February 19, 2009

It's Pitchy, Slumdawg

Just in time for Oscar®:

Which is why Danny Boyle's frivolous, exploitive, essentially unforgivable Slumdog Millionaire is such a blight. Nobody likes a downer, and sure enough Boyle's latest folly is an uplifting piece of crap that combines two of our favourite pastimes: winning the lottery and cultural obliviousness. If Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy were contemporaries of Leni Riefenstahl, rest assured they would have made a happy-go-lucky triumph of the will piece starring the involuntary residents of Auschwitz in the world's most inappropriate game of "You Bet Your Life". It's the sort of film that wins awards this time of year because it's the sort of film that encourages audiences to applaud themselves for their tolerance of blacks/retards/Jews/fags from the safety of a theatre full of people of the exact same socio-cultural strata.
Read Walter Chaw's full review here.

40 comments:

Si said...

Nice to know I wasn't the only one to liken it to Juno. Good job, Walter (although my opinion of the film remains the same).

Just wondering what your opinion of Beaufoy's The Full Monty is, though (I think it's held up far better) and - wasn't WWTBA Millionaire originally a British game show? I think that made it far easier for Boyle to get the rights to use it.

Ah well. I expect his latest film to claim the big prize without any difficulty...

Bill C said...

For what it's worth, I sorta like THE FULL MONTY. It's a sweet picture, though I've had zero interest in revisiting it.

Anonymous said...

More than happy to see Walter trash the most overrated movie of the year, but it begs the question... what the FUCK took so long? He even mentions in the review that he saw it around Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

People do get busy you know. He's not a wind-up toy.

Walter_Chaw said...

Apropos of nothing, really, just got a piece of hate mail about my Seven Pounds review that sort of made my day. It says: "You're dumb". That's all it says. What I really admire is the spelling.

Also got a piece of hate mail that accused me of being racist for using the word "shenanigans" which was a great surprise to me because of all the things that I say, for "shenanigans" to be the one that outs me as a racist is. . . well. Hell.

Dan said...

WWTBAM started off as a British show in 1998 (still going strong, same presenter, no silly changes to the formula like the US version) and produced by Celador, who were key to getting Slumdog Millionaire permission to use the Indian version as its backdrop.

I haven't seen SM yet. What's amusing to me is that it's been marketed as an uplifting drama here in the UK, but I'm told it's nothing of the sort, really. People turn up expecting a rom-com and they get eyeball removal. Not their own, although Walter's review leads me to believe that would be a good idea!

Rick said...

Speaking of Juno, it seems everyone is too apathetic to even think about "United States of Tara". It looks like Diablo created another alternate world where everyone is witty and no one fears or cares about the repercussions of actual consequences. If the "wit" didn't turn people off around here, the lack of practical boundaries may be too few for the brattiest of brats. I mean punk, that sounds better than brat. People on this blog with kids would never directly fuck them up like in "United States of Tara", they may only consistently ignore them while doing their own thing.

Anonymous said...

i actually wonder how such a smug racist condescending hypocritical ugly film managed a whole 1 star. i guess you did watch mamma mia recently...

DaveA said...

So, Slumdog's bad, hu?

I really don't know what to make out of Danny Boyle. He's a mixed bag, but I somehow have a soft spot for his movies in my heart. I think Sunshine was really beautiful and could have actually been great, until the moment he decided to simply remake Event Horizon. I also think The Beach is actually not that bad. He exec-produced the terrific 28 Weeks Later. Trainspotting, Shallow Grave... well, I haven't seen those in ages. Maybe time hasn't been kind on those two.
He's usually great when it comes to casting and score. I was still hoping he had a really great movie in him, but now that he's getting those statues, all is lost...

Nathaniel said...

Sunshine is my favorite film of 2007 and one of my all-time favorite sci-fi pieces. I think the last 30 minutes fit perfectly within the thematic framework of the film. I understand the criticisms but not one moment of that film hits me the wrong way.

