With awards season fast approaching, I’m getting caught in a crunch – trying to see the movies I feel obligated to see to prep for the Oscars, but also the occasional decent film that is actually being released now. How’s a man to cope? Answer? See two movies in one day! In fact, would you believe two movies within 5 minutes of each other? That’s just what ScottE and I succeeded in doing today. One for the Oscar pool, and one that just sounded cool. (Hey, I’m a poet and I don’t know it.)
Danny Boyle’s film is a showcase about India – warts and all. It can only really tell us a fraction of what life is really like in Mumbai, but we do get a sense of the vast array of people living in and around the city. As you may imagine if you’ve seen just about any season of The Amazing Race, India (and Mumbai in particular) is a densely populated place (1 BILLION people live there) where the divide between the poor and everyone else is vast. Although India’s economy is one of the biggest in the world, many live in poor squallor that we can scarcely believe is real.
It is from such a place that arises our hero, Jamal. His life is very hard, made worse as a child when his mother is murdered by a riot (Jamal and his family are Muslim, so they’re in the minority). By the skin of his teeth, Jamal grows up and survives alongside his older brother Salim and their “third Musketeer,” Latika. The trio are frequently torn apart and thrown back together through the film’s twisted plot, which uncovers how Jamal has learned much about the world just by surviving.
But Jamal’s life story is really the background for the main theme of the film – he’s a contestant on the Indian edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and improbably looks like he could win it all. The producers believe that he must be cheating, and so Jamal unspools the story of his life, thereby explaining just how he knows all these answers.
So is it Oscar-worthy? Certainly – I think that the nominations and accolades the film has received are appropriate. But is it the best movie of the year? Well…
See, here’s the thing. By waiting so long to see Slumdog, it has been so hyped up everywhere, and I was bound to think it wasn’t quite all that. Which is what happened. Don’t get me wrong – the film is beautifully executed, the story is warm and powerful, the leads are stunning. But it didn’t rock my universe – it was just a really good movie. An A-, I’d say. By all means I recommend you see it, because it’s unlike most Oscar-nominated films (hence the charm and allure, I imagine).
Actually I’m starting to feel (and will discuss in a later post) how I’m not sure any of the Best Picture nominees really deserve the win. My pick would be Wall-E (which will settle for the consolation prize of Best Animated Feature).
The desire to see this dark fantasy for kids was twofold. First of all, it is based on the book by Neil Gaiman, whom I’m already a fan of after devouring American Gods. (Anansi Boys is next on my list.) Second, we could see it in 3D! And neither of us has ever seen a 3D movie so…we just had to. And I’m glad we did.
The story is simple, because – it’s for kids. Incorrigible young girl hates her life and dreams of a better one. When she gets what she wished for, she discovers it’s not at all what it appears. So she must fight the forces of evil, with a little help from her friends; in this case that would be a Russian circus performer, a pair of former British stage bombshells, and a cat who can (sometimes) talk. Voice talent includes Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher.
The colors and imagery are visually stunning, and are even more impressive when you remember that it’s all been done with the use of stop-motion animation. Truly amazing. What’s MORE amazing is how it looks in 3D. Seriously people – you have to see it to believe it. Even when things aren’t flying out at you (Watch out for that needle!), you get a real depth in the picture which is most impressive.
So overall I definitely enjoyed this movie. I’d give it a B- for story (I am a grown-up, after all), but a solid A if you can see it in 3D.