Two Films for Thanksgiving

Thinking of going to a movie with the family this week? Here are two films you can and should say yes to: Australia and Slumdog Millionaire. Though they are not American movies, they are amazingly feel-good and epic in scope. I’d give each 4/4 stars.

Australia

This is a bish-boom-bang historical epic of the highest quality and entertainment value. Baz Lurhmann’s audacious ode to his country (though it ends up being more of an ode to American cinema circa WWII) has everything you’d ask for in a holiday film: action, romance, emotion, and eye candy for every possible type of moviegoer. Here’s an excerpt from my review of the film at Christianity Today:

The film’s epic scale, with horses and explosions and romantic kissing in the rain, summons the best spirits of the Hollywood studio system—the “dream factory” itself. What Moulin Rouge! did with late twentieth century pop music, Australia does with Hollywood historical epics. It’s an amalgam of such films as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, The African Queen, Out of Africa, even Titanic or Far & Away (which also starred Kidman). These are films of pure, dazzling escapism—vibrant, showy spectacles that are less about reality in the strict sense as reality in the idealized, dramatically lit and well-costumed sense.

Australia might strike some as a clichéd, overblown, sappy, messy blend of reality and artifice (i.e. the important commentary on Australia’s racial issues mixed with campy dialogue and subpar CGI cow stampedes). But I found it to be a pleasurable, invigorating mess. Like most of the great Hollywood epics, Australia isn’t perfect. It’s not high art… But cinema never had that heritage. It was always a medium for the masses, and came of age in a depression, when the masses needed it most. Australia is not a film for Australians as much as it is for the world, and it isn’t a history lesson. It’s an ode to a place (exotic to some, familiar to others), yes, but more than that, Australia is a state of mind: wonderment, grandeur, beauty, love, escape, hope.

I think it’s a film we need right now.

Read the full review here.

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is the freshest, most unexpected film of the year. A British/Indian co-production (shot in India), this globo-Bollywood epic is, like Australia, a film both exotic and familiar. It is set in Mumbai but tells a story that is very rags-to-riches classic; it mixes pop-culture tidbits from east and west, with a heavily pomo/globalization aesthetic. There are M.I.A. songs on the soundtrack, and the plot is largely focused upon the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which is one of the Y2K-era’s biggest global media success stories.

The story is beautifully paced and tenderly told–a Dickens-esque chronicle of one boy from the slums of Mumbai who transcends his circumstances (with a lot of luck) and reaps the rewards of a humble, honest life. It’s also a love story, in the most cheerfully cliched sense (again, like Australia), and it’s all so wonderfully earnest. Not a shred of cynicism to be found.

If you’re skeptical about Bollywood or something with the word “Slumdog” in the title, don’t be. Go to this movie, and take the family. You’ll be glad you did.

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4 responses to “Two Films for Thanksgiving

  1. Interesting…

    I was going to skip Australia because of the mediocre reviews… but this… 4 stars? I think I might go now…

    I’m still waiting for Slumdog to come closer to Orange County…

  2. this is a side note: when did Bombay become Mumbai and how did this happen?

  3. Betsi: 1996. ‘Bombay’ was the English colonial name for the city (Anglicized from a Portuguese bastardization of the original Hindi name for the city, which was Mumbai, for the Hindu goddess Mumba). In 1996, the name was changed back by the Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra ‘in keeping with their policy of renaming colonial institutions after historic local names.’ (Wikipedia)

  4. Slumdog Millionaire was brilliant! I hope it gets a Best Picture nod (and perhaps win) at the Oscars.

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