Elaine at the movies:

Elaine Blum

When a movie receives mass attention from talk shows and award committees, I take a second to consider whether the film is really worth it. “Slumdog Millionaire” soared into our collective attention after little hype or publicity before its release. Now it enjoys numerous award nominations, wins and high praises. I had to find out for myself if it is worth its 10 Oscar nominations.
Synopses and previews did not prepare me for the intensity of this movie. I was primed for an uplifting story about what it means to live and love. Its premise: a teen becomes a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in hopes that a girl will be watching.
Thus, I was surprised by images of torture, violent religious persecution and child abuse. Thankfully these intense scenes do not linger long and the audience is spared from witnessing excessive violence. However, consider this fair warning that there are disturbing and intense scenes.
And thank goodness for the spurts of levity intermingled with these heavy scenes. They remind the audience that life is not all depression and struggle. The greatest high of the film is its concluding Bollywood-style dance number. This fun, energetic scene is just the right kind of upper needed after the film’s intensity. Perhaps every movie should end with an energetic dance number.
Another highlight of the film is its unfailingly upbeat soundtrack. If “Slumdog” wins no other Oscars this season – and I predict it will – it undoubtedly deserves awards for music. The energetic blend of Indian and American styles supplements the action onscreen instead of detracting from it. Both nominated songs – “Jai Ho” and “O… Saya” – are well-deserving of the Oscar.
The song “Paper Planes” also complements the plot by emphasizing developing differences between brothers Salim and Jamal. Showcasing the clanging of a cash register and rhythmic gunshots, the song alludes to a culture that overvalues money and force as means to secure what one wants. In short, the soundtrack is amazing.
Another artistic complement to the storyline is the end credits. Each character is portrayed at three stages of life and thus three actors comprise each role. In the credits, all three actors who share one role are presented simultaneously. This artfully underscores the film’s idea that no stage in life is more important than any other – all experiences are important and formative.
And though its praises are plentiful, I must note one handicap: the shaky camera. This movie is complex and at times fast-paced and confusing. The nauseatingly shaky camera detracts from the enjoyment and understanding of the film, especially in the beginning, while the audience is studiously attempting to orient themselves within the story.
Even considering the shaky camera, I highly recommend “Slumdog Millionaire.” It is not a movie that will be easily forgotten. I withhold judgment on its Best Picture nod until I screen other nominees. However, it has guts and emotional pull comparable to past winners “Crash” or “American Beauty.” “Slumdog” might sweep the Oscars this year.