Friday, January 11, 2013

The Unreasonable Movie Project (Vol. 3): The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is nothing like Slumdog Millionaire

I promised myself I will not compare The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to Slumdog Millionaire. Let’s all sit on the floor in lotus pose and chant “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is nothing like Slumdog Millionaire...The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is nothing like Slumdog Millionaire.” Let’s chant it over and over again until we achieve enlightenment.

Both movies are set in India. Both feature Dev Patel. But you will not see Judi Dench jumping into a giant pile of human waste. In fact, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is probably the cleanest, least-sweaty movie about India, and traveling in India, I’ve ever seen. The men wear sport coats and dress slacks like it was a brisk autumn in Boston (the dress slacks in Slumdog Millionaire were few and far between).

My wife and I watched it together, and she thought there was a definite Wife Swap quality to the plot, as six of the seven aging characters who travel to India are having issues with their love lives. Everyone is wookin’ pa nub, some in the wrong places (there was no wife-swapping in Slumdog Millionaire).

It’s hard not to think about Downton Abbey, however, with Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton as two of the four primary female characters. In Downton Abbey, Smith is the entertaining curmudgeon Dowager Countess of Grantham, but in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, she is a racist, bitter former housekeeper being sent to India for a cheap hip replacement. She is spectacular in both roles, showing she can pull off both Upstairs and Downstairs (there were no hip replacements in Slumdog Millionaire).

The Screen Actors Guild Awards nominated Smith for a Best Supporting Actress, and also nominated the cast for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. The Golden Globes, which are coming up Sunday (January 13), has Judi Dench nominated for best actress in a musical or comedy, which is silly given Smith’s performance. Dench is good, but Smith is a cut above in a movie that is, at best, a well-scrubbed lightweight, disappointing given its star power.

I’m surprised it was nominated for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs. This CAN’T be the best movie to come out of Great Britain this year. Maybe the nomination is just a show of respect to all the great actors in the cast, a tip of the cap. While the movie did have some well-done scenes exploring the theme of older people being discarded, this was not a great script. I’m giving The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a $6.50 out of $10 on my rating scale, a decent film with very little grit.

Slumdog Millionaire DID win a BAFTA Best Film award. It also won Best Picture at the Oscars, which just released its 2013 nominations. Here are the Oscar nominees in some of the important categories this year:

Best Motion Picture of the Year:
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper
Lincoln: Daniel Day-Lewis
Les Misérables: Hugh Jackman
The Master: Joaquin Phoenix
Flight: Denzel Washington

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
Zero Dark Thirty: Jessica Chastain
Silver Linings Playbook: Jennifer Lawrence
Amour: Emmanuelle Riva
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Quvenzhané Wallis
The Impossible: Naomi Watts

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
Argo: Alan Arkin
Silver Linings Playbook: Robert De Niro
The Master: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Lincoln: Tommy Lee Jones
Django Unchained: Christoph Waltz

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
The Master: Amy Adams
Lincoln: Sally Field
Les Misérables: Anne Hathaway
The Sessions: Helen Hunt
Silver Linings Playbook: Jacki Weaver

Best Achievement in Directing:
Amour: Michael Haneke
Life of Pi: Ang Lee
Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell
Lincoln: Steven Spielberg
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Benh Zeitlin

The last category I listed was Best Director, and the biggest controversy seems to be that Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Ben Affleck (Argo) were not nominated, despite having their films up for best picture. I think the bigger shock is the omission of Bigelow, who won for The Hurt Locker three years ago. And Zero Dark Thirty, another military movie, is supposed to be amazing, if not perfectly accurate historically. The Unreasonable Movie Project isn’t scheduled to see it until right before the Oscars, so I haven’t reviewed it yet.

As a director, Ben Affleck is doing a pretty good job modeling himself after Clint Eastwood. Gone Baby Gone and The Town were very good. He even had actors in other nominated movies saying he was robbed. I’ll find out this weekend - my Dad has agreed to see Argo with me. I’m bringing him for context (and good company) because he remembers the Iranian hostage crisis (I was 5 years old when it started). This will be the first Best Picture heavy hitter I see, so I’m excited. My Dad is excited because my brother promised to see Argo with him months ago, but has not delivered. All three of us agree I’m the reliable son.

The other movie I’ll review for my Monday post (January 14) will be Brave, which I’ll watch at home with the kids. I’m the only one in my family who hasn’t seen it in the theater, and my wife wasn’t in love with it (something about daughters poisoning mothers being a bad idea). I’m down on Pixar as well after Cars 2 (even Toy Story 3 was a bit intense for kids, I thought), so we’ll see if it competes with ParaNorman, my favorite of the Best Animated Film Oscar nominees this year.

(There were no animated Scottish princesses in Slumdog Millionaire)

Next Post: The Golden Globes recap; Argo and Brave reviewed; anticipating going to Lincoln with my wife, who has read Team of Rivals.

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