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Overstreet

Slumdog Millionaire

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Boyle's "It is written" is a bit of a sham compared to the way destiny is described in other 2008 films, like Shotgun Stories, Silent Light, or Wendy and Lucy.

Amen to that, at least in terms of "SL." I haven't seen "SS," but could you elaborate on the concept of destiny in "WAL"? I watched the film late one night and would like to watch it again, but it might be even better if I had your idea in mind. That aspect wasn't exactly coming through loud and clear to me the first time around, although Wendy did, of course, have a particular goal/aim. Might be best to respond in a thread dedicated to that film, assuming we have one.

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Yeah, I was going to ask that too. On a pretty fundamental level, W&L hinges on a CHOICE that Wendy makes in the grocery store (

she has several hundred dollars on her, as we find out LATER in the film, but... instead of paying for the dog food, she tries to steal it

), and while she does face other setbacks that are unrelated to her choice (such as

the loss of her car

), it all seems more like bad luck (and narrative compression) than "destiny", to me.

Maybe that should be carried over to the W&L thread, though, if it doesn't tie back to Slumdog in some way.

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Amen to that, at least in terms of "SL." I haven't seen "SS," but could you elaborate on the concept of destiny in "WAL"? I watched the film late one night and would like to watch it again, but it might be even better if I had your idea in mind.

I didn't intend to make a big point about W&L in that sentence, so I will post more later in that thread. But the film does move pretty resolutely towards its conclusion, as the amount of choices available to Wendy systematically disappear throughout the film. I respond so personally to this component film because I have had a number of friends in her precise predicament, who ended up basically vanishing because they couldn't conceive of their personal destiny in any other direction but on the margins somewhere. It is a very dark and harrowing film, if this deterministic subtext is actually there, but therapeutic in the way it treats this pair so compassionately.

Back to Slumdog, I forgot to mention a major caveat. The fact is, Slumdog is a Bollywood film for the most part, and I have no connections to that kind of cinema. I don't fully understand it, it isn't part of my cultural heritage, and I can never find much room for it on my to-see list. It may be the case that Boyle has made an excellent Bollywood film, and I simply can't tell. There is a great deal of intentionality to how the story is told, specifically in the devices that are used to move us along. All these auteur touches point to the idea that Slumdog is a bit of a mashup, with Bollywood at the center, and I am the one missing out on its relevance to a national cinema that is even bigger than Hollywood. Which makes me the outsider here, not Boyle.

So while it strikes me as fairly naive international cinema from a social perspective (at times even insulting), it could be pretty intelligent international cinema from a genre perspective.

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Back to Slumdog, I forgot to mention a major caveat. The fact is, Slumdog is a Bollywood film for the most part, and I have no connections to that kind of cinema. I don't fully understand it, it isn't part of my cultural heritage, and I can never find much room for it on my to-see list. It may be the case that Boyle has made an excellent Bollywood film, and I simply can't tell. There is a great deal of intentionality to how the story is told, specifically in the devices that are used to move us along. All these auteur touches point to the idea that Slumdog is a bit of a mashup, with Bollywood at the center, and I am the one missing out on its relevance to a national cinema that is even bigger than Hollywood. Which makes me the outsider here, not Boyle.

So while it strikes me as fairly naive international cinema from a social perspective (at times even insulting), it could be pretty intelligent international cinema from a genre perspective.

At least one Indian who's familiar with Bollywood movies thinks that Slumdog Millionaire is "pretty intelligent international cinema from a genre perspective":

Most Indian movies are fairy tales, and fairy tales in popular culture are for two things: to highlight a moral value and escape the burdens of reality. Both of these have been the driving forces in the majority of our Hindi movies. They tried to induce morality but worked because of the escapism. We love our escapism....

We don't mind if our stories or dialogues are corny. Subtlety in Bollywood is like modesty in corporate America. The most famous lines from Bollywood movies have been the cheesiest. Our biggest stars have been those who have were man enough to deliver the cheesiest line without losing the swagger....

Slumdog Millionaire is a fairy tale as well. But it's what a fairy tale would be if David Simon wrote one....

Like the best things to come out of Bollywood, it is tough enough to have corny lines like, "I will wait at the V.T. station every day until you come." It is also crisply edited, beautifully shot and, unlike most Indian movies, it takes care of the small things....

