Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Well, better late than never, I always say. While I love the Oscars, and trying to see as many of the movies nominated for Oscars as humanly possible prior to the lovely award ceremony, I am also poor. So, clearly, this does not always happen. In fact, it never happens. This year, before the show, I managed to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon. The former I thought was a beautiful story with an exceptional performance by Cate Blanchette, although I felt it lagged a little in the middle/end; the latter I thought exceptional.

Two days ago, on my way home from work, my boyfriend balked at the idea of sitting in traffic hoping to get home, and we took an unplanned detour for dinner/movie while traffic cleared up. He's just going to have to get used to the traffic at some point, since neither of us can afford to do dinner/movie every time the traffic is bad, and it is always bad. So, we decided to see what all of the fuss was about, and check out Slumdog Millionaire.

First, let me tell you, I enjoyed this film immensely. The cinematography was beautiful and full of emotion, the music was beautifully and creatively paired with the story/scenery. The acting was...well, the acting was good, and it certainly moved the story forward, and served it's place in the movie. After seeing the movie, I can understand how a movie could be nominated for (and win) so many Awards, yet not a single individual performance was nominated. Don't misunderstand, it wasn't bad, there just weren't any devastating performances. For example, while I do not think Benjamin Button deserved a nom for best picture, I do think Cate Blanchette deserved at least a nom (I'm so happy Winslet won) for her performance. If only the judges agreed with me.

However, I had a few problems with the movie. For one thing, while the movie certainly portrayed some horrible aspects of poverty in India, it also somehow romanticized it. I don't know if I can quite articulate what I mean. While the protagonist, his brother, and his love interest suffered some horrible fates as children, it was always portrayed in this sort of "resourceful and scrappy kids at odds with the world, but winning in the end," that I think trivializes the very real problems of poverty facing India right now.

And there was one scene that I had real problems with. Well, let me rephrase that. I thought it was a fairly accurate representation of the truth, and I didn't like what I saw. In a scene in the movie, Jamal is being brutally beaten in front of American tourists, and he makes a comment about this being "the real India." So, of course, the wife in this pair of American tourists says "Well, we're gonna show you some of the real America," and looks meaningfully at her husband. He takes a minute to catch her drift, pulls out his wallet, and hands the young Jamal a $100 bill. The two leave, looking very satisfied with themselves. Now, while $100 is a generous sum if money, especially for an adolescent living in poverty in India, what exactly is this going to do to help this kid in the long term? Yet, as Americans, we do seem to throw some sort of money at the problems abroad, with no real help or long-term solutions, and then walk away regarding ourselves as saviours of the downtrodden. It did nothing to end the abuse, it did nothing to change the boy's lifestyle. No help. No guidance. Just a sum of money and the attitude that with that, we can save the world.

Now, analyzing every movie as some commentary on society as a whole will certainly suck all of the life and enjoyment out of it. However, it is silly to overlook this aspect of movies, since they are usually an accurate reprsentation of where we are as a society. Either by accurately depicting us, or simply by demonstrating what we find entertaining and are willing to pay to see (for the example, there is nothing wrong with a movie aimed at heteronormative dating. It's the lack of movies geared towards a homosexuals that is telling about what society wants/is willing/will pay to see). However, taken as a form of entertainment, I have to say, I truly loved the movie. It was heartbreaking at time, it struck and emotional chord, but in the end, you were rooting for the protagonist, and should have felt a profound sense of joy. At least, if you have a heart.

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