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Oscar Watch: Early Benjamin Button Review

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 12, 2008 at 5:40AM

EDITED TO READ: So, to be clear: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Not a Variety review or a review at all. What it is: Notes from a viewer's responses to a screening of David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt as the man who ages backwards. Get annoyed, growl, sneer, be jealous... whatever you like, just don't call it a review. The person is neither a reviewer nor associated with the film in any way.
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EDITED TO READ: So, to be clear: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Not a Variety review or a review at all. What it is: Notes from a viewer's responses to a screening of David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt as the man who ages backwards. Get annoyed, growl, sneer, be jealous... whatever you like, just don't call it a review. The person is neither a reviewer nor associated with the film in any way.

OK, moving on. Among the impressions: It's magic realism (we knew that) and great technology (figured as much), but! "It's not remotely what I'd call cold." Interesting, since it's a criticism often leveled at Fincher's work. And while there's definitely "sentimentality," it's "toughened by the continual sense of loss and deep sadness at the transitory nature of the human condition."

At this point, the writer praises it into the stratosphere, calling it "a four-quadrant art film... sure touch... deft pacing." Predicts Oscar noms for, well, everyone, with a special shout out to Jason Flemyng as Benjamin's father.

And finally this:

"Can't wait to see what the Fincher freaks make of it. For the record, I am not one of them. Liked Fight Club, somewhat annoyed by Seven, didn't like Zodiac all that much. So I am not a Fincher Kool-Aid drinker. He was employed here to bring a very difficult piece of material to life and he's sure put everything he's learned about bravura imagemaking/moviemaking into it."

UPDATE: Paramount showed this movie to Karina Longworth, who under pain of embargo, is trying to keep mum. I had a big debate yesterday with an Oscar consultant about the issue of controlling when folks get to see a movie and then write about it in this internet age. The marketers want to generate positive press but are terrified of reviews, because entire Oscar campaigns are at stake, and little nuggets seep into the culture. It's driving a lot of us crazy. Stephen Schaefer weighs in.

Here's a Button TV spot:

[Originally appeared on Variety.com]

This article is related to: Headliners, Directors, Awards, Oscars, Brad Pitt


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.