#287. Emily Browning

What’s interesting about child actors is watching them grow up on screen. As mentioned a few weeks ago, sometimes they seem to grow up too fast (like in the case of Jennifer Connelly’s more adult roles). Of course, this phenomenon always leaves the audience with the sense of loose familiarity. They’ll ask themselves, “Isn’t that ‘so-and-so’?” only to find out that the completion of puberty can sometimes drastically change an actor or actress. Depending on how committed to acting they are, these child actors will sometimes undergo a hiatus to finish schooling before committing their careers to acting. Because of this hiatus, the change can seem just that much more extreme. Of the number of child actors still acting today, Emily Browning has moved into the role of a more serious actress almost seamlessly. This week’s two films highlight recognizable films on either side of her hiatus.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

A lot can happen in seven years. A sixteen-year old girl can grow up into a twenty-three-year old woman in that time. However, with a number of starlets at that age, it can be easy to interchange them. For instance, Emily Browning was chosen to be the main heroine of theTwilight series, but turned it down, thus opening the role to Kristen Stewart. On the other side of this exchange, she has replaced a number of actresses in a number of films. From replacing Mia Wasikowska in Sleeping Beauty (2011) to replacing Ophelia Lovibond inSummer in February (2012), Browning has stood in and made the roles her own, thus making it seem like she was meant to play these roles as the first choice, instead of the second. One of the first films after her school hiatus, Sucker Punch (2011), saw her replace Amanda Seyfried in the main role of Babydoll, but I don’t know if I could ever envision anyone else in that role.

Wrongfully imprisoned in a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) imagines her new home as a brothel where her fellow inmates are dancers for high rollers. For her first dance, she hallucinates a world filled with giant robotic samurai, but she also meets a Wise Man (Scott Glenn), who tells her that there are four items to an escape, as well as a fifth, unknown item. With each subsequent dance, she hallucinates a different scenario to help her gain the items. From steampunk war trenches to obtain a map to killing a dragon to obtain fire to disarming a bomb on a train to obtain a knife, most of these items are obtained without incident. However, the knife operation was botched and one of her friends died. Finally understanding that the fifth item is a selfless sacrifice, it is revealed that the whole scenario was a pre-lobotomy vision in Babydoll’s brain.

Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Year: 2004Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

Before she went back to school to complete her education, Emily Browning already had a number of films under her belt. While the one she is most known for was the one released prior to her hiatus, Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), wasn’t nearly as dark as her other films. From Ghost Ship (2002) to Ned Kelly (2003) to Darkness Falls (2003), these films were decidedly more dramatic or horrific than the more family-friendly fare of Lemony Snicket. This is what makes a recognizable role a bit of a problem. Just because an actress appeared in a film that made her name recognizable, doesn’t mean that the rest of her filmography fits in that genre. If anything, Lemony Snicket was an outlier in a career that has since become much more serious and much more adult.

The eldest of the Baudelaire children, Violet Baudelaire (Emily Browning), holds their small family together after their parents’ deaths. Along with her younger brother, Klaus (Liam Aiken), and baby sister, Sunny (Kara and Shelby Hoffman), Violet outsmarts their closest relative, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who is only interested in them because of the money he could inherit from them. In a series of unfortunate events, including a near-miss with a train, the poisoning death of an uncle, a violent hurricane, the leech-related death of an aunt, and a play with false pretenses, the children manage to survive only to be found by Count Olaf again and again. In the last event, he manages to marry Violet and is thus entitled to the fortune of her parents. Fortunately, at the same time, the two younger Baudelaires discover the origin of the fire that killed their parents while also saving Violet from her marriage.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Emily Browning

Bacon #: 2 (Lemony Snicket’s: A Series of Unfortunate Events / Meryl Streep -> The River Wild / Kevin Bacon)

