12.28.2008

HappiestList 2K8: Number #8, #7 and #6 - Film Edition


#8: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I left the theater minutes ago, literally, and I am not being typically dramatic when I say Brad Pitt's performance in Benjamin Button is one of the most touched and tangible of the year. Playing a man who ages in reverse, Pitt commands the entire emotional spectrum. He is quiet and mysterious, decisive and adventurous; he's beautiful. I've never been a Brad Pitt fan, but this film moved me, and Pitt was the hurricane force behind that movement.

A sumptuous feast for the eyes, ears and mind, Benjamin Button is an experience that is so much shorter than its physical constraints (that is, a 2:45 hour runtime). Blanchett, as his oddly inconsistent (but ravishing) wife, lover and eventual "mother," is the only weight on this weightless film, not meeting my expectations after seeing the Bob Dylan tribute I'm Not There. The visual effects are most impressive when rendering Blanchett as a youth, however, and her dancing is a powerful metaphor for how she lived her life; so, narratively, Blanchett's character soared, but when her character ignores Button leaving her--sitting on a bed with a stunted expression--one questions whether she deserved him at all.

Blanchett's part is only marginally bad in comparison to how fantastic the movie is as a whole. Before you know it, you will have tears streaming down your cheeks and the credits will fade in. I'll always remember Pitt's performance and the lessons his character told: life is short, and no matter how you live it, live well.

#7: Atonement

2008 was a great year for film, and Atonement was the first sign of life. Keira Knightly, as a stubborn girl suffering from an affliction that only be described as an early 19th century version of suburbia, gave an award-deserving performance, while James McAvoy took all the wrinkles caused by her shuffling and made them smooth. Of course, there's that sex scene. That breathless, steaming few seconds in the estate library, where they peered over their insecurities and faced the open skies of sexual possibility. (This is a semi-quote from Ian McEwan's inferior novel, which I read before the film.)

The credit here really goes to Joe Wright, one of the most plainly named yet most talented directors in the industry. Every frame of the film is a photograph, every set an art installation; he made dolls out of his actors but made them move and act human again.

#6: Speed Racer

For a full review of this unforgettable, kinetic visual workout, click here.

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