Classic Review: The Secret of NIMH

Stars: **** out of Four

Summary:  A staggering (and under-appreciated) achievement in animated movies, and a serious and seriously good morality tale.

An uncommonly good poster for a movie of equal value.

An uncommonly good poster for a movie of equal value.

Review:  I had seen Don Bluth’s adaptation of ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH’ about, I don’t know, 7 or 8 years ago.  At the time, it seemed too dense, dark, and scary to make much sense to me, let alone leave a lasting impression beyond bewilderment.  Recently, I got into watching fellow reviewer Doug “The Nostalgia Critic” Walker’s material online, and he pointed out in his top ten favorite animated films ‘The Secret of NIMH’, which I had all but forgotten.  Intrigued by his very positive take on the movie, I made a mental note to see it again, but hadn’t gotten around to it.  Thank Jesus for Hulu.com, however, as I was pleased to find it in their library, and watched it immediately.

The first thing that struck me was how fast they set the tone.  In some movies, the tone is so confused or varied that it is very difficult to tell just what kind of movie you are watching from the get-go.  Not so here, as death, struggle, mysterious plans, friendship, and magic are all introduced in the first few lines.  Now, instead of going through the individual aspects of the film, such as voice acting, music, art, etc., which are all marvelous, I’m most attracted to the themes.  I should say, before going on, that this is not really a children’s film, though mature kids will get a lot out of it, I think.  It’s actually pretty scary and violent, though funny and heartwarming, too.

Mystery in the midst of crisis is the very essence of the story, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a part of a very much bigger epic, which is a kind of shadow that looms over the works of Lewis, Tolkien, and other great fantasy writers.  I believe G.K. Chesterton would have aptly pointed out, as he does in his famous ‘Orthodoxy’, that this fairy tale quality is an essential element of the Christian faith, and indeed of all stories of magic.  In fact, I observed that the action of the magical elements was sacramental.  In ancient Christianity, sacraments are ordinary objects that by the power of God mysteriously (sacrament is actually synonymous with mystery) become something more.  Suddenly, bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood, oil becomes the healing power of the Holy Spirit, water becomes the agent of regeneration, and similarly, in ‘The Secret of NIMH’, a courageous heart and a simple jeweled amulet together can unleash unimaginable power.  I point out all this to show that this pervading belief in a kind of magic enigmatically invested in common objects is universally human, and makes for great storytelling, when played with the proper sense of awe, a kind of holiness.

Particularly interesting is the presence of mystery in the midst of such a dangerous and climatic environment as ‘The Secret of NIMH’ presents us with.  There are constant threats, and as the tension mounts throughout the story, so does the presence of magic.  “Where sin abounded, so did grace much more abound,” St. Paul said, though I am paraphrasing a little.  I like to think he wasn’t talking about the legal terms of sin and grace, but something closer to what happens in this movie.  Magic is a redemptive force here, and works in tandem with science.  In fact, in ‘The Secret of NIMH’, we’re never quite told if there is any distinction between the two, though I think I could draw one.  Electrical power, and the intelligence of the rats, are both fruits of science, and the narrative makes clear they can be abused, which creates conflict among the rats.  The character of Nicodemus, the leader of the rats and the most intelligent, is also some kind of magician, a benevolent sorcerer or something, and he seems to be able to tap into a power beyond the fruits of innovation.  The power he draws on, it seems, cannot be abused, because it works in synergy with the one who uses it.  This seems to imply that magic has a will, which is, incidentally, what distinguishes sacraments from other kinds of magical objects, as a sacrament is a meeting place of God’s energies and mankind.  Synergism is key to the sacramental.  Though we never get a chance to see what would happen if the villain of the story, Jenner, had been able to try to use the amulet McGuffin, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had an effect on him similar to opening the Ark of the Covenant, face-melting and all.

Which leads me to the next interesting tidbit.  The rats are sentient, you see, if you hadn’t guessed already, and even though they live in a world populated by your typical cartoon anthropomorphic animals, they’ve been given the privilege of true human-like intelligence, which evolves.  The big moral message of the story is about the struggle between the rats’ inherent animal nature and their gift of higher spirit, which they have to choose to pursue and nurture.  As rats, they would steal, including the electricity they use to power their under-rosebush city, but as rats reborn, they know such behavior is beneath them, that they can’t steal or be self-seeking anymore.  This, of course, is humanity’s struggle transposed.  We battle with our selfishness, our raw survival instinct, to pursue a higher ideal, to become better and to better everybody around us.  Once again, it’s a theme that Christianity has captured quite well, and watching this film I was able to muse on it.  Therein lies its brilliance.  Despite the gorgeous art and everything else that’s so great about it, ‘The Secret of NIMH’ is truly great because, well, it manages to be something of a sacrament itself.  It goes beyond just being an animated film and becomes a timeless gem of spiritual insight, by a power not its own.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a killer swordfight in it?  This movie ROCKS!