#286. Inside the Mind

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

This quote by Arthur Fletcher can be interpreted in many ways aside from its original intent. One of these additional interpretations could be that the imaginations and creative muses of all people are unique and should not be ignored. After all, with as many new and interesting pieces of media being created each day, there seems to be no limitations to what our minds can do. Unfortunately, this power can be a bit overwhelming to some. Much like savants, who have startling mental prowess, usually at the detriment to social skills, many with mental disorders will have overactive minds. When the line between true reality and perceived reality is blurred, problems ensue. This week’s two films examine the effects of overactive minds and what the world looks like inside of them.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

If Inside Out (2015) taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot that goes on inside a person’s mind. Besides the variety of emotions we can experience, it’s where we go to solve complex problems, recall memories, or engage our imagination. But what if our imagination compensates for other aspects of our lives? What’s difficult to understand about mental disorders is that people who seem normal on the outside can have their own internal struggles as well. Often, we are shocked to learn that some famous person suffered from depression, mania, or multiple personality disorder. If we can overcome the stigma of issues of the mind, perhaps some headway could be made on the medical front to solve some of these maladies. Of course, sometimes it’s these different mental conditions that give people the creativity and intelligence to solve some of the world’s most interesting problems.

Upon arriving at Princeton University in 1947, John Nash (Russell Crowe) meets his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). While John is an up-and-coming mathematician, he gets along with the literary student. One evening, while he socializes with his mathematic friends at a local bar, he accidentally develops a new theory of governing dynamics. This new theory allows him to move to MIT, where he meets Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). He has to be careful around her not to reveal the work he’s doing for the government via his handler, William Parcher (Ed Harris), as it could jeopardize the whole operation. Partly because of this, Alicia becomes suspicious and learns that John is imagining some of the people in his life. She stays with him through his treatment, despite the difficulties it places on their marriage.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

When the world is too difficult to handle, sometimes the only way to make it bearable is to retreat into our minds. If we fabricate fantasies to help us perform simple tasks just to get through our day, then it can be easier to deal with the harsh realities of our situation. The trouble with this approach is understanding where the line between fantasy and reality lies. After extended time in a fantasy, it becomes difficult to know what reality is. This was one of the main problems encountered in Inception (2010). Manipulating dreams inside the mind of a target is just as dangerous for the target as it is for those manipulating the dreams. Because it’s easier to create a world where everything works out, suddenly reality no longer has its appeal. I suspect that becoming trapped in our minds will increasingly become a problem as virtual reality becomes more ubiquitous.

After being wrongfully admitted to a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) escapes into her mind to deal with the harsh realities of her new life. Imagining her new home as a brothel, she connects with four of the other “dancers” in an attempt to escape. Since she is new to the brothel, she is asked to perform a dance. When she begins to move, she delves even deeper into another fantasy world, fighting robotic samurai giants as part of her “dance”. Recognizing her trance-inducing dancing, she continues to dive into these deeper fantasies in order to obtain four items to help her escape. Unfortunately, the owner of the brothel, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) gets wise of their plan and Babydoll has to realize that the escape she has been planning isn’t for her, but for one of the other girls. When reality is revealed again, a lobotomy has erased everything in Babydoll’s mind as one of the girls boards a bus to freedom.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mental manipulations

#285. Jennifer Connelly

In the world of child actors, very few last long enough to continue working in the industry. Sure, there are exceptions; actors and actresses who eventually develop their craft into award-winning performances. Most people could count the number of these exceptions on one hand. This begs the question: what helps a child actor eventually arrive at success? It is my opinion that the earlier a child actor can work with an excellent director, the greater their chances are of achieving recognition later in life (should they not be hindered by alcohol or drug addiction before then). One of these anomalies is Jennifer Connelly. Her very first role in film was in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984) when she was only 14. She’s only gone up from there. This week’s two films look at Jennifer Connelly’s best roles.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

While Sergio Leone’s crime drama was her first role, many consider Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986) to be her breakout performance. That being said, there was plenty more to be desired for her acting. Fortunately, she has managed to stay out of the limelight partly because of her heavy involvement in independent films. Granted, this is often seen as the reason why she mostly appears in darker and more nudity-filled films (which may also be tied to shedding the “child actor” label), but it’s what eventually landed her in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000). If audiences didn’t consider her a serious actress before this film, they certainly do now. A decade and a half later, she would team up with Aronofsky again for the Biblical epic, Noah (2014), but most claim their previous collaboration as one of their best.

