Monday, 16 February 2009

This may (or may not) help you in your decision to view Slumdog Millionaire or Coraline

With less than a week until the Oscars, I checked the lists of nominees to see how we're doing. We usually try to have seen at least two of the films in each major category, if only to have something to root for/throw potato chips at during the televised ceremony. Most years, the best-watched category for me has been the Best Actress nominees, usually because the nominated films are often too violent for my squeamish little soul. This year, however, I've only managed to see Kate Winslet's turn in The Reader. I'd really like to see Rachel Getting Married, but it's no longer playing in any cinema in Ottawa, and the DVD will not be released until next month.

To my astonishment, we've managed to see four out the five nominated films. This hasn't happened for years. I've no desire whatsoever to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; everyone keeps saying Forrest Gump, which is enough to put me off anything. Of course, word of mouth, catch-phrases, and publicity spins can be misleading. Take Slumdog Millionaire for example.

I usually check reviews carefully before attending a film, which is an expensive proposition these days in terms of time, money and popcorn. The impression I'd gotten from blurbs, reviews, etc. were "feel-good film", "Cinderella story", "Dickensian". None of which particularly sold me on the film, but it's been winning awards right and left, so the Resident Fan Boy and I decided to take advantage of a relatively quiet weekend.

Okay, "feel-good", "Cinderella" and "Dickens" did not prepare me for the spectacle of our young protagonist being systematically tortured by the Mumbai police in the opening scenes. Nor did it prepare me for a massacre involving people being immolated, a blinding, and a charming scene of a young boy covered from head to toe in excrement. At the end of this horror-show which reminded me of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance (which I read last summer), the cast breaks into a Bollywood-style dance number in a train station which left me disoriented and stunned because it was so jarring in the context of the movie.

So, no one's asking me, but Slumdog Millionaire does not get my vote. It's not a terrible movie, but it's unsettling, and not in an instructive way. I enjoyed The Reader, but I simply don't think it's a best film of the year. That leaves Milk and Frost/Nixon. I don't think I'd be throwing fatty snack foods if either won, but I think I have a slight preference for Frost/Nixon at this point. A film that has you on your seat with suspense even in the absence of violence has to be doing its job. But as I've said, no one is asking me.

We also took the girls to see Coraline today, it being Family Day, a new holiday that gives the day off to everyone except federal government workers. The Resident Fan Boy had a few discretion days available. Haven't read Coraline in about five years, so felt confident that I'd forgotten enough to enjoy the film. It's in 3D; I think it will be difficult to see animated films in anything but this format soon, by the look of things. We liked it, and if you're planning to see it, we recommend you hang around for the end of the credits and keep your special glasses on.


Marie said...

A Fine Balance, the world's most over-the-top, depressing book? Now I am feeling better about having missed Slumdog Millionaire.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I too have 'missed' Slumdog - though I know people who have raved about it, I was so put off by the promotion of it (irrational but true) that I have almost deliberately avoided it. Plus, partner heard a radio play based on the original story and seemed to find that better.

Pleased that Coraline went down well...

JoeinVegas said...

I saw Benjamin B and really liked it. The acting was very good, and if you concentrate on the people and how they interact you can overlook the backwards stuff (almost)

Rob said...

lie you I have no desire to see Benjamin Button, but I did enjoy Slumdog Millionaire. yes, it loses some of the subtleties of the book's storyline, but I suppose knowing th ebook I knew it was never going to be a feel-good film except in the sense that it has a happy ending for the protagonist. As for the jarring nature of the Bollywood style dance number, that's rather the point: the dance numbers in Bollywood films rarely have any connection with the actual story (though there are exceptions). I remember watchjing some war film or other on Indan cable TV: I had no idea what was going on except that a woman was clearly devastated that her husband had had to go off to fight. Cue big bouncy dance number.....

My wife and daughter saw Milk the other night but I was coughing too much to inflict myself on a cinema. They (and my son) saw The Wrestler too a week or so back, and thought it was great (and only my son is a wrestling fan of the three of them). Though Hilary did not enjoy watching Mickey Rourke being stapled to the floor of the ring with a staple gun.

Re the excrement in SM, my daughter fell into a less generously-proportioned "long-drop" loo when in Malaysia on her gap year. But she didn't then try to get Amitabh Bachchan's autograph (although she is a fan). Amitabh was the real-life host of WWTBAM in India (Kaun Banega Crorepati?) and apparently hated Slumdog.