FIRST HATER POST, oh the carnage
It seems futile to barricade the top ten lists of 2008 from the inspirational puppy-dog-eyes of the Hollywood/Bollywood brainchild, Slumdog Millionaire, another lucrative product from the folks who have succeeded, much like the Disney Channel, to clone a progeny of audience favorites (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine), which makes the job of any ghost reviewer easier by dutifully proclaim “It’s this year’s _______.” When all the independent sidearms of the top studios have been liquidated to only a footnote in history, Fox Searchlight endures as it funds and buys out the better-tested of the best, safety features, that is. Radical risk-taking isn’t exactly part of the mission statement of the company, and their acquisitions have come to mirror each other in tonality and predictability, in which those legal last rites of the rolling credits should be appended to “All characters are purely fictional and frictionless.”
With the announcement from the National Board of Review that Slumdog Millionaire is supposedly the BEST FRAKKIN’ FILM of the Year, a no-surprise shrug was my first reaction, followed by an angry realization that a smug shutter would suffice instead. Sharing Meg’s initial and permanent assessment of our screening at Telluride, Slumdog’s only salvageable virtue lies in its ingenuity to wed MIA’s gangbang hum-a-thon, “Paper Planes” into the movie’s soundtrack, after a gleeful sham marriage of a teaser from Pineapple Express. Not once of course, but twice, including a DFA remix of the song, in a subsequent lull moment after a frenetic montage of the brothers’ joyous robberies aboard a luxury train across India, keep those Marc Jacobs’ limited edition LV trunks close to you at all times. Otherwise, the film suffers not from ADD, in threading together the lead character’s rags-to-riches flashbacks with utmost pandemonium editing, but OCD, carefully cleaning up the beautiful mess with a single-minded goal to get the boy his girl, these damaged goods are back together at last.
With the majority of its defenders celebrating its lush, odorous in-your-face imagery of contemporary India coupled with a national fable of upward mobility both idealized and envied, how could a small minority of critics muster their intellectual weaponry at such a PC crowd-pleaser of a tale of two cities, Mumbai, loud and dangerous, recent Terrorist events have only reinforce the social reality of racial tensions, and Mumbai, ambitious, modern, and Western-friendly, recent retaliation to the attacks have also indicated. The only offensive line of reasoning would lead to nowhere but the emotional indifference that possessed me at the time of my viewing, an unimpressive impression. With the exception of the MIA song that highjacked my feet off the ground, this Bollywood-lite musical was made for those who don’t really want to see a full-blown Bollywood spectacle nor the American epic poems of the 50s or 60s, their length and majesty truncated for the 120-min threshold of the action thriller. Australia falls on the other end, too much with too little to say.
With the DGA deciding its next saint coming early 2009, Danny Boyle may find himself accepting that honor and delivering what his auteur admirers would find consistently fitting into a future retrospective, but for me, Mr. Boyle is basically paying back Fox Seachlight the loan he borrowed for his flopped pet project, Sunshine, a sci-fi rumination on human-termite existence. Perhaps, one could fault this no-holds-bar acceptance of Slumdog as a cultural symptom of our downtrodden times, when happy endings sloppily hemmed together stand for larger wish fulfillments of a quick-bailout kind, from the government, or from media giants that finance get-rich schemes like “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”.
Has 2008 begotten such an impoverished roster of cinematic candidates that we must crown a pauper in place of a prince?
UPDATE: As much as I despise Slumdog Millionaire, discovering that Paste Magazine awarded its top prize, in a bold, but deeply calculated move, to Nandita Das’s Firaaq is equally distressing. I prefer the inauthentic audacity of the former over the authentic affectations of the latter. Please, has the same plague afflicting the Academy in 2005, when Crash triumphantly crashed Brokeback party, returned in a more menacing form? Say it aint so.
“ALL I WANNA DO…is take your money” YES, so close your wallet and watch this clip, IT IS THE MOVIE.