I saw Slumdog before the backlash and mostly I was just disappointed by its obvious sub-standard storytelling. I feel no connection between the actors playing the same characters at different ages, and structurally the film is a trainwreck. The cinematography is digital bullshit (and it's going to fucking WIN in that category). All the racist stuff...yeah, fine, but moreover the film is just poorly made. My mind was blown when it won the SAG award for Best Ensemble. What. The. Fuck.

Boyle has made films I love and films I despise (anyone remember A Life Less Ordinary?), but I seriously doubt that a potential Oscar win for Slumdog is going to change his approach to filmmaking. The guy has one of the most diverse careers of any major filmmaker and I can't see him making another prestige picture just because this one was so successful. I personally just wish he'd stick with horror and sci-fi.

Dan said...

Sunshine really made me wish Boyle had gotten the Alien 4 gig before the Frenchman trashed the franchise.

DJR said...

Yeah, I'll chime in for the Sunshine lovefest. I thought Walter underrated it, as did the general critical consensus. There's very little in the film that doesn't work for me. The direction, performances, effects, score, themes... only the writing is lacking at times, but that's a minor quibble. There were scenes in that film that moved me more than some of that year's most lauded films, like NCFOLM and TWBB for instance. I haven't yet seen Slumdog, but what I've read disappoints me, but I am slightly encouraged by praise from Ed Gonzalez and Schager.

dennis said...

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is finally being released! It's my favorite entry in his Animal trilogy, and it certainly shames the uninspired crap he's been releasing the last two decades. I'd love to see a review.

James Allen said...

The Oscars were last night, huh? Didn't watch a second of it, and boy do I feel all the better for it. I see that Slumdog Millionaire is the best directed, best looking, best sounding, best scored... well, just plain bestest film of 2008! This of course comes as a surprise to no one, but there we are. Too bad Mickey Rourke didn't win, I would've loved to see his acceptance speech on youtube this morning (his ISA speech was classic.)

P.S. Reagrding your review of Poltergeist which, I agree, was a "safe to watch" horror film from my youth (it was PG, dontcha know, and I believe just as responible as Temple of Doom for the creation of the PG-13 rating), I even loved the crazy batshit, everything fucking implodes ending. Though I can't believe after all this time there is any question about Speilberg basically directing about 99% of it. "[S]houldn't this particular controversy, like the Warren Commission findings and the Nixon Tapes, have an expiration date for its Top Secret status." Damn straight. I mean, this little bit of Hollywood trivia was more than winked at when the damn film came out, to the point where, for obvious reasons, Speilberg's name was all over the promotion of the film, while Hooper's name was in the fine print that needed to be read with a magnifying glass.

O'JohnLandis said...

I watched every second of the ®s. Amateur commentary:

10/9/8 - Slumdog had ten chances at nine awards and won eight. No Country for Old Men had eight chances at eight awards and won four. The Academy is insecure.

I'm glad that they decided to use actual singers for their musical numbers. Had Anne Hathaway been nominated as Best Actress for Get Smart, I would have been pulling for her unironically.

I was genuinely surprised that Tina Fey and Steve Martin were allowed to go up there and take that shot at Scientology. As hard as it is to find two sentences about Scientology that aren't at least a little funny, they would not have gone up there and said those things about the slightly less funny--but ten times as dangerous--Old Testament. Trey Parker's "Everything except Trey Parker is stupid" philosophy might be lacking in nuance, but it's fair.

I'm pretty sure Bill Maher tried to fuck the winner for Best Documentary Short--possibly backstage, so to speak.

In Bruges is the fourth best of the ten nominated screenplays and I'm reserving a spot because I haven't seen Happy-Go-Lucky yet. The Academy is insecure.

There's usually a category that contains a more plausible crop of Best Picture nominees than the, you know, Best Picture category. This year it's harder than usual. Some options are Supporting Actress or Makeup.

Who let James Franco pronounce German?

They don't write screenplays; they write movies. They don't design sets; they design movies. And here are the nominees for Best Score.

Patrick said...

Mamma Mia sold more tickets than Titanic in England (or GB or UK, who knows what Hugh Jackman was talking about)?

God help us all.

mehitchcock said...

