Oh, I don't know if it was from the movie or from the pizza and one glass of wine I had afterward or just from being somewhat old. Most of the people in the movie audience were old, so old, that when Cate Blanchett reassured the getting-younger Benjamin by saying that we all wear diapers in the end, and the chuckle from the audience was unnervingly warm, I had to speculate that there was a high Depends-to-butt ratio in the theater at that very moment. And who knows? Perhaps young soda-swillers wear Depends to the movies, especially to 3-hour extravaganzas like "Benjamin Button." Especially with all that water imagery:
[W]ater is often seen as a symbol for birth/re-birth, and [I] thought they used it well. Spoilers: The dad nearly throws Pitt in the water in the beginning, Pitt takes the dad to sit by the water, Tilda Swinton swims the English Channel, all of the work Pitt does on the boat and the sailing, Daisy takes up swimming after her injury, Hurricane Katrina...anything else?)And Benjamin fighting the Nazis at sea. Or should I say Ben or Ben-yah-meen?
Here's a weird-ass quirk of mine: For years now, anywhere and everywhere I see the name "Benjamin" used in a narrative (especially a grand, old one) I substitute plain old "Ben." Amazing, how well that works and the perspective it brings.The quote in that first block is from Zachary Paul Sire in the comments. The 2 in the second block are from reader_iam and Freeman Hunt.
I studied Arabic one summer during college, and there was a white guy in the program named Benjamin who insisted we all call him Ben-yah-meen. That experience, I think, has much the same effect on Benjamin perspective.
See? This post is a tribute to all the commenters who kept an interesting conversation going all night on that thread that I conked out after writing. In the morning, it's my habit to reach for my iPhone before so much as sitting up in bed. Supine, I check the news, mostly to assure myself that nothing terrible happened during the hours when I wasn't paying attention. (The Yellowstone caldera has not exploded, despite the recent, strange swarm of earthquakes.) Then, I read blog comments for a while. Last night's post had accumulated 73 comments. The second one was from me, right before I fell asleep. I was responding to the first comment, from Zachary Paul Sire, who wanted to know if I liked the movie, a matter I'd considered beside the point of the post. I answered:
It was okay. It would have been much better if it were tightened up... and livened up. Like many high-budget, high-aspiration movies of today, it was embalmed. Its "I have always loved you" theme was very conventional, and I never felt much real passion between the 2 lead actors. And neither of them ever said anything clever. But there were some excellent special effects in aging and youthening Pitt and Blanchett, and there were some nice moments. Where to cut? You can cut all whole old dying woman and her daughter scenes, as far as I'm concerned. Reminded me of "Titanic," bringing in an old, old woman to tell the story of her big love to her daughter.71 comments ensued. I can't reprint them all. But I intend to frontpage much more than usual this morning.
Chuck b. said:
I always enjoy the Althousian disdain for sentimentality (or is it a midwesterner's disdain? or maybe it's just very lawyerly), although I myself enjoy many sentimental films.Am I midwestern? The most midwestern thing about me is that my mother grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Second is: I went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Third: I've taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin since 1984 (since I was 33 years old). So: 1. My formative years were not spent in the midwest, and 2. My time in the midwest has entirely been in these 2 university towns that don't really represent the region.
Actually, I'm not very good at recognizing sentimentality when I see it. I just let myself get played.
... although I don't cry as much during commercials and sentimental television things as much as Althouse does. Actually, that's interesting. A'house report tearage not infrequently. Does that have something to do with her negative reactions toward...ineffective sentimentality?
As for crying and sentimentality... 1. I might cry about something sentimental the way I might sneeze in the presence of dusty black pepper. It doesn't mean I admire the cause of the reflex. Quite the opposite. 2. I am cold to some emotional manipulations and susceptible to others. I might get judgmental and resist everything, but I might indulge and enjoy the easily won emotions of sentimentality. There is some good sentimentality. "The Bill Cosby Show" always made me cry. (And I do mean "The Bill Cosby Show," not "The Cosby Show," which I never watched.) 3. There are some things I regard as real art. I keep these separate, whether they provoke crying or not. The Kubrick movie "Lolita" caused me to cry profusely, but only after it was over, when I was trying to talk about it. That meant something.
