‘Button’ drops (UPDATED with audio)

Posted by · 3:04 pm · November 22nd, 2008

Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonUPDATED (5:30 p.m.): Alright, now that I’m home and away from the shuffle, I can unfold some further thoughts on this.  Judging by the mood of the room — mostly guild members and industry types, a lot of press folks have decided on the 6:00 screening — the verdict is a big thumbs up.  Lots of positive thoughts dished about all around.

I spoke briefly with Kathleen Kennedy, who has seen this project go up and down, back and forth for 18 years.  We talked about the visual effects in the film and how refreshing it is that this innovative work came within such a cerebral and affecting story.  “Jurassic Park” (which she also produced) has held the industry effects crown for 15 years, and now, a new leap forward.  Though director David Fincher has said from the start that he and his crew weren’t particularly sure whether they could pull it off, Kennedy took solace in her filmmaker’s professionalism.

“When you bring in a director like Steven [Spielberg] or David [Fincher], you trust their instincts when it comes to that stuff,” she said.  “They come along with this giant tool box and they know which tool to use for this or that.”

I also chatted with Eric Roth for a good while, screenwriter-to-screenwriter type stuff.  He really did work wonders with this story, and picking his brain for the reasons behind this decision or that can be a lot of fun.  One of the odd reactions I took away from the film, however, was that the work felt strangely cold.  I wasn’t sure whether I meant that in a good way or a bad way, and surely, people were crying their eyes out over this thing, so I might be in a minority.  Perhaps it’s my youthful cynicism, who knows, but I thought Fincher brought an arm’s length approach to the emotions in the film and I wanted Roth’s reaction to that.

Of course, Roth doesn’t particularly agree with my take.  Indeed, he was right in the middle of telling me how the bathroom was filled with sobbers after the screening when a beautiful young lady walked up to us and told him how much the movie had affected her.  But he took my comment in stride.

“Fincher is the kind of director that brings you right up to the point of sentiment and then brings it back,” he said.  “There’s something to be said for that I think.”

(More, plus audio of tonight’s Q&A, after the jump.)

I don’t want to dig too much into my own feelings on the film yet, which are quite complicated at the moment.  I didn’t fall in love like so many in the crowd did.  However, I couldn’t help but sense the innovation on display, not just below the line, but in the way we tell stories.  This is a brilliant yarn, probably Roth’s finest screenplay to date, in a career that has seen some fine work.

Awards wise, as I said below, I think there is no argument against Cate Blanchett being nominated for Best Actress, and again, I think she takes this award in a cake walk.  There is no actress in that category standing up and demanding this award like her work is here.  Nominations for Picture, Director, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup, Original Score and Visual Effects are virtually assured.  That’s 10 you can take to the bank.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline West’s costumes are certainly good enough (and varied enough) to demand a spot, while Taraji P. Henson really is the heart of the piece in many ways and could find herself in the running for Best Supporting Actress — no news there.  And the sound design, from interesting voice manipulation to a riveting wartime sequence, could easily slip in.

So if you’re keeping count, that’s 13.  Brad Pitt does not blow the role of Benjamin Button out of the water and perhaps he underplays it a bit too much.  But it is great to see him happy to get out from underneath his star persona, and with the right level of support, he could make it 14.  We’re talking the year’s tech giant here.

I’m including the audio of today’s Q&A (with Fincher, Roth and the tech crew), moderated by The Envelope’s Pete Hammond, for your listening pleasure.  I don’t believe anything realy spoilery pops up throughout the 40 minutes or so.  I made sure to keep my ears open for that kind of thing, but the questions remained safely general in that way.  But those wanting to know absolutely nothing will probably want to shy away.  For the rest, enjoy:


EARLIER: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” finally saw its day in the sun here at the Paramount Theater on Melrose. I obviously need to let it marinate for a while, but the most compelling reaction I’m having is that Cate Blanchett is suddenly a threat to win the lead actress Oscar walking away. It might be her best work to date and she has more heavy lifting than Mr. Pitt to say the least.

The film’s star, in fact, is more of a passive observer throughout, not exactly giving the powerhouse performance one may have expected.

Oh, and Alexandre Desplat’s score: a haunting piece of work, something that sticks with you forever. Enchanting, really, perhaps his greatest achievement.

Director David Fincher is joined on stage right now by screenwriter Eric Roth and the principle crafts team, all of whom deserve an ovation for their work here. Check back later and I’ll have the audio up for you. But to fend off the Oscar appetite, let me just say I can’t imagine less than 10 nominations.

