Slumdog Millionaire

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Postby Penelope » Sun Dec 21, 2008 1:12 am

Sabin wrote:I can forgive something like The Dark Knight which remains cohesive but overreaching to a fault, but Slumdog Millionaire's deaf ear to character development is staggering.

Um, "cohesive" is SO not the word I would use to describe the anarchic, chaotic, nihilistic Dark Knight.

Ya gotta remember, as I'm sure Uri will remind you, I can't go in too much for dark films. And, really, this year we've been inundated with dark, depressing films that just left me feeling like shit when it was over. Now I CAN embrace a dark film, provided it's well-made: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a pretty bleak film, yet I still walked out of the theater on a natural high, because it's such a brilliant movie. Certainly not the case with ponderously bad/mediocre films like The Dark Knight or Rachel Getting Married.

I totally recognize the lack of character development in Slumdog, but let's be real and recognize that it's basically on the same level as The Dark Knight--neither film is particularly deep. But Boyle is an infinitely much better director than Chris Nolan, and the tech achievements on Slumdog are, unquestionably, vastly superior. Boyle combines all of this to make a thin, dubious story work in spades; Nolan creates a mess.

I won't begrudge Slumdog the Oscar, particularly as it looks like this year's slate of nominees is going to be rather pallid.
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Postby Sabin » Sun Dec 21, 2008 12:53 am

Beyond being defined by its monetary successes, blockbusters are generally categorized as pieces of populist escapism and in that case Slumdog Millionaire belongs to that new subsection known as The Indie Blockbuster. It'll never catch up to Iron Man, but it offers indie-sensibility escapism without much theme or subtext. Like Garden State or Juno, it thrives on fetishizing the plights of the innocent (even in shit) and offers a groovy soundtrack as well as a bevy of tricked out editing moves. I don't particularly care for either one of the aforementioned films (Juno has worn out for me in a major way and only retains any good will by being pretty darn funny and pretty well-acted) but I can think of quite a few more I will actively make excuses for that are just as guilty. The question is whether or not to do so for Slumdog Millionaire...

Ed Gonzalez just blogged that Slumdog Millionaire wasn't made with Oscars on its mind and is so darn energetic that you almost have to warm up to it. I certainly agree with that statement which is why I've been recommending it to people, but I find myself in a similar situation as Mike D'Angelo apparently does:

http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2008/dec/18/its-not-you-its-us/

...almost verbatim at that. Slumdog Millionaire may be energetic as hell and darn right adorable, aided by every facet of filmmaking: beautiful cinematography, music, and concept. It bothers me then that the latter (the concept) is so fundamentally phoned-in on the page. The very foundation is as uninspired as anything we've seen all year. It fetishizes the suffering of innocents, the love of innocents, the corruption of innocents...everything that in any other film one would hold up to the light and call bullshit - and I'm not joking. It just happens to do so in a very entertaining fashion.

I honestly have no idea if I will dislike Crash or Slumdog Millionaire more as Worst Best Picture Winner of the Decade. Haggis' film is worse but it so outwardly attempts to be relevant that it reeks of self-absorption and hypocrisy, but Slumdog's myopia is just as foul. What is truly worse: a racist film about racism or a travelogue music video as piercing as Vicky Cristina Barcelona? You may leave grinning ear to ear but it's at the expense of a grossly over-simplified film. It's not just critic-proof, it's senses-proof. For me, it's a good time that I wasn't incredibly proud of which stems from foundation issues I've brought up before. I can forgive something like The Dark Knight which remains cohesive but overreaching to a fault, but Slumdog Millionaire's deaf ear to character development is staggering.
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Postby Penelope » Sat Dec 20, 2008 10:41 pm

Uncle.

You know what? Based on Danny Boyle's previous foray into "feel-good" territory--the excreable Millions--I was preparing myself for an absolutely dreadful film. And, truth be told, I agree with pretty much everything Sabin said about the script--I kept thinking, it's like they married Horatio Alger with Sidney Sheldon by way of Bollywood. Nothing, really, in this movie makes logical sense, and in that regard I would normally be flummoxed as to why the critics are going hog wild about the film.

But Slumdog Millionaire also reminded me of two previous Best Picture winners--The Sound of Music and Titanic--in that it is such a life-affirming film that it's "critic-proof" (except that Slumdog, I suspect, is getting phenomenally better reviews than either of those films did, though it shares the unabashed romanticism and the moustache-twirling villains of both those previous films). Even more than that, Slumdog isn't just life-affirming, it's a life-rejuvinating film (it's come along at a pivotal moment for me). Even recognizing the obvious (very obvious, I should think) flaws of the script, you walk out of the theater just beaming from ear to ear, ready to take on the world.

I think it will win Best Picture. It has so much going for it--that fabulous word-of-mouth, a respected director working at the top of his game, a likable cast (especially Dev Patel who, given his thin material, gives an utterly charming performance, and I could easily see him Oscar-nominated), the exotic setting, and most of all, unlike so many other of this year's Oscar contenders, whether blockbuster (The Dark Knight, WALL-E) or "art film" (Milk, Rachel Getting Married), it doesn't make the audience feel bad about itself. Slumdog Millionaire makes you feel not just good about life, but absolutely great, and given how difficult events have become recently, I just can't see how the movie won't become a massive success, or how the Academy can ignore such success.