["Ben Button" s]ounds like a miserable Oscar-bait remake of "Big"."Big" was much more fun, but like "Big," it gave us a chance to see an adult woman in love with a little boy — without all that nasty guilt that comes from awareness that we are witnessing pedophilia. Unlike "Big," it gave us a chance to see an old man in love with a little girl. Ah, but he's only 7! He's her age. And when an old woman tells him he should be ashamed of himself, we sympathize with the old man. I mean the little boy. And I bet pedophiliac old men believe that at heart they too are little boys.
And Brad Pit and Cate Blanchett? Can there be two more overexposed, boring actors on the planet?Zachary Paul Sire said:
I love Cate Blanchett (anyone seen "Notes On A Scandal"? Now that's a good movie)...but Brad Pitt has never, ever been interesting to me. I can't think of one movie he's been in that I've enjoyed. Maybe "12 Monkeys," but that's because he was a supporting character. He and Cate, like Althouse said, had absolutely no passion or believability. Lifeless. Boring.I love Brad in "12 Monkeys." Also in "Fight Club." In fact, I have a lot of respect for Brad Pitt. He picks some artistic projects, and he doesn't just rely on his pretty face — though perhaps he uglifies himself in part for the purpose of sending the message that he is so gorgeous that even uglified he's divine. In "Ben Button," he puts on that old age makeup, but then he emerges from it, so that Brad Pittifulness seems astoundingly new again. He then gets to progress to his "Thelma and Louise" level of insane male beauty. There's a scene in "Button" where he returns to the (old) Cate Blanchett in this form and she exclaims "You're perfect!" and I wanted her to say "Oh my God! You're Brad Pitt!"
For the most part I hate almost every movie that comes out because I find them too boring and too much made for "normal America". I also hate sitting in a movie theater for two hours with other people....Chuck b. said...
On a seperate [sic] note I have a fear of the dentist. I am only able to go once a year because I literally freak out 24 hours before I go. I have to be sedated, gased and anything else to go. I go every year in January but I now have a toothache so I have to go tomorrow and I am freaking out....
The only good news about going to the dentist tomorrow is he gives me good drugs.
He is a big liberal. His wife works at the front desk and his dog runs around the office.
My dentist is a straight queen. Every time I go in there he shows me one of his new Yoga poses that he has just conquered.
"My dentist is a straight queen."Beth — who lives in New Orleans, the city featured in the movie but not the Fitzgerald story — said:
I loathe heterosexual gay men. What's the phobicity for that?
My dentist is a feisty latina and I am devoted to her. As a regular flosser and non-drinker of sugary beverages, my teeth are always clean and my gums are "tight". I love it when she tells me my gums are tight. Noone else tells me that.
The more days I am from having seen ["Ben Button"], the more little "hey, that didn't add up" moments I think of. I too could have done without the entire mother/daughter hospital plot. I kept dreading possible outcomes, and that was a distraction.Chuck b. said:
And no, there's no real chemistry between the leads. There were much more appealing relationships -- b/w Benjamin and the folks in the home, mainly. And the tugboat captain was a favorite of mine.
But I am a partisan for it still; there are lots of movies shot in New Orleans, and this one made such wonderful use of places I love. The bandstand where Daisy does her nighttime dance is one where my friends and I would perform late at night, running wild in the park as teens. Lanaux House, the setting for the Button household, was also the setting for the nasty Gallier sibling household in the 1982 version of Cat People. Overall, I just loved our streets and houses and streetcars and greenery. It all looked so good.
