When I first heard Danny Boyle would be directing a film based on Aron Ralston’s true story about being trapped in a crevasse that would be called 127 Hours, my first thought was, “Please, God, don’t let him direct it in real-time!”
I’m not a fan of Boyle’s hyper visual style. I thought his Slumdog Millionaire was the most overrated film of recent memory and the worst Best Picture Oscar winner in many moons. But even as a naysayer, I can’t deny he’s become one of the premier auteurs for the “ADD-Hey-Mom-Look-at-Me!” generation that’s grown up on reality shows. With Ralston’s harrowing true story, Boyle has finally found riveting subject matter to match his out-of-control eccentricities behind the camera.
The film begins in traditional head-throbbing, loud, over-edited Boyle fashion as Ralston (James Franco, excellent in an essentially one-man-show) heads out of town for a weekend of rock-climbing and hiking through Utah’s Blue John Canyon. After a chance encounter with the lovely Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, Ralston once again heads off on his own and eventually falls down a crevasse with a rock that crushes his arm. Thankfully Boyle is not so hapless as to fail to realize that the natural beauty of the setting, the vast expanse of “wilderness” and Ralston’s singular drama should be the focus. When that focus hones in on one man’s dire predicament, Boyle enters a whole new ballgame. It becomes a film where silence is golden, and the noises that arise (the sound of Ralston screaming, rocks being chiseled, bones cracking, thunder rolling) evoke an “in-the-moment” jolt to the audience.
The 81st Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 22, 2009. Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories. The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.
Well, the telecast was a shoddily edited, over-directed, over-hyped painful bore to sit through — oh wait, that was Slumdog Millionaire — and there were no major surprises, though a-typical host Hugh Jackman was quasi-funny with his opening number in a weird I-had-no-idea-he-was-so-THEATRICAL! kind of way. But really, Academy, if you have any good sense left, bring back a comedian host next year. I want to laugh, not cringe while watching Hollywood pat itself on the back.
At any rate, it’s a miracle I was able to stay awake to tally that I scored 18 correct out of 24 in my predictions, which obliterated everyone else in my Oscar pool and is a new personal best topping my 17 correct predictions two years ago…when movies were still good. Continue reading →
The increasing commercial success and critical accolades for Slumdog Millionaire continue to perplex and baffle me. When I originally saw the film in early December, I gave it a mixed review to be kind. In truth I loathed the film and found it morally repugnant, but with all the awards being showered on it, it made me question whether or not I missed something or totally misinterpreted the message.
For me the film was a simplistic love story wrapped around a contrived “rags-to-riches” plot device with character development done with a hacksaw, headache inducing visuals and editing, and an exploitative view of an exotic third-world locale. Yes, it had some interesting moments, and I certainly can see how on a surface level the colorful slums of Mumbai might appeal to Westerners thinking they were receiving some sort of lesson in Indian culture. The film’s cockeyed (and misguided) optimism certainly has struck a cord in these troubling times. But I can’t fathom all the undying love people have been proclaiming for Danny Boyle’s silly opus. Continue reading →
A young call center worker from Mumbai with a rough-and-tumble past named Jamal (a likable Dev Patel) becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in the hopes that his true love (the beautiful Freida Pinto) will see him on TV and come back to him for good. Much of Slumdog Millionaire is done in flashbacks as the audience learns the personal story behind each of the questions. For some strange reason the filmmakers want us to think a person like Jamal wouldn’t normally know the answers to these random trivia questions, but he does because of his unique life story, see? Well, it’s a mildly interesting central conceit that quickly falls apart. At one point, a policeman questioning Jamal remarks that his story is “bizarrely plausible.” I wish I could say I felt the same. Continue reading →