Harry (Jared Leto) spends most of his time shooting heroin with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). Because it is such an expensive addiction, they decide to turn to drug dealing in order to pay for the habit, as well as to realize their dreams of starting a business, becoming a clothing designer, and moving out of the slums, respectively. At the same time, Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), is convinced that she has been chosen to appear on TV and takes drastic measures to lose weight so she can wear a favorite dress again. Through this process, she becomes addicted to amphetamines while her son and his posse find their own unwholesome fates, including hospitalization, incarceration, and prostitution. In a hallucination, Sara imagines that the world is all right for her, her son, and his girlfriend. That dream is far from the truth.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

Another big-name director who cast Connelly in their films was none other than Ron Howard. We all have forgotten about the regrettable The Dilemma (2011), but Jennifer Connelly likely wouldn’t have appeared in that film had she not impressed Howard earlier in her career with her work in Inventing the Abbotts (1997). This inspiration is what led him to cast her, along with Russell Crowe and Ed Harris, in the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001). Not only did this film win Best Picture and Best Director, but it garnered Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She had already worked with Ed Harris on his directorial debut: Pollock (2000), portraying the mistress of Jackson Pollock (who himself was played by Ed Harris), but it took many years before she appeared in another film across from Russell Crowe: the aforementioned Noah.

John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a promising mathematics student at Princeton University in the late 1940’s. Because of the high hopes for his career, he is under large amounts of stress to publish, but he wants to publish something original, not just a derivative work. While at a bar with his mathematics friends, he develops a new idea that leads to his publication of the Nash equilibrium (a modified game theory). Meanwhile, he falls in love with, and eventually marries, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). At first, their life together is idyllic, but soon Alicia discovers that John’s roommate in college never existed, and John’s “boss” from the Pentagon also doesn’t exist. Despite John being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and his refusal to take his medication, Alicia stays with him and helps him to an eventual recovery.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 key Jennifer Connelly roles

Bacon #: 2 (A Beautiful Mind / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#284. Don’t Do Drugs

If there’s anything that the “war on drugs” has taught me, it’s that “drugs are bad.” While their educational approach may have worked to keep some people from drugs, it did little to curb the enthusiasm of people already hooked. What’s unfortunate about illicit substances is the glamorous lives that certain drug users come from (a la The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)). Obviously, those in the business of drugs (like in Blow (2001) or Scarface (1983)) are more likely to partake of their product, but certain criminal organizations, like the mafia, know the dangers of getting involved with drugs (like in Goodfellas (1990)) and do their best to abstain from them. Still, the allure of a chemical high appeals to the common masses, so it’s up to film to show the horrifying consequences of drug abuse. This week’s two films show us why we shouldn’t do drugs.

TrainspottingTrainspotting
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

The drug culture of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was perhaps epitomized by films like Easy Rider (1969). This, along with the comedic stylings of Cheech and Chong, showed that some drugs are practically harmless. The stoner comedies of today reinforce this fact, but don’t show any consequences of extended use. When harder drugs are used, the slippery slope truly comes into play. There’s a lot someone will do to keep up a habit, but when they realize that their life has become controlled by the controlled substance, they find it difficult to remove themselves from it (either by the company they keep or the sheer difficulty of going clean). Drugstore Cowboy (1989) is a good example of this, whereas Pulp Fiction (1995) brings us the reality of the overdose. Unfortunately, films like Limitless (2011) and Trainspotting (1997) show that a few choice benefits make the choice to do drugs worth it.