→ 48 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Featured

48 responses so far

  • 1 11-22-2008 at 3:41 pm

    Silrone said...

    Ohh my god!!

  • 2 11-22-2008 at 3:42 pm

    Jack said...

    What did you think of Tilda Swinton? I’m skeptical of her Oscar chances, especially since there’s a lot of solid competiton, but I’ve been curious a long time about how big or flashy her role is, or even WHAT it is. She has maybe two seconds in the whole trailer.

    I’m not doubting that she’ll be great (it’s Tilda Swinton), but is it anything that we’ll need to watch out for?

  • 3 11-22-2008 at 3:49 pm

    John said...

    It’s a long film. Are there draggy parts? Any emotional artifice? Do the digitalized faces detract? etc.

  • 4 11-22-2008 at 3:49 pm

    Andrew said...

    Yes!!! I’m so excited now! How was Taraji?! And does Brad Pitt have any chance of a nomination (seeing as this year is highly competitive)?

  • 5 11-22-2008 at 3:57 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Great to hear that about Blanchett — I had a feeling people were underestimating her. (I love her role in the script.)

    Also, despite the perception that she’s now a perennial nominee, she only has two lead nominations. If she’s as good as you say, I’d be happy to see her take it.

  • 6 11-22-2008 at 4:48 pm

    R.J. said...

    I’m glad you finally got to see it! I too am very interested in your thoughts on Taraji P. Henson’s performance and the Oscar chances of everyone else as well.

  • 7 11-22-2008 at 4:57 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Wow, I did not expect this for Cate Blanchett! This is awesome.

  • 8 11-22-2008 at 5:09 pm

    Speaking English said...

    And another thing:

    I said this two months ago and I’d be happy to say it again: “Benjamin Button” is winning Best Picture. And it’ll return us to the days of 7+ wins for a single movie.

  • 9 11-22-2008 at 5:21 pm

    Casey said...

    are we seriously talking another pitt shut out? were you unimpressed by his performance?

  • 10 11-22-2008 at 5:37 pm

    Paulo said...

    Kris, if Cate is going to be nominated, maby she will eliminate Jolie. Do you imagine all those nominations and a total “Brangelina” snub? BB was supposed to be a Brad movie. If he and Jolie are left out, what kind of reaction this will have in Hollywood?

  • 11 11-22-2008 at 6:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It happens sometimes, Paulo. This film is almost more a vehicle for Cate than it is for Brad. She has a lot more to do and, interestingly enough, we begin and end with her character.

    Hopefully this post’s update will clarify some stuff. I didn’t do cartwheels for the film, but it’s hard to argue with a lot of this artistry.

  • 12 11-22-2008 at 6:11 pm

    Casey said...

    sounds like a hell of a pic. gonna ball my eyes out if brad gets shut out again. then ill prolly throw something

  • 13 11-22-2008 at 6:20 pm

    Holly said...


    Maybe, I’m misreading you, but you seemed to have more a ‘wow ‘ reaction to the technical elements of the film, then an emotional ‘connection’ to the characters and storyline.

    The special effects held your attention but not your heart .

  • 14 11-22-2008 at 7:29 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “If he and Jolie are left out, what kind of reaction this will have in Hollywood?”

    Uh, call me callous, but I think Hollywood might just survive such an event. As would Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

    I don’t think nominating them in tandem is nearly as important to Academy voters as it is to US Weekly.

    In any case, much as I like Brad Pitt, pretty much any actor starring opposite Cate Blanchett is at risk of being outshone, so no shame there.

  • 15 11-22-2008 at 7:33 pm

    Brittany said...

    I’m very excited for Cate Blanchett. I hope she is as great as I’m hearing about and has Awards success. :)

  • 16 11-22-2008 at 7:52 pm

    Diego said...

    Jolie is going to be nominated.

  • 17 11-22-2008 at 7:58 pm

    Kokushi said...

    Cant wait to see it, Kris, so benjamin button is now in your top 5 or 10 and how long is the movie between 150 to 160 minutes?

  • 18 11-22-2008 at 8:03 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The movie is definitely over 2 and a half hours, but it doesn’t feel like it. Well, you feel it, but you don’t mind it.

    Probably in my top 10 so far.

  • 19 11-22-2008 at 8:11 pm

    Danielle said...

    Kris, did you think Blanchett’s role was more supporting or do you agree with the category placement of lead?

  • 20 11-22-2008 at 8:18 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Definitely a lead. Like I said, it’s almost more her movie than his.