Classic Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Stars:  **** out of Four

Summary:  Nicholas Meyer’s second ‘Trek’ film equals the first and ends the original series on a dark, chilling, and ultimately hopeful note.

Star Trek VI:  Revenge of the Giant Klingon.

Star Trek VI: Revenge of the Giant Klingon.

Review:  So the previous ‘Trek’ was a failure, falling way short of expectations and coming dangerously close to destroying the franchise.  Thanks to Paramount’s concern over the 25th anniversary of the media property, however, they were given another shot at the silver screen, this time to close out the original series cast’s run.

And it’s so, so good.

After the high adventure and wacky antics of ‘The Final Frontier’, this film delivers a dark, intense detective story, a philosophical political thriller.  Blending the literary influence so well captured by director Nicholas Meyer with series creator Gene Roddenberry’s often on-the-nose allegory, it strikes a nearly perfect balance of intellect, message, and thrills.

It opens with a new ‘Trek’ composer — Cliff Eidelman, never destined to write another note for ‘Trek’, unfortunately — spinning a dark web of sound over space.  We know from the first few notes and the dark, purplish color of the opening credits that we are in for a trip into the dark side.  By the time the music is drawing to an obvious close and the credits are following its lead, we are anticipating a release.  And we get it, in the form of a classic Industrial Light & Magic explosion, complete with disc-shaped shockwave.  Then we cut to the bridge of the U.S.S. Excelsior — Captained by Sulu! — which is soon enough hit with the explosion.  After surviving the wave, the crew quickly finds out that the Federation’s longtime enemy, the Klingon Empire, just had one of its central moons and sources of power destroyed in a freak accident (Chernobyl, anyone?)

Now it’s time for talks.  But legendary Captain Kirk, suggested for the diplomatic mission by his friend Spock, is not happy.  He blames the Klingons for the death of his son, and considers them “animals”.  “Let them die!”  He says.  But now he’s committed.  After meeting the Klingon chancellor, he soon discovers that the Klingon leadership can for the most part be trusted — or can they? — and they start their journey to Earth on awkward but hopeful terms.  Soon however, disaster strikes as Captain Kirk watches his own ship, outside of his control, fire on the Chancellor’s vessel.  With the Klingon gravity controls knocked out, assassins beam over from the Enterprise and murder the Klingon leader… and now it’s Kirk’s fault.  He and Dr. McCoy are arrested, leaving Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew to solve the mystery and rescue Kirk & McCoy as political turmoil reigns and war looms.  Somewhere, an assassin still remains, possibly on the Enterprise…

The setup is excellent, and the execution, slow-burning until the last twenty minutes, is superb.  Though the film lacks a villain quite as memorable as Khan, Christopher Plummer does a good job playing the antagonist, and makes up in personality what he lacks in the personal touch.  Shatner, Kelley, and Nimoy each turn in their best, most confident performance since ‘Wrath of Khan’.

The political philosophy of the movie is simple, yet very strong for ‘Trek’.  It brings the series full circle, back to the themes that the first television series thrived on.  It’s a Cold War parable, but focuses on the subject of hate and bigotry rather than the conflicting philosophies of the opponents.  In short, it goes after the chief problem that plagued both, in the real world and the fictional universe of Trek.

As the Enterprise crew flies into the glare of a star at the end of this last drama, we are left both tearful and glad that we were along for the ride.  With a such a great last hurrah, it’s a shame they chose to bring back Kirk for the next film, ‘Star Trek: Generations’, only to drop a bridge on him(!).  I’d rather forget about that film, and leave what happens after ‘Trek VI’ an undiscovered country.

