Slumdog Millionaire

The Nominations:

  • Achievement in Cinematography
  • Achievement in Directing
  • Achievement in Film Editing
  • Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
  • Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
  • Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Adapted Screenplay

The Black-and-White:

A review by SpacedCowboy

In writing this review, I have been procrastinating. Yes, there was the daily grind. And laundry. And dishes. Dog walking. Dog feeding. Filing. Facebook. Googling. Eating. Drinking. Returning calls. Ignoring calls. And going blonde.

But at the heart of it all, I wanted to find a moment. A moment, and the inspiration, to do justice to this incredible movie. I wanted my review to be worthy of what is, in my humble opinion, the Best Motion Picture of 2008.

And so I suffer from writer’s block, and I am not  just a little bit intimidated.

Here’s the movie synopsis from imdb.com:

The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions. Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its storytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

It’s not often that this humble (?) scribe sees a complete and excellent film. Faithful readers of my rants will know the elements I seek, the  elements of the great story. I have repeated them perhaps too often in the pages of the OscarsInBlackandWhite, and to repeat them here seems to  demean a story that had them all in abundance.

Slumdog was a tough story; Forrest Gump it was not. Abject poverty, class racism, violence, prejudice, random acts of cruelty – all were presented with shocking frankness.

The revelations of the sometimes appalling circumstances Jamal (our protagonist) faces were not, however, what made this movie great. They were merely pieces on the board in which the story was presented.

This movie was not about Mumbai. It was not about gangsters. It was not about poverty. It was not about power. It wasn’t even about the particular characters involved.

At its heart, this movie told the stories: The story of Jamal and Latika. And Jamal and his brother Salim. About Salim and Latika. And Jamal and his world. And Salim and his world. And Latika and her world. And the foggy world of Prem Kumar, the talk show host. And of the police inspector – a man who can torture-with-the-best-intentions-at-heart. Who knew? It turns out, according to this film, to be possible.

This story didn’t need to be told in the context of the slums and gangs of Mumbai. It is a timeless and placeless story. But the choice of set and surroundings makes this compelling story even more interesting, and, perhaps, even timeless.

And that’s how Slumdog becomes a classic movie for the ages. It takes a compelling story, enriches it beyond measure with characters, setting and circumstance, and let’s the story – both the light and the dark – sing in confidence on its heritage, yet planted on a fertile ground.

(… okay that was pretty fatuous, but I’m doing the best I can, given the writer’s block, and the fear of inadequacy…)

The story (screenplay) was superb. Even the villains had a story, and a perspective. Bravo.

The acting was excellent, all around, although it seems very, very, very odd that no acting nods went to any member of the cast in this movie.

The directing was, frankly, sublime. Capturing us in a hard story, with  humor, levity, horror and hope,  took a deft and nuanced touch. Bravo.

This is a movie that made it all work: it took a great story, found a great set, with interesting circumstances, employed outstanding actors, and crafted an audio and visual experience for the ages.  It did it all.

I’ve asked a lot of my friends: “what movies have you liked this year?” Everyone (and I mean everyone) has first said how outstanding Slumdog is. I think that is telling, and true. This is not just a movie of the year; it is a reminder of how movies should be.

“Steel balls is what it takes, my friend, steel balls” Prem Kumar.

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One Response to Slumdog Millionaire

  1. ladyoscar23 says:

    I don’t know if I totally agree that it’s an all-time classic, but this is certainly the only one of the Best Picture nominees I’d particularly want to see again.

    My cynical take on why it didn’t get any acting nominations is that 1) despite all the truly unpleasant things that happen it’s not depressing, and 2) it stars a bunch of non-“white” foreigners.

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