81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Slumdog Millionaire

November 8th, 2009 · No Comments · 2008, Adaptation, Color, Danny Boyle, Dev Patel, Drama, Freida Pinto, India, Pathe Pictures International, Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire, Widescreen

Slumdog Millionaire Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Perfectly constructed. Perfectly acted. Perfectly directed.

This is the kind of movie that inspires me to be a screenwriter.

It’s also the kind of movie that leads me to believe I never will be.

How could I write something this extraordinary?

Even the end credits – a dance number by the cast to the song “Jai Ho” by A. R. Rahman – are brilliant.

This is what an Oscar-winning move should look and sound like. I like movies that leave me amazed, uplifted, moved, and inspired. I want to see a movie that challenges me emotionally and astounds me creatively. I don’t want to see a movie that crushes my spirit, insults my intelligence, or leaves me sick to my stomach.

The Plot (from IMDB)
The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Kaun Banega Crorepati?” (2000) (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions. Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its storytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love. (Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures.)

Some of this movie is hard to watch because it’s violent. But the violence isn’t gratuitous. It’s a depiction of the underbelly of life in India for “slumdogs,” the poorest of the poor.

I remember seeing Slumdog Millionaire at the theater when it opened. I had no idea what to expect. I just read a few reviews and thought it would be an interesting movie. I had no idea how interesting. It blew me away! I bought it the day it was released on DVD.

A few observations:

1. Litaka often wore yellow, as a young girl and as an adult. According to one web site, yellow is “In India, yellow is the divine color.” That may or may not be true, but Litaka ’saved” Jamal at the end with his final question on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

2. The acting was first-rate, even from the young kids who portrayed Jamal and his brother Salim.

3. Slumdog was riveting from the first scene, building suspense scene by scene to the climax. It was masterful.

4. I’ve wanted to visit India for some time now. But I’m not sure Slumdog Millionaire is a strong convincer. India looks like a vast, overcrowded, poor country riddled with crime and begging street urchins deliberately maimed to make them more pathetic. Indian food is great, and I eat it all the time. Hinduism is fascinating. India is home to the Dalai Lama and his Tibet-In-Exile government. But the slice of life portrayed in Slumdog Millionare doesn’t make me want to buy a plane ticket.

5. I’ve often heard of so-called Bollywood movies (movies made in India with Indian actors). If this is such a movie, I’m impressed.

The Cast
Dev Patel (1990- )……………………………….Jamal K. Malik
Saurabh Shukla (?- )…………………………….Sergeant Srinivas
Anil Kapoor (1959- )……………………………Prem
Freida Pinto (1984- )……………………………Latika
Irrfan Khan (1962- )…………………………….Police Inspector
Madhur Mittal (?-)……………………………….Older Salim

Directed By
Danny Boyle, 1956-
Loveleen Tandan, ?- (co-director: India)

Written By
Simon Beaufoy, 1967- (screenplay)
Vikas Swarup, ?- (novel)

Slumdog Millionare was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight: Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Directing (Danny Boyle), Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (A.R. Rahman), Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (A.R. Rahman and Gulzar for “Jai Ho”), Best Achievement in Sound, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Simon Beaufoy).

This ends my journey through 81 Oscar-winning movies. It’s been fun!

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