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Archive for February 2nd, 2009

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“Is it the seamlessly blended amber and caramel colors, the slowly gliding camera work? Or is it the sentiments that fall like flakes of wet snow into the dialogue? Many elements join to make the beautifully crafted “Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” with a running time of two hours and forty-seven minutes, the best picture in years for a postprandial rest (popcorn division). As you may have noticed, 2008 was not a great year for movies. There was nothing comparable to the hair-raising “There Will Be Blood,” or the ravishing “Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” or the sinister “No Country for Old Men,” from 2007. Even so, a nod for best picture could have gone to more deserving movies, such as Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married,” which settles down into a revelatory examination of a family’s anguish and joy; or “Happy-Go-Lucky,” Mike Leigh’s startling look at the power and the limits of goodness; or even the animated masterpiece “WALL-E,” with its vision of the end of industrial civilization and its ironic salvation in an anodyne space station decorated in cruise-liner moderne. The total of thirteen nominations for “Benjamin Button” has to be some sort of scandal. “Citizen Kane” received nine nominations, “The Godfather: Part II” eleven, and this movie, so smooth and mellow that it seems to have been dipped in bourbon aging since the Civil War, is nowhere close to those two. In fact, of the five nominees for best picture—“Milk,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Reader,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “Benjamin Button”—only “Milk,” a bio-pic with a thrilling sense of history and lots of jokes and sex, has the aesthetic life and human vitality that warrant its nomination.” (via The New Yorker)

[I have never considered David Denby, the longtime movie critic for “The New Yorker” magazine, a curmudgeon, yet my response to his complaints about this year’s Oscar nominees for “Best Picture” is a keen, albeit spiteful, desire to see them all before the winner is announced. Pass the popcorn.]

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