The film has influences of some of the best crime movies made in India....

He concludes by saying that although he did not find it as moving as others in the audience when he saw it, he says that's probably because he's accustomed to that the "sentimentalism" that is essential to Bollywood-style fairytale movies,

But Danny Boyle, god bless him, has been successful in making a movie about India that does not feel condescending. A story with India as a character but without the funny accents, or westerners discovering themselves, or any crap about "elders of the gentle race."

Now it will be interesting to see how the film is received when it opens in India.

Edited by BethR

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But Danny Boyle, god bless him, has been successful in making a movie about India that does not feel condescending. A story with India as a character but without the funny accents, or westerners discovering themselves, or any crap about "elders of the gentle race."

I am willing to be proven right that my dislike of the way the film is constructed, and its lack of any social conscience whatsoever, is a result of my ignorance of Bollywood convention. (Though this wouldn't explain the surplus of ridiculous camera angles scattered about the film like music video flotsam, which bugged me to no end.) But then, this begs the question that there is anything in Bollywood worth accomodating for western audiences. What if the schlock of the film really is all that Bollywood has to offer?

We haven't done this at Arts & Faith for a long time, but this may be worth setting up a film forum thread for. We could put our heads together and pick a few quintessential Bollywood films and work through them together. I would hazard a guess that this would be a good first exposure for a lot of us.

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Just got back from seeing the film, and I think I find myself closer to the Overstreet part of the spectrum. I didn't dislike the film by any means -- I'm always a sucker for Boyle's style and flourishes, the soundtrack was great, and there were certain aspects of the film that hit me hard -- but overall, I find myself responding to the film with a qualified "meh". In other words, I don't understand how this film swept the Critics Choice Awards.

I will say, though, that as the parent of a soon-to-be one-year-old, the scenes of the characters as younger children hit me hard (and that's doubly true for my wife). I don't agree with some of the criticisms that Boyle's inclusion of the tragedies and trials is "colonialist". I appreciated the film for dropping me into this world, for showing the grit and the grime. Sure, Boyle probably depicts it with a little more "razzle-dazzle" than it probably has, but seeing those massive garbage piles, the religious violence, and the backlit corners of the red light districts (which, of all things, had me thinking about the plight of the children in Born Into Brothels) was a rather searing experience for me.

I found those "childhood" scenes far more interesting and involving than the "adult" scenes (i.e., those that dealt with the game show device, the romance, the talk about destiny, etc.) In these scenes, the film flounders, and loses much of the momentum that it picked up in those earlier scenes, which have a desperation and urgency about them that is lacking in these latter scenes. I didn't find the all of the stuff about destiny, living on love, etc., hamfisted or clich

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Also worth noting:

The Globes celebrated Hawkins as the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Happy-Go-Lucky. Is it, technically, a comedy or a musical?

They also awarded Vicky Cristina Barcelona with the award for Best Comedy or Musical.

If you ask me, something's really odd about the Hollywood Foreign Press.

Good to see Danny Boyle finally getting some thanks for his work, even if I would have preferred it come for a different film.

Yes, Slumdog Millionaire joins the prestigious company of other 'Best Dramas' like...

The Hours,

Titanic,

and,

of course,

Scent of a Woman.

In other words... well, never mind. It's probably best if I back slowly away from this thread.

Edited by Overstreet

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FWIW I like the Hours

I saw this on Friday and I'm still working out what I think about it. I did wonder about this though

Overstreet said

"well... look there! The oldest escape cliche in the book: A passing train! With an open box car, no less! And just in time! The only thing that would be more predictable is if one of them couldn't keep up and was left behind. Oh, wait... "

I just wondered if you had the same reaction when you saw similar scenes in the other recent Indian Train movie Darjeeling ltd. (or for that matter in O Brother.

More to follow

Matt

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I finally saw this on Friday and loved it. It's not perfect of course, but I was very happy to let myself get swept along by it. I'm very positively disposed towards Danny Boyle anyway, notwithstanding Sunshine, and I went to the cinema wanting to enjoy it, and therefore predisposed to forgive its weaknesses. I'll now start reading this thread and other criticism, and no doubt I will revise my views of it. But for now I'm happy to be happy about its four Golden Globes.

