Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

A boy from the slums of India, orphaned and living with his elder brother-- literally in piles of garbage--suddenly finds himself one question away from being a "millionaire" on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (except the million was 20 million rupees, about the same amount). The question is: did he cheat? With absolutely no formal education, Jamal is a "slumdog," a streetkid, bound to grow up as a no-good thug--but with a good heart (in pure Hollywood fashion). Through a brilliant and seamless series of flashback/cut-to-the-present/flashback/cut-to-the-present, director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) presents a gorgeous and intimate story. Film kids call this film cheesy, to which I reply, in pure 5th grade fashion: "who cares, you're just jealous." This movie is quite near cinematic perfection. You don't need to be a David Lynch or David Cronenberg to make a good movie. Just because a film isn't reserved for the academic elite does not mean that it is not worth watching. Hell, Slumdog Millionaire was the best movie I have seem since... well, probably the Dark Knight (yes, it was that good). Of course, I am a sucker for style, and both the cinematography and music selection was breathtaking (I believe Slumdog won the Golden Globe for music as well as best picture-drama). From the first sweeping low-angle shot of riding motorcycles, with halos made from the reflection of natural light on the lens, I was hooked. M.I.A. was used at least twice-- once during a scene that perfectly illustrated the lyrics ("Paper Planes": "sometimes I think sitting on trains," when the two brothers are actually sitting on a train), something a bit ridiculous but ultimately endearing. Strangely enough, although they use M.I.A. (oh M.I.A., you sneaky Sri Lankan revolutionary, you), feature Muslim/Hindu rivalries in India, focus on globalization and reconstruction as well as gang fights, the film remains strangely apolitical. It focuses on the human rather than burdening it with politics (it would just have been too much). Yes, without a doubt, I would recommend that everyone see this film (.... and I have, to several a wandering passersby near the Landmark). To those that claim its cheesiness, for chrissake, Boyle is a master of all genres, including faux-Bollywood tearkers. There's a reason they call them feel-good movies; it's as if optimism has suddenly become a mark of stupidity for our generation. Claiming this movie as so-called "cheesy" is inevitably due to film school insecurity and the inability to really enjoy a great movie when it's placed in front of you. So man up and grab a tissue, for cryin' out loud.

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