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Slumdog Millionaire

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BethR wrote:

: TWO "best song" nominations? Wow. How often does that happen? I'm sure Peter can tell us.

About as often as two actors/actresses or supporting actors/actresses getting nominated for the same film, I'd wager. I believe a number of Disney films have had multiple nominations for best song -- I just referred to one of those films, Beauty and the Beast (which had THREE nominations for best song), in the WALL-E thread.

I can look into this in more detail, though.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Just for the record, this film won the Director's Guild award the other day, which means it's virtually a lock to win the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. The DGA award has been around since 1948, and in the past 60 years, it has diverged from the Oscar for Best Director only 6 times (twice in the past decade, admittedly). And the Oscar for Best Picture USUALLY goes to the same film that wins Best Director (though there have been 4 exceptions in the past dozen years ... in one of those cases, though, while the DGA award might not have synced up with the Oscar for Best Director, it DID sync up with the Oscar for Best Picture).


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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All the accolades are entirely undeserved IMHO. I can't believe that this has received as much attention as it has. It's a shoddy, dull, and visually uninspiring film with a seriously misplaced sense of self-righteousness.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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The main thing that the film has going for it is that the world sucks right now and it's a feel good flick. Nobody wants to look at things that seem worse than what we go through everyday reading about layoffs, a crashing economy that ain't near finished falling, and a general malaise that grows from all that. Just give us our bread and circuses. Bread and circuses aren't bad per se. Right now they serve a purpose.

Damn, what do you know, I'm a cynic. Whoda thunk?


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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The main thing that the film has going for it is that the world sucks right now and it's a feel good flick.

The world sucks right now??? Just because of an economic downturn? You don't mean the western world is feeling the effects of its irresponsible greed? The rest of the world - the world shown in this film, which forms the vast majority of the world populations' experience, probably won't be affected at all by the current climate.

SPOILERS:

As for it being a feelgood picture: what because he wins some money and gets the girl in a ridiculous plot that is badly acted? Are you forgetting the dead brother, the blinded children, the murdered mother, the millions left in the slum dreaming of a similarly empty and unrealistic escape?

So no need to worry. You're not a cynic. If you were, there is no way you could have found this film anything but utterly disheartening.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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The main thing that the film has going for it is that the world sucks right now and it's a feel good flick.

The world sucks right now??? Just because of an economic downturn? You don't mean the western world is feeling the effects of its irresponsible greed? The rest of the world - the world shown in this film, which forms the vast majority of the world populations' experience, probably won't be affected at all by the current climate.

This is well said, and captures a sense of how revealing it is that even Western critics of the film euphemize their reservations in catchy little "-porn" slogans.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Western critics of the film euphemize their reservations in catchy little "-porn" slogans.

Mmmmm. Yes.

The above discussion really does ignore the basic premise of the term pornography: i.e. for sexual 'entertainment'. Granted, this could be applied to a whole host of stuff (there's something for everyone), but in using it broadly as a term with moral connotations because of the exploitative concerns associated with porn, I think, invalidates the critique.

The kinds of things that were being talked about above - museum/food/war, even torture, arguably - would fit more within the idea of a cinema of attractions. Excess as visual spectacle.

Charlie Brooker has done an interesting 'twitter' article that sums up the problem with the kind of lazy journalism that relies on sloganeering (may only make sense to the British contingency): Charlie Brooker's New Media Dictionary


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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This is pretty much exactly what Bordwell said in his giant Slumdog post today.

Finally, the issue of glamorizing the exotic. Some critics call the film

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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MLeary wrote:

: But I am wondering which is worse at this point. Boyle's shortsightedness in the way he put Slumdog together, or the ease with which it slid under the ethical radars of even socially aware Western critics?

Exactly. The debate over the "-porn" label cannot focus exclusively on the text, it seems to me. It has to have some relationship to the person who is READING the text. It's a question of function as much as aesthetics: some cars are built for speed, but whether a person is caught speeding in one depends on the driver. (And on the cop.)

Oh dear, whatever point I was making has been overwhelmed by my metaphors again.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I still like the idea that pornography totalizes its subject matter as a master narrative, which makes "war-porn" a pretty valuable slogan.

However, would we want to describe some giddy romantic comedy, with its master narrative of (e.g.,) "Love conquers all," "Love is all you need," etc., as "romance porn"? Isn't it the case that not all master narratives are equally problematic, or even necessarily problematic at all? And (if necessary contra Bordwell?) isn't there something to be said for saving the term "porn" for notably problematic cases?

But Bordwell has some interesting points here regarding its ultimate specificity. In the range of things we stick before -porn, they may embody just one of the complex points of defining pornography.

But I am wondering which is worse at this point. Boyle's shortsightedness in the way he put Slumdog together, or the ease with which it slid under the ethical radars of even socially aware Western critics?

Including Bordwell, apparently? What exactly it is that he (and I) are missing?


