©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
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This week:
Bolt and Slumdog Millionaire

Filthy says:
"Hollywood wants you to change."

I fucking hate the holidays. Everyone pretends to feel sad for the people who have to spend them alone. They say more people commit suicide during this time of year. I'm betting, though, that the folks offing themselves weren't alone. They were with their godawful families when some stupid, speed-addled brother-in-law at the other end of the dinner table gets into a screaming match with his mother about how morbidly obese people get blow jobs.

Yeah, sure, I wonder, too. We all do, but not more than ten percent of our waking hours, and not at Christmas dinner when the kids are there. Why does someone have to go and punch Uncle Carl in the face and then ram his cane down his throat? You can bet the kids will remember that long after the toys are forgotten. Like, I still crisply remember when I was seven my parents got into a drunken, drag-down, kick-in-the-teeth brawl that knocked over the Christmas tree and set fire to the sofa. Actually, that was on Valentine's Day. My dad just hadn't gotten around to taking down the tree yet.

That shit isn't why I hate Christmas, though. I dread it because the movies suck. So many phony Hollywood gold-statue-humpers that smell like they passed through the bowels of a thousand producers, each time getting thinner, runnier and slicker until all that's left of what might have been a great idea is an overpowering soundtrack, big production values and some fucking actor hamming it up like a noble-but-doomed soldier or a reverse-aging pretty-boy hoping to win a stupid trophy. That's, of course, in addition to the several million bucks of salary.

Most years, I skip the big Hollywood meatbeat movies. I have no interest in seeing something that gets made because assholes are hungrier to impress their peers than to entertain the rest of us. And I get so mad at critics who talk about how this movie deserves an award, or this actor should get this. Why the fuck do the critics care? I thought the job was to say whether or not you like a movie. A flick's quality is in no way changed by whatever shiny piece of metal it gets after the fact. So, shut the fuck up, critics, and do your fucking jobs. Don't say, "If so-and-so doesn't win, it's a crime," because it's not a crime. A crime when teenagers I flip off for cutting me off on my bicycle stop, beat me up and then take turns shitting on me. It's not when some arbitrary group who hands out irrelevant awards doesn't agree with your taste.

I would say that I just digressed, but that was mostly what I have on my mind this week. That and, I sure like ham. I can, and did, eat a three-pound tin of processed ham for breakfast. With a candy cane and beef jerky. And rock salt. I could go for some more right now. Spoiler Alert: I'll have more to say about awards season next week, I think. Oh yeah, I also hate the phrase "spoiler alert" and people who get so damn worked up about knowing plot points in advance. I already knew Candy Bottoms took four dicks at once in Four Dicks at Once 3 before I saw it, but it didn't make the movie any less impressive or enjoyable. That's why it is art.

So far, I have avoided the stupid award movies, partly because I hate how formulaic and cornball they've become. It's also because I want to punch some of the people who talk about them as though they matter in the teeth. I hate the dumbasses that would never go to a foreign film, or an independent one, but see a couple Hollywood shitsterpieces in December and act like they know their ass from the hole in a Chinese coin. Also, it's because a lot of the fancy movies don't get to Arvada until they're done playing in the big cities. Then they send the scratchy old prints out here to the sticks so us hillbillies can see what all the hubbub's about.

Instead, I was forced to chaperone my sister's kids to see Bolt in some amazing technology called "Three dollars extra per ticket 3-D!" Boy would that have made me mad if my sister hadn't been paying. I followed that up by catching Slumdog Millionaire.Neither was terrible. One was better than expected, the other worse.

Bolt is a typical kid's animated movie with a lovable pet that talks to other animals and is beloved by one kid (Miley Cyrus). In this case, it's a dog voiced by John Travolta who is a TV star and was raised on a soundstage. It has never seen the world outside and thinks it is the superhero it plays on TV. Bolt gets accidentally shipped across the country and has to find his way back to Hollywood and the one girl he thinks loves him. Along the way, he discovers he doesn't really have superpowers and befriends a sassy cat and a hyper, TV-addicted hamster.

There are some pretty damn great parts of this movie, and I don't mean the 3-D because it's actually pretty underused. I mean an opening sequence, where Bolt must outrun bad guys on his TV show. That was ten minutes of really good Pixar production. And overall, the animation is really fucking good. It isn't over the top or flashy, but is mostly up to the Pixar standard for quality and detail. In part, the Pixar folks had something to do with this, since it was completed after Disney bought the studio and got its people to save Bolt. The images are full, lush and have elegant detail. That's in contrast to cheap digital animation productions like Barnyard or Space Chimps where computers are used to make flat, shiny, simple objects.