Classic Review: Batman (1989)

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars:  ★★1/2☆


Review:  Let’s take a brief look at the Batman saga leading up to the 1989 Batman movie.  The character had first introduced in the 1930’s in Detective Comics, and was revolutionary for its time.  Drawing influence from horror movies and classic myths like Zorro, creator Bob Kane created the prototypical “dark” superhero (characters like Spawn and The Darkness owe much to Batman) and a pop culture phenomenon that still is thriving today.  Kids of the 1930’s must have been thrilled to read of the exploits of famed billionaire Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, then known as the Bat-Man, in all of its action, grit, and surprising depth-of-story.  Unfortunately, starting in the 1940’s, the character of Batman was softened up to become more kid-friendly, especially with the inclusion of Robin.  This softening reached its apex in the 1960’s with the infamous Adam West Batman television show (de ne nu nu nu nu nu nu Batman!).  This series was drenched in camp and comic value, and little of the darkness and complexity that had originally permeated the character remained.  However, beginning in the 1970’s, a movement grew amongst comic book writers to return Batman back to his darker origins.  Most notable of these efforts was the fabled 1986 miniseries Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, considered to be a masterpiece among graphic novels. Following up on this renewed interest in a darker Batman, Warner Brothers commissioned the making of a feature length Batman movie, and dark visionary Tim Burton was put at the helm.  What we get is one of the most interesting and yet oddly flawed interpretations of Batman.

The plot in Batman is interesting in the sense that, unlike many superhero movies, this one really is not an origin story.  We are introduced to Batman (Michael Keaton) on a dark, drizzly night in Gotham City, terrorizing two crooks.  It is almost surprising about how liberal this approach is. In fact, an important and unique message of the movie is revealed in one of Batman’s first lines.  Holding a terrified criminal over the edge of a building, he simply says, “I’m Batman,” before disappearing into the night.  Take note of this, because what Burton will show us is a Batman who has virtually no conflict.  He has already decided before the movie what he will be, leaving the audience to miss out on the fun it must have been to see the character make this choice.  In this movie, Batman is dark, violent, and resolute; we the audience must simply take it from there.

What else of the plot?  The rest of the movie is spent showing Batman battling the nefarious Joker (Jack Nicholson).  In fact, this movie almost feels more about the rise and fall of the Joker than Batman.  He is actually given a back-story—we see him change from common criminal to clown prince of crime.  That said, there is nothing particularly special for most of the movie, as it boils down to our hero foiling various plans—sometimes-silly ones– by the Joker to “…run this city into the ground.”  Apart from a small plot twist at the end though, it is pretty average, albeit entertaining.  There is also a sub-plot, some semblance of one anyway.  Bruce Wayne begins dating a reporter named Vicky Vale, who is very interested in discovering the identity of the Batman.  Soon however, Bruce Wayne finds he can’t balance love and crime fighting.  However he really isn’t given the choice of giving up the Batman role—sure there are a few scenes of him debating whether or not to tell Vicky about his alter ego, but one of the beauties of Batman is why he chooses to do these things and if he really should.  Burton’s movie simply doesn’t deliver on that.

It is a shame that the story was simply sub-par.  Not that the audience needs a complex story, but Batman does.  A character as intricate and dark as him deserves to have a story of the same caliber.  What Burton gives us is the darkness, but never really the intricacy.  It’s also a shame because the acting in this movie is exceptionally good.  Michael Keaton gives a great performance as Batman despite him being an odd choice for the part.  The former comic captures a more powerful and mysterious portrait of Batman, an obvious contrast to Adam West’s silly version.  Jack Nicholson as the Joker is equally impressive, delivering a mixture of psychotic violence and corny gags.  Even Kim Basinger gives a surprisingly good performance as Vicky Vale.  All of these actors are great at showing that their characters are suppressing motion, that all of them are hiding thoughts and feelings that would normally be released at a great emotional climax.  Unfortunately, Tim Burton gives us no such emotional climax here either, and all that acting, especially from Keaton and Basinger goes to waste for the most part.

Despite the plot, this movie more than excels in other areas.  Burton’s dark visionary style led to what were then the most elaborate and gothic sets ever created.  He succeeds very much in making Gotham City a sinister and dirty place, very well representing the crime that takes place there.  Combined with detailed miniature models and well-done matinee paintings, Burton succeeds in making the city a real and living, if also creepy, place.  Also of note are the Batmobile and Batwing vehicles, both of which are highly stylized and fun to watch in action during the film.

