Dear IE Weekly,
What a stroke of brilliance hiring Jeff Girod [Feb. 19, issue 46] to do a weekly column! The Wednesday’s P-E hasn’t been the same since September.
–John Julis, Riverside
Dear IE Weekly and Amy Nicholson,
So, I read your review of Slumdog Millionaire [Nov. 11, 2008], then went and saw the movie again, and still loved it, and here’s what—I think your whole point of view is predictable, being that it’s based on the assumption that the movie (and all movies) are aimed at an audience of white girls [editor’s note: Amy Nicholson is decidedly white].
First, to say Jamal isn’t particularly bright is kinda weird; if anything, we don’t know if he is that bright or not, considering the random trivia on the show is obviously not a measure of intelligence. Further, to say he’s not particularly bright completely contradicts the later description of him as a “proto-preteen businessman.”
Second, who are you (or anyone) to say “this should be a furious story about strata”? If you think a movie should be something, go make your own movie—you have no jurisdiction to simply create an alternate idea of what a movie should have been, just criticize or praise what it is.
Third, how is it a “bogus romance” . . . care to explain this in any way? It’s hard to agree with something that has no explanation.
Fourth, to say “when they kiss . . . we roll our eyes” is an odd use of the word “we,” b/c unless you have a split personality, you’re only speaking for yourself.
Fifth, the “problems that infuriate us” is also rather presumptuous, considering the problems that infuriate me revolve around greed, oppression, entitlement, and hack comics making it big, not Bollywood shout-outs in an obviously Indian-styled movie.
Sixth, to say someone is a “purveyor of social class suffering” means that they sell or offer class suffering itself (not a portrayal of class suffering), an allegation that Danny Boyle would find very offensive and for which he could bring a reasonably strong suit against you and the IE Weekly.
Seventh, the whole thing is basically ridiculous and shows that you specifically want all movies about or set in Third World countries to be aimed at weepy white girls and revolve only around the sufferings of photogenic little brown children. Perhaps you would have liked it better if Joaquin Phoenix was the protagonist, and at the end he chose the eight most photogenic children and got them on a plane to Idaho.
Anyway, I would say the fundamental issue with your review is that it’s based on
an alternate idea of what the movie should have been, and acting like that is a really basic, easy thing . . . as if there was some possible satisfying ending that “solves the problems that now infuriate” you.
–Chris, San Francisco
Regarding your slanderous letter of February 20, which I shall address point by point.
I. You presume I assume all movies are aimed at white girls. If that were true, more films than a trickle would be white-girl friendly, starring white girl comediennes like Amy Poehler and Anna Faris, rather than shunting white girls aside in humorless girlfriend roles. The film here in question, Slumdog Millionaire (heretoforeafter referred to as SLME), features not a single white girl—in fact, its only Caucasian female is an adult upwards of 50-years-old. Not even a single white girl backpacker smiles beatifically and hands a poor Indian a dollar. The accusation that this could ever be misconstrued as a white girl film is hereby dismissed as laughable.
II. Jamal isn’t bright, both in action and mind. To reference the first point of the “random trivia,” remember that none of these questions (save the pop culture actor one) reference material he taught himself. Rather, his knowledge base is simply of things he encountered. His intellectual curiosity is at a par with Bush 43. Furthermore, unintelligent people go into business everyday. A scrappy businessman can lie to tourists; a smart one would challenge himself to learn the material lest he be caught in a lie. In addition, rarely do his actions speak of brightness. He rarely thinks for himself, following bossier, sharper men until those situations become untenable and he finds another one to give him orders. In addition, the moments when he does make a decision usually backfire, showing a dearth of forethought. At no point throughout the film does he do or think an act that hints at any intelligence above rudimentary.
III. The careful reviewer measures a film against what it purports to do, not what they wish it did. Following the logic of the film’s first and second acts, Danny Boyle has designed the film to outrage audiences at the abuse of poor children in India, and of these poor children once they become adults and are still locked in the lower castes where their employers and game show hosts are free to denigrate them. Following the film point by point, we see Jamal’s caste murdered, starved, blinded, raped, and beaten—not by coincidence of their caste, but as a direct result of it. Boyle has set up a film about the caste system with three kids as his main symbols. Then, in the third joyous act, he scraps the entire caste struggle backbone of the film. SLME should be the film he started making—and did make for 60 minutes of the film; and Boyle failed to finish the theme he started.
IV. Two kids meet at age five. They spend a few months together, then are torn apart. For the next 15 years, their contact can be measured in hours, many of which she spends being exasperated with him for being dense and putting her in danger. Until the happy ending. A bogus romance.
V. The use of the royal “We” is a privilege granted me as I am of Viking nobility.
VI. By your own admission, the problems of SLME are the problems that enrage us: Greed [the game show host], oppression [everything], entitlement [the mobster], and hack comics making it big [replace comics for chaiwallas].
VII. The only “Bollywood shout out” is the tacked-on dance number before the credits, and even that is weak compared to most Bollywood films, of which the safe bet is that I’ve seen far more of than most fans of SLME. In the last year alone, I’ve reviewed four for an average of 15 hours of immersion in Bollywood films. Western filmmakers such as Boyle and Wes Anderson chalk Indian-style up to bright colors and music. (Western audiences who lack exposure know no better.) Their editing, pacing, story structure, characters, grandeur and humor—all having specific tenets in Bollywood—are wildly off.
VIII. A purveyor provides or supplies a good, the good in this case being social class suffering. That Boyle provides and supplies social class suffering is inarguable and I invite his lawsuit and resulting damages paid to me and the court for wasting our time.
IX. Let the record show this white girl has no tolerance for bad movies about pretty brown people in the third world.
X. I would like it better if Joaquin Phoenix took eight photogenic children to Idaho. That’d be amazing to watch. Failing that, at least I have the Brangelina brood.
XI. See Article III.
XII. What’s with all the “white girls,” you bigot? Why must you drag my race and gender into a debate?