Monday, February 23, 2009

Art Imitates Life

It may have been predictable.  It may have been magical.  You may known from the second it started it would have been victorious.  I could be talking about its plot or the movie itself.  They seem inseparable at this point.  The story of "Slumdog Millionaire" is pretty powerful.  We cynics can dismiss the awards race as predictable, boring, etc. but how can I feel that way when I watch Danny Boyle literally act like Tigger when he wins an Oscar?  How can I feel that way seeing those kids stand in front of all of Hollywood - a Hollywood literally giving them a standing ovation?  I can't even begin to imagine how that must feel for all of them.  Tomorrow, we turn to 2009 and everything it hopes to bring.  But let's not forget this:

Danny Boyle went into India as an outsider.  He had an amazing crew and complete artistic freedom to make the movie he wanted to make.  When he finished, Warner Bros. hated it.  They threatened to dump it directly to DVD, thinking no one would want to see the movie.  During the festival circuit, Slumdog did not have distribution despite having a major studio backing it.  Instead, Fox Searchlight picked it up and saw something in it.  For all intensive purposes, Danny Boyle's film was its own Jamal, and Anil Kapoor was all of us.

At every stage of the awards game, "Slumdog Millionaire" got nominated.  At every stage of the game, it won.  It advanced.  It kept going.  For no real REASON accept people flocking to it, celebrating it, feeling something quite intangible and something worth talking about, thinking about.  When it won the National Board of Review, we said good for it.  When it won the Critics Choice and the Golden Globe, people took notice.  When it was nominated for every single Guild, it became unstoppable.  10 Oscar nods.  Literally every single Guild.  8 Wins.  It's a rare instance where a work of art touched everyone.

When people first talked about it, it was just "Danny Boyle's new movie in India."  It turned into a cultural storm.  People talked about it everywhere, on every talk show, everywhere I turned.  When I saw pictures from India last night of large crowds gathered around televisions, rejoicing at Slumdog's every win, I knew art had collapsed into life.  I'm glad the film has sparked dialogue and awareness about India's poverty, as I'm sure Boyle and producer Colsen are.  But I'm sure they'd also tell it's both the entire point and not the point at all.

The film salutes our dreams.  From the saddest corners of life, it lifts its protagonist into a happiness not driven by success and wealth but by love.  Watching the Oscars last night, it was easy to feel the love from everyone in the room, and to feel the love from the filmmakers at this acceptance.

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