are the same age, but as she ages, and he grows younger, he gets bored, and hides her away. And this, frankly, is believable. Eventually, he becomes a child to the children he parented, but having been a bad parent, they are hardly ideal parents to him. In Fitzgerald’s Button, aging, whether backward or forward, will get you to the same place in the end, and when you get there, you will either be loved or you won’t – it all depends on how you lived.
Again, for Adapted Screenplay – I’m going with Slumdog.
So, here are my final picks:
Best Picture: Slumdog
Actor: Mickey Rourke
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger – not just because he’s tragically dead, but because he was great
Actress: Kate Winslet
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis – it may have only been 12 minutes – but toe to toe with Meryl Streep for 12 minutes counts for at least 24
Director: Danny Boyle
Documentary Feature: Man on a Wire
Documentary Short: The Conscience of Nhem En
Animated Feature: Wall-E
Foreign Language Film – Waltz with Bashir
Original Screenplay – Milk
Adapted Screenplay – Slumdog
Cinematography – Slumdog
Art Direction – The Dark Knight
Animated Short – Presto
Life Action Short – The Pig
Visual Effects – Benjamin Button
Costume Design – The Duchess
Film Editing – Slumdog
Sound Mixing – The Dark Knight
Sound Editing – The Dark Knight
Original Score – Slumdog
Original Song – Jai Ho
Makeup – Benjamin Button
So, chill those champagne flutes, and enjoy the Hugh Jackman show!