While there are certainly many terrifying moments in Trainspotting that should drive us away from doing drugs, it’s the dark-comedy nature of the film that somewhat lessens the impact of the consequences of illicit drug usage. Scenes like “the worst toilet in Scotland”, or the hallucinations of a dead baby crawling over the ceiling certainly do their part to drive the audience away from drugs, but the comradery of these four heroin addicts makes the experience seem welcoming and social. In reality, the risks of contracting HIV, being arrested for robbery (to fund an expensive drug addiction), and outright overdosing are very high and hold very severe consequences. After many attempts to get clean, the main character, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), finally has enough motivation to leave his drugs behind, along with most of his friends.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

Addiction is a powerful drug. By the time we realize we have a problem, it’s often too late to change things. The long road to recovery can only be completed with an admittance that we have a problem and a support system to help us reach the clean and happy ending. A common theme amongst the works of Philip K. Dick was that of drug use, which was most undoubtedly pulled from his own life experiences. A Scanner Darkly (2006) focused on drug users, law enforcement, and the companies that profit from said drugs, all tied together in a trippy package. What’s more startling is when the addiction is portrayed in a more realistic setting. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a friend or loved one continue to go back to the comfort of their addiction. Robert ZemeckisFlight (2012) drives this point home, but the true consequences of addiction were best portrayed in Requiem for a Dream (2000).

The world of a junkie is an interesting place. Time no longer holds any relevance as everything seems to be traveling in slow motion or unbearably fast. Requiem for a Dream follows four addicts on their downward spiral to ruin. The intriguing thing about addictions is that sometimes they aren’t to illegal substances. Even household activities like watching television are artistically represented in the same way that getting high on cocaine are. However, even if it seems like everything is working out well and nothing could go wrong, consequences lie just around the dark corner. Requiem for a Dream begins to get intense as the consequences rear their ugly heads. From prostitution to prison to hospitalization, the results of a life of addiction are painfully obvious at the end of this film. If ever there’s a film to get people to stop doing drugs, Requiem for a Dream is it.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 cautionary tales

#283. Ewan McGregor

When does an actor become recognizable? Is it when they are cast in a series of films beloved by their respective fandoms? Is it when they have an award-winning performance? Is it when they have appeared in enough films that they just “become known”? It seems that the convergence of two or more of these factors are what usually thrust an actor across the threshold of being an “unknown” to being a recognizable name in Hollywood. Whatever the specific reason, Ewan McGregor is a recognizable actor today. Maybe it was from his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy? Maybe it was from being in an Oscar-nominated film or two? Maybe it was from the long list of acting credits to his name. This week’s two films highlight some of the roles that made Ewan McGregor a recognizable actor.

Moulin Rouge!Moulin Rouge!
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

In the world of film, sometimes acting isn’t enough. The most versatile actors can sing and dance, but these skills can likely be taught so that an actor can fill the role they were meant to play. For Ewan McGregor, he clearly has a recognizable voice, as shown by a few animated films that utilized his voice acting talent. Robots (2005) and Valiant (2005) put McGregor in the lead role for their respective films, but this was at least four years after he truly proved his vocal prowess. There have been quite a few films (and even films about these types of films) where an actor or actress has their singing voice dubbed over (West Side Story (1961) being a prime example of this). In Moulin Rouge! (2001), it is clear that the actors are using their own voices to sing. McGregor’s distinctive voice would definitely present a challenge to be dubbed over, that much is certain.

A cross between love at first sight and a case of mistaken identities, Christian (Ewan McGregor) finds himself smitten with Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star of the Moulin Rouge. The confusion came when Christian was at the dance hall to pitch an idea for his theatre friends and Satine thought that he was the mysterious Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh). Unfortunately, once the air was cleared, the damage was already done. Christian and Satine fall in love, but now the financial future of the Moulin Rouge is in jeopardy, seeing as the Duke wants Satine for himself if he is to provide his patronage to the dance hall. On the surface, Satine agrees to this, but only on the condition that Christian’s play is performed. But what Christian and the Duke don’t know is that Satine is dying from tuberculosis, a condition made worse by her singing in the play.

