The film that defies all odds, Slumdog Millionaire, was the big winner at the 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in LA last night. It won 8 Oscars: Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Best director and Best Picture.
Its major rival, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which led the nominations with 13 nods, took only three golden statuettes, mainly in the technical categories.
Actually, the Academy Awards Show itself may well be the winner, thanks to a talented, Tony Award winning Hugh Jackman. After the slumping ratings in the past few years, the Oscars could well have been resuscitated last night. Which previous Oscar host can sing and dance Broadway style so naturally, and bringing out the musical talent of Anne Hathaway at the opening gig, plus performing a tribute to previous musicals from West Side Story to Mamma Mia! with Beyoncé? And, who says it takes a comedian to crack jokes?
Speaking of musical numbers, who could have thought the two songs of Slumdog Millionaire, with traditional Indian melodies, can be performed together with the other nominee, “Down To Earth” from the Sci Fi Animation Wall E., a collaboration of John Legend and A. R. Rahman. It was a colorful post-modern rendition of musical fusion.
Entertainment aside, there are some moving moments that I’ve appreciated:
- Penélope Cruz in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress: “… art in any form has is and will always be our universal language and we should do everything we can to protect its survival.”
- Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for Best Supporting Actor was accepted by his parents and sister who delivered some heartfelt words of thanks, ending with: “… we proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful Matilda.”
- The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was presented to Jerry Lewis, who began fundraising for muscular dystrophy since the 1950’s.
- Kate Winslet paying tribute to Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, two talented directors and producers who passed away last year, two months apart: “Anthony and Sydney, this is for you, this is for both of you.”
- Previous winners in Acting categories came out together as a group to announce this year’s nominees. Kudos to the writers for some moving intro narratives. So, it was a night of gathering of veteran actors like Sophia Loren, Alan Arkin, Anthony Hopkins, Shirley MacLaine, Anjelica Huston and 85 year-old Eva Marie Saint, who won her Oscar in 1955 for On the Waterfront.
- All the children who play major roles in Slumdog Millionaire came from India to attend the Awards and had the honor of winning an Oscar, no doubt a surreal experience for them.
A word about Slumdog Millionaire: The two young actors Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto are the future stars to watch for. They are poised, articulate, modest, and carry themselves marvellously in the limelight of fame and glamour. I wish this Hollywood episode is the springboard to further career opportunities. And for the children who still have to go back to the slums of Mumbai, I hope this experience would open doors for them to a better life in the days ahead.