My experience of India is limited, but it captured much of what I felt about the country - the filth and beauty, the squalor alongside development and wealth, the chaos and sheer intensity of the place.

I love the way this film combines warmth, humour, sadness, tragedy, excitement, longing, betrayal, social issues and a zest for life. And the Bollywood closing credits made me beam. There is something infectiously, compulsively enjoyable about Bollywood numbers breaking into a narrative (although they didn't break into it here, it had the same effect for me - of separating the story from reality, underlining its fictive nature).

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I just wondered if you had the same reaction when you saw similar scenes in the other recent Indian Train movie Darjeeling ltd. (or for that matter in O Brother.

Yup.

And for what it's worth, Darjeeling is the only Wes Anderson movie that I don't care to see again, and O Brother is near the bottom of the list when it comes to the Coen Brothers for me. But there are all kinds of reasons for that.

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Fair enough then! FWIW O Brother is one of my faves, so I'm obviously just more pro-movie trains than you.

Can we agree on The General at least?

Matt

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The Globes celebrated Hawkins as the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Happy-Go-Lucky. Is it, technically, a comedy or a musical?

On a seven-point Likert scale endpointed with the only two choices the Golden Globes allows (1 being a pure comedy and/or musical, 7 being a pure drama), I'd consider Happy-Go-Lucky, oh, probably a 3. There are comedic moments, the film largely elicits the mood of happiness, and what serious drama there is in the film never quite overtakes the positive vibes (e.g. the final scene in the boat). So yes, I would say the Golden Globes made the correct categorization decision -- and, as it turns out, the correct decision as to the winner.

I haven't seen VCB, but from what I know of it I would guess that a similar logic probably holds.

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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Start with a torture scene! Never mind that the torture scene is, ultimately, rather implausible and silly, especially considering how the effects of the brutality magically vanish in the events that follow immediately afterward.

Liked the film a great deal more than Mr. Overstreet, but not enough to proclaim it Best Picture. A couple of comments.

I for one didn't find the police torture scene at all implausible; granted in the country I'm living in currently, I probably wouldn't go to the police for any help, and don't particularly trust them to do anything to really help people, other than line their own pockets with bribes. I've heard too many horror stories - the colleague of my mother-in-law whose father was shot in the spine, then had drugs planted on him, all in the name of the war on drugs here in Thailand - so I found it quite plausible that they would use torture such as water-boarding and electroshock (which both don't really cause too much permanent damage) for something like this.

I guess, I don't see the film as exaggerating brutality, and the combination of horror with joyful exuberance (however cliched) seems to accurately reflect many people's lives in Asia. Let me say, I will never look at the blind singers at the Sunday night market the same way again. It's horrifying to contemplate that happening a few miles from my comfortable apartment, but it's reality. And yet, I've met people with such joy here that it makes N. America look very soulless at times. Definitely something to consider.

However, I'm not about to defend the film too vigorously, as I don't know if it will hold up to that kind of defense. But I liked it.

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Anders,

I appreciate your perspective that the torture is, sadly, not unrealistic for that part of the world. I agree. In fact, I never said I found the *torture* implausible. I believe there is police brutality in my own neighborhood, and thus it's likely to be going on all over the world... in far worse variations.

No, I said I found it implausible that Jamal, after being strung up like a piece of meat and cooked with electricity, would skip happily back to the game show the next day, without a scratch or a bruise to show for it, like some kind of freaking superman with amazing recuperative powers.

And I also sighed in dislike for *starting* the movie with the torture scene simply because it's such a cheap device for gaining audience sympathy and drawing us in. For making us care about a character before we've met that character to find out if he has any... well... character.

Edited by Overstreet

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No, I said I found it implausible that Jamal, after being strung up like a piece of meat and cooked with electricity, would skip happily back to the game show the next day, without a scratch or a bruise to show for it, like some kind of freaking superman with amazing recuperative powers.

And I also sighed in dislike for *starting* the movie with the torture scene simply because it's such a cheap device for gaining audience sympathy and drawing us in. For making us care about a character before we've met that character to find out if he has any... well... character.

