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Zettel Film Reviews » Oscars 2009 – Update: Bumblog Squillionaire cleans up

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Oscars 2009 – Update: Bumblog Squillionaire cleans up

Look, don't touch

Look, don't touch

Oscar 2009 – Update

Well my predictions just get worse. Glad I was wrong about Kate. Thrilled I was right about Man On Wire – if you haven’t seen it, make sure you do. Inspirational. I’m as disappointed about Benjamin Button as I was in 2006 when Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s masterly Babel was also virtually ignored by the Academy. It is ironic that exactly the same two exceptional actors are involved, better this year even than they were then, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Neither of these two seems to click with the Academy but they’re not the first for whom that’s true. If I were a professional actor I would regard having contributed to two films as good as Benjamin Button and Babel as worth a hundred Oscars.

The award of best adapted screenplay for Slumdog against David Hare’s brilliant sustained work on The Reader is to rate a Boots Charging Elephant herd print over a Da Vinci; Barbara Cartland over George Eliot. Farcical.

No complaints about Penelope. If you saw her acceptance didn’t she just prove my point? Halting, nervous and flat in English, her body and voice came alive when she let rip in Spanish. Didn’t understand a word of it – but wow I could listen to it all night. I should be so lucky!

I wrote this at the end of my review of Bumblog Squillionaire:

“Culturally the acid test of Slumdog is how it plays in India. Though not released there yet I believe test showings have been received well. But then, I believe ‘Allo ‘Allo was very popular in Germany as well”.

The more I hear of the background to this movie, the more troubling it seems. In a BBC main News report their reporter interviewed the father of one of the boys under the tarpaulin where he lives. The reporter spoke of a payment of £2,000 having been paid to him.

In an interview Danny Boyle gave to Martha Carney he said that the two small boys and one girl had been put into school and a trust set up for them as long as they see this schooling through. No numbers were mentioned but the film cost £6m to make, about a tenth of its cost made in the US or the UK. It may be one of the most profitable films ever made, even now predicted to gross over £100m. Enough there to spare for a few schoolbooks and pencils I think. Danny mentioned how ‘hard’ it was to have to pick two kids from the 20 in the last auditions. Well that’s 18 young Indian slum-dwellers (they hate the name ‘Slumdog’ apparently) given a sound lesson in the market economics of Supply and Demand.

Revealingly when Carney raised the question of the grotesque inappropriateness of the publicity and promotion for this film – “feelgood movie of the year” etc, he said that they had a difference of view about that: that the producers had said that people like Martha Carney would go to the film anyway so the publicity had to pitch at a wider market. Just so. And it was clear that Danny Boyle had not the slightest control over this. He made a good film – they exploited that to sell a bad product.

But even the exploitation issue isn’t the heart of the matter. Just how funny did the nipped and tucked, botoxed and massaged, primped and polished ladies wearing 100 times more on their back and hanging from their ears than Ayush Khedekar got for the whole movie, find the image of him covered in sh*t (real sh*t in every sense except organic) ironically desperate to worship at the altar of celebrity?

Danny Boyle admitted that he had incorporated a Bollywood feel into Slumdog. It is too convoluted and redolent with moral and artistic ambiguity to wonder exactly how beneficial the India represented by Bollywood is to the people in the slums who are the mise-en-scene of his money-spinner. Without a trace of irony, unwittingly revealing more than he actually meant to, with a kind of artistic pride, Danny remarked that the Bollywood film-makers who helped him couldn’t understand why he didn’t let them build a set for the slum scenes as they would have done themselves. Danny said that no, they wanted it to be real. Well yes, by all means let’s make sure that above all, the filming and pictures of the dirt, disease and deprivation providing the context and visual tone of this banal, adolescent, Mills and Boon fairytale is real. Cinderella and Cinderfella go the ball: where sh*t doesn’t stink; poverty doesn’t deprive; and disease doesn’t spread from sh*tty water. Sorry but far from this movie being a credit to the British film industry it just shows it slumming – in the worst sense. I do wonder whether Gordon Brown even saw it before he praised it to the skies. Or doesn’t it matter as long as it helps the economy?

No I didn’t have to go; nor do you. Yes I can switch off the TV. No I’m not holier than anyone. I’m waiting for serious-minded, Indian men and women of stature and commitment to their country, confronting the appalling problems that great sub-continent faces, to have the courage to denounce this patronising, exploitative product; as invertedly racist as any bully boy boozers slinging down a late night ‘Ruby’.

Finally – if this surreal annual exercise in narcissistic self abuse, as unmissable as it is unwatchable, is to be on our screen again can the BBC please get it back? Sky’s crap coverage had all the intellectual depth of the Sun, the artistic insight of the News of The World and the emotional sensitivity of FHM.

Have a nice day.

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