TrainspottingTrainspotting
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

Years before Ewan McGregor did his best Alec Guinness impression in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace(1999), he showed that he had the physical dedication to his roles in Trainspotting (1996). Obviously the type of body training needed for action films like Star Wars and The Island (2005) is different than losing a lot of weight to play a heroin addict, but the commitment is still the same. And while Trainspotting definitely had its trippy moments, much like Big Fish (2003) would later in McGregor’s career; it was still delightfully dark with its comedy. We’ve seen McGregor come back to the dark comedy with I Love You Phillip Morris (2009) and The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009), but I, for one, am curious if this year’s Trainspotting 2 (2017) will continue the unique look at drugs that its predecessor did twenty years ago.

Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) is just one of a group of heroin addicts who have become friends. Of his own volition, he decides to go off of heroin, but does so via opium in an incident that takes place in “the worst toilet in Scotland”. Once the withdrawal ends, he hooks up with a girl who happened to be underage, thus pushing him back into heroin. In this daze, Renton and his friends end up killing the infant daughter of Allison (Susan Vidler) through sheer neglect. While the rest of the crew gets in trouble for shoplifting, Renton is pardoned with the caveat that he has to get clean. Unfortunately, this causes him to overdose and his family locks him in his childhood room to endure the withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations. Now that he’s on the road to recovery, the gang wants to get back together for one last drug deal that could net them a lot of money. Renton obliges, but ends up having the last laugh.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 excellent Ewan McGregor performances

Bacon #: 2 (Valiant / John Cleese -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#282. Baz Luhrmann

What’s more important: quantity or quality? Obviously, most people would say that quality should trump quantity every time. Of course, there are challenges to producing quality products, which may lead to an increased cost for the consumer. Similarly, in the triangle of quality/cost/schedule, if a product is of high quality, it won’t appear very often. The dichotomy of quantity vs. quality can be seen in the film industry as well. There are some directors who direct at least one film every year, while others can take four years or more to release a movie. The former relies on the chance that one of their many films is successful, thus making up for less-than-exemplary performance on other projects. Director Baz Luhrmann definitely falls into the latter category. This week’s two films highlight some of the rare works of Baz Luhrmann.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

It’s difficult to tell what motivates quality directors to take so long to create their films. Perhaps they’re trying to find the right source material. Perhaps the creative process takes a long time. Perhaps they’re controlling more aspects of the film than most. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves once the film is released. Aside from Luhrmann, other directors who seem to follow this format are Christopher Nolan and David Fincher. Each one of them has received plenty of recognition for their works and each one of them has their own, recognizable visual and thematic style. For Luhrmann, after his love-letter to his homeland, Australia (2008), it took him five years until The Great Gatsby (2013) was released. It’s now four years later and there isn’t much (if any) word about Baz Luhrmann’s next project; but I’m sure it’ll follow the same style he’s used for years.

Recovering from his alcoholism, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) finds the only relief from his struggles to be writing down the words that float around him, describing the events that led him to this state. With a cousin who was supported by “old money” and a neighbor who has profited from the “new money”, Nick finds himself in between Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), respectively. As everyone’s affairs become more entangled, emotions run rampant and feelings are inevitably hurt. Divorces are being discussed and accusations of murder are now part of the mix. Everything happened so close to Nick that he finds himself unable to cope with it until he finally breaks down and returns to his true passion: writing. Thus, the cautionary tale of “The Great Gatsby” was born.

Moulin Rouge!Moulin Rouge!
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

While it isn’t in the format of a traditional trilogy, Moulin Rouge! (2001) is actually the final act of Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy. Starting in 1992 with Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann followed this film up with Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge!. These three films only came four years apart from each other, which was much faster than his two most recent films (Australia being released seven years after the end of The Red Curtain Trilogy). Why Luhrmann holds his first three films as a trilogy is due to a single motif that appears in each: the theatre. There are many elements that make the theatre what it is, and each film explores a different part of it. From the dancing of Strictly Ballroom, to the poetry and wordsmithing of Romeo + Juliet, to the singing of Moulin Rouge!, the theme of the theatre is what ties these films together.

