Archive for November, 2008

What Slumdog Millionaire Ain’t

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire ain’t what you think. Brilliant and harsh, Boyle’s flicks tend to leave you feeling a bit damaged (see Trainspotting, 28 Days Later). And given that Slumdog focuses on India’s crushingly poor slum kids, you’d expect similar — particularly since films like Born into Brothels have calibrated expectations.

It’s anything but. There may be down moments, but the relentless pace hardly lets you linger. We meet gangsters, take kaleidoscopic trips down slum alleys, witness family trauma. But throughout it all there is a pervasive sense of hope. It’s clear that Danny fell in love with India; he captures it so well. In a recent interview, he put it this way:

You go there, and it’s buzzing. The extremes you get are incredible! You cannot believe what you’re getting on film because you don’t go anywhere that’s boring. The city’s just exploding somehow. Destroying itself and re-creating itself at the same moment—the buzz you get off it! (more)

And halfway through the flick I realized what had happened. Boyle hasn’t just fallen in love with India, he’s fallen in love with Indian cinema. When I’m on travel, I make sure to catch local cinema and India’s is special: Bollywood (the largest film industry in the world by ticket sales) is all about crowd pleasers. That means a whole lot of gangster flicks and love stories (often both together), punctuated by singing and dancing that puts western music videos to shame.

You mock it at first but it quickly becomes contagious. And I think fans of Boyle’s previous films might find Slumdog just the same. You start out hating it for what it isn’t, but end up loving it for what it is. I dare anyone not to smile at the closing credits (you’ll see what I mean). And in doing so, you aren’t just falling in love with Slumdog, you’re falling in love with Bollywood, too. More of that, please.

Find more Slumdog Millionaire at Fox Searchlight. Oh, and did I mention the Slumdog soundtrack is absolutely fantastic? Shimmering, pulsing beats match the hyperkinetic visuals blow for blow. It’s criminally absent from Amazon. That better get fixed soon.

Next Stop: First Black President

I didn’t vote. Why bother? Living in the deepest blue part of the bluest state, it’s pretty clear my vote will just be piling in with what will surely be a massive majority. As far as voting for change goes, New York’s ballot was in the box months ago.

Here’s the problem: “Dad, why didn’t you vote for the first black candidate for president?” Bit easier if I was at odds policy-wise (read Colin Powell). Lacking that, I’m left babbling electoral college math that sounds bogus even before it comes out my mouth. It’s a conversation I don’t know how to have. Okay, I voted after all.

It’s hard to believe we’re here — on the verge of electing the first black president. Our subway conductor on Halloween:

Barack Obama!
If you aren’t ready for change, get off the train
Next stop: first black president!

Let’s hope. But let’s also be clear on what it would say about the state of race in America. You need look no further than the current challenges in South Africa to see that electing a black president doesn’t magically generate the so-called post-racial society — particularly when your economy is in shambles.

Still, merely having a black presidential candidate has the nice byproduct of opening the floodgates for thoughtful reflection on race in the national press: places like The Atlantic and The Times. (Heck, even New York Magazine.) In the end, the piece that drives our continuing racial challenges home most clearly is a simple list contrasting Palin and Obama. A sample:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay. (more)

So, it’s important to remember what it would mean to elect the first black president: it’s a statement on race, not a solution to racism. But what a fabulous way to make that statement. It would be a dream fulfilled. And I’ll be able to tell my kid I was part of making it happen. Vote!

We previously wrote about Obama in The Last Black Senator and The Obama Upset. We think these Shamans for Obama are awesome.

Update: And it’s done.

photo taken at the hilarious and pointed Obama08

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