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(Slum) Doggin’ It

It may seem silly to do a movie review on a film that just won Best Picture.  The movie Slumdog Millionaire was obviously deemed a great piece by many without any input by me.  Even more absurd than running a review at all is running one that says in giant bold letters:


Now that I have thoroughly diffused (or at least recognized) all the immediate criticism that can be leveled at me for bothering to write this, allow me to actually review the movie, though if you can’t guess where this is going then you need to seriously readjust your subtlety meter.

Slumdog Millionaire was wonderful movie that I loved (betcha didn’t see that coming, did you?).  As for a simple plot synopsis, it is about a poor 18 year old who grew up in the slums of India as a street urchin. In a desperate attempt to find his long lost love, he appears on the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”.  He meets with unlikely success early on, and most of the movie is told in flash back as he is interrogated by police who want to know how he ‘cheated’ his way to the last question, since there is simply no way that an uneducated young man could have known the answers that night.

Slumdog is a jarring movie that deals with the cruel realities of poverty, the steady hand of fate, and the power of hope and love to conquer the great evils of life.  It is both raw and sweet, brutal and gentle, street-wise and naive.  It is a warm and inviting experience that will make you cringe and groan.  For the record, I saw it with my wife who also loved it.

The movie is another amazing entry by one of my favorite directors: Danny Boyle.  How much do I like Danny Boyle?  I named my son Ewan after Ewan McGregor, and I first saw him in Boyle’s amazing film Trainspotting.  Technically, that answers the question “How much do I love Ewan McGregor?”, but Boyle was in the mix (as was George Lucas, but that’s another story). 

I’m also a huge fan of A Life Less Ordinary (despite the presence of Cameron Diaz, I adore this movie), 28 Days Later, and his lesser known Millions.  In fact, Millions has much in common both in terms of theme and spirit with Slumdog Millionaire, and I strongly recommend that film as well.  He does some of his finest work in Slumdog, and his faith in the story is remarkable.  The movie is technically proficient and Boyle expertly weaves a beautiful movie out of a remarkably thin premise.  His skill with the child actors and his use of story telling devices to draw in the audience are sublime.  This was his movie, and he crushed it out of the park.

The visuals are lush; the actors are solid without ever getting ‘frozen moment’ speeches.  In a fascinating way, Boyle turns hope and desperation into more than themes, but rather gives them life as characters in and of themselves.  This same plot in the hands of a lesser artist would have resulted in something like Finding Forrester (which I’m sure that Boyle would appreciate given his affinity for Sean Connery).  

Suffice it to say, that I enjoyed and recommend the picture.  Here’s a list of random thoughts that I’m too lazy to work into to coherent paragraphs:

  • It’s not a musical.  Don’t ask me why that matters, but I heard people wonder.
  • There are lots of subtitles, but it’s also largely in English.  Don’t like to read during movies?  Get over it.  My subtitles were in freaking Spanish.  That reminds of me of when I took some friends visiting from the US to see Kill Bill in the theater here.  I had forgotten how much of the movie was in Japanese, and spent way too much time annoying the theater by having to translate the Spanish subtitles back into English.  Jimmy James would have been proud. 
  • It’s not the ‘best’ Best Picture ever.  I liked it about like I loved Crash.  I know a lot of people hated Crash for not being about gay cowboys, but I thought it was a powerful movie.  Slumdog was better, but in that ballpark.
  • I could see people hating/not getting this film.  It is simple in many ways.  If you aren’t drawn in by it, you may not see what the fuss is about.
  • I’m only just now seeing it because Oscar movies come out late in the ‘Tina.  Of the ‘award type’ of films, I’ve just seen Revolutionary Road.  Unless you count Dark Knight and Hulk.  You don’t?  Snob.
  • The poverty in the movie is harsh, but real.  I see it up close, and there are no easy answers or quick fixes for it.  Hope and love are the best places to start though.
  • One of the reasons I love Boyle’s films is that so many of them deal with the issue of fate and destiny which is one of my favorite themes.  This movie hinges on it as well, and reminds me of a Life Less Ordinary in its conclusion.  
  • Skip any articles wondering if “Bolly-wood” is coming to America because of the success of this picture.  This movie doesn’t work because it’s shot in India (although that helps the film). It works because Danny Boyle is great.  I don’t see there being a lot of carry-over from this to other films. That is of course unless you buy the case that Darjeeling Limited + Slumdog Millionaire= Major Hollywood Trend!