Slumdog Millionaire

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Penelope
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Postby Penelope » Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:08 am

Well, there you have it, a feel-good movie I've never liked: Singin' in the Rain.
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Postby Uri » Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:08 am

I always had issues with the Band Wagon. I haven't seen it in many years, and I guess I should revisit it, but my recolection is of a piece that doesn't really merge. Trying too hard is a term that somehow pop into my mind. (Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Astaire's persona of that period strikes me as kind of creepy. Him being presented as cool and a chick magnet at 55 is not a sight I cherish).

Every couple of years Singin' is being mentioned – you dismiss it, I feel obliged to hail it. Ok, being lazy, I'll just post something I posted here before.

I’ve once saw Stanley Donnen on tv, and he said something that went like this: “Goddard once said that cinema is 24 frames of truth a second. He was wrong – it’s 24 frames of a lie”. This film is a celebration of Art of Cinema (particalarly the art of making musicals) as a form of deceiving, and the need to be deceived in order to cope with the harsh realities of every day life. People lie constantly here – from the first frame of the film (“Dignity, always dignity”), to the fake romance Don and Lina are supposedly having, to the pretentious front little Kathy is putting on – and these are only the first few moments of the movie. What separates the sophisticates from the fools is only the degree of the denial they’re in. Lina totally believes the lies. Don knowingly stages them (asking Kosmo to tell him how great he is when he’s down).

The musical numbers are a glorification of this need – You’re in love and it’s raining – isn’t it a great opportunity to sing and dance? Want to reveal your emotions to a sweetheart? The only way to do so (elementary!) is to use an empty soundstage and create the perfect setting and have the perfect score played for you. Your new talky has just bombed – Sing your way out of this gloomy situation! By the way, through the wonders of VCR , after countless times I saw it on the big screen, I spotted another proof to its precise making in this scene. Kelly, O’Connor and Reynolds are depressed. They go from the living room to the kitchen. They TALK. We’re still in a “realistic” form of being. So when they go through the door there’s a cut. When they go back, SINGING, the camera moves smoothly, passing through the wall – we’re transferred to another dimension.

The happy-ending is possible only when the circumstances are so unique that a musical–like situation can happen in a “realistic” setting – have the studio orchestra, playing on an opening night, ready to oblige your whims - and isn’t it easy to win your girl’s heart back?

But moments of pure truth can happen every now and than – when this Art of making false dreams is somehow, miraculously, works – something clicks and there you have it. So when finally we see the new and improved version of the Singing Cavalier, the voice that so perfectly fits Lina’s image is supposedly Kathy’s, but it’s not Reynolds’ voice but Jean Hagan’s own real voice we’re hearing, for the first time in this film, coming out of Hagan’s mouth. For when lies are prefectly staged, they are far better than any meager truth.



(Thank God for Zemakis. At least we're in full sync where he's concerned).

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Postby Damien » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:12 am

Uri wrote:
Greg wrote:
OscarGuy wrote:I'm saying it shouldn't be voted Best Picture BECAUSE it's a feel-good movie.

I'm curious, then, do you think the Academy made the right choice in not nominating such films as Singin' In The Rain and contact?

Singin' in the Rain claim to greatness lies not in its being a feel good movie but in the fact that it's a multilayered comment on what a feel good movie is – and still being enormously entertaining while having quite a somber point of view. I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet so I'll give it the benefit of a doubt. Who knows, maybe it does offer some insights regarding the extremely complex society it sets against, only they are implied in a too sophisticated way for Marco and Sabine to get. Poor souls.

And how on earth did Contact get into this mix?

I wouldn't have nominated Singin' In The Rain, In fact, it doesn't make my Top 10 of 1952 or even my Top 15. I will admit it's the best musical of that year, though.

Uri, it sounds like you're describing The Band Wagon, not Rain, although I'd be very interested in hearing what about it you think is somber. It seems to me that other than when Vincente Minnelli got ahold of them, Comden & Green were pretty exuberant, vivacious and sprightly.

I liked Slumdog Millionaire. I had a good time with it. It's a very well-made, buoyant, entertaining film and makes you care about the characters. It's also fairly superficial, schematic, heavy-handed and repetitious.

Contact? I don't do Robert Zemeckis. Frenetic right-wing fuck.




