The Golden Globes awarded “Slumdog Millionaire,” the feel-good-four stars ain’t enough for this uplifting movie from India as best picture. It put “Frost/Nixon” on ice, told “Benjamin Button” to zip it, and left no room for “Doubt.”
“Millionaire” was money in the bank — the Globes are voted on by members of Hollywood’s foreign press. Whether the Bollywood gem sparkles at Oscar time is another story. It certainly will get a best picture nod — it’s the kind of little movie that always gets nominated — like “Breaking Away” — and sometimes comes from out of nowhere to win — like the first “Rocky” and “Chariots of Fire.”
Hollywood likes it when the underdog stands up to the big dogs in the pack. And all signs point to Oscar looking at the global picture in full frame. The last two best picture winners — “No Country for Old Men” and “The Departed” — were violent and cynical. They represented a certain mood of the country still Bushed-out from war and living in fear.
Articles have suggested that movies sometimes reflect who’s in the White House. For example, during the Nixon years, Oscar winners included “The Godfather,” “Patton” and “The Sting.” A crime lord, a war lover and con men. Sounds about right. Of course it doesn’t always work: during the Reagan years, best pictures with opulent production values like “Amadeus” and “The Last Emperor” were countered by the biopic of the world’s most famous pacifist, “Gandhi” — and “Platoon” was a grunt’s eye view of the not-so honorable way U.S. soldiers lived through the fighting in Vietnam.
This year’s Oscars will be awarded in Barack Obama’s first year as president, and “Slumdog Millionaire” appears to have the inside track to go along with the man who raised a lot of spirits with his promise of hope and vision of global unity. Impossible dreams don’t only come true in movies.
Look for “Millionaire” to compete for the top Oscar against the aforementioned movies — some of them complicated and others marvels of movie technology.
As for the political movie of the year, consider this: No actor in movies has ever won a leading acting Oscar for playing a president. That doesn’t bode well for Frank Langella, who channels “Tricky Dicky.” Can you see Oscar finally awarding an actor for portraying a president and that guy is Dick Nixon? Sarah Palin has a better chance hosting the MTV awards.
“Frost/Nixon” is no longer of its time. Nor is “Doubt” — with its Catholic priest abuse. And “Benjamin Button” is this year’s “Forrest Gump” — which a new generation of Academy voters hasn’t forgiven Oscar for ‘cos it beat “Pulp Fiction.”
The Globes and the Oscars both have an affinity for comebacks — actors who have found redemption in real life. Enter Mickey Rourke, who pinned down a best actor Globe for “The Wrestler” — an underdog movie starring an actor mirroring his own image for that one last shot at glory. Rourke, like his character, had to struggle to get back in the game after he fell out of favor. His acceptance speech was bizarre — he even thanked the dogs he owned because at times they were his only friends. He looked like he crashed the posh Bel-Air party, which made for great theater.
Ultimately, award shows are suckers for sentimentality. There always seems to be a sentimental favorite. This year it was no surprise that the supporting actor Globe went to the late Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” — for playing a comic book character! Anyway, it gave new meaning to someone saying “I’d die for one of those awards.” There’s an actor who took his work too seriously.
Too bad he wasn’t cast in Who Wants to be a “Slumdog Millionaire.” He could’ve used one of his life lines.