One of Baz Luhrmann’s other talents, besides directing, is mixing music. This is a common theme throughout his movies, each one featuring at least one remixed song. The film that exemplifies this part of his style is Moulin Rouge! Set at the turn of the 20th century, Christian (Ewan McGregor) finds himself ready to engage in the Bohemian culture of Paris. As a writer, his talent is encouraged by his upstairs neighbors: a troupe of actors who need his help to finish a show they want to sell to the Moulin Rouge. Through a case of mistaken identity, Christian is given prime treatment by the dance hall’s primary star, Satine (Nicole Kidman). Even with the mistake rectified, the two still fall in love, which creates a problem for the Moulin Rouge, since Satine is needed to woo a benefactor so that it can stay in business. On top of this, Satine is gravely ill, but hides it from everyone, including Christian.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Baz Luhrmann

Bacon #: 2 (The Great Gatsby / Tobey Maguire -> Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)

#281. F. Scott Fitzgerald

What makes an author’s work unadaptable to film? Over the years, there have been many stories written that have been deemed “impossible” to transfer onto film. Sometimes the limitations come in the content: something that can only be captured in our imagination. Sometimes it’s the scale of the story: with so much to cover, what do you cut out to get it within a reasonable running time? Sometimes it’s simply the wishes of the author’s estate. Nevertheless, these factors haven’t stopped filmmakers from trying. CGI has helped bring imaginative content to the screen. Two-part films split one long story into more manageable chunks. One of the most difficult authors to adapt to film has been F. Scott Fitzgerald, despite his prolific bibliography. This week’s two films focus on works adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button                                        The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours

From The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) to Watchmen (2009) to Ender’s Game (2013), each of these films have been “impossible” to capture on film and each has tried, to varying levels of success. Part of the reason that these films were even attempted was due to the advances in computer technology that allowed these stories to be told. Of course, many detractors of these films cite the fact that much of their source material was cut out during filming because of time constraints. But what about short stories? If the works of Philip K. Dick have proven anything, it’s that short stories can make great film adaptations. It is then no wonder that the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, eventually became a feature-length film. This would not have been possible without CGI, but there was still much that was added to the story to pad it out to almost three hours.

Much like the peculiar clock of Mr. Gateau, which advances backward in time instead of forward, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born as an aged man. His birth killed his mother. His father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), not knowing how to raise such a child, drops Benjamin off at a nursing home. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) finds the elderly baby and decides to take care of him. As his time at the nursing home passes, he gradually becomes strong enough to leave, but not without meeting Daisy (Cate Blanchett) first. The two individuals go off to live their lives, occasionally intersecting as Benjamin becomes younger and Daisy ages normally. Despite a few missed connections, they eventually become romantically involved. This too, does not last as Benjamin becomes more youthful and Daisy continues to grow older. Now at the end of his life, Benjamin dies as an infant in the elderly Daisy’s arms.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

While F. Scott Fitzgerald only wrote five novels (only four of which were published in his lifetime), only three of them have seen life on the big screen. The Beautiful and Damned (1922) and Tender Is the Night (1962) are the only adaptations that have been attempted once. Of course, it stands to reason that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work would be attempted multiple times. The Great Gatsby has seen itself adapted four times (not counting at least one adaptation for TV). From 1926 to 1949 to 1974, each film has tried to capture the spirit of the book that Fitzgerald penned in reaction to the state of the American society of the 1920’s. The most recent adaptation is that of the 2013 Baz Luhrmann version. Even though the visuals of this version were quite enthralling, some say that defeats the point of adapting The Great Gatsby at all.

Searching for a new job that will support him, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) finds himself in New York renting a small house next to the mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). After a few weeks as neighbors, Nick is eventually invited to one of Gatsby’s lavish parties. This is an odd occurrence, since most people have just showed up at Gatsby’s parties, with very few of them actually having met the man. Gatsby and Nick develop a friendship which leads to Gatsby meeting Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), rendering him immediately smitten. In the struggle between old money and new, events transpire that drive Gatsby to madness and causes Daisy to drive through the valley of ashes, accidentally killing the lover of her husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton). With infidelities and accusations flying, many others die and are killed as the story becomes trapped in Nick’s head.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Fitzgerald fables