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Postby Uri » Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:42 am

Greg wrote:
OscarGuy wrote:I'm saying it shouldn't be voted Best Picture BECAUSE it's a feel-good movie.

I'm curious, then, do you think the Academy made the right choice in not nominating such films as Singin' In The Rain and contact?

Singin' in the Rain claim to greatness lies not in its being a feel good movie but in the fact that it's a multilayered comment on what a feel good movie is – and still being enormously entertaining while having quite a somber point of view. I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire yet so I'll give it the benefit of a doubt. Who knows, maybe it does offer some insights regarding the extremely complex society it sets against, only they are implied in a too sophisticated way for Marco and Sabine to get. Poor souls.

And how on earth did Contact get into this mix?

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Postby jsmalahy » Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:10 am

Penelope wrote:Even recognizing it's flaws, it gave me a natural high that I haven't experienced at the movies since January. I'm sorry, but I just don't think that's a bad thing.

It's not a bad thing at all.

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Postby Eric » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:19 am

Penelope wrote:But, you know, sometimes we just have to be less cynical. I've been in a pretty dark place for several months, and this afternoon was (I hope) the absolute nadir. But Slumdog Millionaire, whether it's about fate or luck or plucky perseverence, is the perfect antidote for our times. Even recognizing it's flaws, it gave me a natural high that I haven't experienced at the movies since January. I'm sorry, but I just don't think that's a bad thing.

Funny, that's exactly how I stumbled into loving WALL•E.

All that aside, I'm sorry if 2008 has been a big pile of suck for you and hope that things turn up soon.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:02 pm

Let me first agree with OscarGuy and say that I think Benjamin Button is a lot stronger contender than many say that it is, especially because it hasn't even opened yet. When I read postings (not here) from people who haven't seen Button arguing that the Fincher film is "too cold" to win Best Picture, I just want to throw my hands up in amazement. Sure, once I see the film (and see how strongly the public reacts to it), I might make a different prediction about its chances, but for me that film seems as good a bet as any until proven otherwise.

I think Slumdog is also a top contender, but I'm baffled at how the film blogosphere has all but ceded the Best Picture Oscar to the film.

OscarGuy, I have to disagree, though with your comparison of Slumdog to Seabiscuit, particularly the phrase "if it didn't have the critics backing it." Slumdog to me is a FAR more original piece of storytelling and filmmaking than the horse movie -- that's why critics are backing it. Perhaps I'm biased because I like the film, but I think Slumdog is a much more interesting effort than the usual Seabiscuit/Shine/Finding Neverland vanilla uplift the Academy likes to nominate.

It's not my favorite movie of the year, and I'm sure I'll like at least two of the Best Picture nominees more, but I'm probably Penelope's side in thinking Slumdog is one of the brighter spots of a barren year, and as such, don't have much problem with its success. (In another year, my tune might be different, though.)

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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:31 pm

I didn't say that. I didn't say that Slumdog Millionaire didn't deserve a nomination, although I don't think it does. I merely said that it shouldn't get a Best Picture Oscar just because it's sentimental or a feel good movie. It should win for a number of things, including substance, which I feel is Slumdog's weakness.

And cam, I don't know how or why you're dismissing Benjamin Button out of hand. You haven't even seen the film yet. At least with Australia, the trailer was a good barometer of how the film would turn out, something I mentioned in my trailer review. Benjamin Button's trailer at least looks interesting and looks like it would be right up the Academy's alley in terms of Best Picture. I've not say that it deserves Best Picture or a Best Picture nomination. I just think that it has, at the present, all the makings of a Best Picture winner.




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Postby Greg » Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:12 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I'm saying it shouldn't be voted Best Picture BECAUSE it's a feel-good movie.

I'm curious, then, do you think the Academy made the right choice in not nominating such films as Singin' In The Rain and contact?
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Postby cam » Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:57 pm

OG, I cannot understand your devotion to Benjamin Button. A month ago it was Australia.

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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:31 pm

Pen, I'm not saying that it should be disqualified for being a feel good movie. I'm saying it shouldn't be voted Best Picture BECAUSE it's a feel-good movie. There's a difference.
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Postby jsmalahy » Mon Dec 22, 2008 6:20 pm

It's a tie: both The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire are stupid films and neither one deserves a Best Picture nomination.