Perhaps most worthy of note though is Danny Elfman’s score.  Building on dark themes and classic orchestration, Elfman creates a powerful and evil sort of music, one that can invigorate just as easily as it can scare, perfectly fitting the character it describes.  However, it is somewhat compromised by the inclusion of not one but two Prince songs, I suppose as some sort of marketing tie-in.  They both suck, and I would do your best to ignore them.
So what are my final thoughts on Batman?  It represents the triumph of style over substance, image over quality.  It’s a fun movie to look at, and its entertaining as a popcorn movie, but Batman is a character who is capable of so much more, and it wouldn’t be for about another fifteen years before the Batman character was featured in a movie deserving of his complexity.  That said, this film does deserve credit for many things.  It at least ends the right way, with Batman as a symbol of hope for Gotham, something I can’t say about all subsequent Batman movies.  It is also responsible for re-igniting mainstream interest in Batman, and subsequent triumphs like Batman: the Animated Series would not have existed if not for this movie.  Also, I think that it serves well as a stepping-stone between the campy Batman of the 1960’s and the truly gritty Batman of today.  Indeed, even the Christopher Nolan films owe something to the original Burton film.

In short, Batman is what can be called a flawed masterpiece, full of its own errors, and yet having an overall positive effect on the hero it portrayed.  It’s worth a watch, but it won’t fully get you your Batman fix.

Classic Review: The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)

Stars:  ***1/2 out Four

Summary:  A darker mythic adventure that raised ‘Star Wars’ from pulp to legend, excellent writing and talent abounds as ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

If you werent thinking of the Imperial March before, you are now.

If you weren't thinking of the Imperial March before, you are now.

Review:  After the unexpected success of ‘Star Wars’, George Lucas immediately put into development his first sequel, which he had planned out before ‘Star Wars’ was released.  Lucas again took a gamble with the audience, hoping they would stomach a darker sequel.

It worked.

Rather than trying to create a story that replicated the successful elements of the first film, the filmmakers pushed the story forward into a dark middle chapter.  The heroes weren’t going to triumph as absolutely as they had in ‘Star Wars’.  Unlike most sequels, where the same premise returns with thinner characters, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, by necessity, focused on the inner struggles and philosophies of each principal character.  Luke found out it wasn’t easy to defeat the Galactic Empire, and that the Dark Side of the Force was much closer to him than he realized.  Han and Leia’s relationship began to thaw, and they realized they were improbably in love.  Darth Vader would turn things personal, obsessed with finding Luke and turning him to evil.  There wasn’t a single, clear obstacle to surmount, no Death Star to destroy.

While it is undeniable that the fun, Flash Gordon-esque elements of the previous film are still there, the ‘Star Wars’ franchise had suddenly taken a turn into serious myth.  ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is not just a second act in a three-act narrative, it is a tragedy.  It has a downbeat ending, though not devoid of triumph.  Luke emerges from his battle with Darth Vader victorious in spite of seeming defeat, due to his refusal of Vader’s offer to rule the Empire.  Though Han is frozen in carbonite and taken by a bounty hunter with the Empire’s blessing, Leia still has the assurance she can find him again, alive.  Even for Darth Vader there is hope; famously, he reveals in his combat with Luke that he is the boy’s father, Anakin Skywalker.  This is what established him as the most famous film villain of all time.  He was now a tragic figure, and not just a dark sorcerer with no past and no future.  The audience is left wondering, if Anakin was turned to evil, can he be turned back?

The nature of the Force is truly explored for the first time, on the planet Degobah with the help of an old Jedi named Yoda (Played by Frank Oz).  Basically a glorified Muppet, with the limitations thereof.  This little guy doesn’t just inherit the role of Ben Kenobi from the first film; he has a very different approach.  Yoda helps Luke confront his own dark side, and even before we know that Darth Vader is Anakin, we know that Luke is in danger of becoming like him.  The Force is a murky spirituality indeed, so it is hard to say much about it other than, well, negative emotions lead to negative results and positive emotions lead to positive results.  In real life, though, it doesn’t take a genius to grasp that emotions are neither positive nor negative.  Hate, said to be a negative emotion by Yoda, can be a good thing.  Let’s say I hate slavery, or murder.  Then my hate is supporting my love of humanity, and is obviously not negative.  So even though it “works” in the ‘Star Wars’ films, the Force is far too simplistic.  To me, this just reinforces the fantasy aspect; it’s like applying rules to King Arthur’s sword and scabbard.  It works in the story as a spiritual thing, but it doesn’t have any bearing on real life.  Also, considering Lucas’ other works, like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, it would seem he doesn’t believe every word of the Force dogma anyway.

