The question arose one night during a dinner conversation with friends: What are your three most watched television channels? I mulled over my viewing habits and finally came up with the History Channel, ESPN, and the Discovery Channel. When asked why I liked the Discovery Channel, I responded that I was intrigued by their coverage of bizarre human conditions.
Anyone who watches the Discovery Channel knows that a large chunk of their programming focuses on strange genetic disorders and the people who are afflicted with them. In any given week you could see a show about a woman with gigantic legs, a man whose entire body is covered in bark-like growths, or conjoined twins who have been fused at the head for 40 years. The episodes are intriguing not only for the science, but also for the psychology of the people involved.
No empathetic person could watch one of these shows and not feel great sympathy for the featured individuals. And yet sympathy is what they generally detest the most. While I have a hard time being seen in public with a bad haircut, these people revel in the challenge and even look forward to educating society about their afflictions. The bottom line is that any time you think your life isn't going well, imagine being covered from head to toe with bark-like warts. Your existence suddenly looks pretty good comparatively.
Not surprisingly, the Discovery Channel popped into my head after seeing this week's feature, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." During this film you'll meet an odd human being, a young man afflicted with a strange yet intriguing genetic disorder that forces his life down a remarkable road.
Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button and gives a performance certainly worthy of Oscar nomination consideration. The role required not only great emotional range, but also immense patience as he was forced to sit through hours of make-up for the various incarnations of his character. Admittedly, few actors could have traversed the chronological timeframe needed to make this film work.
There has been much buzz surrounding this film and it's warranted for the most part. The only true criticism comes from the extended running time - nearly three hours. But while this film was certainly on the edge of too long, it never reached an uncomfortable point. However, careful editing could have made the running time 20 minutes shorter with little effect to the overall story.
I will say this about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": If you have a weakness for tearing up over emotional situations, definitely bring some tissues. By the end of this film I was on the verge of bawling. The careful and well directed plotting of this story results in a conclusion that is both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time.
If you are willing to dedicate the time and are inclined to enjoy stories that contemplate the depths of emotion experienced during a person's lifetime, then I encourage you to see this film. It is a grand affair, much in the vein of "Forrest Gump" (minus the humor), which will undoubtedly test your composure as the film concludes. A soaring "A-" for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Dom's Video Pick of the Week: "Man on a Wire"
In 1974 the World Trade Center towers stood as a testament to the engineering prowess of man. But while most looked at the giant skyscrapers with awe, one young man from France looked at them as performance art. His plan: stretch a cable between the towers and walk from rooftop to rooftop.
"Man on a Wire" is the amazing documentary of Philippe Petit, a high wire artist who, with a ragtag group of accomplices, manages to dupe New York's finest security firms by sneaking through their barriers to perform for an awestruck public.
This is an exhilarating film that will leave you in awe as you contemplate the near-impossible span of events that needed to transpire in order for this feat to be realized.
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