I was in N'awlins once for a week, drunk the whole time. I ate every meal at Paul Prudhomme's place (spelling?!) and marvelled at the cockroaches on the sidewalk that came out when the sun went down. I walked all the way back to my hotel stepping on one cockroach after another, like stepping stones. God, what a great town.Palladian said:
I cry at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life"....Zachary Paul Sire said:
"It's A Wonderful Life" is a perfect movie. I know that some people think it's commie propaganda and that some douchebag at the New York Times (natch) trashed it this year, but still. Brilliantly detailed, perfect performances. Sob, sob.
I've actually never watched the entire "It's A Wonderful Life" from beginning to end. I've also never watched an entire episode of "The Simpsons" from beginning to end. Some things just don't appeal to me.Chuck b. said...
I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life, even a little bit of it.LoafingOaf said:
I'm also sorry I don't find life so wonderful. Will the movie change my mind? I still smile through most days, though. Life is depressing but you may as well life at it.You should read what they say about me on those other blogs — where I'm a decrepit, crazy drunk. Obviously, I control the message here. But, in fact, I don't lie about myself. Even though some of my antagonists think I'm outrageously self-absorbed, I rarely reveal anything about my real-world life. Haven't you noticed? My topic selection and various opinions and attitudes may seem idiosyncratic and distinctive enough to give the impression of a window into my life. And my photographs, by physical necessity, show my point of view. But I'm not telling you about any sorrows and struggles that may afflict me. Yes, I have a job that immensely benefits me, but it is exceedingly rare for me to write about my colleagues or students. If they were giving me trouble, you wouldn't know. I'm very lucky to have 2 sons — but I'm not going to say anything bad about them, and I mostly don't write about them. And you see my occasional chumminess with my ex-husband, but we separated more than 20 years ago. You have no evidence at all of any post-1987 love affairs that I may have had and how I may have suffered.
Sometimes I come to Althouse blog and the prof's life seems so perfect, and I've never been able to detect any terrible, or even messy, things going on beneath the surface. She's even chummy with her ex, and her sons seem way too well-adjusted. Does she keep it hidden, or is she for real? She seems so "together" I feel if I browse her blog enough it will rub off on me a little. But I do wanna determine whether she just keeps it hidden or if her having her shit so "together" is for real.
Oh, well, at least Sarah Palin's life and family turned out to be a mess.Beth said:
LoafingOaf, I'm just making a guess here, so cut me some slack if I'm offbase.See how we help each other here?
You might find life a little less depressing if you cut back on the hating, just a bit. Take Palin, for example. She's not running for anything right now. She lost. Why bother looking for a Palin thread anywhere? I know, I know; there are scores of conservatives who can't get through a day without hating on Algore or blaming Bill Clinton for today's crappy economy or holding out for Obama's super-secret African birth certificate -- but they're not good examples for you to follow.
I'm not saying you should be Mary Sunshine, but a small adjustments might be in order. If you just keep your targets of anger current, you'll cut back on a lot of unnecessary bile. And that will increase the room for a bit of wonder in your life.
She's even chummy with her ex, and her sons seem way too well-adjusted. Does she keep it hidden, or is she for real?Palladian said:
My ex-girlfriend is chummy with my wife. She's coming to visit next weekend--with her husband. We all laugh and joke about the past.
My point is that you can choose to get past horrible hurts in the past--or not. It all depends on the parties involved (and their will to party)
"Oh, well, at least Sarah Palin's life and family turned out to be a mess."Reader_iam, quoting me in the original "Ben Button" post, said:
A mess? She was nominee for vice-president. She has a beautiful family. If you want a mess you should look to yourself and figure out why this woman drove you crazy, why this woman turned you from an interesting commenter to a bitter, twisted loser. Take Beth's advice, Mr Sullivan, and chill out.
the old story is crisp and unsentimentalFinally, some love for Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.
And that's the end of the line in this paean to commenters.
Happy New Year, everybody. Let's sing "Auld Lang Syne":