Patrick,
Mamma Mia was funny on too many levels and I am delighted that it was recognized in at least one country.
A small island in Greece with and all the social suffocation that implies is the perfect setting for the most overused musical trope, the one where some character wants to escape their clannish and privacy free home.
Meryl Streep plays the character so manipulative, contolling, emotionally distant, insecure, and histrionic that her daughter has to cut herself shaving, she cannot ask for help in fixing her own home even when it is literally falling apart under her, she won't even sing fucking waterloo to her chosen beau in an Abba musical even though she wanted to resist him but couldn't (to paraphrase)until she could make it a fun number involving everyone, and she's always hiding behind sunglasses and living out her fantasy of celebrity status on an island full of brown people who are literally climbing the walls to spy on and participate in her life, the most important thing on the island and maybe in the world.
I loved Mamma Mia.
Conversely Titanic was funny in zero ways. I'm glad Mamma Mia was recognized as better in at least one way...

Dan said...

I see that Mamma Mia got panned on this blog, but it took on a "so bad it's good" quality here in the UK -- and people went to see just how hilariously terrible Pierce Brosnan was, etc. Plus, together with Sex & The City, a lot of women seemed to really enjoy going to see it and singing along in big groups from work. The ticket sales in the UK weren't really an indication of quality, just word-of-mouth that it was a fun work trip if you were in the right frame of mind.

Anonymous said...

In the UK for the past 10 years or so a vast majority of girls aged 16-20 experienced constant ABBA (and Grease and Bee Gees) retro worship, at clubs throughout the land the hits of the group were pumped into the ears of drunk hormonal teenage girls getting their first flushes of sex and the binge drinking culture that is so prevalent over here. So since ABBA is kind of ingrained in the psyche of a huge portion of the UK the films massive success isn't that shocking.

Jefferson said...

Anonymous: You've kind of turned me on.

Patrick said...

Oh God, they're here. Nothing is safe anymore. First I am forced to read and review Twilight, and now this.

Waterloo – couldn't escape if you wanted to

Walter_Chaw said...

What Ebert 1992 would have said about Slumdog Millionaire:

"I will not regale you with the details by which Bobby's maiden flight takes place. I was so appalled, watching this kid hurtling down the hill in his pathetic contraption, that I didn't know which ending would be worse. If he fell to his death, that would be unthinkable, but if he soared up to the moon, it would be unforgiveable - because you can't escape from child abuse in little red wagons, and even the people who made this picture should have been ashamed to suggest otherwise."

- from his review of Radio Flyer

Suresh said...

Your review of Slumdog Millionaire was mostly in place. I don't have any significant disagreements, so I'm not going to mention any. However, you could have been a little more careful with the usage of the term Bollywood (even worse, the claim that it makes 800 movies a year).

Bollywood, as you should have known, is a product of the Indian tabloids of the 90s. (That it has gathered shameless support from many Indians themselves maybe left aside for now.) Bollywood refers to the Bombay film industry and just that -- one that predominantly produces Hindi films (probably around 200 every year). The rest of the supposed 800 come from different film industries -- mostly from the South of India -- in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada (South Indian languages).

You need not have known these specifics, but clubbing them all under one "Bollywood" is ironic in a review that talks about ethnocentric ignorance.

You may want to use "Indian film industry" or the specific language in which it's made in future -- unless, of course, you want to drive a point willfully. Thanks.

Walter_Chaw said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Here's some of my own. I'm not heavily into the politics of correctness. I think that driving points willfully is pretty much what I do, for good and for bad. It's not so much that Slumdog is offensive to me culturally as it is just generally offensive. It's bad art. It's the kind of bad art, more specifically, that people get off on. I've had a few conversations the last two days with people who say that yes, yes, yes, but they like movies that make you feel good. One kid said that he thought it was "trendy" to make feel-bad movies and that this one was a curative to that. I said that the term "hollywood ending" is one that's explicitly descriptive for one reason.

"Hollywood Ending" also applies to films not made in Hollywood. "Bollywood" also applies to films not made in Bombay. It does now anyway.

Whatever the case - I'm no torch-bearer for Indian causes. Indian causes can hold their own torches. I don't like the movie because it's morally irresponsible and dim-witted and it appeals - in spades - to morally irresponsible and dim-witted people. A lot of them, when you tell them why the movie is troubling, will agree. A lot of them won't.