  • 21 11-22-2008 at 8:24 pm

    Marvin said...

    I’ve been saying all year long that Blanchett will be at least nominated for this role. To hear such praise raises my expectations a bit more (and I didn’t think that possible) but I am confident in this movie. It hasn’t been my most anticipated movie for the whole year for nothing!

  • 22 11-22-2008 at 8:55 pm

    Aaron said...

    I’ve always thought Blanchett would be a big threat…i haven’t had her in my top 5 until now, because most people were truly concentrating on Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson…

    …I’m very excited for Cate Blanchett, and I am truly ecstatic to see this film…I’m glad the screening went well and there’s much positive praise…

    …but I’m also curious like others to hear about Tilda Swinton. Is she fantastic (I’m sure she is…she’s always a solid actor)? But is her role big/lasting enough to make the final 5 supporting actresses, considering she just won this category last year?

  • 23 11-22-2008 at 11:43 pm

    Matthew said...

    I have to disagree. This is not a cake walk for Blanchett. Kris is being overzealous a tad with regard to her performance. Don’t get me wrong, she is very good and may land a nomination, but this far from a win. Personally, she lags behind Streep, Scott Thomas, Winselt and maybe Hathaway. Honestly, the other reviews posted aren’t making any noise about Blanchett.

    That being said, it is an extremly well made film. Not sure how it is going to go over with the Academy. I’m fairly confident this and Dark Knight will be in the final 5, so I am think DK is out.

  • 24 11-23-2008 at 12:04 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Your feelings weren’t echoed in any of the conversations I had after the screening, Matthew, I assure you. And Sasha Stone actually just mentioned that Blanchett could take the award, so I’m not as alone as you seem to think.

    We’ll see. I think she’s got a strong case.

  • 25 11-23-2008 at 12:45 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    Blanchett’s main problem is the previous win, especially when up against always losing but always loved Winslet. But damn can I not wait for Mr. Button.

  • 26 11-23-2008 at 1:16 am

    Alex said...

    I’m quite curious about her chances. I hope she shakes things up and takes maybe a few awards, and gets nominated. It’s refreshing to suddenly have a new competitor in the field and I applaud Paramount for not pushing her up to this point. I honestly believe Winslet has a better chance in supporting for The Reader – it’s a more interesting and much juicier role than she has in Revolutionary Road.

  • 27 11-23-2008 at 3:44 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Blanchett vs. Cate vs. Streep. Now there’s something I’d tune in to on February 22.

  • 28 11-23-2008 at 4:01 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “I’m fairly confident this and Dark Knight will be in the final 5, so I am think DK is out.”

    I’m not following you here, Matthew.

    As for the Blanchett and Winslet issue, I think these days the Academy simply goes with the performance they like more, regardless of previous nominations. That’s how Hilary Swank beat Annette Bening a second time, or how Forest Whitaker beat Peter O’Toole.

    I think Best Actress could emerge as the most exciting race of the lot.

  • 29 11-23-2008 at 6:01 am

    John said...

    My number one reason for enjoying/loving an epic film (or most any) is for the emotional connection. A movie can be the most beautiful thing in the world, but that is NOT enough for me. Am I going to be appreciating performances, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at visuals, but not feeling much emotion? If so, I am worried come Christmas Day. For an epic like this, it’s necessary.

  • 30 11-23-2008 at 6:26 am

    John Foote said...

    Got to agree with Guy about the Brad and Jolie snub potential — Hollywood and the film industry will still be standing the day after the nominations should they be snubbed (and they might) — I thought Jolie was terrific and deserving, but it would not be the first time, nor in fact the last that a deserving nominee is left out of the top five — hell there might even be someone less deserving nominated…it happens. Got to say I am surprised about the reaction to Pitt, nothing wrong with underplaying…is he overwhelmed by the role? Or does the film and all around him overwhelm his performance?

  • 31 11-23-2008 at 1:07 pm

    Talia said...

    Brad was wonderful, moving, and extraordinary
    in this film. I thought he carried this beautiful
    masterpiece. I did connect with the characters
    emotionally and the brilliant technical effects were just icing on the cake. I didn’t think he
    underplayed the role at all and hit the right notes. You are being way too harsh on him and
    this film. I also loved Cate’s performance and
    she has a better chance at supporting but I don’t
    think she outshone him. It would be incredibly
    unfair if Brad got snubbed. The backlash due
    the misportrayal and unfounded bias was bad enough to begin with but it is escalating to an
    extreme level because his ex made a bunch
    of misleading statements which has caused the media to create a new spin about a confession.
    For the record, Jolie denied, not confirmed
    having an affair with him, stated they were just
    friends during shooting, and the romance began
    after the breakup. The media, based on his
    calculating ex’s comments are nowing claiming
    that she confessed and are fabricating all sorts
    of crazy accusations. Her comments from an
    already distorted interview were taken out of context and she didn’t say anything inappropriate at all because nothing inappropriate happened.

