Naturally, everybody has something to say about this year’s Oscar nominations. I haven’t seen a number of the films being considered, so I don’t have much to stand on in the way criticizing movies in a relative sense, but I will gladly rain on the Slumdog Millionaire parade.
As Ross Douthat notes, “[Slumdog Millionaire] slipped into the dark-horse slot previously occupied by Juno and Little Miss Sunshine,” which on aesthetics I suppose, is true. But when evaluated on a subtextual level, Juno and Little Miss Sunshine offered much more than Slumdog Millionaire, which I felt was basically a fairytale. Putatively, the point of the movie was to show even slumdogss have a wealth of experience (so to speak!) that can be far more empowering than a wealth of material (a stirring ode to the power of the human spirit!), but it basically trivialized some extremely disturbing aspects of poverty by having the protagonist win the lottery.
Ironically, this is in some ways an accurate portrayal of being born in indigence: as far as escaping poverty goes, being resourceful helps, but more than anything else, luck decides your fate. But this was not the message of the movie. Instead, Slumdog celebrated the protagonist’s luck as reward for his indefatigable spirit, when in fact, the movie could have just as easily focused on the millions of people, who despite their indefatigable spirits, never acheive their dreams.
Although I’m sure this celebration is a satisfying message for most Western audiences, and indeed, most people who see independent films, it’s a pretty daft. Of course, one should expect that a fairytale be naive, and this should not be held against the movie, but then one should also expect that light fare not be greeted with the unbridlied ZOMG!-this-is-the-best-movie-EVAR!!!111! level of enthusiasm this film has generated.
UPDATE: Caution, spoilers above!