Friday, December 12, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle (2008)
Clayton Kent lowe

Danny Boyle has a way of extracting joy, or at the very least hope, out of the most unpromising cinematic adventures. For instance, his earlier 28 Days Later—and now his Slumdog Millionaire. Okay, just a little bit of hope in 28 Days, where “hope” means simply trying to stay alive; but a whole lot of hope and joy in Slumdog, where “hope” means winning a million dollars.

Taking his cue from the slumdog young boy, Jamal, who deliberately falls into a waste pit so he can cut through a crowd and get his favorite movie star’s autograph, director Boyle immerses us in the hellhole of Mumbai’s (formerly Bombay) vast urban slum in order to spin out his rags-to-riches tale of Jamal Malik, an eventual TV quiz show winner.

As a child, young Jamal bonds in a three-way childhood tryst with his older brother, Salim, and a younger girl, Latika, who have all been orphaned by a Hindu mob. The three of them then advance their way through childhood and adolescence as they strive to work out their final destinies, which may have already been written.

The adventures that follow are integrated into the movie’s overall structure, beginning, out of sequence, with the 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel) being arrested, questioned, and then tortured by the Mumbai police.

It seems, as we soon discover, that the producers of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire didn’t expect anybody to be able to win their TV jackpot, so they bribe the police to try to force contestant Jamal to confess that he’s being fed the answers.

The story flashes from the interrogation and torture scenes to scenes of the children’s early meeting in the slums, and back to the super-dramatic moments of the on-going quiz show, where Jamal keeps answering the questions that he hopes will eventually win him a million dollars.

Not avariciously motivated, however, Jamal actually agreed to appear on the TV show in the hopes that Latika (Frieda Pinto), from whom he’s long been separated, will see him on TV, and they’ll reunite once again.

Fast-paced and masterfully intercut from past to present and back again, the film’s frenetic camerawork and exuberant soundtrack help to make us forget the pains that life has inflicted upon these children and encourages us, instead, to celebrate their determination to triumph over their painful misfortunes.

Manipulative? You bet. A sugarcoated morality tale for the naïve at heart? Maybe. But, at the very least, no more than Dickens’s tales of orphans who survive and transcend the evil conditions they were born into—and none more so than the character, Oliver, who survived the slums of London in Dickens’s novel, Oliver Twist.

A glorious movie, Slumdog Millionaire will, nevertheless, not let us easily forget the horrors of Mubai’s dreadful slums, nor the ever-present ethnic and political dangers that lurk there to this day.

True to the spirit of Vikas Swarup’s novel (originally titled Q&A), Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire has become even more relevant in the wake of the terrorist attacks that occurred in Mumbai at the end of the month of November, 2008—which were, allegedly, carried out about by Muslim extremists in Pakistan.

(As edited by Kristin Dreyer Kramer and appearing under "films" at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Walhalla Book Review: Indignation, Philip Roth, 2008

Indignation, Philip Roth, 2008
Clayton Kent Lowe

Little Markie Messner always did everything just right. He received good grades, was well behaved, and, even when he became a teenager, he dutifully worked in his father's kosher butcher shop, slitting anddisemboweling chickens by knife and by hand. And he never complained because his intent in life was to please his father and to make his mother proud.

In return, his father passed his philosophy of grim resignation on to him: "You do what you have to do," and it's this self-effacing mantra that runs through Philip Roth's new novel, Indignation:

Work hard, do good, don't ask questions, and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll be socially accepted; and maybe, even more improbably, you'll make something of yourself.

That might have been an important lesson for those first immigrants who arrived in Newark around the turn of the nineteenth century, but the idea that they should keep their ambitions in check would be a source of frustration for their more upward-bound children - such as Markie."

Indignation" is set at outbreak of the Korean War, and it was the backdrop that Roth himself came of age. Not surprisingly, Roth uses one of his lead characters as a proxy for his ownself-discovery—which is a good reason to read him. On the other hand,his libido-driven male characters never seem to mature and grow up, which makes for a good reason not to read him.

Markie eventually transfers out of Newark's community college so as to escape his family problems, but he discovers that even while he's at Winesburg College in Ohio, he's still unable to escape himself and all of his emotional weaknesses.

It's at this point that, then, that "Indignation" becomes a more traditional andless sociological read. Markie fights with his roommates, has a run-inwith a popular dean, and continues to struggle with his oh-so-naïvelibido. He's also totally unforgiving of his would-be love interest, Olivia, primarily because he's never able to come to terms with the fact that she has an active libido of her own.

In this respect, young Markie becomes as reprehensible as the older womanizing professor in Roth's earlier novel, "The Dying Animal" - which was recently made into the film Elegy( that starred Ben Kingsley as yet another of Roth's professors of desire.

The sub-theme of "Indignation" is centered on the fact that Markie discovers that he can't escape the reality that his parents are Jewish; nor can he accept the fact that neither they, nor he, will ever be fully accepted into mainstream 1950s Americanculture. Yep, one more layer to an already conceptually complex novel.

Roth isn't an easy read, and it's easy to write him off as a novelist who has, himself, never emotionally matured, but that hasn't prevented him from continuing to add to his supply of literary trophies, which include a Pulitzer Prize. So perhaps you're going to have to read him yourself in order to find out what this guy's all about.