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Postby OscarGuy » Tue Dec 09, 2008 11:31 am

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Postby Sabin » Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:47 pm

'Slumdog Millionaire' could very easily win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Song, but I'm especially confident in predicting it for Best Adapted Screenplay because at best it is a model for textbook averageness, resourceful and canny at times but nothing special. At worst, it literally hobbles the entire production to the floor and it never manages to lift off the multiplex-product, middle-brow packaging that it is. There's a lot to like but at a certain point, you have to call bullshit.

SPOILERS!!!
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...I'm looking forward to seeing 'The Dark Knight' again just to see if it comes close to tackling the themes it sets up. Even if it doesn't, the film presents ideas and makes an attempt at saying something about each one. I felt like I was watching 'Slumdog Millionaire: Seventh Cut Where Things Got Silly.' Where obvious moments such as Jamal and Latika as children having some form of organic relationship or Jamal aboard the train missing Latika were taken out of the film in lieu of ADD moments where Danny Boyle was left alone in the editing room with a carton of cigarettes and a case of Jolt cola (do they still make Jolt? sigh...).

I can let some of the ADD moments go, but what I cannot let go is the fact that 'Slumdog Millionaire' - like 'Dreamgirls' before it - is a film utterly devoid of foundation. It's not just that 'Slumdog Millionaire' doesn't even attempt to A) say anything about where Jamal's ingrained sense of destiny comes from and what it could mean; B) bring the very concept up before the halfway mark where it feels so out of the blow and afterthought; C) show any prolonged interaction between Jamal and Latika as children; or D) present any transitional moments to explain how Latika has grown into a lifelong obsession of Jamal's...and it's not just that all of these are the basest moments in screenwriting you could find...

...it's that 'Slumdog Millionaire' turns itself into a music video by the end of it. Remember how tasteless and full of itself the end credits of 'Tropic Thunder' were? Same fucking thing. Make no mistake about it: 'Slumdog Millionaire' gets the Inflation Award for excellence in overhyping a movie into way more than it already is. Where 'Slumdog Millionaire' differs from 'Juno' and 'Little Miss Sunshine' is that it does it before the film itself is finished! Astonishing!

The movie is far too hyperkinetically edited but is beautifully shot and has some lovely moments. Unfortunately for reasons I have no idea, they literally decided to remove every single emotional foundation that I need to feel involved in a motion picture. Like, literally.
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Postby Greg » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:15 pm

flipp525 wrote:
Greg wrote:I guess this means decades-old Mercedes often end up in poor neighborhoods in India?

Haven't you read The Satanic Verses?! lol

Care to fill me in on that?
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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:30 pm

I'm glad to read you liked it, BJ. But I'm very curious about how much chemistry the lead couple generates. I'd think this would be a key element, but I haven't seen any reviewer mention it one way or the other, which I guess answers my question right there.



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Postby flipp525 » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:31 pm

Mister Tee wrote:The Rings trilogy is a fairly obvious recent example (for all but Penelope)

Oh, please count me in there as well. I never even made it past the first installment.
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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:26 pm

BJ, what you say about the film confirms what I got from early reactions, and is why I was so puzzled by rolo's dumping it so quickly into the treacle-hopper.

It seems we've become so used to mainstream/indie as a never-the-twain-shall-meet divide that we forget movies used to be a truly mass art form, where audiences and critics could come together and love the same thing. The Rings trilogy is a fairly obvious recent example (for all but Penelope), and even in this more divided decade you can find other examples. It's a bit like red state/blue state -- and we found out a week ago that was an oversimplified formula for much of the country.

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Postby flipp525 » Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:21 pm

Greg wrote:I guess this means decades-old Mercedes often end up in poor neighborhoods in India?

Haven't you read The Satanic Verses?! lol




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Postby Greg » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:50 pm

Here's an interesting piece of trivia about Slumdog Millionaire I found on imdb:

"Mercedes-Benz asked that its logos be removed in scenes taking place in the slums. The company, according to Danny Boyle, did not want to be associated with the poverty-stricken area, fearing that that might taint its image."

I guess this means decades-old Mercedes often end up in poor neighborhoods in India?
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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:27 pm

I think Slumdog Millionaire is a very likely Best Picture candidate, for the reason (as Sonic also put it) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was: it's a film that can appeal to many different groups of people. Slumdog's easily accessible rags-to-riches narrative will make it a populist favorite, but the foreign/arty factor will also give it cred with those looking for something hip. For sentamentalists, the ending is pretty hard to resist, but for those looking for something edgier, the film's more violent elements provide counterpoint.

