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Critic wrangle: “Slumdog Millionaire.”

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11122008_slumdogmillionaire.jpgHalf grimy portrait of Mumbai poverty, half fable by way of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Danny Boyle’s new film “Slumdog Millionaire” was a hit at Toronto, where it won the Audience Award, and is a solid candidate for a sleeper hit in the new “Juno” sense of the term, given that the film’s from an established director and cost a reported $15 million (cheap!). Will it sleeper its way to an Oscar nomination? It’s certainly edgily feel-good; as Manohla Dargis at the New York Times puts it, “this proves to be one of the most upbeat stories about living in hell imaginable.” For her, the film’s visual stunning if a little too calculating: “In the end, what gives me reluctant pause about this bright, cheery, hard-to-resist movie is that its joyfulness feels more like a filmmaker’s calculation than an honest cry from the heart about the human spirit (or, better yet, a moral tale).” Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer finds that it’s actually the mismatching of sentiments that makes it work, writing that it’s “precisely because the varied parts don’t cohere as smoothly as they are supposed to in the ideal well-made film.”

“Is ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ gimmicky?” asks Andrew O’Hehir at Salon. “Sure it is, and in my judgment its dramatic and romantic elements — as central as Boyle and Beaufoy may believe them — are incidental. The real star of the film is not a person but a city, the vertiginous, exciting, massively overcrowded ‘maximum city’ of Mumbai.” “It’s like the Bollywood version of a Capra fable sprayed with colorful drops of dark-side-of-the-Third-World squalor,” as Owen Gleiberman puts it at Entertainment Weekly. “Slumdog Millionaire rousingly celebrates the escape from the slums, but since it’s Jamal’s childhood that allows him to win big on TV (and to win that girl), you could also say that the movie ennobles poverty.” “That destiny favors the pure-of-heart who are disadvantaged and romantic is an unabashedly mushy concept,” counters Nick Schager at Slant, “and yet Boyle’s direction is ecstatic, enthralled by the notion that kindness and generosity in the face of hardship have a way of paying dividends in the most unexpected, circuitous ways.”

“Frankly, I don’t trust Boyle; I feel the need to defend myself against a director for whom brutality and slickness are so inextricable,” writes David Edelstein at New York. “But he’s brilliant at what he does, at the kind of hyperkinetic, every-shot-a-grabber filmmaking that many attempt and few bring off.” For Scott Foundas at the Village Voice, on the other hand, “it’s that very tension between gritty, street-level reality and fairy-tale invention that ultimately makes Slumdog Millionaire feel even more buoyant and life-affirming.”

Roger Ebert is ebullient, declaring that Boyle “combines the suspense of a game show with the vision and energy of ‘City of God’ and never stops sprinting.”

On the nay side: Eric Hynes at indieWIRE doesn’t buy it: “A goofy picaresque to rival ‘Forrest Gump,’ ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has a similar power to please, shell-gaming the audience into emotionally investing in and celebrating its protagonist’s dumb romanticism.” And at the New York Press, Armond White, as one might have predicted, hates the film, snarling “There hasn’t been a social drama this decadently over-hyped since City of God. Boyle plays the same game of pandering to liberal sensibilities while entertaining safe, middle-class distance,” and signing off, catching, with “Boyle is a poverty pimp with an Avid.”

[Photos: “Slumdog Millionaire,” Fox Searchlight, 2008]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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