Once again, the film was a technical triumph.  The effects were slightly improved, as ILM figured out what the limitations were of their methods, and if their methods needed to be retooled all together.  The lightsabers are a good example; in ‘Star Wars’, they tried blending luminescent sticks with animated beams, which made the effect inconsistent.  Here, they ditched the luminescent rods and went the solely animated route.  It worked much better, and let the choreography loosen up quite a bit during the fight scenes.

John Williams’ music took on a new flavor, becoming much more the ‘Star Wars’ sound we are familiar with, especially due to the Imperial March, which stole the show.  There’s not a whole lot to say about it, really, only that it was excellent as always.

Overall, I like this film less than ‘Star Wars’.  I do appreciate the direction Lucas took the series with ‘Empire’, but on its own merits ‘Star Wars’ is slightly better.  But only slightly!  This is widely considered the best of the series, though, and if you’ve only seen the others in the series, you have to give this one its time of day.

Classic Review: Vertigo

Stars:  *** out of Four

Summary:  A spellbinding, terrifying predecessor to the modern psychological thriller, as only Hitch could film it.

Best not to look at that too long.

Best not to look at that too long.

Review:  Hitchcock is known more for his thrillers than for anything else in his body of work.  This film shows us why. ‘Vertigo’ is a twisted tale of obsession, deception, and distortion.  More than anything else, it is a cautionary tale, showing the disastrous effects of the aforementioned elements in the lives of both its protagonist- if you can call him that- and his ‘love interest’.

It is darn creepy.

It opens with a strangely psychedelic journey through a kaleidoscope of multicolored spirals.  Kinetic (moving) text introduces the filmmakers, while we are treated to Bernard Herrmann’s eerie score.  By this time, we already know we are in for something bizarre.

After this journey into the weird, we are thrust into a dramatic, though brief, rooftop chase.  Two police officers are in pursuit of a criminal, and when he jumps across a gap to another roof, they try to go after him.  The first one makes it fine, but the second, police detective John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart), slides down the sloped tiles and hangs onto a drainpipe over certain death.  The first police officer goes back for him, but in the process of trying to save John’s life, he plummets (in a well composited shot) to the ground.  The emotional shock ingrains a fear of heights in John, which causes vertigo, a disorienting and often debilitating condition.

After retiring from the force due to the incident, he spends his days with his best friend, Midge Wood, a kindly young woman he was once engaged too.  Throughout the film she represents his good sense, and when that slips away from him, so does she.

He meets a friend from college, Gavin Elster, who asks him to follow his wife, Madeleine.  She seems to be suffering from a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, or possibly even spiritual possession.  Gavin wants to know where she is wandering to every day.  Initially reluctant, John takes the job.

As he follows, evidence begins to mount that Gavin’s claim- that she is possessed by the spirit of her great grandmother- is true.  Meanwhile, John struggles with his increasing attraction to Madeleine, which Midge disapproves of.  She makes attempts to charm him into forgetting about Madeleine, but these backfire, much to her chagrin.

The film crackles with tension.  The cinematography and music perfectly compliment each other, unnerving the audience.  This is not an outright scary film (except, perhaps, for a couple dream sequences).  Hitchcock is too smart to rely on shock.  Suspense is a much more powerful tool. One notable aspect of the cinematography, is the first use of the now famous ‘vertigo effect’, where the background rushes forward or backward from the foreground by use of a clever blend of camera movement and zooming.  It would be later replicated, among other places, in ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

John’s vertigo could be seen as a metaphor for his increasingly distorted view of Madeleine, and later a woman named Judy.  While serving as the protagonist in the first half, the distortion forces him to become an antagonist to Judy, bringing the film to its startling and haunting climax.  Now, I am someone who loves happy endings… that is something this film does not have.  The story, in my opinion, is not too bad, but it lacks a magnification of some elements which would have made it a clearer experience, at least for me.  A greater involvement of Midge would have been excellent.  She seems to vanish once John’s obsession transforms him into a manipulator.  Since she serves as the moral ground zero, it would be appropriate- in my opinion- to show her reactions to John.  This would reinforce the cautionary aspect of the narrative.

