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A Curious Problem with Benjamin Button

A while ago we rented the wonderful HBO series John Adams. It’s 8 episodes of not only great moviemaking and acting but dynamic American history. John Adams is one of the unsung heroes of the founding of our nation. The DVD included behind the scenes look at how the series was made. Surprisingly there was a lot of CGI (computer generated images). I was blown away by scenes that I thought were real that were generated on a computer!new-orleans-benjamin-button1

One scene had John Adams meeting the king of England in a beautiful paneled room with a large tapestry. Guess what? All CGI except for the actors. My jaw dropped. This is an example of CGI fitting seamlessly into a movie so well that no one notices, it all looks so real, so natural.

Now let’s take The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All around a good movie, well-shot, well-acted, New Orleans never looked better. What they did to capture the warmth and magic of the city has rarely been achieved by Hollywood. It is how those of us who live and love the city feel about this place.

My only reservation about the movie was the CGI. Here it was taking computer generated images of Brad Pitt as an old man and planting them on other actors’ bodies. OK, it looked believable alright but the whole time you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s amazing, how did they do that?” which pulls you out of the story. This isn’t the fault of the movie makers, the problem lies in bringing this type of the story to screen.

When you read the story your imagination conjures up the images and you accept it. But in watching on screen you marvel at the skill and artistry of the CGI and because of this it isn’t seamless and you really can’t get lost in it all as you can in, say, the John Adams series. What they are able to do with CGI is mind boggling, it’s Hollywood’s new toy that can be used to good effect. In the case of Benjamin Button unfortunately it detracts.

But beyond all that because of it’s pacing, it’s cinematography, it’s acting and warmth The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is in the top rung of all the films that’ve been shot here over the years.

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