#240: Slumdog Millionaire. At the same time, this is life lesson #1: You can do anything you want if you’re insanely lucky. Jamal, a boy from the slums, wins on India’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, because he happened to encounter the answers to each of the questions in one way or the other while he was growing up. The host of the show was originally meant to be Shah Rukh Khan (well, who else), who was unavailable at the time. The movie host they finally decided on is Anil Kapoor, a former candidate in the real life equivalent of the show and winner of five million rupees. For anyone wondering how much money that actually is: The grand prize that Jamal wins at the end of the movie amounts to twenty million rupees, which he could only exchange for about 400,000 USD. Yes, not only do we have to bear with the absence of our beloved Khan, but Jamal wouldn’t even be considered a millionaire as soon as he decides to travel abroad. Slumdog Millionaire is basically a series of disappointments. Remember that latrine Jamal had to jump into? That was a heap of peanut butter and chocolate. Not even real poop! Now every time that I re-watch the movie I will have to explain to the other people why I start drooling at the sight of a child falling into a pit full of feces.
#239: In the Mood for Love – Fa yeung nin wa. Su and Chow, two neighbours, suspect their spouses’ “busy working schedules” to be an indication of extramarital behaviour. Due to their common fate they soon feel themselves drawn to each other, but vow not to let their amity develop into a sexual relationship. If anyone happens to know of a film in which two people actually manage to keep such a promise, please tell me, because this is not the one. Visually, however, In the Mood for Love is brilliant. The 1960’s Hong Kong appears to be genuinely lived-in, the atmosphere is that of a dreamy elegy and the skills of the seamstress who made Su’s dresses are fascinating (and if even I am able to notice the quality of a dress, it’s worth mentioning). This film is ripe with colour, sparkling with romance and the main characters treat each other with sweet timidity. It’s also rather boring.
#238: Jurassic Park. The movie that induced a generation of children with a theme park phobia. Hm? No? Well, maybe that was just me. Nonetheless, nothing is 100% safe, and when you try to populate an island with dinosaurs in a Hollywood production, there is no way they won’t go haywire. But just how is it that the acting in Jurassic Park seems so convincing? Why does the actors’ fear feel so real? Probably because it is. As it turns out, the T-Rex model was malfunctioning throughout the movie, “went into the heebie-jeebies” whenever it got wet and suddenly came alive when nobody expected it to. Those children screaming when a T-Rex snout crashes through the glass roof of their jeep showed genuine fear, because it wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t know why anyone even bothers to continue paying real actors after this, when you could just expose a wandering Yahoo to mortal danger and get quality material for free.
Cunning move, Mr Spielberg.
#237: The Celebration – Festen. The cover of my DVD says “The first Dogme film”. In the mid-nineties, Festen director Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier marshalled a specific set of rules for filmmaking and named them Dogme Manifesto and the Vow of Chastity. They disagreed with how modern-day directors tended to rely on technology when they produced movies and decided to ban the use of special effects from their motion pictures. “Special effects” in this case sounds more harmless than what they had in mind, as they were in fact limiting themselves quite severely. Among other things, they agreed not to use any artificial lighting or filters, sound-postproduction and any cameras that weren’t handheld. They also shunned “temporal alienation”, meaning that all of the action had to take place in the present, which in the case of Festen are the events surrounding a family celebration. The patriarch of a Danish family is turning sixty, with all of his sons and daughters assembling to celebrate his birthday. Pretty soon we get to know that neither of his three children would be considered a monument to mental well-being, and when all the guests are gathered the oldest son rises to hold his speech and all the family’s haunting secrets are revealed. I’m not going to give it away completely here, but this is Vinterberg, so you already know it has to be either violent death or sexual abuse – and in this case, it’s both. One of the most delicious things about Festen is the reaction of the guests, who are of course always present no matter how private the issues might be. Ostentatiously unaffected by the gravity of the accusations that are flung around over the course of many hours, they always keep their countenance, some by desperately seeking refuge in the comforts of etiquettes, others by sheer ignorance. Thomas Bo Larsen’s character Michael, one of the two brothers of the family, is brilliantly portrayed as the ultimate jerk and his wife… well, his wife is the source of ultimate awkwardness. Thanks to the evils of dubbing she was imbued with the voice of Sandra Schwittau, which effectively turns everything into a nightmare when that racist prick of a brother decides to have sex with Bart Simpson. Brrrr.
#236: The Hustler. Pool player “Fast” Eddie wants to take on pool player Minnesota “Fats” in a game of pool. Will Fast be able to beat Fats? Or is Fats better than Fast? Will Fats sue Fast for copyright infringement because he only switched two letters of his name to become Fast instead of Fats? This is primarily a sports movie. It does get dramatic whenever Eddie is losing and tries to gather money to continue gambling, and then there is some romance in between whenever he gets together with a girl he has met. The rest of the time though, it’s just pool, he wins some games, loses more and then in the end comes up ahead. The Hustler might get you invested, but for someone as uninspired as me it’s only people sinking balls for money and getting angry when they can’t seem to sink those damn balls in the right way. The most food for thought this film gave me was the question whether I should call this a sports movie or not.
NEW #248: Crna macka, beli macor – Black Cat, White Cat. Has been described to me by a student of Eastern European Studies as the ultimate gypsy movie. I find this to be one of the most enjoyable films on the list so far. It’s pure comedy, full of crazy inventiveness and insanely invigorating. It’s neither answering existential questions about life nor is it politically correct. Your daughter is a midget who doesn’t want to get married? Tie her by the feet and dangle her down a well until she agrees! Oh, and did I say there were no answers to life’s questions? Well, I lied as can be demonstrated quite easily with this quote: “Brother, if you can’t solve a problem with money… solve it with a lot of money.” The film teems with golden-toothed gangsters in their once-oldtimers/now-wheelchairs, musicians chained to trees, pigs eating cars, rat-powered fans, geese abused as towels and an abundance of running and dancing around, which ultimately makes it seem as if the whole cast is about to overdose on prozac. Obviously not the most high-stakes intellectual movie ever made, but since we won’t get to see many comedies on the list I might at least mention one more in the extras.