Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Dog Again

I’ve been thinking a lot about Slumdog Millionaire, not really because I choose to, but because that damn song is being played over and over again everyfuckingwhere I go. (I actually got up and tried to do the Bollywood dance the other day.) Thanks to this reluctant reflection, I’ve decided I did not like the movie that much and if I continue thinking about it I may grow to hate it. Actually, I just may be one Danny Boyle or Dev Patel interview away from such contempt.

Slumdog suffers from is the same affliction that curses just about every American made movie: the closed narrative loop. What makes most Hollywood movies numbingly boring and irrelevant is the structure: premise, plot, sub-plots, a protagonist, one or more antagonists, climax, resolution, and the warm-happy sunset to ride off into. Contrivance is the necessary tool to fit reality into a neat two hour narrative package. Hollywood teaches us to deny reality and that’s why the USA is the most ignorant major industrial nation on earth.

This self-billed "feel good movie of the year" may help us "feel good" that we are among the lucky ones on earth, but it delivers a patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice for those who are not.

What might Slumdog look like in the hands of Satyajit Ray, Ken Loach or John Sayles?

There may be just one good thing to come out Slumdog’s popularity. I predict once it’s out on DVD it will dethrone Haggis’ Crash (the worst movie ever made) as the No. 1 rental on Netflix.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Oscar predictions.

Mickey Rourke--actor
Heath Ledger--supporting actor
Kate Winslet--actress
Penelope Cruz--supporting actress (Viola Davis might take it)
WALL-E--animated feature, original screenplay
Benjamin Snooze Button-art direction, make-up, visual effects
Slumdog--picture, director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, score, film editing
The Duchess--costume design
Man on Wire--documentary feature
The Witness--doc short
Waltz with Bashir-foreign pic
Jai-Ho from Slumdog
The Pig--live action short
Presto--Animated short

Corndog Millionaire

I finally got around to watching Slumdog Millionaire. I thought it would be embarrassing to go to my Oscar party and not have seen at least one of the nominated movies. And I wanted to see it on a big screen since the consensus was that it was a big screen movie. I’m not going to write a full analysis/review since I’m a bit backed up in my writing, but here are some observations.

First, I have to defend myself. My friend John Luke Retard called me a Scrooge after I told him what I thought of Slumdog. Someone who chokes up during the previews is not a Scrooge (yes, it’s true, I don’t mind admitting it). She’s a film lover who hopes the movie she’s about to see is great.

From the very first sequence, Boyle tells us that “this movie is going to be INTENSE. If, at some point, you find yourself thinking ‘I need a massage after this,’ don't loathe yourself for the juxtaposition of your upper-middle class problems with the abject poverty shown in the film. This movie is heartbreaking from beginning to (almost) end, and it will take you through every emotion.” I have to admit I felt guilty for cursing the Governator on Friday and for checking the blue book to see if my car was worth more than $15,000. Anyway...

Whereas in previous Boyle efforts the music and style serve the story, here they carry the movie. I didn't mind the corniness since the movie embraces it, but the performances and the writing have to be there to support the corn. (Despite my reputation, I love corn, as long as it’s good and the manipulation is flawless.)

My guess (as a screenwriter) is that the story was originally meant to focus on the brotherly relationship which was sufficiently developed and infinitely more interesting than the love story. Jamal was probably slated to save his brother, not a chick he really didn’t have chemistry with because he hardly saw her during the entire two hours. But of course, you have to have the love story to pull in the female audience. That’s fine, but develop it man!

The last third of the movie is filled with forced, and sometimes cringe inducing dialogue that we’ve heard before. I’m baffled that Boyle couldn’t think of a more original situation for Latika. A pretty girl forced to be the mistress of a gangster? Really, Danny? For instance, why not have her buried alive in a shallow grave while ravenous zombies try to dig her out?

I’ve seen all of Boyle’s movies and, as far as I can recall, he’s never blatantly pandered to the audience. I lost all respect for him after being subjected to the end montage of scenes from the movie to remind us the hell the characters went through and to nudge that last tear. With that, everything that was right with the movie went to hell.

Note to Danny: Now that you’ve got your Oscars, success and money, please make up with John Hodge and make a good movie again. And what the hell was that business with the bathtub and the money?

Slumdog reminded me why I don't usually watch Oscar-nominated movies, but is also the type of movie that makes me wish I was a regular filmgoer so I could enjoy it just like everyone else. If you expect to taste boloney when you bite into a boloney sandwich, then you won’t feel disappointed when you don’t taste fois gras.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I found Hope.

I went to a self distribution talk tonight at Film Independent. It was an eye opener and I learned a lot. I still have a lot of research to do, but the most important thing I learned was that independent filmmakers must start marketing their films before they even shoot them. Toward that end, I will start a new blog called "LA, I Hate You," the title of my first feature. More about this later, but now, here's the link to Ted Hope's blog:

Every independent filmmaker should be reading it.