You pick your fights.

And you lose for a while.

reel2reel said...

I'm sorry, I meant to post this here, because I'm stupid and can't figure out what's new and old in this blog (new at TOP, remember!).

----copy/paste----

This has nothing to do with the Oscars (couldn't be less interested). Just a comment on Ian Pugh's review of Mirrors:

"You have to hand it to Alexandre Aja: although he applies his marginal talent to different ends from within his genre of choice, he remains fairly consistent in his psychotic bursts of rage and complete obliviousness to the same. Whether he's making awful, sadistic horror flicks that pretend to be about nothing (his anti-lesbian screed High Tension) or--somehow worse--awful, sadistic horror flicks that pretend to be about something (his remake of The Hills Have Eyes and now Mirrors), his targets are clear."

Couldn't help but point out how sometimes criticism crosses a fine line and starts to give off that stench of what smells like jealousy. Aja's remake of Hills Have Eyes is pretty amazing and to deny that is sad. It's a well-crafted, beautifully shot horror that pulls no punches. Maybe Pugh wishes it was PG-13 or something, I dunno. Sorry for the interruption.

----copy/paste----

Now, because I'm stupid, please define (with examples) what the word "arbitrary" means. Some people use it to describe David Lynch. But I don't trust people that listen to CBC radio all day instead of watching TV.

Thanks...

-reel2reel

O'JohnLandis said...

I had to go read all of Ian's Mirrors piece, because I was trying to find some extended section that suggested jealousy. The internet is a tricky creature, and people can't be expected to copy and paste relevant information all the time. Unless the premise is that any negative comment constitutes possible jealousy, please define, with examples, which of Ian's sentences specifically suggest jealousy and which don't, assuming that some don't. But why stop there? Perhaps I could bring about an alternate proposal that all film criticism is not mere jealousy, but sexual jealousy. I don't have an example that makes sense and I don't have an example that's even funny, but that's what happens when you type words into sentences without saying anything.

Still, if holding a gun to a baby's head without pulling the trigger doesn't constitute pulling a punch, I don't know what does.

Suresh said...

Walter,

I never said anything about being a culture's torch bearer. I just wanted to point to this irony:

"...two of our favourite pastimes: winning the lottery and cultural obliviousness."
...
"Bollywood produced over 800 movies last year"

- from the actual review.

It's a matter of factual accuracy than political correctness. First the East Asians were reduced to Asians, going by racial distinction, then all the 'Asians' became Chinese.

But anyway, I see that you have little interest in not conforming to ethnocentric arrogance (or "cultural obliviousness") and are quite comfortable with perpetuating it. Some of them at least.

I had said:

"Your review of Slumdog Millionaire was mostly in place. I don't have any significant disagreements, so I'm not going to mention any."

Why are you still keen on pointing your disinterest in being a "torch bearer" and other conversations you've had? Why the defensive exposition? Because my name suggests I'm Indian?

It reminds me of conversations like this:

"I agree with you"
-"I don't care if you agree with me"
"Well!"

I'll tell you this much, I'm never going to "win" this argument.

Walter_Chaw said...

No - that's where you're wrong. You completely win this argument.

Walter_Chaw said...

I seem to remember once, O'John, of being accused of being jealous of handsome actors because I said something about - who was it - Paul Walker? Part 2 of this discussion about R2R's dada broadside is the idea that here people come out of the woodwork to defend stuff like Love Guru, Seven Pounds, and, yeah, Mirrors and the Hills remake. I mean, seriously?

Nate said...

I like the Hills remake, but then again I sort of like everything.

Except Marathon Man. I watched that over the weekend for the first time and, man, is that movie some serious bullshit.

Alex Jackson said...

I like the Hills remake, but then again I sort of like everything.

Except Marathon Man. I watched that over the weekend for the first time and, man, is that movie some serious bullshit.


Funny man!

Ian Pugh said...