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Postby Penelope » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:57 pm

Just because something is escapist entertainment doesn't necessarily mean it's of lesser value. I mean, just look at all the classic comedies and musicals that weren't nominated at all. Heck, in another thread, several people were bemoaning the fact that My Man Godfrey, despite 4 acting nominations, failed to get a Best Picture nomination. And the few that were nominated most often lost: Busby Berkeley's other 1933 flick, 42nd Street, lost the Best Picture prize to Cavalcade.

So I don't think that should automatically disqualify the film for Best Picture. As I indicated earlier, so many of this year's likely nominees are bleak, depressing films, or, at the very least, not feel-good films in any way. Too often, Oscar goes for that archetype--it has to be depressing to be good--but this year, given the events of the past few years and having selected films of varying darkness over the past four years (practically getting darker with each successive year), Oscar voters will probably be inclined to go with something far more cheerful and inspiring. (Besides, how often is Cavalcade revived? 42nd Street is getting a revival at a local theater here in Dallas next month!)

As for personal favorite films of 2008, well, I'd put Slumdog Millionaire at the top so far, with Milk and In Bruges close behind. (One guess as to what's at the bottom of the list.)
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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:43 pm

I don't have any problem with that, Penelope, and I was charmed by it more than I expected, but I think the complaint here is that, like the mentioned Gold Diggers of 1933, escapism is all fine and good, but it doesn't deserve a Best Picture Oscar for it. How many times has the feel good movie winner (Rocky, Greatest Show on Earth, etc) been looked at in historical perspective as poor choices.

If it didn't have the critics backing it, I could see this going the way of Seabiscuit, but that it's being talked as a serious contender is worrisome because it's not the best film of the year and could win over more deserving fare. Even Frost/Nixon, a film that is also a solid reflection of our times, echoing the Bush administration a gerat deal, would be a more deserving winner.

With Benjamin Button, The Reader and Doubt the only heavily-talked-about films contending for the Oscar for Best Picture that I haven't seen, I can't really understand how Slumdog is the odds-on favorite to win. Matter of fact, I'm fairly dubious that it is. I would still say that Benjamin Button seems to be the most likely film to emerge as a winner, but the talk of Slumdog continues...I'm hoping it's the kind of talk that follows movies like Juno and Babel that earn a lot of talk but ultimately lose because it doesn't deserve the distinction.
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Postby Penelope » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:31 pm

Frank Rich begins his most recent column with this:

DURING the Great Depression, American moviegoers seeking escape could ogle platoons of glamorous chorus girls in “Gold Diggers of 1933.” Our feel-good movie of the year is “Slumdog Millionaire,” a Dickensian tale in which we root for an impoverished orphan from Mumbai’s slums to hit the jackpot on the Indian edition of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

It’s a virtuoso feast of filmmaking by Danny Boyle, but it’s also the perfect fairy tale for our hard times. The hero labors as a serf in the toilet of globalization: one of those mammoth call centers Westerners reach when ringing an 800 number to, say, check on credit card debt. When he gets his unlikely crack at instant wealth, the whole system is stacked against him, including the corrupt back office of a slick game show too good to be true.

We cheer the young man on screen even if we’ve lost the hope to root for ourselves. The vicarious victory of a third world protagonist must be this year’s stocking stuffer. The trouble with “Slumdog Millionaire” is that it, like all classic movie fables, comes to an end — as it happens, with an elaborately choreographed Bollywood musical number redolent of “Gold Diggers of 1933.” Then we are delivered back to the inescapable and chilling reality outside the theater’s doors.

The rest is about Bernie Madoff.

This is why I liked it. Yes, it's all rather conveniently set up--in addition to Italiano's comments, the construction is too easy by half: each successive question in the game neatly matches Jamil's growth from boy to man; it might've been more challenging had the questions jumped around chronologically, but, then, it wouldn't be a box-office success or the Oscar front-runner.

But, you know, sometimes we just have to be less cynical. I've been in a pretty dark place for several months, and this afternoon was (I hope) the absolute nadir. But Slumdog Millionaire, whether it's about fate or luck or plucky perseverence, is the perfect antidote for our times. Even recognizing it's flaws, it gave me a natural high that I haven't experienced at the movies since January. I'm sorry, but I just don't think that's a bad thing.
"...it is the weak who are cruel, and...gentleness is only to be expected from the strong." - Leo Reston



"Cruelty might be very human, and it might be cultural, but it's not acceptable." - Jodie Foster


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