Bolt also never stoops to lame jokes about pop-culture. Dreamworks does that and it bugs the shit out of me. It's as though the people making the movie are bored of the world they've created, or that they simply want to sell a shitload of tickets now rather than make something timeless. The sassy cat (Susie Essman) is pretty damn likable, too. She's mangy and not overplayed. Her transformation from being bitter to caring is mostly believable.

Bolt ain't a classic, though. Beyond the good points, it's just a Hollywood commodity. The story is formulaic. The dog has to get home only to discover (incorrectly) that his on-screen owner doesn't care about him. Of course, she really does and a big fire he must rescue her from proves it. It plays out corny, overdramatic and predictable. The sidekick hamster (Mark Walton) is boilerplate comic relief, but louder and more obnoxious without being any funnier. His schtick gets old after five minutes, but he's there to the end. A talent agent character is an embarrassingly unoriginal stereotype. His every appearance is a reminder that Bolt has little new to say.

And there is nothing deep going on in Bolt. Pixar's movies are able to transcend the label of kids' movies by subversively addressing deeper issues. Bolt doesn't because it aspires to nothing more than being a way for kids to burn two hours over the holidays. Three Fingers.

Slumdog Millionaire is about a young man (Dev Patel when an adult) on the verge of winning twenty million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, hosted by a smug prick in a shiny jacket. The problem is that Patel is a chaiwalla (tea boy) from the slums, and Indian culture dictates that you can't be smart if you come from the lowest castes. Only the privileged and wealthy should be able to answer the difficult questions.

In a story inspired (but not written by) Capra and Dickens, Patel is arrested by the police the night before he is to answer the 20-million-rupee question. They suspect him of cheating and beat the shit out of him to make him confess. They strap him to batteries, punch him and handcuff him to a chair, all in an effort to get him to confess. Instead of confessing, he reveals how he knows the answers, and in so doing tells his life story. It reveals how his mother was killed, how he was taken in by a Fagin-like orphanage owner, how he survived as a street urchin, how he has loved the same girl his entire life, and his strained relationship with his thug brother.

It's all a bit much, and a bit long. We know Patel will win the grand prize, because Capra wouldn't have it any other way. But we also know that winning is not really what Patel wants. That would be his true love, a ethereally hot woman (Freida Pinto). He only appears on the show because he hopes she may be watching.

While seeing the hardship and filth of India's slums is interesting and informative, the presentation here feels pedantic in places. There may be too many harships piled onto one kid, especially since he isn't shaped by them much. They all just indicate that he is nearly Terminator-like in his ability to keep rising. The parts at the orphanage with owners who blind the kids before sending them out to beg is heavy-handed enough to probably make Dickens blush.

Patel's love for Pinto determines everything he does. Good lord, she's pretty enough to make an unemployed guy spend dozens of hours on the web looking for nude photos. But beyond that nice smile, her character is pretty fucking dull. I can't think of a single personality trait she has that makes her more than just pretty. Well, except that she is very pliant and uncomplaining.

Actually, I didn't find Patel particularly interesting, either. Maybe it's because he's single-minded. He struck me more as a blank canvas that director Danny Boyle uses to paint a much broader portrait of life in India. That's fine, I suppose, but, like I said before: it gets a bit pedantic.

The plot structure is mostly unique. The story is largely told through flashbacks to bits of Patel's life. There are villains in the past that play roles in the present. And there are new villains, such as the prickly game show host who really doesn't want Patel to win. While it's unique, that doesn't mean it's not unpredictable. Early on, Patel and his brother discuss The Three Musketeers and can only remember the first two's names. The parallel is that he and his brother are Athos and Porthos and Pinto is the Aramis that completes them. As far as I can remember from Dumas' novel, though, Aramis did not have such a lovely smile and thin waist. I'll have to reread it. Anyway, once that little bit is brought up, it's obvious what Who Wants to Be a Millionaire will ask Patel for the final question. It defuses the suspense, and it seems like a ridiculously easy question to ask.

I'd heard a lot about Slumdog Millionaire before seeing it, mostly people who rarelly see movies set in other countries raving about it. And mad, it sure didn't live up the hype. It was all right, but I wonder if these are the same people who pissed their pants over Life is Beautiful, too. Three Fingers.

Next week I'll bitch some more.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



David Sheehan of Hollywood Close-ups

Bedtime Stories is "Big thrills and big laughs!"

In Yes Man "Jim Carrey is a high-energy comic genius!"

Filthy's Reading
Philip Roth - Indignation

Listening to
Dressy Bessy - Hollerandstomp


Mysery Science Theater 3000 - 20th Anniversary