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November 19, 2008

The burden of 'Benjamin Button'


So much is riding on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- too much, actually -- and we're not even talking about the reported $150 million budget. (Are Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. sweating about this Christmas Day release?)

The nearly three-hour drama loosely based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is the centerpiece of our Oscar predictions so far. It's one of our five best picture choices, and star Brad Pitt is in the best actor pool because of it. And we haven't seen it. Not that many people have yet.

What if it's not that good? What if it disappoints? What if it's not "Forrest Gumpy" after all?

This comes up today for two reasons. First, Oprah gave the movie, Pitt and his co-star, Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, the full-blown "Oprah" treatment this afternoon. The Queen of Daytime Talk is on a roll with film promos lately, having devoted hours to "Australia" and "7 Pounds" within the past few weeks.


Without specifically calling out awards and/or Oscars, Winfrey has made a big personal push for each of these films. Her hearty endorsement for "Benjamin Button" was on full display amid Skyped-in fans asking inane questions to the talent. Favorite food? Tattoo placement?

Who knows what impact her shout-out will have on the boxoffice. That kind of mainstream exposure, which can't be bought, sure couldn't hurt.

And second, a keen-eyed reader just asked us why, in a post this week on "Revolutionary Road," we waxed on about Kate Winslet and supporting player Michael Shannon but left out Leonardo DiCaprio, who's considered a solid contender for an Oscar nod.

Let's just get over the fact that it could be someone with a vested interest here and deal with it head on. It's true. We didn't talk about DiCaprio's performance in the period drama, and that's not because he wasn't great. Actually, he was.

The lanky actor, in our minds, has turned a corner, no longer the pretty boy from "Romeo + Juliet" or "Titanic," but the grown man of "The Departed," mature, assured, captivating.

But if this performance catapults him onto our best actor list, who do we dump? Richard Jenkins, Mickey Rourke, Sean Penn, Frank Langella? Nope. That leaves Pitt.

See the dilemma here?

It's late in the day, our brains are fried (could it be all the art house flicks we're consuming?) and we don't have the answer. Let the ruminating continue and feel free, astute readers, to have a go at this. 


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Thanks for your reply.

Let's follow the dots:

You said you've never seen Brad's performance .

Next you said you saw Leo's ,and he gave a great performance

Seems like no brainer to me.

5th slot goes to Leo to Brad or any other actor produces a more worthy performance

See , no need to sweat the small stuff

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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