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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Slumdog Millionaire

There’s a lot that can be said about Slumdog Millionaire. As of now, it’s nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category, and is probably the frontrunner. It’s also Danny Boyle’s best film to date. In fact, it won the SAG and Golden Globes for Best Picture. It’s an intense film worth praise.

First of note when I watched it was the cinematography., which I had never been a fan of it in any of this director’s previous movies. While I must admit that I’ve never seen Trainspotting, The Beach was a travesty, and I didn’t like Sunshine very much at all. With that said, Boyle did direct 28 Days Later.

The cinematography in this film is good for the most part. There’s a good amount of childish slow-down effects that draw far too much attention to themselves, very distracting. Ajar camera angles accelerate the fast-paced life narrative of the protagonist Jamal, who is, as the title suggests, a dog of the slums. The film starts, however, with him winning millions on an Indian Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The dynamic of switching between the current and the past works really well, and keeps the story engaging. There was never a moment when I as thinking to myself, “skip this part and just get to the next question”. This is certainly a film about story – a good one at that.

From the first scene, the movie sets itself up for a very definite message: our lives are written in some cosmic novel. The film presumes to be a message about fatalistic circumstances. Jamal’s gonna get the girl, and the money, and everything’s gonna work out pretty good.

However, what really determines fate, seemingly, is Jamal’s sheer determination to find his star-crossed love Latika, a girl who puts up less than one-forth the resolve that Jamal has put into finding his one true love.

What was more infuriating in this film than the ways in which Latika keeps getting stolen from Jamal’s life are the ways in which she becomes seemingly powerless in the arms of “fate.” I guess, in a way, this movie is pretty sexist in its portrayal Latika as a helpless girl who lets circumstances get the best of her. At least Shakespeare let Juliet make daring decisions on her own. However, Latika remains a puppet of fate, and Jamal is really nothing but a puppet for the filmmaker.

I’m being especially hard on this film right now for one reason in particular – The Dark Knight did not get nominated for Best Picture. Because of this, I’m holding all the nominees to be far better, and far more complex pictures. However, Jamal is completely one-dimensional. Nothing stops him in his battle through fate’s obstacles. Like Jamal’s older brother, I found myself getting slightly peeved at the protagonist’s unconditional chase of his darling puppet Latika. He exhibits no lack of virtue, of genius, or of courage. He is good, and the bad guys are bad – that’s just the way it is. While not an inherently shallow concept, there’s just little to dig into in this film.

I do applaud the film for effectively painting a dark picture of India’s poor underbelly. I’m a big fan of location shooting – it gives me a chance to experience a new culture, and the picture of this dark underbelly is very vivid and organic. Colors are alive in this picture, unlike Latika’s will and determination.

And I simply can’t get over that. How is this movie so adamant in its convictions about fate when the girl who lets her life sidle in the creep of fate ends up so rich in the end? Jamal does all the work and she reaps the benefits. It’s like happy Romeo and Juliet, except Juliet is just a ragdoll and Romeo’s an obsessive creep… with a ragdoll fetish.

And that’s my big problem with the movie. Though it’s really heartfelt in its portrayal of Jamal’s determination, its almost forceful in its sentimentality. Yes, I liked the movie a lot while I was there, but there’s just nothing to think about. Life is just a page on fate’s cosmic script – everything happens just because. Like a line, there’s just nothing to cut into, nothing unique. This is a great movie, but it’s not the masterpiece of the year. It’s not a movie that defines the world that we live in right now. It’s not a movie that will be studied or will cause a shift in film culture. It’s not as complex or daring as The Dark Knight. There, I said it, and I’m not even a fanboy. Just a fan of film.