Button Is as Forrest Was

They’re both southerners born with unusual obstacles to overcome. They both befriend ornery boat captains and see the horrors of war. Both chase one flawed true love their whole lives, across a changing American social landscape. Both have airborne symbols following them: a floating feather for one and a hummingbird for the other.

And, oh yeah, the same guy – Eric Roth -- wrote both of their movie tales – both of which notched 13 Academy Award nominations.

There are undeniable similarities between “Forrest Gump,” the tale of a deceivingly wise stupid-is-as-stupid-does simpleton, and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the story of a man who ages backward and gains wisdom in his physical youth.

Now the twin movies – born 14 years apart – have spawned a backlash that’s raging across the Internet, with the Button haters campaigning against the film’s Oscar chances.

There’s the Official Anti-Benjamin Button Club, as well as a slew of Facebook groups with names like, “Benjamin Button Ruined My Life,” and “Benjamin Button Took Three Hours Of My Life That I’ll Never Get Back.” On Monday, Defamer mapped out, with a glint of hope, a scenario under which “Button” could go a record 0-for-13 on Oscar night.

The anti-Button movement has been buoyed by a clever mock coming-attractions video aired by “Talkshow with Spike Feresten” that juxtaposes the two films, using a split screen. (See video below.)

But will all the Button bashing sway Academy Award voters? More importantly, will movie audiences care?

The critical reaction and box office have been fairly strong for “Benjamin Button,” and with reason: It’s a good movie – albeit one that’s heavy-handed in places, and pulls a bit harder than it needs to on the heart strings. And if we’ve seen this flick before, you can say the same for plenty of films that are variations on a theme or franchise (Think "Indiana Jones"). Some people seek the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, especially in times of uncertainty.

“Benjamin Button” is a lot like “Forrest Gump” in yet another way: The people who like it, love it, while the people who hate it, loathe it. Still, “Gump” won six Oscars, including statues for Best Picture and for Roth’s screenplay.

So an Oscar night subplot is shaping up: Will Feb. 22 bring a celebration for those who still think, all these years later, that life is like a box of chocolates -- or for those who wish Benjamin Button was never born?

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Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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