I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Slumdog Millionaire, 2008

Rated R

This extraordinary little low-budget independent film got practically no publicity, had no Hollywood hot-shots, and was the surprise winner this year at the awards, especially considering what it was up against: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (which I enjoyed), "Frost/Nixon" (which I also thought was interesting), and "Milk" and "The Reader" (which I haven't seen). Other very popular films came out this year but weren't up for the top award even though they grabbed some of the other top five awards: "Doubt" (good), "The Wrestler" (okay), "The Dark Knight" (very good), "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (okay), and "The Changeling" (downright frightening). “Slumdog Millionaire” was the highest-grossing film of the year though, barely beating out “…Benjamin Button”.

Although it seems I may be spoiling it for you, I'm not. This next information is given to the audience at the beginning of the film... Eighteen-year old Jamal Malik, an orphaned boy from the slums of Mumbai just won 20 million rupees (the top prize) on India’s game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” The creator of the show is obviously surprised and is convinced he cheated so he orders two men to get the truth out of Jamal by way of unpleasant treatment. Jamal then recounts every question from the show, in flashback form, and “explains” how he knew the answers by giving us glimpse of his past (again, in flashback). Is he a genius or was he just lucky? He’d argue that his past wasn’t one filled with luck. Turns out it was his destiny.

I’ll warn you that there are a couple of disturbing scenes, especially the one showing the slumlord’s treatment of the child "dogs" he picks up to make money for him on the streets. The flashbacks show us the harsh living conditions that Jamal amazingly survived.

The flashbacks do a pretty good job of showing us how Jamal knew the correct answers to some obscure questions on the game show, but one question this film failed to answer for me was how he got on the show in the first place. If it’s anything like the version here in the States, you have to call in and “audition” by answering tough questions correctly over the phone. But I guess it’s better not to kill the magic of the movie and just let it be…

This film won seven other awards including Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song (“Jai Ho”) which is played at the end during a Baliwood-esque dance number. I’m not surprised at these wins and I imagine this is a fun soundtrack as the music played throughout is fitting and catching. “Slumdog Millionaire” had no acting nominations which is rare for a Best Picture winner; in fact, only 10 other films in the past have been in the same boat. Interestingly, almost half of the twenty available spots for best acting (and supporting-) performances were filled by first-timers, but there wasn’t one for poor Dev Patel (Jamal) who did a fantastic job.


The whole movie held my attention, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I did particularly enjoy watching Jamal reunite with Latika. I’m a hopeless romantic….


I know it's cliché and I used it as a lesson learned from the last film I watched, but it IS obvious in this film: don't give up. Jamal is separated from his childhood friend and is determined to reunite with her again. His love for her is clearly driving his determination to find her and he refuses to call it quits on his search. In fact, he never cared about winning the show; he was only on it because he knew she was out there somewhere watching.  

Your struggles in life shape who you are. I’m reminded of something Tow Mater says in the Disney/Pixar film “Cars 2” (which I’ve been watching on repeat since my son got it for Christmas)… Mater is proud of his dents because he “earned” every one of them with his best friend- they remind him of fun times. While Jamal’s memories were not made in the most pleasant of times, it made him the man he is today. Perhaps he wouldn’t have even had the determination to fight for what was right or to not give up on his love had it not been for overcoming the hardships of his past.

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