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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However, would we want to describe some giddy romantic comedy, with its master narrative of (e.g.,) "Love conquers all," "Love is all you need," etc., as "romance porn"? Isn't it the case that not all master narratives are equally problematic, or even necessarily problematic at all? And (if necessary contra Bordwell?) isn't there something to be said for saving the term "porn" for notably problematic cases?

I think so, as I said up above that I like the term "war-porn" in spite of Bordwell's good points.

Including Bordwell, apparently? What exactly it is that he (and I) are missing?

I don't think you are missing anything, just disagreeing about the overall effect of the film. Which is fine with me, as it makes at least one of us right. Bordwell's comments about how the film excels as an example of an emerging "international style" are interesting, and there is much to commend the film from a technical perspective. It is a really polarizing film.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I'm really surprised not to see any comparisons with City of God in the thread so far. I think that Slumdog cribs a lot from City, both in the characters' relationships with the slum, and with the Girl, and with the Brother. The visual style is also really similar I think, upping the saturation so the slum becomes a sea of brilliant reds and blues and browns. I'm also curious if any of the haters of Slumdog were also antagonistic toward City of God?


Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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The debate over the "-porn" label cannot focus exclusively on the text, it seems to me. It has to have some relationship to the person who is READING the text.

I'm also curious if any of the haters of Slumdog were also antagonistic toward City of God?

That's a really good question that comes back to the point Peter made above. I certainly didn't have the concerns with City of God that I had with Slumdog. Whilst I would disagree that they are stylistically similar (City of God is very much harking back to the Brazilian Cinema Nuevo movement), they certainly deal with similar subject matters. So what I'm wondering is whether I can ascribe the difference to the manner in which the subject is treated: Slumdog is arguably more irresponsible with using poverty, child abuse, and torture solely for its emotive force, as a plot device for a narrative that I found empty and disturbingly materialistic. Whereas City of God seemed to me to be genuinely concerned with the community at the heart of the film, and was not afraid to point fingers either. I don't doubt that it also used the emotive power of violence particularly for emotive effect, but the end aim seemed to me different. Now, that could also be because I'm also aware of the way in which City of God was filmed - it was a community project, investment was placed in the individuals whose lives it interrupted by giving them training and creating job opportunities, and continued this investment once filming finished (I highly recommend the, I think, even better series City of Men that is produced by the same people and uses a lot of the personnel that were trained for this film. It also gives a somewhat different vision of what life in the slums is like, it's a much richer cultural evocation). But if this is the case, does this indict me as a viewer even more? It allows my viewing experience to be even more passive as I am reassured by the lack of exploitation of an emotive subject.

What I think would be an even more interesting question, then, is did people have an antagonistic reaction towards Trainspotting? Is it only the depiction of poverty in third world countries that evokes moral outrage? (I certainly didn't, although I do think Trainspotting is the superior film and the ending is decidedly more ambiguous than Slumdog's)

I also think it would be interesting to consider the politics of film style here. Is there a way of filming that is intrinsically more responsible?

Finally, as to MLeary's porn as a totalising vision: I would agree here. However, the problem with this is that it would still need to be explained and justified, which makes the shorthand 'porn' tag redundant. I have no problems with reading a sentence in place of a word, in fact I prefer it.


"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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What I think would be an even more interesting question, then, is did people have an antagonistic reaction towards Trainspotting? Is it only the depiction of poverty in third world countries that evokes moral outrage? (I certainly didn't, although I do think Trainspotting is the superior film and the ending is decidedly more ambiguous than Slumdog's)

Excellent question. This came up in dialogue over Siciniski's review of Wendy and Lucy, who detects a glamorization of poverty in the US throughout that film. It becomes kitsch, like a Bob Dylan song (a process often referred to as poverty-kitsch... here we go again!). Thinking off the top of my head about recent US films about poverty, Frozen River did well at evoking moral outrage. Chop Shop does the opposite. It is possible, but the record is spotty.

I have always wondered if independent cinema in America has a hard time depicting poverty because most of these filmmakers have never experienced real poverty. Most have experienced stylized forms of it early in their careers as they couch-surf and scramble for funding, but it isn't the hardcore generational hand-to-mouth, kids getting picked up by Family Services poverty. There are very unglamorous stresses that come from this kind of poverty that can't quite be strictly imagined. I am not trying to condemn any particular filmmaker, just musing. This same disconnect between a definition of poverty and the experience of poverty is endemic in American Christianity.

Trainspotting is an interesting example, though, because of Welsh's odd connection with the material. He both loves and hates that subculture in Edinburgh/Glasgow, and this attitude is formative on the film. The film evokes moral outrage as well as the formal appeal that makes it a cult classic.

Finally, as to MLeary's porn as a totalising vision: I would agree here. However, the problem with this is that it would still need to be explained and justified, which makes the shorthand 'porn' tag redundant. I have no problems with reading a sentence in place of a word, in fact I prefer it.