My own opinion? The jury's still out. And perhaps that's why I've had such a hard time writing this review.

"Indignation" is less precious than Roth's long ago "Goodbye,Columbus" and is more similar in tone to his recent novel "The Dying Animal". Nevertheless,Roth's novels are still much sought after as prime source material for Hollywood filmmakers. Maybe it's because filmmakers, especially independentfilmmakers, just love all of his angst.

Consequently, stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of "Indignation", because the producer of last year's critical hit( "No Country for Old Men", has already bought the rights to the novel.

But as regular readers of Roth have already discovered, it's no country for young men in Roth's novels, either.

Monday, December 01, 2008

WCBE 90.5 FM: "Australia," "Twilight," "Four Christmases"

WCBE90.5 FM: "Australia," "Twilight," "Four Christmases"
Recording time: Wednesday, 9:00am, November 26, 2008
Air Time: Friday, 3:01 pm & 8:01 pm, November 28, 2008


"Australia" is a good ole, rip-roarin' big screen epic . . .

John"Twilight" should get teen age girls' blood pumping . . .

Clay"Four Christmases" celebrates four family gatherings too many . . .


Richelle"It's Movie Time" in Columbus with John DeSando and Clay Lowe . . .



I'm John DeSando . ..


And I'm Clay Lowe.


John ("Australia")

Baz Luhrmann's Australia is one of the best epics ever, a down under Gonewith the Wind.


Or maybe even a George Steven's "Giant" . . .

JohnThe romance of history and adventure is present in every frame. In 1939 Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) voyages from London sell her largeAustralia ranch. Competition with the largest land owner over supplyingcattle for the Australian Army's war effort cannot eclipse the epic fightto save the Aborigines from cultural extinction.

Drover (Hugh Jackman), the embodiment of the romantic Aussie is more than People Magazine's sexiest man.


How can you be more than sexy?


But the real prize for this film must go to the cinematography for its epic sweep and robust movement. As he did in Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann creates visuals that draw the audience in and thrill with innovation and vitality.

Clay ("Australia")

No doubt Ausie cinematographer Mandy Walker's heading for a nod from Oscar, and there might also be one in line for the movie's composer David Hirschfelder. They are the one's who have made "Australia" such a successful spectacle.

Sure Hugh Jackman will having them swooning in the aisles when he ripples all of his "X-men" developed muscles, and Nicole Kidman will cause off the audiences to swoon over her own specially designed curves.

But special mentions should go to Brando Walters, the young lad of mixed-breed, who holds his own with both Jackman and Kidman; and to David Gulpilil, who plays King George, but who originally starred as the young Aboriginal boy in Nicholas Roeg's "Walkabout."

He has now come full circle.

John ("Twilight")

Almost every teenage girl knows the impossibly popular Twilight series byStephanie Meyer is about 17-year-old Isabella Swan's love for 17-year-oldEdward Cullen, a very handsome vampire.ClayI'd give my eye teeth to look like him.JohnOh, the longing. The nuns made us fear this as if girls were vampires.

Twilight does as well as any film could in figuratively embodying theRomeo-and-Juliet-like difficulties of romantic connecting.When director Catherine Hardwicke lingers over the hero and heroine withtheir painful stares of desire, you may wish for some stock vampire stuff to relieve the tedium.In fact, I am beginning to long myself for the hammy other Bella as Dracula (1931) to satisfy my yearning for scary bloodsucking.

Twilight advances the accepted interpretation of vampirism as unbridled lustand civilizes it.

Clay ("Four Christmases")

Unbridled lusts? Uncivil behavoir? Who needs vampires when family gatherings play host to the scariest blood suckers of them all? At least that's what Hollywood has recently been telling us at the approach of every new holiday season.

From Thanskgiving disaster films such as "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," to "Home for the Holidays," and from "Christmas with the Kranks," to "Bad Santa;" Hollywood has been reacting for over a decade to the old, warm and fuzzie holiday films of the 40's and 50's.

And the reaction against those sentimental films continues with this year's "Four Christmases."

Featuring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon as a marriage-shy couple, their worst dreams are realized when they visit the four respective families of their now divorced parents.

Take heed though, if you've seen the trailers, you've seen the movie. (pause)

But enough of waltzing with Jackman, vamping with Cullen, and choking on holiday treats, John, because it's grading time.



Holy Bela and the blood-loving babes, Hooray!"Australia" earns an A because AUSTRALIA is full of AMOUR . . .


"Australia" gets an "A" because AUSTRALIA'S ABORIGINES finally get their due .. .


"Twilight" earns a "C" because it CAN'T hold a CANDLE to CATHOLIC CONSUMMATION . . .Clay"Four Christmases" gets a "B" because BAD Santa movies have become pro forma . .



Clay, you stayed at Christ Church, New Zealand, while Ivan and I detoured to Sydney many years ago. Were you just being your usual ornery self, or was there something secret you stayed for?I'd like to think it was a young lady, for instance. It's the romantic in me.

I'm outta here.


Well, kind of a secret, I was just working on my novel called: The Auto-Biography of A Grizzly.

I'm outta here too.

See you at the movies, folks.