081. Slumdog Millionarie (Directed by Danny Boyle, 2008): A hyperkinetic love story. Jamal, a poor orphan from the slums of Mumbai goes on the Indian version of 'Who Wants to Be A Millionaire', not for money or fame, but hoping to reconnect with the love of his life whom he has had to leave behind three times. While on the game show, the questions happen to coincide with major events from his lifetime, and it's through flashbacks that we're told the story of Jamal's life. It's probably the most feel-good film you'll see that includes religious riots, murder, child abuse, prostitution, spousal abuse, and the maddening gap between the haves and the have-nots.
What I love most about Slumdog Millionaire, is how sure-footed and singularly focused it is. It just never really takes a wrong step, and right from the stylish title screen with the kid's t-shirt displaying the title, you know you're in good hands. Terrific soundtrack and some incredibly manic camerawork following Jamal and his brother Salim as they run through the snaking slums of Mumbai.
And, in the end, when Jamal and his lady love Latika lead a joyful Bollywood-style dance number, it feels wrong at first, but you realize that they've earned it, that the movie has earned it. And it's just a wonderful way to end a film.
080. Ghost World (Directed by Terry Zwigoff, 2001): This is a pretty polarizing film. I've read reviews from people who just H A T E D it, and other who think it's just wonderful. I guess you could say I fall into the latter camp, Ghost World is just the wonderfully cynical and witty, yet surprisingly tender-hearted film about growing up.
Thora Birch stars as Enid who is supposed to be graduating, but finds herself stuck in summer-school for art class after flunking out. This puts a crimp in the plans of her best friend and fellow outcast, Rebecca (Scarlet Johanssen), who wants Enid and her to get jobs and get a place together. But, Enid clearly doesn't want to. She drags her heels, she gets a job but gets fired quickly from it, she makes fun of Rebecca's job at a coffee shop. In the midst of making fun of everyone, they pick out a 'Missed Connections' ad from the personals, and set up a phony date for the man who placed the ad.
What they weren't prepared for, however, is just how sad Seymour (Steve Buscemi in one of the best performances of his career) actually is. They feel bad about what they've done, and follow him back to his place, stopping in later in the week to go to his garage sale. Seymour is a vintage Blues record collector, and Enid finds herself interested in him. She ends up liking his old blues records and makes it her quest to find him a date. But, what Seymour really wants is someone like Enid, and what Enid really wants is someone like Seymour, but neither of them is ready to admit it to the other.
As Enid and Rebecca begin to drift apart, the way that high school friends often do, she finds herself spending more and more time with Seymour. At the heart of it all, Enid is actually really unhappy, she wants to be popular with the boys like Rebecca is, but treats any attention paid to Rebeccas as loathesome, eschewing popularity because it's never going to come. She and Seymour are kindred spirits, both slightly out of step with modern life, and both extremely fragile. And the film finds the perfect note to end on, leaving you wondering whether it's meant to be a metaphor for one thing, or the other.
And, to top it all off, it's just genuinely funny. The character of Doug, who is like so many weirdos one finds hanging out at a convenience store, just floors me every time when he begins practicing with his nunchuks in the parking lot.