Archive for the ‘Bradd Pitt’ Category

DVD review: ‘Benjamin Button’ so long it may age you

May 5, 2009

As far as Oscar-bait movies go, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is at least lovely to behold. And I’m not talking about its stars, including Brad Pitt, who spends much of the movie in old-man mold as he plays a person who’s born ancient and grows gradually into childhood.

The film’s astutely used New Orleans settings and CG-driven magic give it a painterly if not almost otherworldly look, which certainly befits its preposterous fantasy of growing younger, rather than older. (I mean, really — must we take this as seriously as director David Fincher and company? After all, we’re not getting paid to do so.)

But beyond lovely looks — and another great performance by Cate Blanchett as Benjamin’s longtime love — the film is a languid, glum, slow go — sort of Forrest Gump without the box of chocolates.

Its decades-long sprawl, voyage of self-discovery, off and on romance and far-flung locales make it an epic, but it’s an epic which rarely moves — or moved me. In part that’s because Pitt is such a low-key non-presence on screen, as if he’s trying to outdo Tobey Maguire in the no-acting style of acting.

Make this a 100-minute movie and it might have held my attention. Turn it into a 165-minute epic and I grow impatient as Benjamin grows younger.

But the Criterion Collection which released Button’s new DVD is content to make the viewing experience longer still — at least for those who want to penetrate its movie magic. Among many other extras, a feature-length look at The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button is exceptionally well made and revealing.

Then again, it lays bare the aforementioned magic — and why do that? Whatever charm and appeal I drew from this film lay in the spells it cast, and showing how it’s all done turns such magic into mere moviemaking exercises. For big fans, Criterion doesn’t disappoint, but for casual viewers who feel this film is overblown already, more is less.

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If Jolie and Pitt seek permanence, it’s not ‘for a while’

December 18, 2008

I had to laugh at this one — and share it with you.

If you surf the News from WENN items on imdb.com — not a bad source for celeb gossip — you may enjoy reading an item dated Dec. 17 on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt settling down in France, a la Johnny Depp. But beware of the lead sentence, which says Jolie and Pitt are doing this “because their family need a permanent base for a while.”

First, “family,” though it signifies a group, is a singular noun, like team, not a plural, like families or teams. So it should be “family needs.” And then there’s this doozy — the quite amusing assertion that the couple is seeking “a permanent base for a while.”

Permanent is permanent, just as unique is unique. There are no degrees of permanence, and certainly it never signifies a transient state that’s going to be just “for a while.” Similarly, “unique” means one of a kind, and has no variations or degrees. Your fingerprints are unique. Each snowflake is supposedly unique. But nothing is “very unique,” which you often hear, as if something can be more one-of-a-kind than another thing can be one-of-a-kind.

What’s needed here, from all of us, is to beware of words that are absolutes, because often we mean something else. “Permanent” and “unique” are absolutes, with no degrees or shades of gray.

The WENN item could have said Jolie and Pitt are seeking a lasting, ongoing, steady, regular, stable or otherwise consistent base “for a while.” But if it’s a permanent base, it’s not “for a while.” It’s for good — forever.

Similarly, instead of claiming that something — say, a film — is “very unique,” it could be called “very distinctive,” “very unusual” or simply “singular.” Technically, all films are unique, in that each has different material. But the meaning in claims of uniqueness is usually flattery, in the sense that a film stands out from the rest. So it’s not just another film — it’s a highly distinctive one.

There — I feel better. I know it’s not a big deal in itself, but the slow slide toward illiteracy in this world is made worse when it’s perpetuated by mass media, which should know better. Words have very clear and definite meanings. Words are precious communications tools. Words matter. And if we continually muddy the waters of their meaning, we’re not truly communicating.

Thanks, now I’m going back to surfing the Internet — but not permanently. No, just for a while.