On Sunday Night "Slumdog Millionaire" won the Oscar for Best Picture--and deservedly so. Leslie and I saw "Slumdog" a few weeks ago and we both enjoyed it immensely, converse to how I thought I would feel when we were purchasing our tickets.
I had seen a few trailers for "Slumdog" and heard and read various reviews that created a judgement for me that I would not like the movie all that much. While we are admonished time and again not judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its poster, we all do make judgements based on what we hear, what we read, and what we experience. And this was the case for me and "Slumdog." Hearing the plot line of a Mumbai orphan playing and winning round after round on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" I cringed somewhat. How, I thought, can this movie be getting such positive buzz for an Oscar? Surely it must have some covert leftist-Hollywood-PC speak message, a la "Inco(herent)nvenieth Truth" with a plot like this to get so much attention.
We happened into the movie because of few of the others on our list had already started, or were starting at a time we both knew were late enough to ensure my sleeping through much of the film. Thankfully "it was written" that we see the movie. Despite my not trusting the plot line to be able to carry the movie and be worth the $7.5o price of admission, I was carried along from scene to scene to scene throughout the entire film. It was masterful how director Danny Boyle strung together the past and present of young Jamal, so much so he won the Oscar for Best Director. What I saw as a weak plot line Boyle saw as an opportunity to push and pull his audience through Jamal's life until the very end of the movie. Great directing, scriptwriting and acting make almost any plot masterful, "Slumdog Millionaire" proves the point.
So what happens when the opposite occurs? What happens when you have a really good plot line, a pretty good actor but crappy directing and a crappy script? You get "The International" starring Clive Owen. Again the vagaries of the babysitter's arrival, drive time and starting times pretty much dictated that Leslie and I took in "The International" on our date night last week--"Milk" had already started (although we later figured we would have made the start as evidently UA runs more previews than Regal) and I won't enter a movie after the first scene has started, and "The Wrestler" was a guaranteed night-night for Dennis with it's starting time. Dennis had some serious nap time with what was chosen anyway--and did not miss a thing. The plot of "The International", a mega-world bank starting wars so it can finance both sides, hiring contract killers for those who get in the way, could be a great movie--in great hands. Unfortunately this movie has about three good scenes and when it finally ends you just say, "Huh? That's it?"
What the difference between a great movie and a bad movie? It is not the plot. It is the production, a great movie combines the right director, actors, and script and they will make the plot work well. A bad movie is missing one or more of those ingredients.
P.S. A modern theater does not hurt though. We saw "The International" at the Marketplace in Long Beach; after the plush comfort of our usual Edwards 349 screen big seat, tiered seating theater watching a movie at the Marketplace is akin to sitting in folding chairs in the lunch room with a sheet separating your "theater" from the one next door.