All material copyright Rohit Iyer unless otherwise stated.

27 January 2009

Who Wants to be an Oscar Nominee?



Like everyone I had been waiting eagerly for the announcement of the Oscar nominations and boy was I disappointed. I was very, very put off by the 10 nominations that Slumdog Millionaire received and let me tell you why. Although the Oscars are not definitive in any way, let's be honest here - they do hold some weight amongst the film community.

Slumdog Millionaire is by no means a great film. It is a good film but not a great one. I'm a big fan of Danny Boyle and he does great work here. But it's the script that had me tearing my hair out! Simon Beaufoy's screenplay is so convoluted, so contrived and so uneven that the fact that the film is being appreciated so much only goes to show what a great director Danny Boyle is. I am an Indian and while this rant has nothing to do with the current media buzz about Slumdog being "poverty porn" or misrepresentational, this has everything to do with Slumdog's story being devoid of common sense.

I can buy the idea of the gameshow questions framing the narrative; in fact I think it's a really good idea. But there are plot holes in this script that I could drive a space shuttle through. I understand that it's a fairytale. I understand that I have to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride. What I don't understand is that I have to watch these unbelievable characters contradict themselves and contradict logic at the same time. Would a gameshow host really be jealous of a contestant? Would said contestant be tortured for cheating as if he'd planted a bomb on the set? If the money is not so important to Jamal, does he even have to answer the question once he's found Latika? After showing us the harrowing childhood that he had can we really believe that this British-English speaking call-center employee is the same boy?

Let me confess here that I did enjoy the film. I'm just getting bothered with the hype, awards and otherwise, that is being generated around it when there are other, more deserving films around. Maybe it is a fascination with "exotic India". Maybe awards nominations are based on agendas: we have a holocaust movie, an epic life story, a political movie, a gay-rights movie, and Slumdog Millionaire. But to give this a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay over so many of the other gems we had last year is just hypocritical. Does this film really deserve to win or did it just get lucky with its lifelines?