Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire - Not such an underdog

We all have questions that need answered, and we all wish there was simple answers for them. For those that have not seen the movie, one common question seems to jump out: Does it live it to the hype? To answer it simply: YES!

What I thought was an independent Bollywood film, turned out to be a Hollywood production directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 days later, The Beach). The movie however does retain a very indi like feel; most likely due to the unknown actors as well as the foreign setting.

I won't go into the plot, it is rather simple, but I would like to discuss what makes this movie so enjoyable to watch, and possible why it won so many awards. This question however is much more difficult to answer, and can go back to the question: why do we enjoy watching movies?

Watching a movie can be best described as a temporary escape from reality. In many ways it is not much different than alcohol or elicit drug use, however cheaper and with less detrimental effects. A good movie not only take us away to far off lands but place us in situations that we would never imagine experiencing ourselves. A great movie however does the aforementioned in a very believable way, teaches us something, relates personally to our lives, and for me, leaves me feeling happy or at least satisfied. Slumdog Millionaire does all that. But how did it do it better than all the other movies that came out this year?

Movie aficionados love foreign and independent films. The cultural separation of a foreign film immediately creates a sense of "far away land", the slums of Mumbi is much more exotic than another California based Hollywood set. Yet foreign films are difficult to relate to. The same things that makes such a film exotic, cultrual differences, creates a disconnect between the writer and the American audience. Slumdog however has the best of both worlds. Not only does it have the exotic appeal, but it has the home court advantage. Danny Boyle though British born, directs "American" or western movies. Come on, Alien Resurrection, that is about as American as it gets. Also the screenplay which was based on an Indian novel, was written by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty). Again British but at least Western.

I originally mistook Slumdog to be made by an independent film maker. Indi films speak to the rebel in us all. Something about a filmmaker that isn't involved with the whole Hollywood scene appeals to me. By simply watching an indi film I am expressing my disapproval for all things mainstream, things which I think are wrong with our government... However the fact that I go to movies, and write on my own blog shows that I am mainstream. Who am I really kidding. For this reason Indi films many times do not satisfy. I find them poorly made, lacking a large enough budget to fully develop the story with lavish sets and adequate extras. Though Slumdog give the indi film feel, Fox Searchlight Pictures made sure the movie was not lacking in that respect.

This movie won best picture of the year, not only because it embodies what we viewers want to see in a film, but it also gives us the feeling we want to have about ourselves. Free thinkers that are not bound by societies norms and expectations. However what it really says about us, is that we are all very much alike, part of the mainstream norms, with the same expectations for movies at the very least.


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