    None of this should have any relevance but
    it will. Some of the attitude seems to be coming
    from a reluctance to give the film the praise it
    deserves. I know there are a lot of people engaging in devious campaigning against this
    film, working against Brad’s impressive performance in particular. It just seems you are
    too distracted by the false persona the media
    projects to appreciate his compelling portrayal.

  • 32 11-23-2008 at 1:27 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Glad to hear you liked the performance, Talia. But am I the only one wishing we could declare a moratorium on all discussion relating to his personal life? It’s irrelevant, played-out and boring.

  • 33 11-23-2008 at 1:59 pm

    Marissa said...

    I agree with Guy Lodge, we really should leave personal lives out those discussions.

  • 34 11-23-2008 at 8:32 pm

    Jux said...

    Variety just raved the movie.

    Anne Thompson also really liked it.

  • 35 11-23-2008 at 8:50 pm

    Casey said...

    thompson and mccarthy both wrote extremely positive reviews lowlighted with small mentions of the film being a little bit “cold”. it didnt seem to bother these 2 much

  • 36 11-23-2008 at 9:47 pm

    Speaking English said...

    So Desplat’s score just landed at the Warner Bros. website, and it sounds absolutely magnificent. I think we have our winner right here.

  • 37 11-24-2008 at 6:26 am

    Ligaya said...

    Ah, if we only could. No, no need to cross over into tabloid territory (not that Talia was). But it is relevant to note because this is reality and performance, box office and money for campaigning aren’t the only factors for a nomination/win – so is the taint of tabloid overexposure (IMO, one of the reasons for Angelina Jollie’s snub last year).

  • 38 11-24-2008 at 7:08 am

    Ligaya said...

    Ryan Adams of Awards Daily:

    If the NY Times wants to dredge up vague slurs just as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have two major Oscar contenders riding in large part on the strength of their image in the media, then I think it’s entirely appropriate that we do what we feel is right to speak out and slap down disparaging innuendos. Like I said in the update above, it’s downright spooky how misfortune and fate conspire. Creepy indeed, how the NY Times smear job on Angelina Jolie magically aligns with their weekend magazine cover featuring Aniston. Gee, it’s almost as if the Times people made some sort of People magazine deal with Aniston. One can imagine the press-manipulating demands behind the scenes: “There’s a precondition of course: We do the interview, but first you agree to set the stage by publishing something really nasty about That Other Woman.”

    Mr. Adams is referring to the NY Times piece it recently printed under the byline of Brooks Barnes (known for his botched coverage of the WGA strike) who asserted that Ms. Jolie colluded with People for editorial control in exchange for photo rights of the Jolie Pitt twins. The piece relied on unnamed sources without independent verification or corroboration, in a shoddily reported but carefully crafted hit piece against Ms. Jolie and the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

    Since when has the New York Times considered a former editor-in-chief of tabloid rags Star and Us Weekly a reliable source? It didn’t even identify the magazines as tabloids well known for inventing stories out of thin air, and it certainly didn’t reveal the conflict of interest between Ms. Fuller in her former capacity as EIC of these rags and tabloid target/subject Jolie.

    And certainly, as the article even said, “[w]hile all celebrities seek to manipulate their public images to one degree or another [otherwise known as spin engaged in by all public figures includimg politicians, CEOs, and even Big Media],” why single out Ms. Jolie other than that she’s a cash cow for circulation and internet traffic? Why not name some other names and give some other examples? The least the NY Times could do is one other article examining the rest of this phenomena, a separate article for each isn’t necessary.

  • 39 11-24-2008 at 7:41 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m not sure who you’re having this argument with, Ligaya — no one seems terribly interested.

    Let’s stick to the movie.

  • 40 11-25-2008 at 7:11 pm

    That's MS. Ligaya to you said...

    Consider me properly chastised and smartly put in my place, Mr. Lodge, sir. Pray tell, since I’m nouveau-ish, did I violate blog etiquette by naming another blog here, or do you and Ryan Adams have a Jeffrey Wells-David Poland thing going? (Just so I don’t trespass in the future.)