After seeing the film, I am SHOCKED that anyone would compare this to Juno/Miss Sunsine, as I myself was guilty of. (Though it does share The Full Monty's screenwriter.) To my eyes, a recent Best Picture nominee that has a lot in common with Slumdog is actually Life is Beautiful -- a film that has a lot of dark stuff going on, but attempts to temper that with a little humor, culminating in an ending that has many reaching for their hankies. (Not making a qualitative comparison -- I think Slumdog is a more successful film than Life is Beautiful.)

But, though Slumdog's ending will seal the deal for a lot of people, there's a lot to enjoy along the way (though I'll purposely hold off on a lot of the details until others have seen the film). The finely-structured narrative is pretty gripping, and Boyle's aesthetic aids it immensely: this is a visual portrait of India not often seen in mainstream films, and I think Slumdog is as worthy a cultural document as it is a narrative force. I assume the photography and cutting will receive plenty of attention, but the score should as well, which gives the film a lot of pulsing energy, and will of course be ignored come award season for more bombastic musical themes.

The film is not without its missteps. Some of the gang subplot feels like the umpteenth retread of City of God. Dialogue about why people enjoy Who Wants to Be a Millionaire probably pushes too far into "this is what the movie is about" territory. And the film's ideas about destiny are sweet without being very deep. But Slumdog Millionaire, is above all, a beautiful portrait of a time and place, with an exciting narrative about the events in our lives and how they shape us. And, as I've said, the ending totally got me in the heart. After a bunch of high-profile disappointments (for me) this fall, here's one that lives up to a lot of the hype.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Mon Oct 27, 2008 9:48 pm

That's one hurdle crossed.

But no way does Danny escape Armond's shit list, now or ever.
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Postby Sabin » Mon Oct 27, 2008 4:45 pm

Nick Schager gives it ***

So inept has Hollywood become at delivering rousing inspiration that it's something of a shock when a mainstream filmmaker (albeit one from England, working in India) delivers an authentically affecting crowd-pleaser. Slumdog Millionaire has all the trappings of an awards-season schmaltz-fest, charting the story of an uneducated Indian teenage street rat named Jamal (Dev Patel) whose amazing success on the local telecast of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire lands him in prison on suspicion of cheating. There, the night before he's to compete for the ultimate cash prize, Jamal explains to a police inspector (Irfan Khan) how he knew the answers to each question, with flashbacks elucidating the alternately miserable and joyous life experiences—living on the streets and on the run with self-interested older brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and swoon-worthy beauty Latika (Freida Pinto)—that gave him the necessary pieces of information to progress on the show. It's a memory-narrated structure that superficially recalls that of The Usual Suspects.

Rather than crime-drama trickery, though, Danny Boyle's film (co-directed with Loveleen Tandan) roots itself in cynicism-free celebration of fate, love and social camaraderie, conveying with big, bold colors, extreme camera angles, and boisterous Indian music the way in which Jamal's hardscrabble past has presciently informed his potentially fortunate, famous future. Slumdog Millionaire argues that the most valuable knowledge is that learned first-hand, though no intimate familiarity with the Bollywood cinema Boyle is paying respect to is necessary to be swept up in the director's rollicking, heartfelt saga.

Orphaned after his mother is killed during an anti-Muslim riot, seven-year-old Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) is left to fend for himself in a decidedly Dickensian Mumbai, where he, Salim and Latika soon find themselves working for a Fagin-ish exploitative villain who plans to make his beggar-workers more profitable by permanently blinding them. The struggle of lower caste Indians in economically developing Mumbai is richly captured with a mixture of sensitivity and swagger, Boyle's cinematography so enlivened by the sights and sounds of India's crowded shantytowns and bustling metropolis, as well as the careening emotional fluctuations of his protagonists, that every cockeyed shot, starburst hue and speed-freak pan—a music video-ish aesthetic harmoniously in sync with individual and national character—seems primed to explode. It's a style matched by Simon Beaufoy's breakneck, expansive melodramatic script, which favors outsized sentimentality and humor, the latter ably established by an early sequence in which young, pint-sized Jamal braves a dip in an outhouse pool of shit to nab an autograph from a beloved movie star.

Boyle's is a fairy tale of upward mobility in which the indefatigable Jamal's devotion to protecting and—after Salim becomes a murderous gangster and turns traitor on his sibling—reuniting with Latika is predicated on unwavering faith in love. That destiny favors the pure-of-heart who are disadvantaged and romantic is an unabashedly mushy concept, and yet Boyle's direction is ecstatic, enthralled by the notion that kindness and generosity in the face of hardship have a way of paying dividends in the most unexpected, circuitous ways. Jamal faces down two gangsters, the police and a dastardly game show host on his way to the program's 20-million rupee final question, an improbable path forged by an unwillingness to accept social standing as fixed that, eventually, unites him with the country at large.

Slumdog Millionaire is fantasy yet its hyperactively effervescent (if still personal, intimate) portrait of both ingrained social barriers and altruism's ability to demolish them is genuine and sweet. And although these qualities occasionally falter during some overly broad comedic wrong notes, the film nonetheless possesses a gripping aesthetic and emotional dynamism that can only be expressed, finally, via prototypical Bollywood dance-choreography pageantry.
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