Part of this kind of sloganeering is due to limits on word counts in print and online media. If I only get three hundred words to talk about something, I find myself looking for these pat little constructions that are like hyperlinks to longer sentences. It is an editor's mistrust of their readers ability to read (evidenced by word count limits) that leads to these kinds of uses of language that short-circuit reading. A vicious circle.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I'm really surprised not to see any comparisons with City of God in the thread so far. I think that Slumdog cribs a lot from City, both in the characters' relationships with the slum, and with the Girl, and with the Brother. The visual style is also really similar I think, upping the saturation so the slum becomes a sea of brilliant reds and blues and browns. I'm also curious if any of the haters of Slumdog were also antagonistic toward City of God?
No I'm surprised at that as well. I never finished writing my review of the film, but had I, it would have been mentioned. It's why I'm surprised that this film's visuals have been praised so. They seem so very similar to CoG's to me...and I like th film a good deal more than most here it would seem.

Matt

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FWIW, the reference to City of God reminded me of this review of The Constant Gardener that I quoted at my blog four years ago:

City of God
first evidenced Meirelles's penchant for aestheticizing poverty into Benetton ads. As he did with the slums of Rio de Janeiro, he has filmed the destitute Nairobi with oversaturated colours, jerky camera work and choppy editing. Stylizing on demand, he has also photographed the scenes in London with a gloomy olive filter, and stages the Quayles' between bedsheets as if it were a Lancome perfume commercial. Basically, Meirelles is like the Brazilian Michael Bay, only with slightly more sociopolitically-charged material to better inflict liberal guilt trips upon viewers.

No use of the suffix "-porn" there, but the suggestion that all this stylization amounts to making "Benetton ads" kind of points in that direction.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, the reference to City of God reminded me of this review of The Constant Gardener that I quoted at my blog four years ago: City of God first evidenced Meirelles's penchant for aestheticizing poverty into Benetton ads...

Thanks for this quote. It is a negative rendering of Bordwell's notion that Slumdog and City of God are alike in that they are both part of an emerging "international style." This has been Benetton's marketing ploy for as long as I can remember.

On the City of God comparison:

Were you inspired at all by any other films from Bollywood? Or I was going to even say City of God, I felt had a lot of inspiration in this. Did that play into anything in this?

Boyle: I didn't. Obviously you can see some similarities to City, but I stayed away from it because, although I admired it enormously when I saw it, I didn't go back to it, because you've got to be very careful. With anything that's at all similar, you've got to be very careful. No, it's funny actually, normally when I do interviews when I'm making a film, I've got a list of films and I'd say, "This, this, this and this." But no, like there were some Bollywood films that I


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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If Slumdog Millionaire is good at highlighting the plight of the oppressed in India, and in "raising awareness," then, well... we should send THIS work of artistic genius to everyone we know.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Due to the cautious, conservative town I live in, SM JUST hit the screens here (I'm guessing only because of the Oscar nod). The same things that bugged our dear Overstreet also bugged me... and yet, I find I really like the film anyway. I don't think it is an award-winner, and I also REALLY wanted Jamal to get the last question wrong... but I find that I like the simplistic fairy tale story being told over this much darker tale of slum life.

I think the comparisons between the brothers is really telling. They are the two musketeers, but they respond to the pain of their life in vastly different ways. And honestly, I don't think I would have the same worldview Jamal did -- despite everything he went through, he seemed to think the best of those around him. Even when he was desperately angry with his brother, he stayed. I was originally going to write that I wouldn't have.. but then I think of my sister, and I'm not so sure.

Honestly, torture doesn't work to draw me in, it serves to push me away. I don't want to see it, but know that there are times I must. So I didn't view the beginning as a gimmick.

I think Jamal was consistent throughout the film. While *I* wouldn't have returned to the game show, I think Jamal is the type that would. He seems to view the abuse, the bad as the exception -- even though it has really been his only experience.

I find that refreshing, somehow...

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Sixty-some percent of A&Fers think that SM will win Best Picture and seventy-some percent think it actually deserves to?

Proof that 2008 is simply not a good year for film.

PS I liked SM, really, I did. But the Oscars are supposed to pick the year's Best, and if this is the year's Best, it's simply proof that it's been a tough year.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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PS I liked SM, really, I did. But the Oscars are supposed to pick the year's Best, and if this is the year's Best, it's simply proof that it's been a tough year.

Tough year for the kind of film that is tapped for these kinds of awards. But otherwise, a banner year for international cinema. And next year? Even better, everyone from Herzog to Jarmusch has something coming out.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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PS I liked SM, really, I did. But the Oscars are supposed to pick the year's Best, and if this is the year's Best, it's simply proof that it's been a tough year.

Tough year for the kind of film that is tapped for these kinds of awards. But otherwise, a banner year for international cinema. And next year? Even better, everyone from Herzog to Jarmusch has something coming out.

I'm obviously not into it like I once was, so you would know more than I would. However, yeah, I was only referring to Americana/Holly-Would.

You should make us a list of all the banner foreigns that came out last year so we can look for the DVDs to begin arriving. That would be really cool, and helpful to us people that are removed from Big Arts Cities. Personally my favorite film from last year (which is probably actually from two years ago) is Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days, which I caught on DVD and later than the hype -- but because of sites like this, I'm lucky to have at least caught it.

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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