To your first point, sorry that I misunderstood you. I guess I just disagree with you. I find Jamal's "recuperative powers" to be no more surprising than in any other film where characters withstand a lot more damage than they might in real-life. (Though, given the *types* of torture that he endures, which are much less than say the Leo character endures in Body of Lies, I'm not sure it's as implausible; I also think there was a day or two for him to rest.) I guess the genre is laid out pretty specifically here as being fairy tale/Dickensian and things are "realistic" but they are not necessarily how they would happen in real life if that makes any sense.

Your second point is a much more valid concern, but I'm going to have to think about it. I don't find it much more troubling than any of the things in say Casino Royale, and that film is definitely entertainment, with some "realistic" parts (including torture). Though, I would also say that Craig's Bond bears the emotional scars of his torture far more life-like than Jamal does.

I guess I'm somewhere like 3/4 in agreement with you, but I still liked the movie. ;)

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Dunno about Casino Royale. From memory wasn't he making "jokes" to his torturer for part of it?

Matt

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Yes, during his torture. But sure wasn't on a game show the next day. It's even more graphic in the book,

where he's not even sure if he'll be able to have sex again.

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Yes, during his torture. But sure wasn't on a game show the next day. It's even more graphic in the book,

where he's not even sure if he'll be able to have sex again.

Ha! Yet somehow he seems to manage it... at least one or two more times

Matt

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Poverty Porn, Slumderful, Slum Chic.

Can't wait to use these terms in real life.

Honestly...the adding of "porn" to the end of words to describe genres is already starting to feel less effective. I mean, torture porn only really accurately describes the Saw and Hostel movies(where the torture is the focus of the film), but is generically applied to any "people in scary peril" stories. So I am becoming suspicious of attempts to coin new "genre porn" terms.

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Slumdog, is that your final answer? We mused above about what sort of response this film will get when it opens in India next week, here is a first impresssion:

"If SM (Slumdog Millionaire) projects India as [a] Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations," Mr Bachchan wrote in his blog.

"It's just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative [Golden] Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not."

This award factor is what rankles me most about the film, in that an Indian film of the same nature and quality wouldn't even get distribution in the West. I wonder how many of those who love Slumdog as an "Indian" film have spent much time watching Satyajit Ray, who has long been the token Indian director for western cinephiles. That may come across as a snarky comment, but I don't intend for it to. If you like Slumdog, especially the childhood scenes, than I recommend Pather Panchali as something you would be interested in.

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Honestly...the adding of "porn" to the end of words to describe genres is already starting to feel less effective. I mean, torture porn only really accurately describes the Saw and Hostel movies(where the torture is the focus of the film), but is generically applied to any "people in scary peril" stories. So I am becoming suspicious of attempts to coin new "genre porn" terms.
I like the term "Food porn movies" (Big Night, Babbette's Feast, Mostly Martha, Eat Drink Man Woman, etc) that showcase mouthwatering delicacies that the viewer is deprived from actually eating.

Ok, back to SDM$. My question: how many more movies will Danny Boyle do that incorporate the word "million" in the title? Think of the box set!

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Honestly...the adding of "porn" to the end of words to describe genres is already starting to feel less effective. I mean, torture porn only really accurately describes the Saw and Hostel movies(where the torture is the focus of the film), but is generically applied to any "people in scary peril" stories. So I am becoming suspicious of attempts to coin new "genre porn" terms.

Right. Not all cruel movies are "torture porn" because "porn" is not reducible to voyeurism and exploitation. "Porn" includes voyeurism and exploitation, but you can have voyeurism and exploitation in a car commercial without descending into pornography.

I like the term "Food porn movies" (Big Night, Babbette's Feast, Mostly Martha, Eat Drink Man Woman, etc) that showcase mouthwatering delicacies that the viewer is deprived from actually eating.

I think this usage showcase's Nezpop's concerns. Excluding Mostly Martha (the only film you name that I haven't seen), none of these movies makes the appeal to the palate "the focus of the film," as Nezpop puts it. Babette's Feast in particular is way too ascetical to be called any kind of "porn." IIRC, Big Night and Eat Drink Man Woman are rather melancholy, subdued films that are much more about aesthetics than enticing the senses, which is totally contrary to what I understand "porn" to be.

I am open to the category of "food porn," but these films are not it.

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