FEBRUARY 23, 2009 8:01PM

The Bollywood Sweeper

Rate: 1 Flag

May I be frank? Slumdog Millionaire was a good movie, but I have to say, it was far from great.

 

The story from the get-go, although intriguing, did become a bit predictable by about half-way through.  The alluring beginning rapidly became a "been here, seen this" fairy tale that led up to the exact same guy-gets-girl ending that has become so lamely typical of Hollywood movies.  Although I kept telling my fiance in the theater EXACTLY what we would be seeing on the screen within five minutes about 20 times throughout the film, I was desperately hoping I would have been wrong...at least about the ending.  So why did this movie take home a whopping eight Oscars on Sunday?  My answer is two-fold. 

 

1) Let's face it, the other contenders kind of sucked too, but I suppose it's safe to say that maybe Slumdog Millionaire sucked just a liiiiiittle less because at least the  Oscar-requisite crying scenes were played out by actors most of us hadn't seen on waiting room coffee tables before.

 

2) Political fund raising tactics.  Governments around the globe typically create financial incentives for film makers to bring their productions to their respective backyards and hire people there to craft films.  The U.S. is among the least generous of these countries, with almost no incentives at all to be offered.  Canada, the once home of "runaway production," has tightened it's ropes of control over what producers can and can't do.  Europe has finally woken up to the fact that EVERY film is a bad investment.  So that leaves a few countries left to choose from.

 

As Europe began it's "thanks but no thanks...anymore" campaign, producers and studios began looking deeper into the world and found what they thought  was some solace in the Middle East and parts of Africa.  Mainly, the still new-to-trying-progressive-Muslim-ruled-lifestyles Egypt, because South Africa, like Europe, had started keeping a lock around its wallet too.  Having relaxed its rules about what is acceptable viewing and filming material, Egypt had opens its doors to the West's job-bearing studios.  Eventually this short-lived partnership of sorts led to handshakes and business style back-pat hugs that all but teleported executives to the ultimate bank of the Middle East, commonly referred to as the United Arab Emirates, where studios had felt they had landed in Candide's well sought El Dorado.  This party lasted until their disgusting banks crashed right alongside our disgusting banks, and that , it seems, was that for film funding out of the Middle East.

 

Bollywood, India's Hollywood-like film industry, has always been huge.  The Indian government offers major incentives to entities willing to invest in films that will create jobs for Indian workers, while reflecting India in a positive way.  Their big...shall we say, stipulation (or perhaps hang-up), however, has always been that India creates Indian films for Indian people.  The idea of asking India to contribute money or incentives for a film intended primarily for Western viewing was, until tomorrow anyways, entirely absurd.  Their belief that we and they are so different from each other, meaning an Indian film can't possibly have enough cultural sex appeal way out west to succeed, had always simply stymied the notion...until Sunday, when a primarily Indian film attractively swept the Oscars.

 

It's safe to say that business as usual is all that was going on at last night's Academy Awards ceremony, which as usual, was nothing more than a public relations maneuver intended to bring new money to old Hollywood...Indian rupees in this case.  Let us allow time to tell us if the bait was bit.

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Well, I'm reading this because you directed me here, so you already know I was considerably more impressed than you were by Slumdog Millionaire. If I'd had my druthers I wouldn't have minded seeing Synechdoche, New York and Tell No One in the heat of things. I still say a 'typical boy-meets-girl' ending which is only made possible by a tragic and deadly sacrifice is not nearly so same-old same-old as you seem to think. (Of course the real ending was the subway dance coda, which I think opened wide every implication of the story.)