My BluRay Shelf: 'Benjamin Button' Criterion sets the new standard
Sound and picture are stellar, but the extras really go above and beyond
I'm amazed at how many people I know who not only do not have BluRay in their homes yet, they've never even watched a movie on BluRay. And they don't see any real reason to do so. And while I understand that not everyone is as uber-nerdy about sound and picture presentation as I am, I have to believe that if people were able to sit down and check out a great presentation of a great transfer, they'd realize just how much it can enhance the viewing experience.
And right now, if I were going to use any live-action film to demo my system for someone, it would probably be "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button." No surprise for anyone who saw Paramount's amazing transfer of "Zodiac" on BluRay, and logical if you consider that Fincher shoots with the Viper camera, so you're looking at a high-def transfer of high-def material, with no film involved in the process at all. It makes a huge difference, and it allows you to really marvel at how much texture and color and warmth Fincher and his photographers manage to wring out of these cameras. He's a pioneer in terms of how far he pushes HD photography right now... there's no one else shooting films like this right now, with the possible exception of Michael Mann, and even he hasn't really pushed the HD towards the same sort of lush and dreamy film look that Fincher has. I think Mann actually likes the video qualities of HD, where Fincher seems determined to prove that it doesn't matter what camera you use... you can accomplish the same look, and that's all a matter of how your photographer approaches his job.
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I've already written about the film at length in my original review at Ain't It Cool, and there's not much I'd add about the movie having seen it again a couple of times now. Instead, let's address the actual BluRay package, put together by David Fincher's usual DVD team headed by David Prior (a great filmmaker in his own right, as anyone who's seen "AM1200" can vouch). Even for Criterion, this is a better-than-average behind-the-scenes effort, and on a film as technically complicated as this one, it's great to get a look at how the entire thing comes together. The film was in development for over 20 years, and the documentary traces each step of thta development, which would be interesting enough. But then it also details exactly how the groundbreaking performance capture tech was developed and implemented, and that's what takes this into the real of essential viewing for anyone interested in the filmmaking process. I don't love Fincher as a filmmaker because he uses all the toys... I love that he is a filmmaker who seems unafraid to try any of the toys if he believes that they're the best way to communicate an idea. That's what impresses me about him... he may be cutting edge in terms of technique, but it's all in service of a classic set of storytelling skills.
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