Shit, man, I'm the guy who defends Eli Roth. I'm not gonna be the one to deny horror movies their right to a hard "R" or beyond. I'd just like those images to carry a little more weight than a momentary punch to the balls. Tarantino's got the impossible sadness of Death Proof; Argento's got the question of culpability in Deep Red; and yeah, even Roth's got his capitalist meta-commodities in Hostel Part II. Aja's movies make me feel miserable for no real purpose at all. Call it auteurism if you want, but it takes a special brand of sadist to approach homosexual tension, American imperialism and introspective darkness and come up with the same spiteful non-conclusion: "Fuck you, die." Not much suspense there, huh? Guys like Aja, Brett Ratner, Michael Bay--they're critical punching bags, and rightfully so, because their messages of hate and intolerance linger long after the memory of their films has left. Just color me green with envy.

theoldboy said...

I don't think Aja thought through the ending of High Tension enough to realize its implications. It's basically the same twist every bad amateur horror movie has. Even I worked on a short film at one point with that twist. He probably thought lesbians are awesome, buzzsaws are awesome, so fuck, why not combine the two? I rather liked both High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes, the latter of which I think is superior in pretty much every respect to the original (save its disappointing lack of Michael Berryman's head), both largely because they're well made and were at the time refreshingly nasty. But good lord is Mirrors a clusterfuck, and good lord has that type of nasty become dull and boring and stupid awful quickly.

Anonymous said...

This is most likely completely irrelevant and annoying, but after Danny Boyle won Best Director at the Oscars, I couldn't help but wonder: Hey, wait a minute, didn't he co-direct Slumdog with Loveleen Tandan? I'm a little confused why her name's hardly been mentionned -- Hell, hasn't been mentionned -- at all in any popular criticism.

- David H.

Anonymous said...

Anyone bothered by the funny parallels in the child actors from the Mumbai slum who've been given a home by the Indian government and the film itself?
Instead of oh, I don't know, paying the children a decent wage for their work instead some "benevolent" force just gives them reward for free thereby giving everyone an excuse to ignore the shocking poverty, deprivation and devastation for the sake of a solitary fairytale story that doesn't really help anything.

Alex Jackson said...

Well, I finally saw Slumdog Millionaire last night. Thumbs down for me. I'm like two-thirds maybe three-quarters into the charges of paternalism and racism, but not enough so to put the film in the same company as Mamma Mia, Hounddog, Superhero Movie, or probably An American Carol (which I could only endure four minutes of before having to turn it off. Maybe some other time).

My main, somewhat softball, rebuttal to those charges is that he wasn't saved from the slums by winning the game show. He was already out of the slums by then. All the main characters were. So I don't think he was rescued by the charity of the West. (The film also doesn't show us how his life changes after he wins the money). Who Wants to Be a Millionaire seemed to exist merely to give the film an artificially happy ending.

My problem with the film was just that it was too simple. There isn't an ambiguous emotion or complex idea in the entire film. It does nothing to surprise us and doesn't do anything to make us uncomfortable. (Support for charges of racism- the things done to the children in the film are palatable because they are Indian children. There's the feeling of "that's them and they aren't us so that's not that horrifying". If audiences saw the kids in the film as their kids the film wouldn't have worked).

But anyway, I hit Wikipedia and IMDB after I saw the film and learned the Loveleen Tandan story. The credit essentially means she was a glorified assistant director working second unit in the India section (I'm not sure what that means, the stuff in the slums I guess). Boyle was very pleased with her work and attempted to show a little humility and help her out in her career by giving her this credit. (And perhaps more cynically to help create the illusion that the film is being told through an Indian perspective).

There was a movement to get her recognized as the co-director, but it dissolved when she came out and said she was embarassed by it as her contribution to the film had become over-inflated.

Bill C said...

Just an FYI, no theatricals this week. They literally did not screen anything in our applicable markets.

Jefferson said...

But I hear the Jonas Brothers 3-D spectacular has truly ravishing mise-en-scene!

Patrick said...

So, just a week to go, and already I'm having discussions about why Rorschach rocks and is the coolest.

simonsays2 said...

With Oscar now opening the Best Picture category from 5 to 10, let's hope tripe like SM, Benji Button and the like have to go up against The Dark Nights going forward. But really, who cares - it's the Oscars.