Saturday, January 17, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

My problem with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was that, while it was good, it reminded me too much of things I'd already seen. (Mostly Forrest Gump and a bit of Titanic). Slumdog Millionaire, also very good, did NOT remind me of any movies I'd ever seen before, and thus, is a better movie. (Absolutely no sex whatsoever and an awesome dance sequence helped, too).
Jamal Malik is a slumdog, one who comes from the slums, of Mumbai, India. He's been arrested for cheating on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?. He protests that he didn't cheat. He knew the answers because he is destined to win. "It is written", he says late in the film. We get some vignettes for each answer he knew, which add up to his life story. He and his brother Salim make their way in India through a number of dishonest yet amusing money-earning activities. (pretending to be a tour guide for the Taj Mahal was my favorite)
When they're young children, they meet a girl named Latika. Salim and Jamal are the musketeers Athos and Porthos; Jamal considers her the third musketeer whose name they don't know. They're separated from Latika, and Jamal dedicates himself to finding her. His reasons for going on the show aren't revealed until later in the film, so I'll leave them be.
The R rating is for some more creative adult things that you'd expect. There is just about no sex, though I just remembered, there is a scene where they walk through a... for lack of a better term, whorehouse, though nothing graphic is shown. (In fact, the only bit I can remember involved both people still being clothed) There's a bit of torture at the beginning when Jamal's being interrogated, but no blood. Also, no blood though a number of people get shot. So the rating is a very mild R.
The film extensively uses child actors, as even modern-day Jamal can't be more than 19. There are three actors for each Jamal, Salim, and Latika, and all of them are very good. I applaud Danny Boyle for getting such performances from all of them. Also, and I have never been able to compliment this in a film before, the subtitles were very well done. The characters learned English as they got older, and so the youngest versions of Jamal and Salim spoke no English at all. Instead of the standard subtitles at the bottom, the subtitles were centered on the character that was speaking, and there was a slight transparent bar of color behind the subtitle, to ensure the audience COULD SEE IT. I watch subbed anime. I have no problem with watching things subbed. I do have problems with subs that either block the picture or are blocked BY the picture. I've never even seen different subtitles before, so kudos Danny Boyle!
One other very different thing was the credit sequence. Even with the bit of epilogue in WALL-E, even with the bonus clips at the end of all three Pirates movies, I have never seen an entire audience stay for a credit sequence before. Do you want to know why? No credit sequence has had an AWESOME dance number before. For those innovations, and for being such a high-quality film with a creative plot, (not about politics, the military, the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc--thank my father for spoiling those films for me. WE'LL SEE WHOSE FILMS ARE BETTER WHEN WALL-E KICKS FROST/NIXON OUT FOR BEST PICTURE!) and presenting it in such a way that I've never seen before, I think it certainly deserves to beat the majority of films out there: Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, definitely. Though I dislike Frost/Nixon because it was a good play, and should stay a good play. The last thing I want at the Oscars is another political directed-by-some-famous-guy-in-this-case-Ron-Howard to get nominated. Milk, The Wrestler, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, The Dark Knight, and Doubt... well, it was good, but I haven't seen most of those, so it's hard for me to pass judgement. Perhaps it won't win the Academy Award? But I find that unlikely, because...
Slumdog has now won both the Critic's Choice and Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture, as well as every other award it was nominated for at both of those ceremonies--save Best Song at the CCAs, which went to Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler". While it impresses me that they made such a good film for $10 million, as opposed to however much they threw at Benjamin Button, it's still not my favorite film of the year. I wanted it to be my favorite, so I wouldn't be as disappointed when it wins the Oscar. But, tragically, my favorite film is still WALL-E. Andrew Stanton, I take my hat off to you, sir. You have won my heart over critically acclaimed Best Picture frontrunner. (though, according to Rottten Tomatoes, WALL-E's even MORE critically acclaimed, with the coveted "Golden Tomato" award and a whopping 96%.)
It's a great film. Beats ANYTHING in theaters right now. Loved every minute of it. I have nothing bad to say about it.

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