Monday, January 12, 2009
I haven't been what I'd term a "movie buff" since high school. Back in the late '90s, I'd watch just about everything that came out. Just about every Friday and Saturday night, my friends and I would inevitable find ourselves at our local multiplex. After the movie, we would wander over to Starbucks or, if we were feeling particularly venturesome, we'd drive into town to the House of Pies to discuss the film. Certainly, a few movies really caught our imagination (Good Will Hunting being one that immediately comes to mind -- in fact, I suspect the film was a big impetus in two members of our posse going to MIT), but the majority were (naturally) mediocre. In any case, since high school -- and since starting work, in particular -- I've rarely wanted to spend 2 or more hours of my precious free time trapped in a dark movie theater, the victim of whatever reheated, patched-together plot Hollywood has deemed fit for my consumption. To be honest, I just don't have the patience anymore.
However, Slumdog Millionaire, and its attendant success both at the boxoffice and the Golden Globes, has given me some hope. I'll admit I went to see the movie reluctantly -- my husband was itching to go. I relented because it was, at least, not Hellboy 2 (which he honestly wanted to see) and I figured it'd give me some ammunition next time I wanted to see something that he was less than excited about (like, say, Last Chance Harvey). I was blown away. The movie is well acted, beautifully shot, refreshingly original and it had a happy ending. I'll admit that I've developed something of a fascination with India in the last few years -- ever since my mother-in-law gave me Shantaram (which Johnny Depp bought the film rights to, actually), I've been devouring books by the likes of Chitra Banjeree Divakaruni and Jhumpa Lahiri (author of The Namesake) -- however, I think this movie would appeal to a larger audience, including those completely unfamiliar with Indian culture. In recent years Hollywood appears to be under the illusion that a happy ending somehow sacrifices the authenticity of a production. It's as though if you leave a movie theater feeling good, then the movie has failed. I am of the opinion, however, that despair is not the only authentic emotion. Of course it's far, far easier to conjure genuine sorrow than happiness through the medium of film...but that's part of what makes this film such an achievement. Sure, the movie has moments of extreme tension -- in fact, some scenes are outright hard to watch. But as the movie unfolds, the defiant optimism of the main character becomes contagious. You begin to feel that his happy ending has already been written. With everything going on in the world (and in my own life), I appreciated the escapism. It's rare for me to be so engaged by a movie -- or to endorse one so wholeheartedly. Alas, I'm not sure that this type of movie can be made anymore by mainstream Hollywood -- and when Hollywood inevitably tries to duplicate it (after all, it's making bank), they'll just botch it (cf. Hollywood's failed efforts at remaking the truly lovely German film Mostly Martha into the paltry No Reservations).
Three brief asides on last night's Golden Globes (which I didn't watch...who has that kind of time?): 1. 30 Rock is without question the best show on network television and I'm glad to see it getting the attention it -- and Alec Baldwin, bless him -- deserves; 2. I was equally pleased to see Kate Winslet finally honored (and looking gorgeous). I absolutely loved her in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Finding Neverland. While I haven't seen either of her new films, I'm routing for her at the Oscars; and 3. I thought Heath Ledger deserved Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. His performance was mesmerizing and elevated a "comic book movie" to a brilliant commentary on terrorism and its effect on the public psyche.