‘Vertigo’ is not one of my favorite films.  In fact, when it is all said and done, I dislike it, and even hate some elements.  Nevertheless, it is well-designed, compelling, and everything else you would want from Hitchcock.  It is certainly a masterpiece of design and form.  The story’s dark turns make it an unpleasant experience, however, which I suppose is part of the point.  We really don’t want to be like John.

Slumdog Millionaire

Stars:  **** out of Four

Summary:  Gripping, intimate, and ultimately hopeful, 2008’s Best Picture deserves its recognition.

D. Thats my final answer.

D. That's my final answer.

Review:  Yesterday evening, I went to go see the critically acclaimed ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, which has enjoyed great success in the past few weeks.  It’s made the rare move up the box office top ten, rather than degrading.  I had wanted to see it awhile back, but I’m glad I saw it when I did.

I saw it the night it won the Oscar for Best Picture.

I have had a distaste for the Academy’s decisions in recent history, snubbing great movies that deserved at least a nod (like, say, ‘Gran Torino’ or ‘The Dark Knight’), but I do agree that, out of the nominees, ‘Slumdog’ deserves the prize.  Granted, I only saw two out of the five hopefuls, but the only other Best Picture nominee that I wanted to see was ‘Frost/Nixon’.  For myself then, its only competition was ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, which, ironically enough, is something of an antithesis of ‘Slumdog’.  ‘Benjamin Button’ is about death.  ‘Slumdog’ is about life.

Something else that struck me as particularly different was how conservative ‘Slumdog’ was, as contrasted with most modern cinema.  ‘Slumdog’, since it was shot in India, had to play by their rules to get past the censors.  Unlike Europe and the United States, India is a country that has not alienated its religious side.  As such, something approximating the U.S.’s Hays Code still exists.  The sexual aspects of the story, then, are told and shown in a way that does not titillate, but invites sympathy.  There is about one-and-a-half kiss(es) shown on screen, and the way it is played makes this act seem all the more intimate.  The conservative guidelines play right into the filmmakers’ hands.

Though the sexuality is, thankfully, subdued, the violence can still be disturbing.  Yet it is never gratuitous.  What makes the film earn its R rating is the tone, not the acts themselves.  I’ve seen worse in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, but that film has a lighter tone than ‘Slumdog’.

As I said, the film was shot on location in India.  Entirely.  The landscape is naturally exotic, and the cinematography dynamically captures this feel.  We are immersed in the culture from the get go.  When we are on the streets, running with the slum children, we feel the energy of the chase, but when we are in a plain hotel room, we feel the staleness and restlessness through the camera.  I don’t think I can imagine a film about India again without thinking of the way this one was shot.  While I’m a bit old school in my preference of a steady, unblinking camera, the fast editing worked perfectly here.

The cast, nearly entirely unknown locals, was incredible.  I believed.  The bad guys were convincingly menacing (one reminded me of Ledger’s Joker, in a good way), the good guys honestly innocent, and the in-betweens reasonably conflicted.  It all played very nice.

This film won Best Score, as well.  That’s one of the few points I’ve got to disagree with the Academy about this film… I don’t think it deserved it.  The score is good, and works very well in the context of the film, but Thomas Newman’s score for ‘Wall-E’ was better.  So was the collaboration for ‘The Dark Knight’, my personal favorite score from last year, but it wasn’t nominated.  But I digress. What I will say about the sound editing is more favorable.  It’s got to be the best sound editing I’ve ever heard, barely topping ‘Wall-E’, which still has better sound design, an important distinction to make.

I’ve given this film a lot of glowing praise, and I think it deserves it.  I can’t say this was my favorite film of this past year.  I can’t say that I have a favorite anymore, actually, but it is definitely up there among the best I’ve seen.

What makes me the happiest about this movie is its undying optimism.  Some may accuse it of being unrealistic, but this is ironic to say in a culture that credits random chance with the creation of life.  I’d say chance and the odds are given too much power.  Some things, as ‘Slumdog’ says, are written.  I believe God looks out for the everyday man.  He gives grace to the humble, no matter who they are.  ‘Slumdog’ doesn’t clearly choose a religious stance, but it does point in the direction of a positive force or intelligence in charge of the universe.  It’s easy to say this is good for fairy tales, but if it isn’t true, what hope have we?  If there is no God, how can a “slumdog”, a poor kid with nothing but a street education, become a millionaire?  Or are we doomed to decay, to die without memory and without hope?  I’d rather believe there is a chance for a happy ending.