For a few weeks now I've been managing to do a double feature of films on my Saturday nights. This works pretty well to satisfy my Oscar and Golden Globe nominated film craving. About a week ago I saw two films back to back that left me a little weak in the knees.
Slumdog Millionaire has all the best picture Oscar buzz after taking home the win at the Golden Globes. I expected to like it based on the little I knew and I was not disappointed. The story is mostly told in flashback fashion as Jamal, a poor young man raised on the streets of Mumbai, is interrogated following his shocking success at the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Convinced he was cheating because "how could a slumdog know the answers" he's forced to recall the moments in his past that taught him the answers to the questions. Some memories painful, some answers gained at a terrible price. It's a story of resilience. A story of friendship, love, crime, poverty, brotherhood, and betrayal all tinged with heartbreak and humor. I loved this film. See it.
Rumor has it Gran Torino is Clint Eastwood's last film and I believe the Academy completely missed the mark this year. How this could be missed in the nominees for Academy Awards is beyond me. Maybe I just need to see more of the films to understand why this one was passed by, but for now I think someone made a grave mistake.
When the film begins Walt Kowalski (Eastwood), a racist Korean War veteran, is at his beloved wife's funeral. Immediately, we are disgusted with his ungrateful, rude, grandchildren who seem to have little regard for the somberness of the moment and even less consideration for their living grandparent. Evidence? When he stumbles upon his teenage granddaughter smoking in the garage at the post-funeral reception back at the house, she asks him if she can have his car, you know, when HE dies. Of course, the relationship disconnect can be shifted back on him as we see how he's managed to alienate his own sons too. Kowalski is a difficult man to be around.
A friend saw the film and felt the shift from big ol' meanie to decent guy happens a bit too quickly but I believe that losing a spouse, discovering your family doesn't really give a damn and can't really be bothered, and then facing one's own mortality might make a person begin to assess his life. The Kowalskis may have been the last hold out in the old neighborhood which has quickly become a Hmong neighborhood. Considering Walt's background he's less than pleased with the neighbors. Yet, circumstances change and suddenly he's involved. He needs them and they need him. It's not as easy for me to sum this one up. But I loved it. I loved that your basic sonovabitch can have a heart. It reminded me of my dad? It reminded me of Charles Bukowski. It reminded me of every crude, racist, jerk in the world who still understands human decency and recognizes the worth of a person, beyond the color of their skin. Maybe the film is unrealistic. But I guess I'd like to believe that within every person there is something that good. Someone that selfless.