Tuesday, January 27, 2009

JAI-HO! Or, How to Beat "Slumdog" Fatigue

Let me begin by saying that, for me, music may just be the most emotionally powerful thing about film. Pair a great piece of music with a great piece of filmmaking and you've magic; the kind of magic that can affect you -- or, at least, me -- in ways both unexpected and unforgettable. (Take last year's "Once" -- who wasn't in cinematic heaven when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performed "Falling Slowly" in the back of that instrument shop?)

Yesterday I burned myself a mix CD. Stumped for songs, I added to the track list "Jai-Ho," that jubilant, Oscar-nominated Bollywood tune that scores the end credits of "Slumdog Millionaire." I thought it silly at the time, especially since I'm so darn sick of hearing about the little-movie-that-could that's now become an awards-hungry behemoth. Then I went for a drive.

When the song started to play, its drums beating and strings strumming, I started to get chills. When the triumphant refrain kicked in, in a language I don't even understand, my eyes started to well up with tears (Roger Ebert recently announced/decided that such an emotional phenomenon is called "Elevation"). Because there, in the solace of my car, far away from all the awards chatter on TV and on the internet, I was able to relive all the wonders I loved about Danny Boyle's movie before it became a baity Oscar contender or a hot topic for blogger discussion. Though I wasn't extremely moved by the film, I was touched by its celebration of life, and one lively listen to "Jai-Ho" made it all come rushing back.

I still want "Milk" to win Best Picture. I'm still going to have trouble ever watching "Slumdog" again without feeling like I was programmed to do so by the status quo. I still think the movie's nomination from the Costume Designer's Guild and ensemble win from the Screen Actor's Guild are utterly ridiculous. But for about five fleeting minutes, I was able to once again appreciate the magic of this movie through the power of music.

I've posted it here so maybe you can do the same. Press play and close your eyes. Forget about all the hype and the awards surplus. Remember the time when "Slumdog Millionaire" was just a unique and energetic little gem. And then come back to reality.

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