I waited months to see Slumdog, and two weeks to write a blog post about it after I saw it, which is really unfair, because it’s an awesome movie. The best movie of 2008 – I got no beef with the Academy this year! Of course, my runner-up was Cloverfield, so that may warn you about my tastes.
But not only was Slumdog the movie of the year, it might be the movie of the decade. Many people (or maybe just Peter, many times!) have asked me what movie I thought best captured the zeitgeist of the ’00 decade. The canonical answer to this is The Dark Knight, which not only made boatloads of money, but to many people represented the whole Bush/terror/torture/surveillance/moralambigity thang. But if you get outside the bubble of Hollywood and the American mainstream media, you begin to realize that America wasn’t the big story this decade (for once). While we were blundering into calamity and stagnation, much of the ROW – yes, that means Rest of the World – was developing at an unprecedented pace. Though China grabs the headlines, India’s change may be more significant and lasting – in a way, India is building itself into a world-class economy and great power for the first time.
Which is why Slumdog, which is really a pastiche of India, is such a movie for the times. It depicts the crowded, stifling squalor of world poverty, the promise and corruption of newfound wealth, the gorgeous, bizarre newness of a society in transition.
Oh yeah, and the story is good too. It’s basically Oliver with a happy ending. Some of the plot is a mite hokey, to be honest, especially the lack of a convincing on-screen explanation for the protagonist’s trivia expertise (it would have helped if they had explained that this was a very smart, observant guy with a near-perfect memory…which in fact he appeared to be). And (SPOILER ALERT) I would have preferred if he had walked off the show or given away the money at the end. But the hokey-ness doesn’t really take anything away from the movie.
See this one on the big screen. The soundtrack is amazing, especially the MIA tracks. The visuals make you feel like you’ve stumbled onto an alien planet (unless you come from an Indian slum, that is).
One interesting – and disturbing – addendum. People of older generations than mine (except for my dad!) were very reluctant to see this movie with me even AFTER it won Best Picture…and everyone gave different reasons, but I eventually realized that it was because the main characters are nonwhite people. That doesn’t bode well for Speed Tribes, of course – our hero is Japanese – but it was an encouraging sign that everyone of my own generation or younger seemed to find the race of the characters to be of no issue whatsoever.
Whaddya know – globalization in action.